Manu Rekola is a network marketing leader from Finland who got started in the business in 2002. Twenty-three at the time, he was studying automation engineering in Turku, a city on the southwest coast of Finland.
“Technology has always been close to my heart,” says Manu, “but my father, the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, pushed me to also study economics. He said having a degree in both would open more doors and provide better salary.”
Manu wasn’t interested in economics at the time, so he ignored his father’s advice. In May 2002, however, he had a wake-up call that changed his life.
An old friend called him one Friday evening, announcing, “How would you like to get your own fighter plane?”
This friend had studied with Manu when they were fighter mechanics in the Finnish Air Force. He knew Manu’s biggest dream was to earn his private pilot license so he could fly those fighters one day.
Manu asked, “Can I pick out the color?”
His friend said, “Choose whatever you want and I’ll show you how to get it.”
Eager to achieve his dream, Manu listened as his friend introduced him to network marketing.
“Always a fast starter, I decided to join immediately,” he says. “I had three years left to finish up my engineering degree, so it was the best idea I’d heard for becoming a licensed pilot any time soon.”
Before doing anything with the business, Manu asked his friends for their opinions, which weren’t encouraging. One friend who had joined a company a few years earlier told him, “The first people in make all the money!”
It took another seven weeks for Manu to really start. He took decisive action once he saw his army friend producing excellent results.
One week after Manu launched his business, he was holding presentations himself. One month later he was presenting on stage at the weekly meetings. Two months into it he took six months off from school and went all out.
“I didn’t tell my parents because I first wanted to show some results,” he says. “In my family, getting a high academic education was a prerequisite for success. I continuously had to get out of my comfort zone, but my organization grew fast. The only problem was, some teams grew while others didn’t, so I didn’t earn any commissions the first six months. Some of my team leaders actually earned a lot more than I did.”
Manu felt frustrated but thankful to have upline mentors with years of experience. They helped him focus on his growing teams. They taught him that no matter how long it would take for the other teams to grow, it would be a faster route to success than working as an engineer.
Manu continued to look for the “ace of the card deck.” He had noticed that his friends weren’t nearly as excited as he was about the business, so he sharpened his prospecting skills.
Based on the savings he put aside, Manu had given himself six months to get his business off the ground. In the fifth month, feeling almost desperate, he visited his old school cafeteria to save on lunch and ran into his friend Esa.
Esa had heard about Manu’s “pyramid scheme” and “soap business,” so Manu asked jokingly, “Do you not wash yourself?” He invited Esa to several meetings with his sponsor but Esa canceled each time. When Manu found out Esa was reluctant to be confronted with two presenters, he offered to do a one-on-one presentation.
“We sat together for five hours and drunk as many beers,” says Manu. “The next morning Esa let me know he hadn’t slept all night and wanted to join my business. He turned out to be the missing piece in my puzzle.”
Once Esa joined, Manu’s business really took off. Esa had a strong start and one year later Manu was making three to four times the earnings of an average engineer in Finland.
“I finally did it and it felt fantastic!” he says. “We worked insanely hard. Some days I did more than ten presentations. I finally told my parents about my new career choice. My mum wasn’t too happy because she didn’t understand the business model, but my father encouraged me and my sponsor even though he wasn’t sure this would last as long as we dreamed.”
From that point onward Manu’s life became a roller-coaster. Dissatisfied with the company owners and management, his upline founded a new company which Manu joined.
“It had all the problems of a start-up,” he says. “Our nice income declined fast. Many team members quit because their income was dismal and nothing seemed to work. After two years of struggle all my key leaders and I were in debt. We had to make some smart moves fast. In 2005 we started our own network marketing company.”
Undecided about what would be its product line, the company tried selling almost anything—telecom, electricity, nutritionals, imported clothes, household products, and so on.
“We sold these in our web shop which was tied to our compensation plan,” says Manu. “We had a decent start, but after four months the lottery and gaming authorities put us under police investigation for ‘suspected illegal scheme.’ We went to trial, then to higher court. Eventually, in January 2009 we won the case. It had taken almost three-and-a-half years so we had created a lot of ill will and were burned out. But our love for network marketing hadn’t died. Some old leaders came back when we won the court case and we applied our last power to try to pick up momentum.”
Manu’s company came out with a “benefit card” program and got over 1000 stores in Finland and Estonia to participate. The program wasn’t profitable, so as a last resort they tried to sell gift vouchers for the partner shops.
“Developing this program took all the remaining cash we had,” says Manu. “The launch didn’t succeed and our remaining team members lost trust in the concept.”
Around that time Manu married his wife Anu and she was expecting their first child Max. Manu had lost his income so he needed to find a job.
“This may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “We had to admit we couldn’t do it. I worked in sales and construction for six months, feeling like a zombie. After nine years of being an entrepreneur, I was now in a job I hated and which hardly supported my young family.”
Six months after his break from network marketing, Manu had a conference call with his old team members.
“Our former upline from Norway had experienced a breakthrough with their Swedish company after six years of building,” he recalls. “Immediately I felt this might be a real opportunity. The next day I flew with my three former colleagues to Gothenburg, Sweden and sat in the company headquarters listening to a presentation and drinking coffee, the company’s product.”
Manu spent two days with the company leaders and when he flew home, he told his wife he wanted to build the business. Just two months into it, he and his team were seeing spectacular results.
“We felt we had hit the jack pot,” says Manu. “Finally we had found a customer-driven company with a real product and excellent customer loyalty. After six years of struggling to build our own company, it felt like a vacation to work with an established concept and proven system.”
The first nine years of Manu’s networking career had been a grueling journey of ups and downs, and now he and his team were finally able to focus on selling a product and building a team.
“We were hungry to succeed because we had seen tough times,” he says. “We were ready to make money and have fun.”
Manu has now been with his company for almost three years. His business has grown from Scandinavia to the Baltic States and even the U.S. His income keeps increasing and the future looks bright.
“Today we realize how the hard times have actually benefitted us,” he says. “We are now stronger than ever. You need setbacks to grow.”
Manu and Anu had a second son Lukas, and with Anu’s daughter Peppi from her earlier relationship they now have three lovely children.
“My family means the world to me,” says Manu. “It’s what makes me jump out of bed every morning. Today I feel relaxed knowing that I no longer have to fight for every penny.”
I love teaching people what network marketing is all about. I believe the coming years our business will be booming stronger than ever. That’s because more people will understand they need to take responsibility for their own lives. My goal is to expand my business to twenty countries by 2020 and have half-a-million customers in my group. I also want to write books about our profession, leadership, and sales. My first book Leaders Handbook came out in 2013.
Tips for Network Marketers
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Launching a Leadership Revolution by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady
- How to Build a Multilevel Money Machine by Randy Gage
- The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
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