Judy discovered network marketing in the mid-nineties, when she was a full-time licensed counselor specializing in women’s issues. For over fifteen years, she had been helping her 90-percent-female clientele with relationship problems, poor self-esteem and general unhappiness with themselves and their lives.

While she loved her career, she also knew she didn’t want to do this into her old age and was looking for a way to diversify her income. When a friend offered her a network marketing opportunity, Judy jumped on it and started building a business part-time. Over the years she achieved moderate success, slowly learning the ropes of the profession, but eight years into it, she lost her business because her company went bankrupt.

Little did she know that everything on her journey had prepared her for the next opportunity: she found a product that allowed her to touch lives much in the way she did in her counseling practice, and her passion for this new product made her unstoppable. She blossomed into a natural networker and attracted like-minded people on her team who were committed to offering women and baby-boomers a “license to retire.”

Slow Beginnings

Judy was thinking about her future and looking to make a change when a girlfriend introduced her to the idea of network marketing.

“I thought it was ingenious,” says Judy. “I’d never heard of the concept of building a network and getting paid a percentage of the business each associate did. I loved the idea of being rewarded for helping others to be successful. It seemed a win-win, instead of the traditional business model where everyone’s competing and when someone wins, someone else loses.

“I thought, ‘What a great idea! If I just start doing this now, very part-time, around my counseling business, maybe in about ten years I’ll be able to retire.’”

Judy did no research and jumped right in with the first company she was introduced to, which was a telecommunications company that sold phone and Internet services. She started listening to some training tapes that came with the kit she purchased and made some phone calls to friends who lived in the next state over from her, simply asking if they might be interested in trying a different phone service.

“This was back in the days when there was a lot of competition for phone services,” says Judy. “Telemarketers were calling homes, offering great deals, so it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but I was able to achieve my customer requirement based on my personal relationships.”

Judy was a slow-but-steady network marketer, and over the course of seven years she achieved a couple of promotions, approximately one a year. During her eighth year she was working harder, trying to speed things up to achieve her ten-year goal—but the success she’d envisioned did not arrive. Instead, she faced some unexpected challenges: her sponsor quit, basically leaving her on her own, with her next upline in the Midwest while she was in Arizona. There were also technical challenges with the phone service from time to time, and customer service problems around billing.

“I just kept my eyes on my ten-year goal,” says Judy, “and not on the problems of the moment. Despite the difficulties, I felt some good things were happening. For example, the top distributor for our state put on monthly trainings which were excellent. I live in a rural area and had to drive a hundred miles each way, but I attended them anyway. I learned to persevere when challenges arose and others quit. I also learned the importance of attending trainings in order to fuel my enthusiasm and stay determined. All these lessons would serve me well later.”

Judy enjoying a company cruise to Mexico.

Judy with team leaders at a convention.

Jordan Adler, Dawn McDonald, Judy O’Higgins and CEO Kody Bateman.

Judy with her cat Ms. Belle.

Brutal Transition

At the end of Judy’s eighth year in the business, her company was purchased by a large corporation, which ended up going into bankruptcy in October 2004, taking her company down with it.

“This was a devastating turn of events,” Judy recalls. “We were all minding our business and the next moment we received an email saying, ‘Your company is in bankruptcy. Your last paycheck will be Friday.’ There was a lot of anger, tears and depression. Many people’s dreams, including my own, came crashing down along with the company.

“Meanwhile, in preparation for becoming a full-time network marketer, I had cut back on my counseling contracts—for example, with the regional substance abuse probation department and with the local hospital that provided counseling for their employees who needed it. I had stopped renewing these year-long contracts when they came to term, in anticipation for my retirement. I was left with one or two contracts when my network marketing company crashed and burned.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was depressed and anxious. It was a very dark time. To make things worse, recruiters started buying lists of representatives from our old company and calling us at home, urging us to join their businesses. I was disgusted and quit answering the phone. This went on for three months.”

During this time, Judy prayed for a solution, because she believes in a Higher Power that provides better answers in times of need than she could come up with herself.

