Gene Maxon Adigu is a young Nigerian network marketing leader who is passionate about promoting the business model and profession across Africa. Gene and his wife Didi live in Warri city, one of the major petroleum and business hubs in southern Nigeria.
An entrepreneur at heart, Gene had been studying Robert Kiyosaki and other business thought leaders while still in school. Upon graduating, he was primed to start his own business, so when his wife told him about a network marketing opportunity, he recognized it as a vehicle to fulfill his dream.
Gene first joined a 40-year-old U.S.-based company that had been established in Africa for over a decade. Meeting prospects at the company’s local office/store, he became good at selling and recruiting, but he knew he could do better. Looking to leverage his online relationships and love of social media, he responded to a Facebook contact in the U.S. who was promoting a coffee company with a seamless e-commerce platform and stellar leadership.
“This was the first network marketing company in Nigeria where you can do everything online and enjoy home delivery,” Gene says. “I immediately saw an opportunity to build a truly home-based business.” He joined his current company in July 2014 and a few months later his U.S. upline traveled to Nigeria for Gene’s business launch. Gene advertised the event which gathered close to 500 people. Gene’s upline traveled to four more cities in Nigeria to give presentations and that month Gene’s team grew to over 2,000 people.
Today Gene has close to 8,000 team members and is one of his company’s top five recruiters worldwide. While he looks forward to becoming a Blue Diamond in the near future, his bigger goal is to help Africans see how network marketing offers a powerful, long-term solution to many of the problems they are facing.—J.G.
Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up in Nigeria in an upper middle-class family. I studied business administration at Rivers State University and graduated in 2010. All university graduates in Nigeria are required to serve the nation for one year before they can be employed by any firm. I was about to enter this one-year service corps program when my wife told me about a network marketing opportunity.
She didn’t have all the details so she referred me to our sponsor, who she knew could help me answer all my questions. This is a first and important lesson for building your business: if you are just starting out, refer your prospects to your sponsor or any capable leader in your upline to help you out.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. A friend in school had introduced me to Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I loved this book and continued to read different business books outside my school books. Most students make the mistake of sticking to their courses and recommended reading; I encourage people to read any good books that can impact their lives positively.
Network marketing had never crossed my mind. I didn’t think very highly of it. My wife had been in several network marketing companies while she was in school, but she never made any money. When I went to my first presentation, I saw something different about the business, something I’ve never forgotten. The presenter told us it’s about referring products to people—something we already do, but don’t get paid for. That was an eye-opener for me.
After the meeting I reasoned, “If I have to do this service corps program for one year, why not use that time to learn all about this business and try to build it?”
Also, my personality is I want to distinguish myself from the norm and do things a little differently, like starting my own business right after school, even though I had the privilege to be able to further my education in the U.K. after my service. Many of my friends chose this option, but I chose to follow a different path, which of course gave me a very different result.
How did you get started?
My mentor told me to go out and talk to my warm market. Some people believe talking to cold market prospects first and getting results to attract your friends is better, but I still believe going to your friends first is the easiest way to kick start this business.
Most of my friends were still living with their parents and had no need for extra income. They were not motivated, so I stopped talking to anybody my age and started going to adult men with responsibilities—who have their own apartments and bills to pay. I told them about the business and introduced them to my upline (if you are new to the business, use your sponsor to speak to your prospects!). A few of them joined and with the support of my upline I started making good results.
One of the reasons for my success was my belief in the business. I went to people I knew who needed extra income and good health, because I believed I could help them. Another reason is that if somebody tells me that something can’t be done—which a lot of my friends did—I’ll do everything in my power to prove them wrong.
Was the start-up cost a barrier for some people?
Not really. A lot of Westerners have this mindset that Africa is a poor continent. There are poor countries in Africa, but Nigeria is an economic powerhouse. Our biggest problem is we have huge unemployment, and many of us look to the government for a better way of life. What we don’t realize is that creating a better life is up to us, not the government. The good news is many people are becoming more entrepreneurial.
When I first saw the opportunity, I fell in love with the model immediately, but coming up with the startup capital was a challenge. Though the company offers different levels at which you can join, I wanted to buy the highest pack in order to build my business faster. Since that was my priority, I had to find a way to be able to afford it—which of course I did.
Many young people these days find excuses why they can’t start. They say they don’t have the money, but the truth is they really don’t see it as something that will change their lives, otherwise they would find the money.
