Both in their early thirties, Hilde and Ørjan Sæle have been in network marketing for ten and seventeen years respectively. They started building the business before they knew each other, but they both ran into the same challenge: in their country, many people still believed network marketing was illegal. Pioneering a new business model in Scandinavia, they didn’t let their dreams be overshadowed by other people’s fears and misunderstandings. When Hilde and Ørjan met, their common dream took on a new dimension as they joined intentions to create a business culture of fun and freedom that would appeal to people their age.

Today they are company owners, network marketing leaders, motivational speakers, and most of all, inspiring role models for entrepreneurs of any generation.

Skating on Thin Ice

Originally from the western coast of Norway, Hilde had just moved to Oslo to study law in 2000, when a friend phoned her about a “wonderful business” he had discovered and wanted to introduce to her. Hilde, who was 20 years old and only six months into law school, felt skeptical but curious, so the next day she found herself in a pizza place in a mall in Oslo, looking at this new business. She thought the concept was brilliant and she signed up then and there.

The next morning, however, she came across a headline in one of Norway’s national newspapers, implying that the company she had just signed up with was a pyramid scheme. Her initial skepticism returned and she decided to do some research: she hired a sixth-year law student to find out whether network marketing was a legal business.

In the mean time, she started showing the business to the people around her. The first month she made seventy presentations, and seven people joined. A week later, three of the seven regretted their decisions and returned their starter kits, so now she was left with four.

Enjoying a warm beach in winter: priceless!
Relaxing in South Beach with Tim Skjold Pedersen, Randy Gage and the Art Jonak family.
Dinner party with Art and Ann Jonak, Steve Branz, David Frey, Ken Seto and Lonnie McKinne.
Sea, sun and networking with leaders on their company’s 2010 Diamond recognition trip in Cancun, Mexico.
Speaking at Art Jonak’s 5th Mastermind in Houston.
Taking the stage as a husband-and-wife team.
Presenting at Art Jonak’s 5th Mastermind in Houston.

By that time, the law student had reported back to her and said, “I’m not sure if this business works or if you will earn a lot of money, but I’ve done the research and it seems legitimate. If you really want to do this, you should go for it.”

Reassured by this verdict, Hilde kept going. She figured if she could get four people started, and they duplicated what she did, they could deliver a lot of presentations and eventually build a team. She continued attending law school while doing the business part-time.

Ørjan had gotten involved in the business seven years prior. His uncle Ruben introduced Ørjan to network marketing when he was just 17, not quite old enough to join.

Ruben was so excited about a new company he had found that he convinced Ørjan to accompany him on an eight-hour drive to attend an opportunity meeting.

“I remember sitting in the back of the room,” says Ørjan, “listening to a talk about a weight-loss product and becoming more and more skeptical. Finally came the compensation part of the presentation, and as the presenter was drawing circles, I became intrigued with the fact that I could not only earn a commission by selling the product, I could recruit others and earn a commission on their sales as well. When I heard I could get paid on several levels deep, I became so skeptical I hit my uncle in the side and said, ‘That’s impossible. This has to be a scam.’”

Ørjan did some math and figured out that even though the company paid out up to 72 percent of its earnings, it could still be profitable. He concluded that the business made sense and joined.

Ørjan and his uncle started setting up meetings with their friends. Three weeks later, they had assembled a team of thirty distributors.

Then the unexpected happened.

Ørjan’s mother was a member of the Norwegian parliament at the time and his father was an editor for a national Christian newspaper. Ørjan had invited a photographer from his dad’s newspaper to a meeting, but this photographer also worked with a socialist newspaper, which was always eager to cover negative news about Ørjan’s parents.

“This photographer invited a journalist from that leftist newspaper to one of our meetings,” says Ørjan, “and the next day, mom, dad and I were on the front page of that paper in an article that falsely accused me of working a pyramid scheme and selling a product that was proven to cause cancer in animals. I had just turned 18 and this was my first media exposure.”

Trial and Error

Despite the waves Ørjan had caused, he continued to use and sell the products, but he didn’t really succeed in his first company. He was one of the skinniest kids in school, and none of his friends were overweight, so a weight-loss product wasn’t a great match for him.

Two years later, he quit and joined another company that sold cleaning products. For the first time, he earned a commission check which didn’t reflect only personal sales but also the sales volume from his team.

“The check was for about $300,” he says, “but when it arrived in the mail, I ran around the house screaming and yelling so loud that my sister came running into the living room, asking me if I had won the lottery.

“I said, ‘No, this is even better. You know this business I’ve been working with for over two years? They sent me a check. The circles actually work!’

“I figured, if I could multiply my sign-ups, this could eventually become a large business.”

Ørjan didn’t have any training materials or coaching, so he tried to create his own manual and system.

“We did all the wrong things,” he says. “We had some clever ideas, such as cleaning cars while people were waiting for the ferry. When we joined a telecom company, we targeted Asian restaurants to attract distributors with high phone bills. But we didn’t understand how to create duplication.”

