Shai and Yaffa Samuel are an Israeli couple currently living in San Diego with their three teenage sons. Together they lead a network marketing organization of 50,000 people spread out over twenty countries.
In 2006, it looked like the Samuel family had it all. They lived in Haifa, Israel, a beautiful city on Carmel Mountain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Both Shai and Yaffa had good jobs with nice salaries.
Yet something didn't feel right. They were in high-pressure careers and often worked more than twelve hours a day. They began to worry about the time away from their young sons, Ori, Yuval, and Amit.
Shai had been looking for several years to create passive income and more time freedom when he finally stumbled upon network marketing. He immediately knew it was his opportunity, and with some effort he was able to convince his spouse that they should launch a business together.
The couple encountered numerous challenges, starting with the 2006 Lebanon War that was raging through their city as they held home meetings. Their dedication, focus, and willingness to coach and be coached allowed them to grow a solid international business.
At their last company convention, Shai and Yaffa received special honors from one of their most significant mentors, Randy Gage, who summed up the secret to their success. He said, "I believe that Shai and Yaffa have such a pure heart that they would do anything for their team."
"We love the ocean so much we must live nearby." San Diego, 2012.
Zip-lining with family in Costa Rica.
Shai and the boys at Vernal Falls, Yosemite.
Touring the U.S. with family, visiting visiting Zion national Park, Utah.
Celebrating success with friends in Buenos Aires. Argentina.
Training in Medellín, Columbia.
Relaxing after a big event in Santiago, Chile.
Top earners night at company event, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Spending time with children at the Tribe of Jesus Orphanage near Rosarito, Mexico.
Driving a racing car on the Salt Lake City Race Track.
A New Paradigm
When Shai was working as a computer consultant, he would travel from Israel to California three times a year.
"Those trips took me about thirty hours door to door," he says. "The company that sent me paid all my expenses and in return expected me to contribute all my time. I was supposed to work during every flight so I would be prepared for the next morning's meeting. On my last trip I couldn't take it anymore. On a layover in San Francisco, I walked around the terminal looking for something easy to read—English is not my first language—and came across Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad. During my flight home, instead of working I read the entire book and when I arrived, I showed it to Yaffa and said, "Now I understand why we can never get ahead. We are running on the wrong track."
This was the moment Shai started searching for an alternative way to earn a living.
"In the next three or four years, I looked at every crazy idea that came into my head," he says. "Given the political climate in Israel, it mostly came down to selling the house and moving to the Caribbean, which sounds great for a young couple but doesn't work for a family with young kids."
In the summer of 2006, Shai attended an outdoor party to celebrate the end of the school year with his children. Hanging out with the other parents, he met a friend he had known for a couple of years. This friend was a coach and he told Shai about his coaching business. At the end of the conversation he mentioned as an aside that a few months prior he had gotten involved in something with passive income potential, and that, if Shai wanted, he could come over one evening and take a look.
"Normally this would repel me," says Shai, "but because I had read the Kiyosaki book, the term passive income rang a positive bell for me."
Shai was intrigued and on his way home, he told Yaffa about it. A few days later he went to this friend's home to take a look.
"When this friend talked to me at the party, he wasn't exactly warm or inviting," says Shai. "He knew I was a computer guy and Yaffa was a manager for a company. He didn't consider us good candidates for his business and probably thought it was a waste of his time. When I showed up at his door that evening, he was surprised. He told me a story for an hour and a half and gave me some samples, and I left."
Shai saw right away that this was different from anything else he had ever considered. "This is it!" he thought." He saw the concept of leverage and the opportunity to build an international network. He saw a company and a product with a unique story, and knew that this was exactly what he had been looking for.
Launching a Business
Driving home Shai wondered, "How can I possibly share this with Yaffa?"
Not knowing how to explain it, he simply told her, "I saw something I think is amazing. I would like you to go and see what it is all about."
"At the time I was working for a big corporation in Israel," says Yaffa, "managing the operation financially, handling large budgets, working long hours, all the while taking care of our family, with three young boys between the ages of six and ten. Every minute of my time was calculated.
