Jean-Philippe Hulin is a highly accomplished network marketing leader and trainer in the tiny kingdom of Belgium. Despite spanning a geographical area smaller than New Jersey, his team generates consistent monthly sales of more than two million Euros.
Growing up in a blue-collar family during a depressed economy, "JeanPhi" hardly seemed destined for financial prosperity. At the age of 26, he already was deeply in debt. However, everything changed when he joined his current company and discovered the world of personal and professional development.
Today, nine years later, JeanPhi credits Jim Rohn and Tom "Big Al" Schreiter with his tremendous growth in every area of life. He knows all their material by heart and his trainings consist mostly of their stories and insights translated into French.
In addition to expanding his own business, JeanPhi's dream is to honor his mentors by becoming the interpreter par excellence of their work in the French-speaking world of network marketing and personal growth.
Homes JeanPhi grew up in. (above and below)
Parked in front of his parents fries stand.
JeanPhi appearing on TV.
JeanPhi with Tom "Big Al" Schreiter."
"Crazy Night" with the team.
At Art Jonak's 2010 Mastermind in Houston.
On vacation in the Maldives.
JeanPhi was born in 1975 in Liège, the largest metropolitan area in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. During the industrial revolution Wallonia had a thriving economy, capitalizing on its extensive deposits of coal and iron and making it the more prosperous half of Belgium from the beginning of the nineteenth through the middle of the twentieth centuries. But with the decline of heavy industry, the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) region soon surpassed Wallonia in wealth. Today Wallonia suffers from high unemployment and has a significantly lower GDP per capita than Flanders, and this economic discrepancy causes never-ending political conflict between the two regions
"I grew up in a municipality called Flémalle," says JeanPhi, "first in some kind of government housing, then in a tiny house right in front of a big plant."
Liège was known worldwide for its steel and coal factories and while it's not Belgium's poorest province, most inhabitants have rather modest means.
JeanPhi's father had been a steel factory worker for almost forty years, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom—until dad decided to start a side business the whole family would get involved in.
"My parents opened a fries stand in April 1991, as I was about to turn 16," says JeanPhi. "The first two weeks, they bought ready-to-cook fries but then decided this was too expensive. They bought a small electrical peeling machine and designated me to operate it. Then they decided it was too noisy for the customers and they gave me a simple knife. I managed to peel fifty kilos of potatoes per hour back then, and they were selling more than a ton every week."
After high school, JeanPhi started studying engineering but, being an unruly teenager, he got kicked out of his parents' house at the age of 19, failing his exams as a result.
"For almost a year, I was in a shaky psychological state," he says. "I stopped going to school, then decided it was better to have a degree, so I enrolled in a program to become a construction foreman and graduated at age 23."
Due to some irresponsible financial decisions and a brief period of unemployment, JeanPhi accumulated significant debt. Then one night he met a guy at a club in his home town who told him he might have a solution for his predicament. He invited JeanPhi to a hotel meeting, but never showed up himself. JeanPhi went at the appointed time, didn't know anyone at the meeting but found the opportunity attractive, so he joined anyway.
This was actually the second time JeanPhi had gotten involved in network marketing. As a student, he had joined an insurance MLM company and tried to build a business for a year and a half, until he graduated and went looking for a real job.
"I got involved with my current company in December 2002," he says. "At age 26, I was €40.000 in debt and urgently needed to find a solution: I was unemployed and the bailiffs were chasing me big time. In just two years, I was able to pay my debts in full while covering all my expenses."
In the beginning, JeanPhi knew absolutely nothing about network marketing. He just went with his enthusiasm, and this worked pretty well because his company's service was easy to sell. At a certain point, though, he realized his team wasn't growing the way he was expecting, so for help he turned to one of the top earners in his company, Geoff Liberman [featured in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Networking Times]. Geoff introduced him to Jim Rohn by giving him a CD-set called The Day that Turns Your Life Around, and JeanPhi immediately started listening.
"It was the first personal growth program I had ever listened to," says JeanPhi, "and I'm forever grateful to Geoff for his gift because it literally turned my life around. I've listened to it hundreds of times, and today I know it by heart, word for word, including Jim's pauses and inflections.
