Alan Sickman started his network marketing business while he was winding down a highly successful military career. His military experience provided him with the perfect preparation for what lay ahead: he brought to his new business personal discipline, an impeccable work ethic, and an ability to serve in leadership positions and build cohesive teams.
“People think that because you have a rank in the Army, you can just tell others what to do,” says Alan. “That’s true up to a point, but to develop teamwork and bring out the best in people, you have to foster the feeling of belonging and that their contribution matters. Similarly, success in network marketing requires that you make others feel important, validate their contribution and show appreciation.”
Alan built his current organization exclusively through his warm market, connecting with others he knew and recognized as potential leaders. With patience and persistence, he was able to build depth in his leadership, spurring his business to grow exponentially.
“I am not a dynamic personality like some other top earners in the profession,” says Alan. “But I know how to build relationships with people. I care about others and I’m very loyal. While I can’t personally make others successful, I can teach and train them, and I can be a constant source of help in them growing their businesses.”
In his early sixties and financially secure, Alan is not planning on retiring anytime soon. He loves to get to work in the morning and offer others the opportunity that has blessed his life for the past eighteen years. His personal recipe for success: treat others the way you want to be treated; don’t overpromise or nurture false expectations; believe, commit and support others.
Discovering Network Marketing
In 1991, Alan was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany as a colonel with the U.S. Army. One day, as he was leaving the headquarters to go on a business trip to Washington, D.C., a young man who took care of the automation systems in the building asked him, “Alan, are you thinking about retiring sometime in the near future?”
At that point, Alan had served about twenty-six years in the Army.
“We’re limited on the number of years we can serve,” says Alan, “so retiring was definitely on my mind. I said, ‘Why?’ and Roger replied, ‘I might have something for you.’ I said, ‘Great! I don’t have time to talk right now because I’m on my way to the airport, but I’ll look you up when I get back.’”
During the course of the next week, Alan’s curiosity grew. Roger was a civilian, married to a German lady. His mother was French, his father American. He’d lived in Europe for a good portion of his life, although he was educated in the United States.
When Alan got back, he called Roger, who introduced him to network marketing and an American company that had just opened in Germany.
“I took about two months to look over all the information and figure out whether I could be successful in the business,” says Alan. “The thought of being self-employed, setting my own hours and not having any income limitation other than based on my own production was attractive. But at the same time, as a colonel in the Army, I couldn’t speak to anyone junior in rank to me, which meant virtually everybody. I also knew the generals weren’t going to join a network marketing company. So I had some question about who I could share the business with. But Roger reassured me he’d help me with the language. I made a decision to get involved, and I’ve been involved in networking ever since.”
Alan started his business part-time while he was still in the Army. New in Germany, the company offered a ground floor opportunity, but there were no company events or trainings.
“I talked to a few civilian acquaintances,” says Alan, “and we ran some ads about a business opportunity in the German papers, which was rather expensive but provided us with some leads. From there, we used a simple system of duplication: we invited people to come to a hotel presentation.”
Speaking almost no German, Alan would greet the guests and introduce them to whoever the speaker was that evening. The presentation was in German, and if anyone had questions afterwards, Alan would get Roger or someone else to answer them.
“The nice thing about not speaking German,” says Alan, “was that while I couldn’t talk people into joining the business, I couldn’t talk them out of joining, either! As network marketers, we’re often our own worst enemy in that we say too much. I didn’t have that problem, because I just let the business presentation do all the talking for me and stand on its own merit.
“A few Germans who attended our presentations spoke English, but most didn’t. Naturally, as time went on, my German-speaking skills grew, but I still adhered to the same methodology: I just invited people to come and listen to other speakers. In case people asked me questions, I knew the compensation plan and how to demonstrate the products.
“My very best distributor was actually someone I did not personally sponsor (in our compensation plan, this was not a disadvantage). A young man in my organization had invited a gentleman with whom he had come in contact through an ad, and he brought him to a meeting. But the young man was not very diligent in follow-up—and I was. This gentleman and I hit it off, and he joined the business. Sitting out on his back porch, with the help of a German-English dictionary and me drawing circles, we got started.
“We worked together and traveled a lot. His wife helped me grow my German language skills and I would teach them English. He built a major part of my business and I ended up growing an organization of 25,000 people over the course of the next five years.”
Alan’s approach to the business was very focused and thorough. After six months of building part-time, he submitted his retirement papers to the Army.
“The fact that I was American turned out to my advantage,” says Alan. “The Germans loved to use me as a testimony: ‘Here’s someone who didn’t have any warm market, didn’t speak the language, and look what he has accomplished! If Alan can do it, anyone can.’
“Relentless in my commitment to the business, I was always at an event, always inviting people whom I’d come in contact with—initially through ads, then with the help of my sponsor in the initial phone conversation. Once I got my prospects to the presentation, they saw the simplicity of how the system worked: we’d get them to try the product, we’d get their questions answered, and we’d try to get them to a larger event so that they could get a bigger picture of what was going on.
“People tend to overcomplicate network marketing when, in truth, it’s pretty simple—if you use the system. Just expose people to the information, answer their questions and let them make a decision on their own. If you do in fact have a good business opportunity, most people will get it.”
Alan’s business grew into Switzerland, Italy, France and the Netherlands, and also in England and the United States.
“I didn’t personally sponsor people in all those countries, but through others in my organization who had foreign contacts, my organization grew across national borders. I visited other countries to support my team, which was adding to the depth of my organization. Once again, I served as an example of someone who didn’t speak the language and didn’t have a warm market, yet had achieved success in the business.”
