Here is our challenge and opportunity: it’s very easy to start a network marketing business—so easy, in fact, that often people don’t even realize they are starting a business.
A sponsor might tell her new recruit, “By the way, when that starter kit box comes in, just ignore it and throw out the contents. I’ll show you how our team does the business. After all, we’re the fastest-growing in our company, and you want to make money fast, right?”
Our profession has reached a point where the addictive message of hype and speed is drowning out the boring message of truth and sustainability. Will the lure of “I’ll get you to the top position in ninety days” and “I’ll build it for you” prevail? Only our collective actions can prevent this outcome.
Just like any other industry, network marketing has FTC and state regulatory guidelines. Diligently training distributors to understand the rules that govern us all needs to be a priority and not left to chance. When distributors engage in behavior that is out of line, companies can sometimes be slow to address it or even turn a blind eye, as long as they are seeing revenue.
We are moving at Mach speed in our digital society, and this requires us to step up and take a stand for professionalism and compliance. This applies especially to field and corporate leaders, along with our professional organizations, such as the DSA and the ANMP.
The most frequent activity that taints our profession is unethical recruiting practices, often targeting others who are already in the business but in another company.
With today’s technology, you can instantly record a meeting or presentation and upload it to social media. If your message is non-compliant, it can quickly attract an investigation or even sanctions against you and your company.
Because a network marketing business is easy to start, it is equally easy to stop. The reason many do not make significant money in our business is that they choose not to do the actions it takes to earn that money—and that’s okay. Unlike other opportunities, such as a franchising, network marketing does not require an investment beyond a minimal start-up cost to get involved.
Unfortunately, frontloading (inciting or requiring new recruits to purchase large inventories of product) still sometimes shows up. “Find four who find four with this same big startup, and you’ll be an instant rock star!”
Many new distributors don’t know that a recruiting strategy based on frontloading is frowned upon by the FTC. If an FTC regulator sat in the room and heard this kind of presentation, your company could become the subject of an investigation. It’s usually a rookie distributor who doesn’t understand the rules of the profession who attracts the FTC’s attention, so it’s important for leaders both in the field and at corporate to educate them on business practices that comply with regulatory guidelines.
If we allow shady approaches to go on for long, not only can it put our company at risk with regulators, it can also create havoc on our team culture.
When you overpromise, you give people a ready excuse to blame, justify, and make more excuses. Speaking the truth means letting people know that this is an extraordinary opportunity for them to create residual income—however, it also means forewarning them that:
For several years now I have enjoyed being part of Networking Times’ editorial review committee. This is a volunteer position that requires, among other duties, a weekly conference call with the editors and other leaders in our profession from around the world.
This is a fascinating privilege for many reasons. First, my intention is aligned with Networking Times’s mission, which is to elevate the profession in every aspect from within. By committing to this goal and through ongoing education, we not only improve the public’s perception of network marketing but also protect ourselves against unnecessary sanctions from state and federal regulators.
In the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Networking Times, I wrote an article entitled “Do No Harm.” The premise of the article was that, due to its low risk/reward ratio, network marketing is one of the safest entrepreneurial ventures anyone can get involved in. Therefore, there is no harm in truthfully presenting it to others.
Do No Harm also implies that our job is to have unwavering belief in what we do, truthfully share our story of how it’s worked for us, and find out what the other person’s needs are. Based on these needs, we offer a variety of choices: becoming a customer, referring others, building a part-time business, or going full-time. While we have our goals, we graciously accept whatever level each person chooses to participate at.
Even if someone comes in with the intention of building a rock star income and for some reason doesn’t make it, if you come from a Do No Harm mindset, you have peace in your heart knowing that your job was simply to offer. As long as you didn’t overpromise or create unrealistic expectations, you’ve done no harm.
It all comes down to doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, which is my operating philosophy for building a sustainable business. The upside of Do No Harm is that by authentically presenting our product and opportunity, we empower others to change their lives forever.
As the deceased founder of my company, Petter Morck, always taught me, “We’re building a business for several generations.” Will you be here in five years? Ten years? Let’s unite as a profession, in word and deed, to build businesses our children can be proud of.
DONNA JOHNSON has been a top earner and mentor in network marketing for over thirty years. She lives in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Sweden, but also finds time to travel the world and visit the orphanages she and her team support.