At age 87, Jimmy Smith has mentored thousands of network marketing professionals on their journey to the top. Networking Times first interviewed Jimmy in 2005 when he was already a million-dollar earner in his company. The story was titled, Leaving a Family Legacy, and Jimmy has stayed true to his mission: today his six children are all job-free and building the business with him.

Jimmy “the Butcher” stumbled upon network marketing after working 40 years for a supermarket chain, a job in which he never made more than $400 a week. Jimmy’s wife of 59 years, Bridget Smith, also worked in the meat department and together they raised a family on a very limited income. Totaling up all of his paychecks, Jimmy made no more than $400,000 in his entire career as a butcher.

Thanks to Jimmy’s love for his family, his open mind, his desire to help others, and his fascination with the network marketing business model, this retired butcher’s family legacy is now one of unlimited potential not only for his children, but also for his 28 grandchildren.

Even though Jimmy has earned millions of dollars to date, he says he is just getting started. “It’s not about the money,” he says, “it’s about what you can do with the money.” After mentoring his children and grandchildren, he is looking forward to teaching his great-grandchildren how to succeed in what he believes is the world’s best opportunity to become wealthy and free.—Ed.

Jimmy Smith and Susan Sly
Jimmy Smith and Susan Sly

Susan: Can you tell us a little about your life before network marketing?
Jimmy: My mother wanted me to go to college. My father wanted me to be a butcher. He was a butcher, and so was his father. I chose to be a butcher rather than go to college. I figured I’d work for my father, and I’d get paid.

My father told me, “Son, I’ll teach you how to be a butcher. You’ll always have a job.” He added, “I lived through the last depression and had college graduates working for me at the butcher shop.” I love my father. I trusted him, so I said yes. I went down to the butcher shop at a very young age and started working with my dad. He taught me the meat business.

I fell in love with it. I thought I had the best job in the world. I was passionate about it and did it for 40 years. I raised six children on a butcher’s salary. My father didn’t tell me how hard I would have to work. He didn’t tell me the long hours I would work. He didn’t tell me I might get arthritis of the spine, the knees and the hips. Nevertheless, I loved every moment of it. I was too small for the job, and didn’t even know it. I was overworked for 40 years of my life. I didn’t know it. My kids didn’t know it. We were happy. We had everything we needed.

S: What happened after 40 years?
J: I hurt my back in 1983. When Ronald Reagan was taking blind people off Social Security, I got full disability. I was 56 years old, and my employer said, “Jimmy, go find a new career. You’ve served us well for 40 years.” With no education there’s not much out there. I started looking. Six years later I stumbled upon network marketing.

Even though I didn’t clearly understand it, I could see this is democracy in its finest form if done correctly. I picked up on the fact that you have to help your people. You have to bring people into your business, and if they don’t succeed you don’t succeed. I liked that concept, people helping people. In the meat business I loved helping young apprentice butchers by teaching them how to cut meat and work in the meat department. At the end of two or three years they’d be able to go out and manage a meat department. I’d always loved helping people, so this fit me well.

From age 62 to 67 I lost money. I even went bankrupt. Everybody thought I was losing my mind. I kept pouring money in. From age 67 to 74 I was able to meet with some success. I made about $2 million. Then from age 74 I walked away from a company where I was making a good six-figure income, and joined my current company. It’s been a whirlwind ever since. The success I met with has been astronomical. We are the number one income-earning family in our company after 13 years. As a family we are in the top 1 percent of all income earners in the entire profession.

I know in my heart and soul that I am where I am because of the wonderful people I was able to meet and mentor. Some of them I didn’t bring in, but I mentored them. I was always looking for people who had desire and were coachable, people who give it their best shot and work hard. Susan, you were one of those first ones early on. I’m very grateful for that.

