Ken and Danette Kroll lead a network marketing organization that spans all fifty states and includes teams in Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Danette, a former teacher, incorporates her skills as an educator to support and empower her team. Ken, a computer engineer and former network marketing skeptic, now contributes his technical talents as he enjoys the freedom of time and wealth the business has created in his life.
After several years of doing network marketing full-time, Ken and Danette are now focused on showing others how to achieve the same sense of fulfillment that they experience themselves every day. The profession has made it possible for the Idaho-based couple to share their company's culture of generosity with people around the world as their network continues to expand. The Krolls say they see little distinction between their work and what they do for pleasure, and they consider themselves blessed to have jobs that allow them to educate others on a bigger scale than they ever thought possible.
Getting the Party Started
Both Danette and Ken had established careers when they first encountered their future network marketing company. Danette loved working with children as an elementary then middle school physical education and health teacher and tennis coach, and Ken had spent twenty-five years as a business manager in the IT industry. Neither of them was considering a new profession, and neither had any interest in network marketing.
In the fall of 2005, Danette purchased several household items that a colleague had on display in the school office. She gave several away as holiday gifts and kept a few for herself. Soon, she had fallen so in love with the products that she called the company's support line for more information about them.
Company CEO Orville Thompson answered Danette's call, and the two proceeded to talk for twenty minutes.
"I loved his energy," recalls Danette. "He told me that his company was based in Meridian, Idaho—the same town where Ken and I live. I asked him if I could start selling the product myself, and, of course, he said yes."
She contacted the lady whose name was on the product catalog, immediately liked and trusted her, and signed up as a distributor.
For Danette, signing up with the team was simply a way for her to enjoy the product while having fun sharing it with people and making some easy side money as well.
"At first, my plan was to integrate selling the product into my schedule, which at the time included my teaching job and coaching activities. I also volunteered with a cystic fibrosis organization and cleaned houses on the weekend for extra cash. I was busy, but I made it my goal to earn enough money selling the product to cover a car payment."
Even though Danette was enthusiastic about the product, she was initially reticent to sell through home parties. Instead, she left product displays and catalogs at her school and at other businesses, including Ken's office. The product sold well, and within a few weeks, buyers began requesting that Danette host a party. Despite her initial reluctance, she found the experience to be a fun way to meet people and use her teaching skills on a new audience.
"I was working with little kids during the day and big kids at night," Danette says. "Integrating my teaching skills made it possible for me to
present the party in a way that made both me and my guests comfortable. My teaching games helped bring out everyone's inner child. We had so much fun, and I sold a lot of product."
On a road trip with the company truck for mobile training.
Danette being herself at DisneyWorld Resort.
Playing a round of golf at the annual incentive trip in Hawaii.
Commemorating the unveiling of a Teen Room for kids with cancer at a local hospital.
|Yeehaw! An annual incentive trip excursion in Banff, Canada.|
Celebrating with a few of their group's top producers.
Some of Danette and Ken's amazing leaders at this year's annual convention in Texas.
Following their favorite college football team at Boise State University.
Danette leading a training at annual convention in 2011 in Texas.
At this point, Danette's involvement in the business was simply a hobby.
"I was meeting amazing people, sharing a great product, and earning good money doing it," says Danette, "but up to that point it was just a side project. I wasn't trying to build a business and didn't comprehend the value of sponsoring people into the opportunity."
Within six months Danette had made enough money to pay off her car entirely. This achievement made her realize that network marketing might allow her to accomplish more than she had initially thought. Shortly thereafter, Danette attended a company convention and started seeing how network marketing could have a profound and positive impact on her and Ken's life, as well as on the lives of others they touched.
"Hearing Orville and his wife Heidi talk about their vision for the company made me realize that the opportunity was much bigger than just selling a product. It was a chance to create a real business."
After the convention, Danette went home and excitedly shared what she had learned with Ken.
"I gave him the numbers on growth potential that Orville and Heidi had projected and told him that we had to start focusing on the business-building aspect. I finally saw a massive opportunity to create something big."
While Ken had been supportive of Danette selling the product as a hobby, he was wary about getting into the business side of the opportunity.
"I was hugely skeptical of network marketing," recalls Ken. "I didn't know anything about Danette's company, and because of other organizations I had encountered, I had negative impressions of the profession."
Still, Ken recognized his wife's enthusiasm and asked her to invite Orville and Heidi over for dinner so he could learn more about their company.