"When Shai came to me with this idea, I wasn't interested. I knew and liked this couple, but I didn't think that highly of them as business people, because I was used to working in a big corporation and handling big projects."
But Yaffa had noticed something in Shai when he came back from that meeting. His eyes were shining and he looked as though he had fallen in love. "What happened to him?" she wondered. She felt confused and resistant. Finally, after two weeks of Shai's begging, she decided to humor him.
When Yaffa attended the meeting, the presenter drew a graph and gave her a generous amount of samples.
"I wasn't much into supplements," she says, "because I believed in cooking healthy food. But I was intrigued with the business opportunity—even though I couldn't see myself fitting it into my schedule."
When Yaffa came home, she told Shai she didn't think it was for her. Yaffa had always given her husband and children space to follow their dreams, so she told Shai that if he wanted to do it, she would support him.
To her surprise, Shai said, "No. I'm not doing this on my own. For seventeen years, we have worked apart. This time it's us together, or not at all."
The next day Shai and Yaffa went to a Monday evening meeting led by a high-level upline presenter who was already successful in the business. That same evening, they decided to launch their business.
"When we told our friend who brought us into the business that we wanted to enroll," says Shai, "he literally opened up his computer, pulled up the company web site, and said, 'Enroll yourself.' I think this was kind of symbolic of what awaited us."
Shai and Yaffa noticed right the way that there were people in the room who were highly skilled in what they found out was called people skills.
"We were not used to seeing trainers and coaches and public speakers," says Shai. "Coming from a corporate environment, we didn't perceive ourselves as doing so well in this area. We realized we had a lot to learn, but we decided to go for it."
At the end of that meeting, Shai and Yaffa were told there was an even bigger meeting a few days later. "Just bring whoever you can," their hosts told them, "and we will do the rest."
Shai started talking to people he knew from work and brought two of his best friends. Both of them sat through a ninety-minute meeting, and at the end they said, "This is incredible. You will do very well—but it's not for us."
War Zone Challenges
A couple of days later the Samuel family was leaving for a two-week vacation in Greece. Since mid-July there was a war going on between Israel and the Hezbollah, and they figured by the time they came back the war would be over.
"This trip had been planned for six months," says Shai. "It was my dream vacation, and my first time on a yacht as a skipper. We had another couple with us and we thought, since they would be our prisoners for the next two weeks, surely they would enroll!" It was an amazing vacation—but the couple said they were not interested in their business. Up to this point, everyone they had presented the business to had said no.
When they returned home the war was still going on, and with Shai's sponsor serving in the military, Shai decided to attend a training with higher upline leaders the next day. When they asked him how his business was going, he said, "I've spoken with eighteen people so far and all of them said no. I must say it doesn't work, but I'm still trying."
One leader asked him what he was doing and Shai explained that he had contacted his friends and introduced the business. The leader said, "This is not how we do it. Our system is based on holding home meetings."
Shai said, "I'm sorry, my sponsor is in the army and unavailable."
"Okay," replied the leader, "I'll do a home meeting with you."
That same week, Shai and his family had to leave their home because their city was under massive missile attack and schools had closed. They moved into a tiny vacation rental in Caesarea, about forty kilometers to the south.
"Even though we had only two small bedrooms, we felt safer because there was a bomb shelter," says Shai.
In Caesarea, the couple scheduled their first home meeting.
"We looked at it as a new opportunity. With the help of the advisors we met at that training, we made a contact list of thirty names. Before long the list had grown to about 250. Most of these were people we had known for a long time but who didn't live nearby, so we hadn't seen them recently, and we used this as an opportunity to get in contact with people who would normally be considered too far away."
Of all the people Shai invited for that first home meeting, only three couples showed up. As promised, the upline leader came to do the presentation, and at the end one couple enrolled. Another couple left and the third couple called from their car on the way home and also joined.
"Those two enrollments really encouraged us," says Shai. He asked the presenter if he would do another meeting the next day, and he agreed.
That night Shai and Yaffa hit the phones to invite more people, but when they called the next morning to confirm, all those who had said yes the evening before now cancelled! Shai called the presenter to tell him he didn't need to come, but the man told him, "Shai, I will be there even if it's just you and your wife."
