Jean-Pierre and Régine Desroses are a Parisian couple who lead a sizable network marketing organization spread out over France, Belgium, the Antilles, and the United States. Both born in France, Régine is from Guadeloupian descent, while Jean-Pierre's family is originally from Martinique.
Régine was working as a midwife and Jean-Pierre was finishing his medical degree when they each stumbled upon the same network marketing company. The business opportunity immediately sparked both their entrepreneurial spirits. Initially looking for a side income, Jean-Pierre became driven by a dream of being able to work with friends and travel the world. For Régine, it was her hunger for freedom from the hectic hospital schedule that fueled her determination.
The couple met two years later, got married, and Jean-Pierre and Régine have been each other's rock in business and in life ever since. They say they grew tremendously through the inevitable ups and downs of building a network marketing organization while raising a family with three children.
Some of the challenges network marketers encounter in France are of a different order of magnitude than most of their American counterparts can even begin to imagine. "To be an entrepreneur in France is like being a rhino in the jungle," Jean-Pierre explains. "You just have to develop thick skin and keep charging ahead."
With daughter Béryl and Royal Diamond Michael di Muccio in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
With Jerry Clark at their team's leadership training in Paris.
With Orrin Woodward, speaker at Mastermind event in Houston, 2011.
Béryl, Harrison and Pearl Desroses grateful for their parents' business.
Making friends at Art Jonak's Mastermind event in Houston, 2011.
Swimming with dolphins during incentive trip in Key West, Florida.
Enjoying leisure time during incentive trip in Cancun.
That same year, Jean-Pierre was finishing up medical school and had taken a six-month sabbatical because he felt exhausted. Little did he know he would soon be involved in a new venture that would stretch that sabbatical into fifteen years.
A childhood friend of Jean-Pierre's first wife called him one night out of the blue and said, "We have to get together!" Jean-Pierre didn't even know the man's first name, although he lived just down the street.
Since Jean-Pierre had just come home from working at the hospital for forty-eight hours as an intern, he said, "Please, not tonight."
Five minutes later, the man rang Jean-Pierre's doorbell. Jean-Pierre let him in and learned that his name was Marc. As they sat down in the kitchen, Marc took a piece of paper and said, "I'm going to show you a business opportunity. You will want to take notes."
This was the same network marketing company that Régine had joined, although Jean-Pierre didn't know her yet.
"Marc's circles and numbers totally dazzled me," says Jean-Pierre. "He showed me that in five or six months, I could earn 7,640 Francs a month, which was a huge amount of money for me. Working at four different hospitals, I was making barely 4,000 Francs."
Jean-Pierre's enthusiasm was at its peak when Marc said something that completely deflated him. "You know how you will earn this money?" he said. "By selling soap."
Jean-Pierre was shocked and disappointed, but Marc was so excited he continued to talk till midnight, then left Jean-Pierre behind with his notes.
"I went to bed, but couldn't sleep," recalls Jean-Pierre. "All I could see was circles dancing in front of my eyes. I got up three times during the night to go look at my notes."
Two days later Marc called again and said, "You need to meet my sponsor." In French, the term is parrain (godfather), so Jean-Pierre replied, "What do you mean your godfather, is this the mafia?"
"Just come over to my house," said Marc. Jean-Pierre went over and fell in love, this time not with numbers and circles, but with the image of who he wanted to be.
"I saw a man who was elegantly dressed in suit and tie," he says. "He spoke with poise and ease. After he had graciously greeted everyone, I thought, 'I don't know what or who he is—but I want to be just like him.'"
At the end of the evening Marc asked Jean-Pierre, "Are you ready to sign up?"
Jean-Pierre told him he wanted to think about it some more, but Marc said, "That's what you told me the other day."
Jean-Pierre had brought his checkbook this time, as Marc had asked him to do. Marc took Jean-Pierre into his office and told him he needed to buy a starter kit and some products. Marc made up an invoice and Jean-Pierre left with a stack of books and tapes.
"I left him a check equivalent to the monthly paycheck I took home from working at four hospitals," says Jean-Pierre. "The next morning I had to call my dad to ask him for the funds to cover the check. That's how I got started, in my seventh and final year of medical school, just as I was preparing my doctoral dissertation."
Building a Team
Out of the fourteen people Régine had brought to the meeting, seven joined her business. Régine's upline helped her little group sign up some more people, and in no time she had a team of fifty distributors.
"This felt very encouraging," she says. "I immediately understood that I needed to lead with the opportunity. I knew the product would sell along the way, because each new member bought a certain amount of product."
Régine had also come to the realization that a career as a midwife would not satisfy her ultimate goals and desires.
"I didn't see myself working long hours in a stressful job for forty years with occasional tiny salary increases," she says. "I kept my job, but my focus was on building an exit plan and gaining my freedom through network marketing."
Just six months after signing up, Régine won her first incentive trip to Florida.
Meanwhile, Jean-Pierre had also started to build his business. His strategy was to approach friends and colleagues from the hospital.
