Michael Ferreira is a youthful septuagenarian from Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, who started his network marketing business at age sixty-seven.
Trained as a lawyer, Michael is also an outstanding player of English billiards, having won three world amateur and one World Open championship. In 1978 he broke the barrier of 1,000 points in the billiards national championships and created a new amateur world record by scoring 1,149 points, a feat which earned him the nickname "the Bombay Tiger."
In 2005, when a total stranger introduced him to network marketing, Michael had no idea his quiet existence as a retired world champion would be turned completely upside-down. Today, he heads up one of his company's fastest-growing organizations, with close to a half a million people in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Exponential growth kicked in almost immediately for Michael and his team, because among India's 1.21 billion people—more than a sixth of the world population—there are plenty of hard-working, business-minded dreamers eager to share a great opportunity with anyone ready to listen.
When Michael's skills as a billiards champion started fading, his attention turned to coaching and administration. He became India's national billiards coach and was responsible for helping his team earn many gold medals in the Asian Games. He also became the president of his local state association.
In 2005 the president of the Asian Billiards & Snooker Federation gave the rights to host the upcoming Asian snooker championship to India. Michael told his team, "Guys, we are going to hold it in our state." His announcement was met with great enthusiasm, and Michael started looking for sponsors for the event, as he needed to raise the equivalent of about $70,000. With his record as a player, administrator, and coach, he figured they would have no trouble getting sponsors.
He contacted twenty-nine potential sponsors—all of whom said no. He then hired an event management firm that expanded its efforts across the entire spectrum of industries.
In front of his home, enjoying his luxury car.
With Networking Times's Editor in Chief Josephine Gross at company's annual convention in 2011.
Michael and Fay Ferreira with their sons Mark and Paul in 2010.
With Riddhi Moorthi, Anita Moorthi, Khaled Obbeya and Jatin Sachdeva in Dubai, 2010.
Having fun with sons Mark (on the guitar) and Paul in 2009.
Telling his team it's time to wake up.
Fay teaching about the role of the spouse in the business.
Once at the hotel Michael and his new friend sat down over a drink, and Sunil showed Michael the plan. As he later told Michael, "I knew you would join, because mentally you had already signed up."
When Michael saw the plan he was impressed. "My God," he said, "you'd have to have sawdust in your head not to join this business." Sunil knew very well he could sign him up right then and there, but instead he said, "Let's go back to Bombay. You can come to the office, have a look for yourself and then make your decision."
Michael agreed. As soon as he was back in Bombay, he went to visit the office.
"The building was quite imposing," he says, "but the elevator mechanism had been affected by the recent flood. I had to trudge up seven flights of stairs. There was a time when I could have run up those flights, but there I was, huffing and puffing, checking my pulse at every stop. I made it up to the seventh floor and bought the e-cards necessary for my registration. The office manager gave me a receipt. One record I am very proud of, and which is in the Guinness Book of Records, is my world record break of 1,149. When I looked at the receipt, damned if it didn't say 1149! That was it. I knew this business was for me."
Sunil knew he had recruited someone who was potentially a very powerful partner, and he was right. Based in Pune, about a hundred-twenty miles from where Michael lives, he would drive down four or five times a week and spend the whole day, from ten in the morning till midnight, showing the plan and teaching Michael and the new people he had brought in.
"From there my network really exploded," says Michael. "I quickly realized I couldn't carry on having meetings in my home for more than twenty or thirty people, so I rented a venue, a nice local club. People possibly had faith and trust in my name, and my circle of influence is pretty powerful. They reached out to their own circle of influence, and in my first week we had fifty-eight signups, which I found out was very good.
"One day my son Mark started the registration process at ten in the morning and finished at 9:30 at night. I remember him stretching his shoulders and saying, 'Oh my God, that was a lot.'
"One of the visuals in our presentation is called The Cost of Delay, and we made sure everyone realized what that meant. Not only can you lose a lot of income if you delay your registration, you can possibly lose a country, which happened to my upline. He lost Iran because he didn't get started right away when the plan was presented to him. In the meantime his upline showed it to another new business builder from the Philippines, who showed it to a crazy Iranian. Eventually the whole country of Iran came under the leader from the Philippines. At one point Iran was generating a million dollars a day for the company."
Each time Michael told this story his prospects would become anxious to get in as quickly as possible. Fear of loss turned out to be an extremely effective motivator, and his network became the fastest growing organization in his company's history.
Before he got started in network marketing, Michael was a retired lawyer and world champion. He owned a home, two cars, gold Rolexes, and all the typical attributes of success. He was at the top of his game and profession, and people had a lot of respect for him.