After four years of learning experiences, Ørjan eventually joined the company where he would become successful. Up till that point, he had made a total of about $500 in his entire network marketing career, but something shifted in his mindset and he knew this time he was going to succeed. He was willing to do whatever it took, and after three weeks with this new company, his check had grown to the equivalent of $10,000 a month.

“What we did differently was that we created massive enthusiasm and recruited a lot of people. Our belief in the future of our company was so strong that we were very convincing. We built it 100 percent warm-market, telling everyone we knew they had to attend one of our presentations.

“We worked ninety-hour weeks and taught everyone to do three things: 1) book opportunity meetings in hotels and invite friends; 2) present the products and the plan, and show people how to join; 3) educate everyone on how to do the same.

“As our team grew, we realized we needed more training on how to do the invitation calls and how to give presentations. We were just happy our company existed in Scandinavia, but there were no manuals or training tools.”

In November 1997, Ørjan finally got a hold of two books: Don Failla’s The 45-Second Presentation and Tom Schreiter’s Big Al Tells All. Surprised to learn there were books on how to do the business, Ørjan and his two top leaders, Jens and Tim, got so excited they ripped Big Al’s book into three pieces so each could start reading. The most important concept they learned was how to give a short presentation, so now they no longer had to rely only on hotel meetings to grow their team.

Coming to America

Tom Schreiter’s book also mentioned his training company, so Jens called to see if they could attend a seminar. Tom invited them to a one-day conference in Fort Lauderdale the next week and added, “If you’re coming all the way from Norway, you should also join our MLM cruise. That is a whole week of training.”

Jens signed up Ørjan, Tim and himself for both the training and the cruise. Being in their early twenties, they had always assumed that network marketing was for people their age. But when they arrived in Fort Lauderdale, they were shocked to see older people, some of whom had been in the same business for over thirty years. They were also amazed to discover how many companies existed.

On the MLM cruise, Ørjan and his team met Art Jonak and Randy Gage. When they returned to Miami, Randy took Ørjan, Jens and Tim to one of his home meetings to show them his system. In the middle of that meeting, Randy leaned over to Tim and said, “You know what? The money you guys are making is nothing, and you don’t know anything. You have to come to my MLM power training in Orlando this weekend, so you can really learn how to build this business.”

Ørjan and Tim sent Jens home and continued on to Orlando to attend Randy’s event, where they developed even more friendships. When they finally returned home by the end of the year, their New Year’s resolution for 1998 was to build a system-based business anyone could do.

Ørjan and his team applied what they learned from their American counterparts, but they also made some adjustments to make it fit their own country and culture.

“An example of what doesn’t work in Scandinavia is advertising,” says Ørjan. “Our cities are typically much smaller, and if you live in a city of 8,000 people and you teach your team to put ads in the local newspaper, you will fail miserably. Advertising nationally doesn’t work either, because most people don’t have the budget to travel to meetings in other parts of the country.

“Another difference is in how we schedule events. We have a young crowd and network marketing is about freedom, so it’s important to give everyone a chance to sleep in. We schedule our trainings from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m., then we have a party which goes till 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.

“Cultures need to look attractive in order to attract their tribe. If you have a young culture, you attract young people who want to have fun and aren’t necessarily looking to make money. If you have a great training culture, you’ll attract those interested in training, and they might show up event after event, even though they don’t make money. If you have a family culture, you will attract families, because events are a place to get together and meet other families.

“In our part of the world, these cultural values are much stronger than the money side of the business, which becomes important when you rise in leadership.”

Joining Forces

Ørjan achieved the top rank in his company in the middle of 1999, and in the fall of 2000 he met Hilde at one of his team’s weekly meetings.

“I was not speaking that evening,” says Ørjan, “but a friend I had sponsored into the business had told me he was bringing a female guest. I went over to introduce myself and asked, pointing to the girl next to him, ‘Is this your guest?’ And he said, ‘No, this is the girl I’m in love with.’ Knowing my friend, that meant he might have spoken to her for less than five minutes in total, so I said, ‘No, it’s the girl I’m in love with,’ I put my arms around her, gave her a hug, then walked away.

“I stayed outside by the books-and-tapes table during the meeting, and Hilde came out at one point. We chatted for a few minutes, then she went back in. She came out a second time, which I saw as a signal that she enjoyed talking to me. I spoke to her a little more and thought she was a very interesting person, not to mention gorgeous.

“She was wearing a little cross pendant, and I asked her if that meant something to her. She answered that faith was very important to her. I asked her for her business card, which she didn’t have, but she gave me her number on a piece of paper.”

Hilde mildly objects to this version of the story and says she simply came out to use the restroom, but Ørjan points out that his perception is what moved him to action.

“This is actually a teaching point in network marketing,” he says, “because your perception creates your reality. We always act based on our perception, not necessarily on the facts. If your perception is negative, try looking at the facts. But if your perception is positive, just move on that feeling, which is what I did with Hilde.”

Later that night Ørjan sent Hilde a text message, which she answered, and three days later, they went on their first date.