"I understood that I had to reprogram my mind. I was born in a poor family and had always been told that money is difficult to earn and that the rich are stupid and mean.
"When Jim Rohn says, 'Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better,' this may seem basic stuff, but nobody had ever told me such things before. I was always blaming somebody else for my situation, and now all of a sudden someone I had never even met was telling me I was responsible for my life." Rohn's maxim was so impactful for JeanPhi that he named his own publishing company Be Better.
"When I listened to these CDs," adds JeanPhi, "it was as though Jim Rohn was talking to me personally. Everything he said made sense, so I decided to look into more audio programs, trainings, books, and seminars. I became a personal growth junkie, reading every minute I could. Every night I'd read for one, two or three hours before falling asleep, and then I'd get up in the morning and start all over again. While eating breakfast, I listened to my MP3 player. When driving to appointments, Jim Rohn was with me in my car."
Soon after discovering Jim Rohn, JeanPhi found Tom Schreiter.
"Both these masters influenced me the most," says JeanPhi. "I believe they are true geniuses at empowering ordinary people like me."
For the first couple of years, JeanPhi reinvested every penny he earned back into his business. He worked every day from morning till midnight, and sometimes until one or two in the morning, talking to anyone who wanted to listen—his team, his prospects, his upline and other leaders in the company.
"I was so hungry to succeed and help my team succeed that I was on the phone all day long," he says. "I didn't really have the skills, but even without the skills, something magical came out of this massive activity."
To illustrate what this time felt like, JeanPhi tells a story he learned from Tom Schreiter about a guy who is tired of his job and decides to become a woodcutter. He buys an axe, goes into the woods and tries to cut down his very first tree. However, he finds this very difficult, and he doesn't understand why he's not succeeding, because it seems simple to him.
An old woodcutter comes by and tells him, "Listen, you need to sharpen your axe." The young guy tells the old guy he doesn't understand and the old guy leaves. After a day, the young guy is exhausted and his hands are bloody. He decides to go to a store to see if he can get his axe sharpened. The salesman sells him a chainsaw. It's a magnificent tool; the young guy pays 300 bucks and returns to the woods.
That night, he goes back to the store and tells the salesman that the chainsaw doesn't work. The salesman asks to see the tool, pulls the cord and starts up the engine—and the young guy says, "Hey, what's that noise?"
He had been trying to cut down the tree with the chainsaw—without turning it on.
"In my early days," says JeanPhi, "I was that guy. I was buying tools and trying to cut down trees, but I didn't understand what the point was. I didn't know how to use the tools. Even after listening to Jim Rohn and Tom Schreiter, I still didn't really understand what I was doing!
"Even today," he adds, "I still have a lot to learn. We need to become professionals in order to be successful in network marketing. Just as it takes years in school to learn any other job, it takes time to really understand network marketing and what makes it work."
During those early years, JeanPhi's system was to call people he knew, whether directly or through referrals, tell them he had an opportunity to make extra income and invite them to meet him at the bar in a nearby hotel.
This meeting format often meant that JeanPhi had to buy the other person drinks, sometimes for hours on end; one month he spent over a thousand Euros just on Cokes while presenting to prospects. Although his business was growing, his expenses were canceling out all his profits.
Still, this was not his biggest challenge.
"Staying motivated was the hardest," says JeanPhi. "Most of my friends and family told me no. My dad, my brother and sister, all those people who loved me were trying to keep me from being successful, because it was uncommon. It was not what they knew. This resistance is even stronger in Belgium than in the United States, because we have less social proof here that network marketing works.
"It was difficult to keep going with everyone telling me this was a joke and that I should get back to doing what I'd learned to do in school."
What helped JeanPhi make it through was the strength of his vision, which he says he started developing in his early childhood.
"I had two major experiences I've always been able to rely on," he says. "The first one came from my grandmother. When I was a small boy, four or five years old, she told me I was a prince. She repeated it to me every time I saw her and she told me I could have anything I wanted in life. She also predicted that I would marry a robot woman in 2000. She was wrong about that part—but for whatever reason, I decided to believe her about the other part.
"The second childhood factor—and I have no idea where it came from—was that ever since I was a child, I knew I was going to succeed. It wasn't that I wanted it, I knew it.