"Prior to network marketing, my favorite position was with my feet up on the table," he says, "sipping the best mango juice imported from Scotland, and generally surveying the scene until it was time for me to go to our family grave in St. Andrew's Church, which is about five minutes from our home, and start pushing up daisies."
After joining the business, he says, his life changed 180 degrees.
"I'm ever so grateful to Sunil for offering me this opportunity. I knew that to be successful, you have to be engaged in frenzied activity. I started hustling. Our entire week became focused around our weekly opportunity meeting at our club venue. The trainings, the events, the leadership camps that followed were totally invigorating. I was up and running, after years of being content to sit back and do nothing."
Even billiards, which had given Michael a name and fame and almost everything he had in life, came second, and he no longer had the urge to play. His entire focus was on his business, to the extent that he even lost a few friends.
"That's the price you pay when you get caught up in this adventure," he says. "It sometimes
happens that you have to jettison what you're used to and establish new relationships. I find now that I must reconnect with many of the people from my past, not only to rekindle the relationships, but also because they're darn good prospects."
Today Michael is no longer familiar with the extent of his network's genealogy, because when he clicks the button to download the report, the system jams.
"I imagine it's in excess of 500,000 people," he says. "Now, how many people do you suppose I've spoken to personally? I've actually given one-on-one presentations to no more than thirty-five people. My network exploded because my leaders hit the ground running."
Michael's business builders were mainly in their late twenties to early forties, including his son Mark.
"Some were executives and had MBAs," says Michael, "others were actors and artists. They all had good financial brains and strong skills in talking to people. I covered a wide spectrum of employees, business owners, and professionals, but the point is, our people went out and got them, and that was the reason for the explosive growth in the early days.
"The duplication process took time. The first six months, our guys just went out and signed up everyone in sight. The nurturing aspect—looking after new people and making sure our efforts were duplicated—started kicking in after that first six months. In the first year, my genealogy included 10,000 people. The second year it was 26,000, the third year it was about 150,000. After that I lost track. The exponential growth kicked in almost by default."
In 2009 Michael's company recognized his efforts by making him part of the V Council (the company's upper-echelon leadership council), and Mark was similarly honored in 2011.
Michael says his unprecedented business growth was also due to a powerful demographic factor, namely India's rising standard of living, its growing middle class and insatiable hunger for opportunity. However, this burning desire for economic opportunity came with an equally strong degree of skepticism towards innovative business models.
"When we started, we were only into gold numismatic coins and medallions," says Michael. "India is hung up on gold, and one of the chief objections we got in the old days was, 'How can you pay x amount of rupees for a gold coin, which actually costs only one fifth in terms of pure gold?' We had to polish how we handled those objections, but they didn't deter us. We just went out and did it with a passion, and people believed.
"We learned on the job, we got a lot of training from my mentor Sunil and the V (the company's field leadership and training arm), and we read various publications. Most importantly, we went out and did it, and we were not afraid of being rejected. In our business we highlight what we term the rejection rocket, because that is the biggest blow any young and ambitious networker comes across. We teach the team that rejection is a necessary and integral part of the business."
Michael goes on to share his personal story of rejection.
"I was involved in billiards for fifty-odd years, as a champion player, a champion coach and an administrator. Many in the playing community knew me, loved me, trusted me, so who do you think I would turn to as my immediate circle of influence? Obviously, the playing community. And except for one person, no one from the hundreds of people I knew was prepared to listen to me. But rather than deflating me completely, this just stiffened my resolve. I said, 'It's their loss, not mine,' and just proceeded."
Besides his refusal to let initial rejection bring him down, another reason for Michael's success was that he mastered the compensation plan very quickly.
"It was structured in a very compelling fashion," he says, "and unless you're a total idiot, you had to admit, 'Wow, this is something I cannot afford to miss.' I'm forever grateful for this."
After those first weeks in the business, Michael has never needed to go out and find new prospects. "All I did was to emphasize patience and training," he says, "and made sure that my people did the same. We were growing furiously, and at my level of seniority in the business, there is a lot of management that comes into play."
Now, after six years in the business, Michael is beginning to contact some friends from his past and warm up old connections. His mentor once told him, "Whatever you do, Michael, don't forget rule three." Rule three is showing a minimum of fifteen personal plans a month.
"If I'm not doing rule three, how can I expect my leaders to do it?" says Michael. "Even when I'm in maximum management mode, resolving issues or problems as a V-Council member, rule three has to be part of my makeup. There was a time where I was guilty of neglect here, and I'm covering up that deficiency now, because I want to make sure my pipeline keeps on flowing."