Jimmy and company founder Coopers
Jimmy and company co-founder, the Coovers
Jimmy and company founder Coopers
John Anderson
Jimmy attributes his success to the vision, courage, and commitment of his company’s founder, John Anderson, and cofounders, Jim and Kathy Coover. Jimmy realized that by helping them achieve their vision, he could achieve his goals and realize his dreams. He appreciates and adheres to his company motto, "If it´s not good for the associate, it´s not good for the company."

S: I was hungry, having just lost a business. You once said you’d rather have someone with their back up against the wall.
J: When someone’s back is up against the wall, there’s no place else to go. If not this, what? If not now, when? Those are the people who once they understand it, are all in. I endeavor to do this right away with each new person: I teach them the math, because mathematics is the basis for all knowledge. There’s no better way to dig yourself out of a deep hole than this business. If you need to make a big change in your life, there’s no better vehicle.

Some of the most successful networkers I know had a strong financial motivation to do this business and succeed. They were desperate to earn money. Network marketing doesn’t discriminate based on age, education, or prior experience. Also, unlike other traditional businesses, the low startup cost combined with the high earning potential make it very attractive and doable.  

S: Most people are not willing to take a loss for five or six years. You had a lot of challenges. What made you stay the course?
J: I had been put on pension, so I had an income. I wasn’t depending on network marketing to pay my bills. My wife was working, producing an income. I was getting disability from my company. Money was not the issue.

I made some big mistakes. I bought $15,000 worth of water filters in a company, and six months later it went out of business. That caused me to go bankrupt. Thank God that early on I picked up the mathematics, the geometric progression of numbers, which I love. That hooked me. Robert Kiyosaki says, “Poor people get jobs. Rich people build networks.”

When I found out I could leverage myself with people—2 to the power of 2, 3 to the power of 3, 5 to the power of 5—it was easy for me to stay the course. I knew eventually I would find the right company with the right products and the right compensation plan that suited me and that I could fall in love with. I knew once that happened, it would be over. I had great confidence, because I knew the numbers.

I’m amazed at how many people don’t get this. It goes over their head. If you hang in there long enough and become a student, learning everything you can, there’s no better business.

S: You always taught me to say a prayer for the ones who don’t get it, the ones who say no.
J: Absolutely, I take a moment of silence and say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [laughs] As far as I’m concerned, mathematically, theoretically, it’s impossible to fail in this business—but you have to understand your company’s plan. It’s imperative to understand how the numbers work. Nobody fails in network marketing; they quit. Most people in life don’t fail; they give up when the going gets tough. For a handful of people when the going gets tough, the tough get going—and they succeed. You have to be tough.

Here’s how I spell “no”: k-n-o-w.  When someone tells me no, I recognize they really mean know. They don’t know enough to say no to me; they simply need more information. Since I joined network marketing in 1988 I’ve heard thousands of no’s—and a few yeses. The yeses built my business, the no’s built my character. When you get 30 no’s in a row and keep smiling and dialing until you get a yes, that’s character.

S: To make your first million in your current company, how many people did you have to talk to?
J: The first 18 months in this company I sponsored 80 people. Out of those 80, eight became millionaires. That’s 10 percent. From those eight millionaires we have no less than 100 millionaires now on my team.

One of the things that discourages people is the fact that you sponsor 100 people, and only 10 or 15 or 20 do it. But that’s really enough. This is the only business I know of where you can get started for a few hundred dollars, commit to $200 a month, eat your overhead, become healthy, fail 90 percent of the time, and become obscenely wealthy. I fail 90 percent of the time. Our company fails 90 percent of the time. You can fail 90 percent of the time and make a fortune!

Failing gracefully is a big part of this profession. There are four things you have to come to terms with to succeed. First is rejection. People will say no to you. Second is deception. People say they’re going to do something and don’t do it. Third is apathy, people are apathetic. “You made how much last year, Jimmy?” “No, that’s how much I made last week.” “Oh, I can’t do that.” Finally there is attrition: people drop out. If you can handle these four things, you have a home run.