"Whenever I faced tough times, I would think of my grandmother telling me I'm a prince and that I could do anything I wanted to do and get anything I wanted in life, and also get back in touch with that strong feeling burning inside of me that I was here to succeed. The bigger the problems, the more I believed what my grandmother said to me and what I was feeling inside."
Reflecting back on his teenage years, JeanPhi says his parents made some mistakes, but they instilled in him some important values, including the value of hard work.
"I've always seen my father waking up at four in the morning, getting back home at three in the afternoon, sleeping for a half an hour and then opening the fries stand."
However, the early messages JeanPhi received about money and rewards were anything but empowering.
"I remember feeling useless when I was peeling potatoes after school. It was boring and didn't give me any satisfaction. Anyone can peel a potato. One day, I convinced my parents to pay me 2.50 Euros for every 25-kilo bag I peeled. Since I was peeling a bag every half hour, I earned a nice hourly wage for my age.
"As soon as my mother realized how much I was making, she decided it was too much money for someone of my age, and she stopped paying me. I felt terrible and after that I stopped caring. Not feeling valued for my contribution, I was just going through the motions. This early experience taught me the importance of recognizing people if we want to bring out the best in them."
Leading a Team
Today JeanPhi is one of the most successful network marketers in his country and a top earner in his company. He built his team only in Wallonia, which comprises half the area of Belgium and about a third of its population.
"The unusual part about my team," he says, "is that with only 2,600 distributors, we have gathered more than 120,000 customers in this tiny market of 3.5 million people. We are averaging more than forty customers per distributor. I've been told it's a good ratio, but we didn't know this was atypical in network marketing."
JeanPhi used to be on the phone more than eight hours a day, until he realized this was unsustainable.
"At a certain point, you just can't handle another call," he says. "One day, as I was about to toss my mobile, I decided that instead of answering questions for my team, I would teach them where to find the answers. When someone asked me a question, I would say, 'That's a great question, where do you think you can find the answer?' Of course, they would answer, 'In the brochures and on the website.' I told them to go search for the answer, and if they didn't find it, to give me a call.
"Suddenly I was receiving ten calls a day instead of 200. Today most of my leaders are completely autonomous. Sometimes they call me to ask for advice, but their questions are more interesting because they require coaching. Before, I was an answering machine, and now, I'm helpful."
Even with questions that require a more in-depth answer, such as "How do I create duplication?" or "I have a friend who was willing to start but isn't anymore, what can I do?" or "I would like to reach the next rank, how can I do it?" JeanPhi takes the same approach of teaching people how to help themselves.
"When people tell me they've run out of prospects, the first question I ask is, 'How many books on prospecting have you read in the last three months?'
"Most of the time, the answer is zero, so I say, 'That's not a good number.' Next they ask, 'I know you've been reading a lot, can you please tell me which book I should read?' Again, I say, 'Where do you think I find these books?' The answer is simple: on Amazon.com and on French personal development sites. I send them there and say, 'Do your research. Type 'prospecting' or 'customer' into the search box and you will find the answer. Buy the book, read it and apply what you learn. If you need more help, tell me which book you bought and I will help you."
Becoming a Writer
A few months ago JeanPhi decided to write his own prospecting book called La Liberté Financière en 7 Etapes (Financial Freedom in 7 Steps), which has sold 15,000 copies just through his own web site.
"I don't have the credentials to write books," he says, "but in the French market, we don't have many good books on network marketing, and most of them are poor translations from American authors.
"Tom Schreiter convinced me to write a book and taught me how to do it. I learned most of my copywriting skills from him. I didn't know what copywriting was until one day, Tom told me it's the science of the proper use of words to get people to take action. I thought that was an important skill for network marketers to learn, because what we want is for people to take action.
"I bought a plane ticket and went to Houston to attend Tom's training called Power Marketing & Promotions Workshop. This was an amazing experience, because for the first time in my life, I understood that words have immense power. Tom told me that it's what you say and what you do that produces results. We learned how to build effective first sentences like newspaper headlines. This was a revelation for me, and it's why I decided to write a book. I'm very grateful to Tom.