"I was painfully shy and I couldn't sell," he says, "but I had quickly learned to present the opportunity, which allowed me to pique people's curiosity."
Jean-Pierre first signed up his parents, brother, and best friend. He continued to enroll people simply by inviting them to attend rallies with him. Even though he was extremely busy working at the hospitals, he was able to squeeze in three to four presentations a week. He was constantly prospecting people, including strangers he met in public places.
"I overcame my shyness because a dream was born inside me," he says. "I saw myself working hand in hand with a group of friends, collaborating and supporting each other."
Another factor that motivated Jean-Pierre was the personal growth training that came with the business. He had always wanted to find a way to overcome his timid nature. In addition, he had a rational plan for starting a business: he wanted to come up with the 300,000 Francs needed to start his own medical practice in Paris with a colleague so they could stop working for hospitals.
Six months into the business, however, Jean-Pierre was so in love with it that he couldn't think of doing anything else. One year into it, he quit his hospital jobs to do the business full time. Jean-Pierre didn't resume his medical career track until 1999, almost fifteen years later.
In his seventh month Jean-Pierre won his first incentive trip, which is where he met Régine—briefly—for the first time. Not used to air conditioning, she had gotten ill and needed antibiotics, so someone introduced her to the doctor-to-be. After the trip Jean-Pierre and Régine each went their own way and would occasionally see each other at various events.
For Better and for Worse
In 1985, about one year after they each had launched their businesses, Régine called Jean-Pierre one night to see if he could present at her uncle's home meeting because she had a last minute conflict and couldn't find anyone else to present for her.
Even though Jean-Pierre was cross-line from Régine and the company culture didn't approve of cross-line training, he accepted, and several people signed up as a result of his presentation. To thank him for his benevolence, Régine invited him over for dinner. By this time Jean-Pierre was separated from his first wife.
"Having lived for twenty years in Senegal, she completely went overboard feeding me Senegalese delicacies," says Jean-Pierre. "That dinner was followed by many more, and six months later we got married."
Once married, Régine and Jean-Pierre stayed with their company for one more year, then came across a ground-floor opportunity with a new company that seemed more distributor-friendly and also offered them company ownership. They joined in 1987 and reached the top rank in just a couple of years. In 1994, however, the company went out of business, due to the fallout of an extremely hostile media campaign.
"A journalist had infiltrated our network by joining as a distributor," says Jean-Pierre. "He filmed several meetings and trainings with a hidden camera. The footage was used for two prime-time television shows that, together with about 500 articles, completely destroyed our company's reputation."
The press had two main grievances against network marketing in general with which they now targeted Jean-Pierre's company.
"The first one was a problem of illegality," says Jean-Pierre. "In France, business owners are required to pay a percentage of their gains (before expenses) to government agencies for retirement, insurance, and social security. Our company was one of the only ones where distributors regularly paid their charges sociales, but nevertheless, we were lumped in with most network marketers who didn't pay their dues."
The second grievance was more serious.
"We were also accused of being a sect and attacked by a reputable French anti-sect association. A lawsuit was filed against the distributors, which set in motion an investigation that lasted two and a half years. In the end we had to pay a fine for something we had never done."
What had triggered the accusation was that the company regularly held huge gatherings of distributors, comparable to rock concerts and political rallies, filling Paris's Bercy stadium with 10,000 to 15,000 people from all over France.
"The fact that we were all independent business owners became a threat to the establishment," says Jean-Pierre. "We were doing so much volume that the big retailers were complaining."
Last but not least, their company's founder often mixed business and faith when speaking from the stage.
"This is a big no-no in France, which is a secular country," explains Jean-Pierre.
The whole media campaign was so well orchestrated that Régine and Jean-Pierre lost their entire business in just a couple of months. To compound matters, they had failed to put anything aside when the money was flowing. In short order they had to declare bankruptcy.
"We couldn't pay our rent for almost two years," says Régine. "We had three small children at the time and had to take our family to a food shelter called Restos du Coeur. It was a heartbreaking and humiliating time—but we had to keep going for our children."
Régine and Jean-Pierre looked into joining several other network marketing opportunities but couldn't find a stable company. They finally decided to resume their previous professions: Régine took a job as a midwife and Jean-Pierre went to work on his doctoral thesis so he could finally graduate as a doctor.
Back for More
One day in 1997 Régine and Jean-Pierre received a call from a large international network marketing company that was trying to establish itself in France. The owner had heard that they had been leaders in their previous company. He explained to them how he was unable to grow his company, because his field force was made up of salespeople and no one understood the networking culture. He wanted to hire Régine and Jean-Pierre for 7,000 Euros a month to provide three monthly services: organize a training, give a business presentation, and write a leadership article in the company newsletter.
"With our experience, this was easy to do," says Régine. "This offer was what allowed us to pull ourselves back together. We studied the company's compensation plan and products, and our efforts paid off."