These four things are also the reason most people quit. When people deceive you, when people reject you, when people drop out, you have to accept that gracefully. Work with the people who match your energy, who are working. If you ask me, “What’s the biggest mistake you made since you’ve been in this profession?” I’d have to say, “Wasting time on negative people who will never get it.” There are some people who will just never get it—ever. Some will, some won’t, some wait, so what—who’s next?

Jimmy’s Daily Prayer

Dear God,
Thank you for everything You’ve given me.
Thank you for the things You’ve taken away from me.
Thank you for everything You left me with.

Dear God,
You know what I need,
You know what I want.
Please God, send me what You think I should have.

S: You’re an avid student of personal development.
J: For 40 years as a butcher I was in a box, just like for 1,500 years everyone thought the world was flat. Then Columbus sailed across the ocean and proved that it was round. People lived a myth for 1,500 years. For 40 years I lived a myth. I thought the only way I could make a living was to go out and work for somebody else. I let them tell me what I was worth, because I didn’t know any better.

After I was forced to retire and discovered network marketing, my biggest fear was to get up in front of the room and talk. I had never done any personal growth up to that time. My first event ever was when I went to see Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy speak for four hours each. I loved them. Zig came out on the stage and said, “I used to be butcher.” I almost jumped out of my seat. He said, “I worked my way up to meat manager.” I thought, “Geez, I worked my way up to supervisor.” I watched him walk across that stage and said, “Someday I’m going to do that. Someday I’m going to walk across a stage just like he is.”

Then Brian Tracy came on, and I liked him even better. On my way out, I spent $350—which I couldn’t afford—on videos and cassettes. When I came home, I went down to my study in the basement. I would sit there at night watching these videos and listening to cassettes in the dark. My wife told the kids, “I think your dad’s losing it.”

With friend and business partner LeeAnn Werner Jackson
With friend and business partner LeeAnn Werner Jackson

S: What were some of the earlier books and programs that helped you?
J: Think and Grow Rich is one, I read it like 10 times. I listened to the audio of the book over 100 times. Next I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. Again I read it over and over, highlighted, and underlined.
The most profound thing I found in that book was when Harry Overstreet states, “First arouse in another person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.” Boy that resonated with me. Ever since, when I talk to someone, my purpose is to arouse an eager want.
In Think and Grow Rich, one of my favorite passages is, “Through some strange and powerful principle of mental chemistry which she has never divulged, Nature wraps up in the impulse of strong desire that something which recognizes no such word as impossible, and accepts no such reality as failure.”
These words are embedded in my brain. When you listen to that so many times and you believe it with your heart and soul, you become unstoppable. As Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve—regardless of how many times you may have failed in the past or how lofty your aims and hopes may be.”

Without reading these books, I would have stayed in that box I was trapped in. Today the sky’s the limit. I believe all of us, not just Jimmy Smith, not just Susan, everybody can have whatever they want—if they believe they can. If they believe they can’t, they won’t. Napoleon Hill also said, “There is a difference between wishing for a thing and being ready to receive it. No one is ready for a thing until he believes he can acquire it. The state of mind must be belief, not mere hope and wish. Open-mindedness is essential for belief.”

All of us can do whatever we make up our mind to do. I’ve proven that to myself. I’ve proven it to my six children, my 28 grandchildren, and hopefully my great-grandchildren. My legacy will be, “You can be and do anything you want—if you just believe in yourself.” You’ll see it when you believe it, not a minute sooner.

S: As my mentor, you told me about different challenges you had faced. I knew I would encounter similar challenges—people would leave my team or criticize me, or some would go do their own thing and not listen. You prepared me for that. One story sticks out in my mind: you hosted a hotel meeting and no one showed up.
J: There’s two parts to the story. I had just joined a new company so I was very excited. The compensation plan was great. The products were really neat. I knew I had a winner, so I sent out 600 invitations, wedding-type invitations, and I rented this big room that holds 300 people. I had all this product on display. About 50 people showed up, and I did my thing in front of them. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I did it anyway. I was learning. I was teaching myself.