"In the library on FortuneNow.com, you'll find a PDF with the twenty-five skills you need to master in order to succeed in network marketing. At least twenty of those skills are about how to choose your words. What's brilliant about Tom is that he brings these two businesses together, copywriting and network marketing.
"Tom told me that writing a book would position me as an expert in my field. I didn't believe him at first, but he was right. Being an author gave me authority. Suddenly something changed in my prospecting and in the way people approached me. It made things easier. If I may give network marketers any advice, it would be to start writing—it doesn't have to be a book, it can simply be a report or a PDF or stories or Facebook notes—and to use these while prospecting. Something magical happens when you put words on paper."
JeanPhi also sends out a regular newsletter to a little more than 30,000 subscribers. He modeled it after Tom Schreiter's newsletter in that it provides free information for network marketers in any company.
"I've never tried to sell anything to my list," says JeanPhi, "except for my prospecting book, but I did that in a very specific way: I asked my list to help me choose a title and set the price. The list was working with me. When I finished the first draft, I sent it to my list for free to get their feedback. I was using metrics and Google Docs to ask questions and create charts. My first question was, 'Are you involved in network marketing?' I found out only 49 percent were already in and 51 percent were just interested. The feedback I received helped me to fine tune my book, which become almost customized for my list. When I made the book available for pre-sale, I sold 1,200 copies in 24 hours. I knew people would find it interesting, because they had been involved in the creation process. During the official launch, sales skyrocketed. For a boy who used to peel potatoes, it was the most amazing thing."
Looking in the Mirror—and Beyond
JeanPhi doesn't teach his team how to write, because he wants them to stay focused on building the business, but he does teach speaking and presentation skills.
"It's a lot of fun," he says. "I invite only the people on my team whom I think are ready, and we do a simple exercise of facing the mirror and saying, 'Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming.' Saying this short sentence with the right tone while smiling and facing the mirror shows them what the other attendees will see. As soon as people are able to do this exercise really well, they suddenly become great speakers, because they know the information already. They just learned how to present it in a positive and entertaining way."
Thanks to this very simple exercise, most of the certified trainers in JeanPhi's company are on his team and have become very successful.
In addition to taking Tom Schreiter workshops, JeanPhi has become a regular attendee of Art Jonak's Mastermind and this year he is planning on attending the MLM Cruise.
"I used to think that network marketing in the United States was booming and easy," he says. "I was so excited to fly over and get to the country where network marketing was born. After talking to my American colleagues for about ten minutes, I understood that they were encountering the same problems we have in Europe. I think this is because we are dealing with people, and all human beings share the same fears and aspirations.
"Take the example of a big company like L'Oréal. They use the same motto in every country around the world: Because You're Worth It. If a big company spending billions of dollars in advertisement is using the same phrase in any language, there must be a reason. Then I turned to Gillette, and they also have a motto that's the same in every language. I think the reason is that these words work everywhere. I don't think we have significant cultural differences between Europe and the States. We simply need to learn the proper use of words to reach human beings, to express empathy and create good relationships."
JeanPhi's team has its own motto, which consists of three words: Truth, Honesty, Empathy. He teaches that if you tell the truth, do the right thing and are empathetic, you will succeed, no matter what business you're in.
One of JeanPhi's personal dreams is to become a multimillionaire, "not for the millions," he says, "but for what it will require of me to achieve it, for the man I will become in the process."
Another dream is to find his soulmate to share his future.
Professionally, he would like to become recognized as the French Jim Rohn or Tom Schreiter, because he admires them immensely for having enriched countless lives.
"I also would like to help network marketing find inroads into mass media," he says. "We're facing a global crisis and network marketers have one of the best solutions to offer. We can solve money problems and retirement issues for anybody willing to invest their time to learn this business. Fifteen or twenty years from now, governments will no longer be able to pay out pensions. We can help."
JeanPhi recently appeared on national television during prime time in a show that denounces marketing scams. Being grilled by journalists who were trying to make fun of network marketing, JeanPhi answered with confidence and grace, coming out with flying colors. While he is happy to have started the process, he thinks it will be a long journey.
"It's okay, though" he says. "I have all the time in the world."