Hilde was doing the business part-time while still in law school and she had no idea Ørjan was a top leader in the company. When she found out, they continued building their respective businesses, helping each other out whenever they could.

“Over the next months, we discovered that, despite our differences, we made a great team,” says Hilde. “Ørjan is a visionary leader who keeps people motivated by helping them see the big picture. I love structure and planning. I’m detail-oriented, organized and consistent with follow-up.”

According to Ørjan, Hilde also has the gift of teaching and coaching people, lifting them up and empowering them by showing them exactly what they need to do.

Ørjan and Hilde got married in 2003, and their complementary skill sets would come in handy that year when their company went through some dramatic changes, almost causing the newlyweds to lose everything.

Becoming Company Owners

In June 2003, one of the company owners called Ørjan to let him know they were going to sell off their telecom division, which was the fastest-growing division of the company. He made an offer to Ørjan and his team, who ended up buying half of the division from the parent company.

“Our newly formed company grew quickly,” says Ørjan, “until the telecom industry took a serious dip in Scandinavia. We suddenly went from making the equivalent of $500,000 a month to losing about $1 million a month. We were rapidly running out of money and had to decide whether to sell off parts of the company or declare bankruptcy. Fortunately we were able to sell parts of it and we adopted a new product line in 2005. Today we still have the same company we formed in 2003, but we renamed it after our new product line.”

Even though Ørjan and Hilde today own over 25 percent of the company, they continue to work mainly as field leaders, since that’s what they love and do best.

“We don’t hold any board positions,” says Ørjan, “and we don’t get involved in management any more than you would naturally in a small company when you’re the top leader. But we do take an owner position when the company needs to make strategic decisions.

“Together with our Diamond Council of field leaders, the corporate team is in charge of products. Field and corporate teams work closely together because we believe the feedback we get from those who work in the trenches is invaluable. Once the field is able to communicate their ideas and needs to the corporate team, the company works with them to sell the field on any new projects before launching them. This ongoing collaboration works well for everyone.”

Hilde and Ørjan’s daily focus is on developing leaders and making sure everyone follows the system.

“The past two days I was in Stockholm giving four presentations,” says Ørjan. “I held coaching sessions with two leaders and one get-started meeting. While I was there, Hilde did customer demonstrations in Oslo during the day and business presentations in the evening.

“Our philosophy is that leaders need to do at least ten basic activities every month, which can range from short presentations to customer demonstrations and hotel meetings. Leaders who don’t do this quickly lose touch with the daily reality of the business. When new people come to you with specific questions and you give a general answer, they will see you as someone who’s built it in the past but doesn’t know how to build it today, and you lose credibility.”

Ørjan and Hilde lead by example, often giving more than forty presentations a month. They like to travel together, but they often split up so they can work in two different cities at the same time.

“Our passion is working with our team,” says Hilde. “Since 2005 we have developed much of our own educational materials, and we’ve been focused on integrating personal development into our system.

Personal growth wasn’t a strong trend in Norway, but thanks to network marketing, there is a growing demand, and bookstores are responding, which is ultimately benefitting business and society at large.”

Living the Dream

Ørjan and Hilde believe working together has not only helped their business but also their relationship.

“Our business is not just our work, it’s also our passion,” says Hilde. “We love what we do and never tire of talking business together. Continuously being steeped in personal development also enhances the romance, the friendship and the partnership between us.”

Ørjan says building the business with your spouse can be very effective, but it doesn’t come without challenges.

“An example is learning how to balance business and social time. Once we were on a five-day vacation in St. Tropez, one of our favorite travel destinations. We were having dinner at the hotel, overseeing a beautiful valley. We were talking about business matters, as we often do over dinner. All of a sudden, we caught ourselves and said, ‘We’re on vacation, we’re supposed to relax and not talk about business.’ Then we asked ourselves, ‘What do others talk about?’

“We started sending our friends text messages, asking them what they talk about when they’re on a vacation. We found they typically talk about other friends, jobs, finances, and so on. Hilde and I have those things in common, while people who have jobs don’t share the same worlds.”

“By working together, we develop an ever closer understanding of each other and how we function,” says Hilde. “This helps us to anticipate each other’s needs and support each other’s goals.”

Looking into the future, Hilde and Ørjan see their company serving one million customers and operating seamlessly in twenty countries by 2020. They also have a vision to create their own charity program for empowering people in developing countries through education.

Ørjan and Hilde don’t mind working sixty to eighty hours a week, as long as they can take frequent vacations to exotic places.

“I have a lot of creative ideas, but in order to keep my edge, I need to unplug on a regular basis,” says Ørjan. “Coming from a cold Scandinavian country, every six weeks or so I want to walk on a beach and feel the warm sand under my feet.”

Hilde couldn’t agree more: her goal to write books and develop her speaking career requires her to regularly retreat from the business and come into her own.

“Apart from the personal benefits we experience from taking time off,” she adds, “there is no greater inspiration for our leaders than seeing us live the lifestyle we want them to achieve. We have lots of pictures to remind our team that this business is about freedom and fun, and to encourage them to take their dreams to new heights.”