Then I signed to have that room once a week for six months at $150 a night. At one of my first meetings, I had everything ready and looked around. There was nobody there. No one showed up. I reasoned, “Well, I’m paying $150,” so I did a presentation to an empty room. I called out the names of people I thought would be there—the people I wanted there—and I thanked them for coming. At the end of the night I packed up and before I left, I stood there and looked upward and said, “Someday You and I will fill this room.” A couple of years later, five, six, seven times, I had that room packed, in another company.

It didn’t discourage me one little bit. That night was a learning experience. Nothing was going to deter or discourage me. I was in this for the long haul. I was in it for the rest of my life. I was going to be successful whatever it took. There were events in my life that I look back on, and I laugh. I laughed then too, I think.

You have to wear life like a loose garment. It fits better.

With friend and business partner LeeAnn Werner Jackson
"Dream as far as you can, and when you get there, just dream further. Never stop dreaming!"
With friend and business partner LeeAnn Werner Jackson
Giving a product presentation with his
granddaughter Meghan Smith

S: You’re famous for saying, “I will never look down at another person unless I’m putting my hand out to pull them up.” You’re always focused on pouring greatness into people. Why is this so important for leaders in our profession?
J: I remember one time a couple of companies ago when I was at a meeting, and a gal there—LeeAnn Jackson, she’s in our company now—came up to me and said, “Jimmy, I really wish you were in my downline.” I said, “Why would you want me in your downline? I’m not even making any money. You’re making more money than I am.” This was when I was struggling. She said, “You have such a great attitude. I can just imagine you’re really going to do great in this business.” I said, “Really? You think that?” I looked up to her. She was much more successful than I was at the time. I was just starting out. I was barely making $5,000 a month while others were making $30,000 or $40,000. Later I realized they’d been in the profession for 10 or 15 years.

LeeAnn had no idea what her words did for me. Just knowing she would think that of me grew my confidence more than I realized at the time. I knew I had a positive attitude, but I didn’t know other people recognized it. LeeAnn’s comment was like a shot in the arm. It made me feel so good I never forgot it. Of course, years later she was one of the first people who came into this company with me. She actually called me up when she heard I was doing well and said she wanted to join me. Years later we’re working together again, but I never forgot what she did for me. LeeAnn is one of many million-dollar earners on my team.

If you’re going to coach people, the last thing you want to do is to put them down or criticize them. When people ask me how I do this business, I tell them, “Have a dream, form a team, and focus in on your team—and breathe greatness into them.” That day, she didn’t know it, but LeeAnn Jackson breathed greatness into Jimmy Smith, because she just believed in me when I was having a hard time believing in myself.

If you’re going to say anything to somebody, say something good. Always lift people up. Never tear people down. That’s one of my creeds. I believe we’re put on this earth for one reason: to help others. If you do that, you’re doing God’s will and things will always work out. If you do everything with the right intentions, everything will work out. Life is all about intention.

S: I remember the first time you said to me, “Susan, you’re going to be someone whose name will be known to everyone in this company, and everyone in network marketing.” With each conversation, you were pouring greatness into me, always prophesizing over me—not who I was, but who I could become. Every three-way call we did, you repeated this. It kept me going during the tough times, and it still keeps me going today. Could you speak to the importance of recognition, investing time, and building meaningful relationships?
J: From our first conversation I knew you were going to be successful. I’ll never forget when I traveled up to Toronto with my daughter Kathy and her husband Tom to do your first home presentation on Friday night, and then the first hotel meeting on Saturday in a hotel room you had rented. You presented the product. Susan Hart was the hostess, and I did the compensation plan. There were 35 people in that first meeting, and now Ontario has grown to our company’s number one province, even bigger than California. You have over 250,000 people in your group now, creating over a million dollars of volume a week.