In January 2005, her phone rang. It was Jordan Adler, the gentleman who had run those excellent trainings she drove a hundred miles for once a month with her last company. He asked her how she was doing, and she told him she was down and depressed. He said he felt the same way, because all his income had suddenly gone away.

Then his tone changed and he announced, “Judy, I’ve found a little company. Nobody’s ever heard of it, but I think it’s going to be big because the product this company makes can help any business owner strengthen her network by staying in better touch with customers and clients. It’s a fun product, it’s easy to learn, and I think it’s something you might be interested in.”

Jordan asked her if she was in front of a computer and proceeded to walk her through what the product entailed and how to use it, right over the Internet.

“I was a little hesitant,” says Judy, “because I’m not that Internet-savvy, but it went fine. By the time we were done, I knew that I could do what he had shown me. Now, remember, in my previous company, Jordan was our big state trainer, but I was not on his team—although I always wished I was.

“After completing the product demo, he said the magic words: ‘Judy, if you’d like to do this, I will be your personal coach and trainer, and I’ll help you get started.’ That was it. I signed up that night, right on that first phone call, with faith and a credit card. It turned out to be the answer I’d been praying for.”

Finding a Home

About a month later, Judy attended her first company event and met the founder and owner Kody Bateman. That’s when she knew she had come home. When Kody shared with the audience why he started the company, the background that led up to its foundation, and his commitment and vision for the future, Judy knew this was about more than just money and that he would probably never leave—unlike the founder of her previous company.

“His values were about making a difference and changing the world,” says Judy. “That was music to my ears. It was a perfect fit for me, and it still is four years later.

“Our company’s product actually enhances relationships and people’s emotional state, which is exactly what I’d been doing in my counseling business. It uplifts people’s lives, makes them feel good, touches their hearts.

“I got started right away and asked Jordan, ‘What do you recommend I do?’ He said, ‘Well, the perfect people for this product are business owners. So, you have to go where they are.’

“I remember attending a training in my previous company that covered different ways to work the cold market, and saying to myself, ‘I don’t think I could ever do this.’ But this time I decided to get out of my comfort zone immediately.

“First I looked around my area for Chambers of Commerce and business groups and joined the few groups I could find. Then, Jordan recommended that I try helping get the word out in Phoenix and I drove a hundred miles to a couple of women’s nationwide networking groups, where I didn’t know anyone. I called upon my Higher Power and said, ‘If I’m meant to build this business, please give me a sign.’

“I went to the American Business Women Association monthly meeting where nobody had ever heard of my company. When it was my turn, I stood up and gave a little commercial. At the end of the meeting, a member came over to me and said, ‘I would like to take all your information home.’ I gave her what I had and told her I’d send her a DVD. She said, ‘Don’t you have a DVD I can take home now?” I could tell I’d found my first business builder. She signed up a week later and became one of the top twenty-five earners in the company. That was my sign, and it continued on from there.”

Building with Passion

Over the next four years, Judy’s team grew from that first recruit to over 3,500 members today. Her organization spans all fifty United States, plus Canada, Australia and the U.K.

“I am very grateful and pleased with the type of people I’ve attracted onto my team,” says Judy. “A big lesson I learned is that in order to succeed in network marketing, you have to find the right company with the right product that resonates with you and that you have a passion for. Phone and Internet service wasn’t something I could get excited about; it’s simply something we all have to have, but it’s not a heartfelt product.

“Now, I love introducing my product. I absolutely know in my heart it’s going to help every single person, if they allow it to, in their business and/or personal life. This level of belief makes me unstoppable.

“I started building my business attending networking groups and women’s groups, because I was used to interacting with women in my counseling career and social circle. Not only is this my comfort zone, I also have a passion for helping women in general. I believe there’s still a lot of work to be done to achieve true gender equality and I want to do my part in helping women achieve freedom and independence.

“Another effective way to build my business is doing trade shows. Our product is very useful to businesspeople—including all the exhibitors at trade shows. I always take at least two or three members of my team with me so that there are at least three of us running the booth. While two of us are doing product demonstrations, the third one is making rounds talking to the other vendors. We trade off and have developed a system to approach prospects in a professional manner.