Shai thought, "If a $15,000-a-month earner is willing to come to my house, I don't want to embarrass myself by having no one here."
Instead of going in to work, he stayed home for another hour and kept calling people on his list. That evening, six new people were present and ready for the meeting—and the presenter did not arrive! Instead, Shai got a phone call from him, saying that he had been delayed by an accident. "Go ahead and start the meeting without me, Shai," he said.
"But I don't know how!" replied Shai. Nevertheless, he had no choice, so he went ahead and did the best he could. The presenter arrived at the very end to give a quick summary, after which everyone left—without signing up.
"The next morning," recalls Shai, "I followed up with all the guests. When I reached one lady who had said no, I told her I wanted to thank her for being with us and coming to see what we believed in, even if she wasn't interested, and that we really appreciated it.
Evidently Shai's call surprised the woman. "To tell you the truth," she said, "I didn't feel well yesterday—but I think I would like to join." And she stunned him by signing up.
Shai and Yaffa quickly learned the power of being persistent and not being discouraged by hearing no.
"Instead, we continued to open the door in a nice and polite way," says Yaffa, "and it worked. In the first three weeks we did ten home meetings. We called about 170 people from our list, eighty of whom showed up. As a result, eleven of them enrolled and we hit the third rank in our first month."
During one of the meetings, a siren went off: a missile had fallen in the area. Shai and Yaffa took their guests down to the shelter and continued the presentation. Everyone thought it was funny.
"Most people would say war time is not the right atmosphere to start a business," says Shai. "However, we were so excited that we ignored that reality and created our own reality."
Mid-August there was a cease-fire in Haifa. The Samuel family returned home and continued to build the business from there.
Traveling to Events
Of the eleven people who had signed up in their organization, one was Yaffa's cousin Phillip. Shai had called him and said, "We are involved in something really amazing. We think you'll be very excited about it. It's hard for me to explain, so I will send you something. In the meantime, give me your credit card so I can sign you up."
Phillip called Yaffa to say, "There's something wrong with Shai."
"No," she told him, "it's really amazing," so Phillip gave her his credit card.
Two days after Phillip enrolled, Shai attended a Friday end-of-the-month event with about fifty people, half of whom were from his team. At the end of the meeting, the upline leader came to Shai and said, "Do you have a jacket?"
Shai said, "What do I need a jacket for?"
"Next Tuesday we are going to Salt Lake City," replied the leader.
Shai asked, "Where is that?"
The leader said, "It's in Utah, in the U.S."
"I can't go," replied Shai. "I've used up all my vacation time and spent a lot of money doing this." Having stopped working overtime so he could go home early to pursue his new dream, Shai had now lost part of his income. "I'll go next year," he added.
But the leader wouldn't take no for an answer. "Do you want to be a spectator or a player?" he asked Shai. "If you want to play, the game is there."
Shai got it and decided to go anyway, despite his economic circumstances. Then he did two things in quick succession to lay the groundwork for his trip.
First, he went out to his team and enrolled four others to go with him.
"One guy had just enrolled that same day," says Shai. "I went up to him and said, 'Look, I know you've already spent money and that this is going to come as a shock, but if you really want to be successful, this is where you want to go.' He agreed to come."
Second, Shai called Yaffa's brother in Chicago and another one of her cousins in France and told them both to meet him the following Tuesday in Salt Lake City.
When Yaffa's cousin arrived at the hotel in Salt Lake City, he came directly to Shai and said, "Now explain to me why I'm here," and Shai simply shared the passion and belief that were driving him.
Shai had never attended a network marketing convention or any self-development course. He found himself for the first time in a room with 1,600 people from all around the world.
"It was powerful to see how international this business is," he says. "It was extremely empowering to be among so many people full of energy, hope, and belief. We formed a team of Israelis carrying a flag. We tried to sit in the front row but got kicked out because that was the VIP section, so we went to sit in the back of the room."
Over those two days Shai had a realization, which he teaches to this day.
As he listened to people telling their stories from the stage, he asked himself, "What do these people have that I don't have?" Some were exceptional, such as Randy Gage, who was clearly a seasoned professional. But most of them were simply ordinary people, just like Shai.