"Ken didn't think I would really ask them over," adds Danette, "but I felt close to the owners, since the company was local and I had attended trainings with them. I invited Orville and Heidi over, and they came to our house later that week."
During dinner, Ken quizzed the couple regarding various aspects of the business, including why they weren't selling the product through traditional retail channels.
"The company does amazingly well today," Ken says, "but at the time it was a new organization with no proven track record. I was looking for reasons not to get involved."
"I was kicking Ken under the table during the whole meal," Danette recalls. "For that dinner, I made brisket for the first time. I had marinated it for twenty-four hours and cooked it for two, so it came out of the oven very chewy. Orville was carefully chewing his food and patiently answering Ken's questions."
"Orville's answers impressed me." Ken says. "Talking to him and Heidi made me less skeptical about the organization, and I was really drawn in by their character and the caring ethics with which they ran their company."
By the end of the dinner, Ken's suspicions were replaced with excitement.
"I was totally inspired after listening to Orville and Heidi talk about what the business could become," he says. "When they left, I shut the door, turned to Danette and said 'I don't think you understand the potential of this opportunity.'"
After a year and a half of casual involvement in the organization, Ken and Danette were both ready to get down to business.
Conveniently, Ken had recently decided to take a year off from work to strategize about the next step in his career.
"This gave me the time to educate myself about network marketing and then develop our business plan," says Ken. "I was a longtime Robert Kiyosaki reader and had always contemplated how to get from the employee side to the business side of his Rich Dad Poor Dad quadrant. When I analyzed the best way for us to develop a sustainable business, I realized we needed to do things very differently than we had in the first year and a half."
Ken and Danette finally saw that the growth of their business was dependent on developing their team rather than on selling high volumes of products.
"It was a challenging transition for us to figure out how we could leverage people's love of the product into a chance to have a discussion with them about the business opportunity," Ken says.
It took the Krolls some time and a bit of trial and error to learn how to have these conversations in a way that felt natural.
"The idea of cold calling or preying on my friends and neighbors was one of the reasons I had been so put off by the profession in the first place," Ken says, "which made introducing the opportunity especially challenging for me."
Once they developed an introduction strategy they felt comfortable with, Ken and Danette's team began growing quickly, and their income grew along with it.
"The month we got a paycheck that equaled my yearly teaching salary," says Danette, "we knew this was something we had to share with our friends and family especially."
After a year of aggressively building their business, it was time for Ken to decide whether or not he would go back to his former career in business management.
"We knew the potential of the opportunity we had was huge," says Ken. "And that made my decision to focus on network marketing an easy one."
While their company was growing steadily, the couple experienced a prolific period of growth via an incentive trip that Danette found especially enticing. This vacation included a week of spa treatments at a prestigious Northwest resort in Colorado Springs, and Danette was determined to win it.
To stay encouraged, she used a tool she calls promise notes.
"For the past twenty-five years, whenever I have had a goal or a challenge, I would write a promise on a piece of paper and put it in my wallet so I'd be reminded of my goal every time I would pay for something," Danette says. "I wrote a note about the spa retreat to stay motivated and then worked for it relentlessly."
Danette hosted twenty-seven home parties in six weeks, and through them earned the week of luxury she had so desired. She had an incredible time at the spa retreat, but this wasn't the only reward she had earned: she and Ken soon realized that her efforts also created a surge in business brought in from other team members. As they were now experiencing exponential growth, the next challenge was learning how to transition from recruiting to supporting and coaching their team.
"We recognized that we had a lot of natural leaders on board," Ken says. "We wanted to get out of their way and let them lead."
"It was important to us to be resources for our network," adds Danette. "As a teacher, I knew that the more knowledge they had, the faster they could grow. I was happy to use my teaching skills to guide them. I was always sharing articles and books that I found useful."
Recognizing that their team included many non-local members, Ken used his IT skills to create virtual support systems that allowed members to stay plugged into trainings and coachings from a distance. The couple also focused on helping team members develop their businesses faster than they themselves had.
"We don't want anyone in our organization to start from scratch," Ken says. "It took us eighteen months to figure out the business. If we do our job right, it won't take anyone else that long."
"It's important for me to show people where we struggled so they can learn from our mistakes," Danette says. "Failure is a powerful learning tool. Nothing is more authentic."
The couple's own learning process continued through new challenges they encountered as they rose through the ranks in their company's payplan.