“I recently did a dental association trade show in Phoenix. In addition to the vendors, every dentist needs our product to stay in touch with their patients. Trade shows are a great way to meet small business owners who are looking for a way to stand out or to maximize their referrals and generally grow their businesses. At our booth, we show them how to use our product to strengthen their connections.”

Overcoming Attrition

Over the years, Judy learned that one of the biggest challenges in the profession is attrition: new associates who never get started or who quit too soon.

“A great way to prevent this,” she says, “is by strengthening your personal relationship with them and providing the experience of belonging to a team. When people feel connected and part of something bigger than themselves, that will keep them in the business long enough to achieve an initial level of success.

“When organizing an event, I always include other people on my team. Working together creates a bond and makes them feel included. I’m also big on taking everybody I can to all company events—I learned this from Jordan Adler. It’s a way to leverage your time as a leader: if I can take twenty people to a two-hour event, that’s forty hours of training that I don’t personally have to provide.

“Attending events is critical to the belief-building process. In addition to learning some practical skills, associates are reminded that they are in the right place at the right time. Seeing others’ success boosts their motivation, enthusiasm and excitement, and when they bring that energy home, they go out and become more successful.

“Recently I took one of my groups to a self-improvement training. It was free, but it was a seven-hour drive from where we live to San Diego, California. Instead of flying, we rented a van and took a road trip together. We had a great time, and even though it was a long trip, the experience was unforgettable.

“Doing things with your team and creating a group experience can truly help to build longevity into your network. When people see you committed to them, they commit to you, as well as to the company and the product.

“Recognition and validation are other important ways to build loyalty with team members. Our particular product provides a way to express appreciation in a way that’s simple and easy. I regularly send wishes of encouragement and when someone on my team achieves any kind of a little goal, I send them a congratulations card. These are all simple things, but they go a long way in keeping someone in the game.

“This summer we started a series of business-building lunches in four cities. We found a restaurant with a private room in each city and once a month, we invite small business owners to join us on their lunch hour. We briefly introduce our business, then share stories of how our product has touched the lives of individuals and businesses. It’s a great way for new distributors to start building, because all they need to do is bring a guest, and those of us who have more experience will do the rest.”

Dreams and Vision

Two years into her new business, Judy was able to completely retire from her counseling practice.

“This is a fun business,” she says, “and I wouldn’t have it any other way. After twenty-five years of sitting in an office listening to people’s problems, I want to continue touching lives and making a difference in the world, but I also want to have fun. This fits the bill perfectly.”

Today, Judy remains focused on her vision of helping women—and baby-boomers in general—create better lives for themselves, based on inner freedom, financial security and a sense of contribution.

“In the current economic upheaval, many people my age are lying in bed at night, unable to sleep because they’re worried about their financial futures, thinking, ‘I’ll never be able to retire’ or ‘I don’t have enough money saved and my 401(k) is going away, what am I going to do?’ I want to help those people by showing them that there is a way out, that they don’t have to settle for their current circumstances, that there is something meaningful they can do while building residual income and setting themselves up for the rest of their life, like I did.

“I’ve written a book called License to Retire—Even if You Think It’s Too Late. The book starts by advising people to do a little research first before jumping in. Find a company you resonate with, and a product or service you would use even if you weren’t getting paid for it. I’m working on a second book, which will teach how to build the business, while the first book is about restoring hope and building belief.

“My dream is to help people of my generation so that they can sleep better at night and have peace of mind, knowing that they have money coming in every month, so they don’t have to worry about losing their home or losing the return on their nest egg. In fact, regardless of their age, their nest egg can start growing again if they just start now.

“When that call from Jordan Adler came in, I’m so grateful that I didn’t let my ‘committee’—the critical voices we all have in our heads—take over. They were telling me, ‘Oh, you don’t want to do that again… It’s too late to build your income back up. Remember what happened with your last company.’ But I didn’t let those fear-based voices stop me. Thanks to the choices I made, instead of worrying about having enough income for retirement I’m making plans to buy an RV and travel our beautiful country with my family (husband, dog and cat), sharing my message and my book with other baby-boomers. I feel truly blessed with a wonderful life.”