"There is nothing they have that I cannot develop!" Shai told himself.
At the end of the second day, when he was called onto the stage to be recognized for his newly achieved rank, he went to the CEO, introduced himself, and said, "I am from Israel, I'm only three weeks in this business, and you will be hearing about me." That was the moment he made a decision to go Diamond.
While Shai was in Utah, Yaffa stayed home with the children.
"Everyone who came back from the convention said something extraordinary happened there," says Yaffa, "something those of us who stayed home could not miss the next time. It was really exciting to see Shai's passion spark the hearts of our new people."
At the first meeting they held after Shai returned home, some of the attendees looked at them and said, "If they can do it, so can we!" Over the next ten business days, Shai and Yaffa enrolled four new distributors and focused on helping their team to duplicate.
"We worked with the eleven we had from the first month, giving two or three presentations a day," recalls Yaffa. "I started to do presentations as well. It was a magical feeling. Everyone was contagious with good feelings and positive attitudes, so everyone duplicated what we did."
Their team rapidly grew from twenty-one to eighty-four—all as a result of a few of them attending the international convention.
Growing a Team
Shai and Yaffa helped the leaders on their team to rise in rank while continuing to enroll new people. By their fourth month, they had sponsored twenty-one people and built an organization of 520 members. They fine-tuned their home presentations and also started doing business meetings in hotels.
"In 2006, network marketing existed in Israel, but not really in our circles," says Shai. "We had never heard about it before, neither did we know anyone who was involved. We were bringing something into a circle of people who didn't expect it at all."
"I had heard of ladies selling powders and make-up," says Yaffa, "but I never knew this was a professional platform for launching a business."
Shai and Yaffa attracted people from different socioeconomic levels, from taxi drivers to lawyers, professors, and CEOs.
"What I love most is our unique model for growth," says Yaffa. "You succeed when you help others succeed. This doesn't happen in traditional business. It's competitive and very much you or me. Here, you lock arms with people and work together. We developed a culture where we work with everyone, even sidelines. We share resources and do the presentations together. There are no borders between you and me. I was really touched by that, and so are the people we approach."
One thing that greatly helped them was a training tool their upline had given Shai early on, consisting of five CDs of the top earners talking about the principles of the business.
"I listened to these over and over until I knew them by heart," recalls Shai. "As a result, we quickly learned to do what works. We enrolled massively in the first few weeks and created duplication: if you build fast, your team will build fast; if you go slow, your team will go slow."
"We also understood the importance of being significant in the lives of others by creating a culture of recognition and empowering people," adds Yaffa. "Shai built a website where everyone could publish their stories and information. And we unified our team by choosing a name to create team identity."
By January 2007, just five months after launching their business, Shai and Yaffa hit the top rank in their company. The following month, Shai quit his day job because his team started to go international. That same month, Shai and Yaffa went to San Diego for an event and brought more than 200 people from Israel. This was Yaffa's first company event. Shai left two or three weeks earlier to work with leaders in the U.S. and Canada, while Yaffa continued working with the team in Israel.
By that April, Shai and Yaffa's team had grown to almost 2,000 people after only nine months in the business. When they attended an event in Israel with almost 4,000 participants, about 1,500 of the total were people from their own network.
"We understood the power of events and continuously communicated this to our team," says Yaffa. "As a result, at most company events we had the largest team."
In March 2008 Yaffa left her job, because it no longer made sense to keep working while her home business was bringing in much bigger checks.
One prime factor in Shai's growing influence as a leader was his dedication to being of service. Even after reaching the point where he was earning a solid five-figure monthly income, he continued to be first to arrive at meetings and last to leave, taking out the trash at the end of the day.
Shai recounts the story of a woman in his network who was a school principal with a Ph.D. Her husband was a respected doctor. One day she said, "Shai, I want to do this business with you. What do you suggest?"
Shai looked at her and said, "Do you really want to know?"
She said yes. Shai said, "We are opening a weekly meeting here in Haifa, and I suggest that you be responsible for it." She said, "Sure, what does it entail?"