"When we got all these leaders on board, it was hard for me to get out of their way," says Danette. "At first, it made me insecure, because I thought they didn't need me. But once we started channeling our energy towards embracing the opportunities our company provided for upper-level leaders, it felt productive to get out of their way while we learned about new resources we could share with them."
After a year and a half of aggressive business building, Ken and Danette's team was thriving. While the couple could have afforded to have Danette leave her teaching job, she decided to keep working part time because she loved being around her students. Despite this transition, Danette understood that while one phase of her career was ending, her new profession allowed her to continue to educate.
"My whole life has been dedicated to teaching, and network marketing makes it possible for Ken and me to educate a huge audience by sharing the values of our organization with our team. I always thought teaching children epitomized a community service profession, but I've never felt like I was making more of a difference in society than I do with this company."
Give More Than You Take
The opportunity to make a positive difference was one thing that strongly attracted Ken and Danette to network marketing in the first place. The caring values of their company (whose motto is "Contribute more than you take") have had a profound impact on the couple and their business.
"I came from corporate America, where people often get ahead through brownnosing and backstabbing," Ken says. "That never sat well with me. Our company's caring business model is so important to us and has really grown our passion for the profession."
The company's culture of generosity is exemplified at the highest level: by the owners themselves. Danette recalls one busy holiday season when orders were taking longer than usual to fill. Orville and Heidi told all their distributors that any customers who had been waiting more than three weeks for their products would receive a free gift with their order.
"That was a powerful message about how much they cared for their consumers," says Danette. And, she adds, the company shows the same generosity to its members. The couple recalls that in an early phase of development, customers were able to order directly through the company website. Orville and Heidi published a list of customers who had ordered online and instructed distributors to notify them if any of the orders came from pre-existing customers, as they wanted to ensure that everyone was properly compensated for these online orders.
"They didn't have to tell us about those orders," says Danette. "We would have never known. There have been so many times when the company has exemplified their motto of contributing more than you take, even when they didn't necessarily have the financial means to do so. They have always operated with a generous heart and with the understanding that you can never give kindness away, because it always comes back to you."
On another occasion, the company offered to pay the registration fee for anybody in the network who wanted to participate in the Susan B. Komen Walk for a Cure in nearby Boise. The founders even offered to cover the registration fee for family members. As a result, the company assembled the largest local team in the history of the Boise event. The CEOs donated an additional fifty dollars for anybody who beat a top executive in the race.
"Our executives are pretty fit and active," Danette recalls, "so they chose a company executive of average fitness to wait at the finish line until everybody crossed. We raised $171,000 for the Race for the Cure with this event (more than half of the area goal) with a team of just over 2200 participants. It's such a joy to be part of a strong force for good."
Ken and Danette now have a lifestyle where there is little distinction between what they do for work and what they do for fun.
"I never feel I have to go to my computer or that I'm required to go to a party," Danette says. "Instead, I feel I get to do these things."
"Network marketing has made it possible for us to integrate our deeper values into our everyday living," adds Ken. "We no longer have to sacrifice all the things we formerly had to set aside because I had only two weeks off every year."
The couple now has ample time to enjoy their favorite activities, including attending the football games of their college alma mater.
"We're big team sponsors," Ken says. "We got an invitation in the mail for an event from our alumni association that requested we wear business attire. I thought, 'I hope it's okay that our business attire is shorts and a tee-shirt!'"
This integration of work and real life provides the couple with a deep sense of fulfillment and makes it possible for them to focus on their higher purpose.
"We always ask our team members, 'What is your why that makes you high?' If you're getting out of bed every day to develop your business for the money, then you're going to burn out," explains Ken. "Money and freedom are just vehicles to fulfill larger goals. When you find that greater purpose in your heart, you can really fly."
Ken and Danette's higher purpose is educating others, and their business provides them with a platform to teach people around the world their company's values of generosity and kindness. They also see their position as an opportunity to improve the perception of the profession.
The couple, who has no children of their own, now also has the time and financial means to pursue taking in foster children.
"In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that in order to have a meaningful life, one must have purpose," Danette says. "I really thought I had found my purpose when I was teaching, but through our participation in this company, we've found an even bigger opportunity to reach out to more kids."
"This company," adds Ken, "has given us purpose beyond our wildest dreams."
By trusting their instincts, aligning themselves with a company whose values match their own and working hard to reach their goals, Ken and Danette have achieved a level of self-actualization that they hadn't even realized was possible before they encountered network marketing. They consider themselves blessed to have found their highest calling.