Alan traveled back and forth to the United States to help a few people get started there. He eventually reached one of the company’s top positions and became one of the top 10 percent earners in Europe.
After five years Alan moved back to the United States and his company went through some changes.
“We went through a major transition in product line,” he recalls. “The company also went from having corporate-run international operations to licensee-run operations. In Germany, a designated licensee had the license for running the business in Germany and Switzerland.
“When change occurs, people often go into a holding pattern, waiting to see what’s going to happen. I was living in Kansas, but 95 percent of my organization was in Europe. Although I made numerous trips back and forth, I could see it was going to be very difficult to provide leadership from that far away.
“With the permission of my upline and the company, I sold my distributorship to a German in Stuttgart who was cross-line to me. The company combined my business with his, he paid me cash for my business, and I left. I had a very good experience and have nothing but high regard for the company and the people—but for me, at the time, it was the right thing to do.”
In late ’96, Alan got involved in a nutritional company that began growing rapidly but went out of business within four months. He then joined another nutritional company and quickly rose to the highest pin level, but soon realized he had reservations about the ownership’s philosophy and approach to the distributor field, and left that business behind.
In late 1997 he got involved with another company and moved to Virginia. He worked part-time building his business there for the next five years, which developed a solid passive income for him.
In January 2007, a good friend introduced Alan to his current company. He had not worked with a nutritional product for over ten years at that point, because, although he believed in the value of nutritional supplements, he felt that there were a lot of unsubstantiated health claims being made.
“I didn’t want to practice medicine,” says Alan. “I heard too many distributors who crossed regulatory guidelines with their claims, putting their company right on the edge of legal. I didn’t want to be a part of something that was risky. I also didn’t want to give people false expectations, especially sick people who might be looking for a solution to a health issue.
“This new company offered a cutting-edge product that had more than ten years of research and development behind it. But even more important than the product were the caliber and commitment level of the owners and executive team. When they opened their doors in February 2007, I signed up as one of the founding distributors.”
Alan introduced the business to people he knew, building it 100 percent through his warm market. He used the tools the company provided, mainly showing people an online video and getting them a one-month supply of the product to try personally.
“We knew that almost everyone gets results with the product, so 70 to 80 percent of the people who try the product for one month say yes.”
Two years later, Alan had sponsored forty-two people and his team had grown to 35,000 distributors and customers doing over $2 million a month in sales.
Alan attributes the rapid growth of his business to the leaders on his team and the fact that his product attracts a huge customer base. Another key to his success is that he always stays engaged and enjoys the fellowship with people.
“Finding leaders or people who are just as committed as you are is the difficult part of network marketing,” he says. “You want to look for people who have had previous success, either in traditional business or network marketing, who have a large sphere of influence, who are entrepreneurial and looking to gain control of their time and build a residual income. Some call it a passive income, but I believe it’s never passive. The key to building depth in your organization is to continuously help your leaders find other leaders.
“Once I had four or five strong leaders actively working the business, and they in turn had found their four or five leaders, the depth of leadership started to grow in the second, third and fourth levels of sponsorship. When you have five personally-sponsored leaders, your team consists of six people working the business. Once they get their five people, that’s thirty-one people who are actively working it. Eventually, when they get theirs, you now have enough committed leaders to start seeing exponential growth.”
This happened during Alan’s twelfth month in the business: his income doubled in one month.
“This wasn’t because I got a new mega-leader or someone brought in an existing organization,” he explains. “It was the depth of the leadership in the third and fourth levels that started to grow exponentially, and it has continued to grow consistently at 8 to 15 percent every month thereafter.”
Despite the economic downturn, Alan doesn’t believe small businesses need to suffer.
“Right now is the best time we’ve ever had for network marketing, because there are lots of people who would never have considered networking marketing in the past, when the economy was good. For example, my neighbor Tracy, who is a financial planner, lives in a beautiful home and has been very successful in business in the past. Today he is reaching out to learn more about my business without my even approaching him.
“Another neighbor, Dan, just retired from the Navy. A few months ago I introduced him to the product, gave him a magazine and DVD to look at, then invited him to a major company event in Las Vegas. He came, looked at our company and decided to get involved. While he was still brand new, he mentioned it to another neighbor, who now wants to talk to me too.
“The contractor who built my home called me last week and wanted to set up an appointment to see how he could get involved in my business. There isn’t much opportunity in the building trade right now. All these professionals are self-employed and don’t want to go find a job; they’d rather to get involved in a part-time business.”
Some leaders in Alan’s organization are prospecting jobseekers through a resume service.
“I think the growth in our profession is going to be astronomical during 2009 and 2010,” says Alan, “because the economy is not going to turn around that quickly. More than ever, people are looking for financial opportunity—to get out of debt, to bring one spouse home from work, to buy a bigger home or to pay their kids’ college.”
Alan is at a different stage in his life: he is financially secure and feels very fortunate in that regard. At age sixty-one, he feels too young to retire—he has always been actively engaged, always loved personal challenges. Ever since his days in the Army, he enjoys working with people and being part of a cause bigger than himself. He believes his company is building a legacy and contributing to a lot of lives.
“Every morning, I look forward to getting up and building my business,” he says. “The key to success is to believe in what you do, to be passionate about it, and to show up and just do it. Your belief and passion will attract others. In difficult times, people are looking for something authentic and meaningful to believe in. The opportunities are out there. If what you have to offer has value, people will want to be part of your team.”