Lots of Nigerians actually pay to be employed. They use people who have connections to find jobs, and some of these people charge for their services. The job seekers will do whatever it takes to come up with the money, because employment is seen as a guaranteed income. They don’t view our business this way. They don’t understand that it can feed you for a lifetime, while a salary comes for a limited number of years.
Many Nigerians think they are poor. They believe nothing good ever comes out of their country. They blame the government. They say the president is not doing his job. Entrepreneurs like us are pointing out options to them, but we have a hard time getting them to take the bull by the horns and do something for themselves instead of blaming others.
A lot of people don’t really understand there’s been a shift. We are no longer in the industrial age; we are in the information age, which means we can do business from anywhere. We don’t need much money to get started, because communication is virtually free. People just have to change their mindset, and that will help the nation.
How did you transition to your current company?
After two and a half years in my first company, I had reached the rank of Senior Manager. I had a large team across the country and was well compensated monthly. I found my second company on Facebook in March 2014. I love social media, especially Facebook where I have built my list of friends and potential clients. One day I got a message via Facebook from a gentleman in the U.S. who tried to tell me about his company. I was doing well with my former company, so when he approached me I was skeptical at first. He said, “In your presentations and seminars, don’t you teach people to be open-minded?” I understood where he was going. I opened my mind, did my research, and saw his company was better. I moved over for two reasons:
Number one, my first company didn’t have a friendly e-commerce platform. Instead, we had to take our prospects and customers to a local company store. It was the old model, and I saw the new model where I could build from the comfort of my home. In Nigeria a lot of houses don’t have street numbers, which poses a problem for home delivery. My current company uses a courier service to deliver products. They use phone numbers and as soon as they get to our street, they give us a call. “We’re on your street, where can we find you?” Most of the time this works perfectly.
The second reason I switched to my current company is leadership. In my new company the leadership is one of the best in the world, and as we know, everything stands or falls on leadership.
Gene’s Tips from the Field
How do you establish duplication and retention on your team?
I made the business very simple for everyone to duplicate. I show people they can do the same thing the leader is doing, which is to start this business in their living room and use tools to present the plan. My first month with my company I used the video provided by our company. My job was to invite a lot of people into my living room and just play the DVD. This was highly duplicated by my team.
What books and/or programs have been helpful?
What is the most important lesson you learned since you started?
Never force a man to become better than he is; let him make that decision himself.
Any other tips?
How did you build differently this time?
The company had just opened Nigeria and Kenya, so it was my first experience building in a brand new territory. I called my friends and said, “I told you about network marketing a few years ago and you decided not to join. It wasn’t personal, but within two years you’ve seen my level of success in this profession.”
Everyone wants to associate with successful people. I knew it would be easier for me this time, because I built a reputation in the last two and a half years with my previous company.
“I want to give you a chance to join me in launching a new company,” I said. “I’m fully confident that with this new company there will be an explosion in network marketing in Nigeria.” That’s exactly what happened. Our first 34 days we made history, because as far as I know there’s never been another network marketing company in Nigeria that has been able to do over $5 million in sales in just 34 days.
The first few months my company came to Nigeria there was no product. Naturally, if you are signing up somebody, and the person is not getting the products, they won’t be motivated to work effectively, so a lot of people quit. I didn’t blame the company, even though it was very difficult. I understood we needed to give it time.
It took two to three months before the product started coming. We now had to go back and tell people, “We have products now. Why don’t you come back to the business?” Not having any product set me back a lot, but I still made good income in my first month. People hope when they start a business everything will go smoothly and they will live happily ever after. They must understand sometimes there will be unexpected challenges, but they can’t allow a few challenges to weigh them down. Remember why you started and believe that no matter the challenge, there will always be a brighter future.
When I joined my new company, I did a lot of home meetings using the company’s presentation tools—and I encouraged my leaders to do the same. All I did was invite people to my house and let Mr. Holton Buggs show them the plan by means of the video presentation. This is a good way to easily create duplication in your business. It really helped me because I was having four meetings a day and I never got tired because the DVD was doing all the work.
Do you have any upline support in Nigeria?
I don’t work with any local upline. We call it One Team, One Dream, but I believe in this business you can only put your heart into working with people you benefit from. If you know you won’t benefit, you won’t take it seriously. My upline lives in the U.S., so we do most of our trainings via Skype and sometimes he talks to my prospects over Skype through my big-screen TV.