In 2008, about three years into the business, Michael and his team experienced a serious challenge.
"There was an issue with the import value of some of our products," he says. "The company took a view that the value was X and the customs valued it at X plus something. While this dispute was going on, networkers, being networkers, carried on selling in large quantities, but the import of those products was stopped pending settlement of the dispute. As a result, the mismatch between the orders placed by the network and the products supplied by the company was catastrophic and the administrative machinery broke down. This gave rise to a whole lot of problems, because the network was screaming, 'We paid for our products. The bloody company hasn't delivered them. This is a scam.'
"Our head office was located in Chennai, and officialdom latched onto what they saw as a golden opportunity and encouraged people to flood the office with complaints.
"The company fought back and said, 'We're not a scam. We're not running away. If the products haven't been delivered, we are going to stay here and make sure the problem gets solved.' A criminal complaint was filed against the company, which was totally inappropriate. The maximum the company could have been accused of was a civil default. A crime involves what's known as mens rea, which is Latin for 'a guilty mind.' At no stage was the company guilty of mens rea. They never intended to take money from prospects and default on supplying them with goods.
"This dispute took a long time, and the matter was taken to court. Our managing director was arrested and put in jail, and the network, particularly in the south, ground to a standstill.
"Here, with our team, we just honed our objection-handling skills on the scam aspect and pressed onward. Our relationships in the team were rock solid, so mine was one of the few teams that was functioning on all cylinders throughout this whole ordeal.
"Today, the Chennai challenge is on the brink of resolution. We are a revolutionary business model which, in the absence of definitive legislation, tends to make authorities uncomfortable. Meanwhile, the company is tweaking the business model in a manner that will satisfy the jurisdictions of all sensible countries in the world. When I say sensible, I exclude what we call maniacal countries where there is no rule of law."
Michael believes that because of the dynamic nature of network marketing, challenges will always be lurking around the corner, so he constantly educates his team on this aspect.
"We're very clear that this is not a Ponzi scheme, because we sell products that hold value. It is time for various governments in the world to follow Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and others that recognize this as a legal way of carrying on business, as happened in the United States in 1979, when Amway won the landmark decision in the Supreme Court declaring that network marketing is a legitimate form of business."
For the most part, Michael and his leaders rely on the V when it comes to training, but they also look to American authors such as Robert Kiyosaki for additional education.
"Robert Kiyosaki's The Business School is part of our compulsory reading," says Michael, "and The Business of the 21st Century is also fantastic, as are titles such as Who Stole the American Dream?, Copycat Marketing 101 and The Parable of the Pipeline."
Michael also reads every issue of Networking Times he can get his hands on. He finds the Master Networker profiles especially uplifting and insightful for learning how the networking profession is evolving in different countries.
One of Michael's dreams is to surpass his grand upline in his earnings. At age seventy-two, he says he has only twenty-eight more years to do it, because he plans on living to a hundred.
Michael's current network is strongest in Egypt, India, and the Middle East. New Zealand is one of his fledgling markets.
"My business takes my leaders into areas way off the beaten path," he says, "for instance, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We also operate in African countries such as Botswana, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Nigeria. As far as Europe and Australia are concerned, they're legitimate targets, but the mindset of the average Westerner is different. They're rather literal and skeptical, heavily into the 'I'm all right, Jack' mindset.
"The other day when I was in Dubai, we had our regular weekly meeting, which included Indians, U.A.E. nationals, Iranians, Egyptians, South Africans, Brits, and Sudanese. That's as unholy a mix as you can imagine."
Even though the cultural diversity of his network can present a challenge, most of the time the Indian culture predominates. Michael explains:
"Often Indian leaders boast about opening up XYZ countries, but what they're really doing is opening up countries in which Indians reside. When someone says, 'I opened up Dubai,' what he really means is, 'I'm signing up Indians who live in Dubai.'"
However, Michael says there is one person who got into a foreign country with a different language and mindset, and that is his son Mark, who went out and conquered Egypt, along with his amazing leaders.
"Can you imagine an Indian going into an Arabic country, speaking English and no Arabic, and people listening to him with rapt attention? Today Egypt has our fastest growing team in the world. My hat is off to my own son, and I say this without finding it necessary to apologize to anyone. The reason for his success? He is a disciplinarian. He tolerates no nonsense, and that kind of strong approach has two effects. It either pisses people off, or it causes people to say 'Wow, this guy is worth following.' For those who cannot see that, it's their loss. We just keep growing our network while having the time of our lives."