Shai said, "It means you have the key, you come twenty minutes early and organize the place. If it needs to be cleaned, you clean it. We offer coffee and water, so you put out the supplies. You take care of registration and see that everything runs smoothly. At the end of the day, you are responsible for cleaning and closing the room."
She looked at Shai and said, "I'm a school principal. Do you really think this is what I need to do?"
Shai said yes. She said, "Normally I wouldn't do it, but because I highly respect you, I'll do it for a week."
Two weeks later she came to Shai to thank him and let him know this was exactly what she needed to do.
"Leadership in network marketing is different," says Yaffa. "In traditional environments, people's perception of leadership has to do with the power they have because of their position. They feel superior to others because they can hire and fire them and tell them what to do. Here, leadership is voluntary. People choose to listen to you because they believe in what you represent and what you bring. You develop leadership by giving and doing things for the team and taking care of the events. You become a leader by being an example. This woman recognized that. I assume she experienced true personal growth from being of service and saw how in turn it served her."
Another example of servant leadership is the way Shai approaches international travel.
"I avoid staying at hotels," he says. "Instead, if I feel comfortable doing it, I ask people to host me in their home, because that's how I can give them 100 percent of my time and get to know them. I also don't come just for the event but stay at least a week afterward."
When Shai travels, Yaffa usually stays home to support their local group and take care of the boys.
"Sometimes I try to speak with Shai over Skype, and he can't talk because his hosts are sleeping. By not staying in a hotel, he gives up a lot of his comfort and privacy, but it's so important to him that people experience him in all his aspects—how he works, how he lives—and when they have a question he is right there. Unless you live with people, you can't build that kind of relationship."
"Allow your leaders to see who you really are," says Shai. "Let them see that a Diamond is really just a person with passions, who listens and is curious. This is the way you develop leadership in others. You empower them by showing an example.
In Love with Education
Both Shai and Yaffa are huge believers in personal growth. At his first company convention, Shai purchased an entire library of books and CDs he had never heard about before. He fell in love with Jim Rohn and also started reading Hebrew translations of classics such as Think and Grow Rich.
Because he quickly recognized their value, he continued to buy hundreds of books and CDs online and hand them out to his team.
"The result is that today, everyone on my team can quote Jim Rohn," says Shai. "It caused a huge transformation around us."
"We also developed a culture where, when someone advances in rank, we give them a book when recognizing them on stage," say Yaffa. "We set criteria: which book is good for the first rank, second, and so on, so people can advance in knowledge. The first book we give today is Randy Gage's Making the First Circle Work, which has become a standard among our team."
"Every time someone asks me a question, I refer them to a book or CD," says Shai. "I have hundreds of titles in my iPhone, so I always refer books. This has a lot to do with the kind of leadership we develop around us."
Looking back over the past six years, Shai and Yaffa say they faced every challenge possible.
"We had top earners leaving our company," says Shai, "and many people leaving our organization. The company went through changes. None of this changed our direction, because we truly believe we are in the right place at the right time with the right leadership. We believe in our product and the core of what our company represents. We just stick with that and remind ourselves of the big network marketing companies that are still doing well after so many years."
"The journey is never easy, and it's not a straight line up," says Yaffa. "It goes up and down. Through it all, we feel we have changed. We know that going through pain is part of our growth. To become the person you wish to be takes time.
"Yet you must have fun in the process. That comes from doing what you like to do, and we love what we do. It also comes from having dreams and knowing where you're going."
One of the Samuel family's dreams was to live in another country and experience a different culture together. A few years ago they moved to San Diego, where the boys are now finishing high school and Yaffa is working on her MBA while Shai continues to build the business internationally. They chose San Diego because twenty years ago Shai made a trip around the U.S. and fell in love with the city.
"We all tremendously improved our English," says Yaffa. "I believe we need to be professional in all aspects, and when you build in twenty countries, English is a requirement. I also take a lot of leadership classes in my Master's program. I feel I'm becoming a better businesswoman and being in graduate school allows me to meet great international prospects."
Shai says his richest learning experience has been staying with people from different cultures.
"I've stayed in rich people's homes and houses that were very modest," he says. "It doesn't matter. People are people. We all have our dreams and challenges. It's the same everywhere I go: all people want to become more."