As the company started growing in France, the owner said, "I want to make you a deal: I'll give you a position at the top of our entire network."
"We thought about it and declined," says Régine, "because we didn't believe we could lead a team we had not grown ourselves. We knew this would not be conducive to healthy relationships with the other field leaders. Our experience told us that you have to build a network, you can't just inherit it."
A few months later, at the end of 1999, Jean-Pierre finally graduated. Two months later he came across his current company.
"It was a well-established American health company and I liked everything about it," he says. "I signed up and immediately took a trip to the Antilles where I used to have a large team with my last company before it went bankrupt."
Word got out quickly and the company with which Jean-Pierre and Régine had a training contract immediately terminated them without notice, even though this represented a breach of contract. A lawsuit followed, which the couple won, but most of the money was absorbed in legal fees and taxes.
Jean-Pierre was now focused on establishing his medical practice while building his new business, but Régine was reluctant to get involved. She kept her job as midwife and made a deal with Jean-Pierre:
"If you can make the equivalent of my salary in four months," she said, "I will take a closer look."
Four months later, she found a check on Jean-Pierre's desk that was greater than her salary—so in January 2000 she joined him in the business.
During those days, Jean-Pierre was working fifteen-hour days seeing patients. As soon as he had a free moment he would show a video to a prospect.
"Congruent with a doctor's code of ethics," he says, "I never approached patients, only colleagues and friends. I could have gone to my previous team, since the company no longer existed, but I didn't, because those people were traumatized. Out of the thousands of people, only four or five went back to network marketing. Interestingly, they are all top leaders in their companies today. One of them even started his own network marketing company."
In 2006 Jean-Pierre quit his medical practice, because by this time his network marketing business was paying for all his expenses and providing a comfortable lifestyle for his family.
"One mistake we didn't make this time," says Régine, "is that we didn't spend all our money. If we made 100 Euros, we put 50 Euros aside. We made sure to build up our reserves, just in case."
Because of these savings, the Desroses were able to buy a beautiful home in Paris and invest in an ocean-view apartment in Miami. They are also building a villa in Thailand, because they plan to expand their business in that region.
Working for an American company, Jean-Pierre and Régine traveled to the U.S. numerous times to attend company events and trainings. While they benefitted greatly from everything they learned, they say there are some cultural reasons that make network marketing in France more challenging than it is in the States.
"In the U.S. there is a culture of empowerment," says Jean-Pierre, "summarized in the motto 'You can do it.' In France, there is a mentality of 'Faut pas rêver': don't dream, don't get your hopes up. In the U.S. people respect each other's dreams, while in France people will make fun of you for having dreams. Part of our work with prospects and new recruits is to neutralize this latent cynicism and teach them how to dream.
"Also, France is a socialist country where people have been conditioned to count on government aid, which has created a pervasive entitlement mentality. To use the language of Jerry Clark, the French are cows grazing in the safe pastures of employment or government support. They have a hard time understanding rhinos who thrive in the jungle of free enterprise. Rare are the people who are so sick and tired of being sick and tired that they want to make a change, because there is nothing in our culture that motivates the entrepreneurial spirit."
In France, he says, the tax structure and government regulations suck the life out of small businesses with all kinds of charges it takes to support the majority of the population that can't sustain itself—so much so that many entrepreneurs either try to evade taxes or simply leave the country.
"The government makes running a business too difficult," adds Jean-Pierre. "France as a nation does not support free enterprise—and while this is a challenge, it makes our mission of bringing network marketing here all the more worthwhile."
"Over the past couple of years, we experienced major attrition," Régine points out. "Countless companies are launching by making huge promises they can't keep. People are volatile and sometimes leave our team by the hundreds or even a thousand at a time. They don't cancel their distributorship; they just become inactive as they try to build the new company. After a few months, they realize the new business isn't what it was cracked up to be, and they come back with their tails between their legs."
After losing 40 percent of their team to new companies in 2011, Régine and Jean-Pierre went on a one-month tour throughout France and met with 300 people. They are now growing their team again by 10 percent each month.
"We realize we need to create a stronger culture to prevent this kind of problem in the future," says Régine. "This is why for the past three years we have attended Art Jonak's Mastermind event each year. The second year we brought seven leaders with us, and this year we plan to bring forty.
"We don't have a local upline, so it is up to us to teach and train, provide leadership, and organize events. The speakers from Houston have become our generic upline; we study and apply everything they teach."
Despite all the crises they have weathered, Régine and Jean-Pierre are optimistic about the future. Jean-Pierre sees two major factors making network marketing more attractive to the French:
"The possibility for successful professionals to build their own retirement income instead of relying on government assistance is appealing to more and more people, as is the opportunity for personal development."
Both passionate about education, travel, and cultural diversity, Régine and Jean-Pierre look forward to contributing their gifts beyond the network marketing profession.
Says Régine, "We want to evolve from financial independence, which is where we are today, to financial freedom, where we can take time to enjoy life with our family and pursue even more of our dreams."