When I first came to help you, we had never met. I’d only spoken to you on the phone. Little did I know your team would grow to be one of the largest legs in our company. I would keep coming up every six months, and every time your group had grown thanks to your mentoring and tutelage.

That’s what this business is all about: finding the right people, helping them, serving them. A guy called me up one night and said, “Jimmy, how does it feel to be the big honcho?” I said, “Let me tell you something: the only reason I’m where I’m at is because I’m in service.” The day I get out of service I’m in deep trouble. The better you are at serving others, the more successful you’re going to be in business, especially in this business.

I have learned and continue to learn so much through the relationships I’ve created. A young member of my team, Brad Wildermuth, recently shared Proverb 3:27 with me, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to act.” This validates the mission I have been on. For me, not to share my knowledge with others would be ludicrous and a travesty.

Jimmy Smith
Family photo at his first granddaughter´s wedding, 2004
Jimmy Smith and Susan Sly
Playing pool to relax at home
Jimmy and company founder Coopers
Zip-lining in Jamaica in 2009
Jimmy Smith and Susan Sly
Celebrating his 59th wedding anniversary
Jimmy and company founder Coopers
Spending time with his great-grandson Peter, one of Jimmy´s 24 great-grandchildren

S: If someone said to you today, “Jimmy, I want to build a business, but I have a lot of people who have never done network marketing.” What tips would you give them?
J: Until you understand something, you do not own it. To know what you know, and to know what you don’t know, that’s true wisdom. Hundred percent of the people out there who never did network marketing do not have a clue, because if they did, they’d be in here; 90 percent of the people doing network marketing unfortunately aren’t sure or don’t fully get it, that’s why only 10 percent make substantial incomes.

First, sit people down and teach them the numbers. Help them understand what we have. Sometimes they don’t get it the first time. They don’t get it the second time. You have to keep drilling it in. Repetition is the best teacher. Once you fully understand the mathematics of network marketing, it becomes clear that the only way you can fail is to quit—or not start.

Once you start, you have to become a student of the profession. I was a devout student of network marketing for years before I made money. I joined many different companies. I learned their compensation plans. I used their products. I was doing research. My family used to say, “What are you in now?” If you don’t have something to compare something else with, how do you know if you have the best?

S: Having been in this profession for over 25 years, you’ve seen companies come and go. Looking into your crystal ball, where do you see network marketing in the next 10 years?
J: Again, let’s take a look at the numbers, because numbers don’t lie. Consumer franchising is growing at the rate of about 2.3 percent a year. Network marketing in the U.S. is growing at the rate of about 5.5 percent a year. Network marketing is the people’s franchise. By 2020 we will be a trillion-dollar business sector. By 2025 it will be a multitrillion-dollar business. I believe it will blow past franchising like it’s standing still. Based on various books and articles I’ve read, by 2025 network marketing will be the number-one way to move goods and services to consumers.

One of the best books I ever read was The Next Millionaires by Paul Zane Pilzer. In that book he explains why the 21st century will be known as the age of the entrepreneur. “The exploding U.S. economy will create 10 million new millionaires,” Pilzer said, and he went on to explain how you can stake your claim, “especially if you are in direct selling, technology, home-based business, product distribution, or an emerging trillion-dollar industry like wellness.”

He then asked the question, “Will you be one of them?” I wrote across the page, “Absolutely.” In 1993 I went bankrupt. But doing what Paul was writing about, after only two years in my current company I had become a million-dollar-a-year earner. I was able to do that because I understood the math. I saw where network marketing was going. I just had to find the right company.

Network marketing is the last bastion of capitalism. There’s no other place where you can invest a couple of hundred dollars to get started and have the return on your money that you can have in this business. When you earn a lot of money, you find out there are a lot of financial planners. I often tell them, “I invested $500 to get started in this business and it has returned my family and me several millions. If you have a better deal, start talking. If you don’t, you better sit down and start listening.”

Network marketing is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. We are just getting started and this year is going to be my family’s best year yet!

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