My first month I was regularly showing the plan in my house seven days a week. I had a strong launch and I almost reached the rank of Diamond. A common mistake many beginning network marketers make is they will pay for other people to sign up under them. I’ve been there, done that—and I can tell you it doesn’t work. Don’t bet on someone who will not bet on himself. Anybody who truly sees the opportunity to make an extra income will find the money to get involved.
How do Nigerians view network marketing?
Most people think this business is for failures—those who can’t get a job and have nothing else to do. What they don’t know is that network marketing is for people who are smart. If you are not smart and patient, it is not possible to build a successful network marketing business.
Nigerians don’t see it as a fraudulent business, they see it as a business that’s hard to build. Since the majority of them are looking for a quick means to solve their problems, they are blinded to the potential it has—until someone very skilled explains to them in layman’s terms how they can benefit from it.
Most people here don’t like the term network marketing, so I usually refer to it as a business model where they can build an extra income. “I do it full time,” I add, “but if you don’t have the time, you can do it part time and still make good returns.”
Those who are very skeptical, I don’t try to persuade them. The funny thing is, the majority of those who are skeptical have never done network marketing. They may know people who have failed in the business, and that’s who they associate themselves with. I recently pointed this out to a gentleman who came to my house. I said, “You know why you are skeptical?” He said no. I said, “Because you’ve not talked to those who are successful in network marketing. You’ve only seen failures. If you talk to those who are successful, they are going to tell you what made them successful—and what will make you successful.” He got it. He joined my team and is now preparing for our first African incentive trip.
How are you building these days?
I still do home meetings four days a week. A time will come when it will go to three or two days a week. I like doing business on Skype, even within Nigeria. I don’t travel regularly to different parts of the country to give presentations. I recruit over Skype, and if I have a leader in a different city, I ask him to fill his house with prospects and hook up a projector. He connects me to the projector and I present from my home office via Skype. That’s the innovation I’m trying to bring to the heart of Nigerians, because some of them would travel thousands of miles to talk to someone who hasn’t even signed up in the business yet. As a leader, you can’t afford to invest your time that way.
I also use Facebook. It is difficult to do business in the Western world using Facebook if you are from Nigeria, because there are trust issues. I tell my team, “On Facebook, focus on Nigerians. You don’t have to build your business in another country when you have over 150 million people right here.”
Any tips for foreigners who want to build in Nigeria?
It’s very easy for North Americans to build a business here. Nigerians naturally believe and value people from the Western world, especially America. As the saying goes, “A prophet is not honored in his own country.”
On the other hand, it’s much harder for Nigerians to build in the Western world. We all know of some young Nigerians using the Internet to defraud people around world. Hence most Westerners have some degree of distrust towards Nigerians and I honestly understand their feelings. But there are also many Westerners who just have this natural love for us no matter what, and that’s why I’m privileged to be featured in this magazine.
When you see someone from a first-world country coming down to a third-world country to build a business, at least it should tell you something—that this business is going to be worth it. People here easily accept anyone coming down to grow a business, and most I’ve seen doing it are very successful. Some of them even decide to stay for several months because they recognize the potential of building here. Nigerians are hard-working people. Especially when they open their hearts and are able to let an idea sink in, they will crush it and get to the top easily.
What is your vision for your team and the networking profession in Africa?
One of my goals is to become a Blue Diamond and my company’s top leader in Africa. I want to grow my team in terms of numbers, but I also want to develop strong leaders. I want everybody on my team to be happy and successful. Right now the majority of Africans don’t have the opportunity to travel outside their country. If your team members qualify for incentive trips and also make a regular income, they will be happy.
In terms of network marketing in Africa and Nigeria, I’m not really happy with most of the top leaders because they are not doing anything to promote the profession. One of my biggest dreams is to start organizing generic network marketing events here in Nigeria. It is the only way we can help network marketing gain a strong foothold here, because people just don’t know what’s going on. I believe the only way we can help them change their lives is to come together to promote network marketing so we can attract a lot of people to it.
A lot of big leaders here will badmouth other companies to their prospects simply because they want them on their team. That’s not a professional way to share ideas and build a business. If anyone asks me about a particular company, my answer is, “That’s a great company... and here is why I choose my company.” I don’t tell them that other company is bad or fraudulent.
Going forward, I will focus more on promoting the profession on social media—versus focusing on my company. Network marketing is much bigger than any company. If we can communicate this message, it will attract a lot more people. If we can grow the network marketing profession in Nigeria, it is going to help a lot of Nigerians, financially and otherwise. That is one of my goals and dreams.
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