Trey White and Brent Hicks are two highly successful entrepreneurs based in Dallas, who founded a network marketing company in 2009. They built their corporate culture, products, and programs on the idea that business is not a zero-sum game, but a vehicle for personal transfor-mation and global evolution. They launched the HOPE movement based on their mission to Help Other People Evolve. They believe having a compelling purpose will be the competitive advantage of business in the future and are committed to leading the way.
What led you to start a network marketing company?
BRENT: I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life. My first big success came in the financial world, where I spent 14 years building a mortgage banking business. We built a large organization and helped a lot of people achieve financial success. Through that journey we gleaned many lessons that were applicable to life.
In the process we gained a passion for learning and giving back. In 2006 Trey and I had invested in a technology that ultimately became our first nutritional product. When considering how to launch this product, we looked at direct sales, and for me that has become a calling I’m passionate about.
Steve Jobs in his commencement speech at Stanford talked about “connecting the dots,” and how everything in life prepares you for something bigger. When you are going through it—whether it’s trials and tribulations or success—you may not understand what that preparation is for. Making it big in the mortgage industry ignited my desire and gave me the vision to impact large numbers of people. I saw direct sales as a vehicle to achieve this, combined with products we knew could drive change.
We launched our company during the height of the Great Recession of 2008, when lots of people were losing jobs and homes. Obesity rates were at an all-time high. Many people needed help. Trey and I saw an opportunity to create a culture that provided hope alongside of a health product line.
How do you give hope to those who are facing lack or loss?
BRENT: Everything that happens in life is either a teacher or tormentor, depending on our mindset. Carol Dweck wrote a book called Mindset, which says there are two types of people: those who have a closed mindset, and those who cultivate an open mind, a learning mindset. Our company culture comes from that place of openness and growth. We believe in being intentional about everything we do and always come from a place of genuine giving.
Another book called Give and Take explains there are three types of people in the world: givers, takers, and “matchers” who look for what’s mutually beneficial. We choose to come from a place and an energy of simply giving—a place of true abundance. As we continuously give of ourselves, we start to build credibility and through the Law of Reciprocity, which is one of the most powerful Universal Laws, we attract what we need.
As the Bible says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” That’s the culture we are designing. Every company in the world has a culture—either by design or by default. From day one we asked ourselves, “What’s the intention behind our company? How do we bring people in? How do we lift them up? How do we start a process where people begin to believe and have hope?”
How exactly do you accomplish this?
BRENT: It starts small, and then it can begin to blossom. When you create a community of people who are coming from a place of abundance, this starts lifting everyone up. For example, we teach them to begin to read a little every day in place of watching TV or filling their time with ”Constant Negative News.” We help them gain a few skills and build some confidence. When they start to make a little money, their posture gets a little better. They take a little more action, sit up a little straighter. They earn a reward, which makes them dig in a little further. Then they’re surrounded by others who are stretching them, sharpening them, and maybe challenging them to read a little more, to spend a little more time developing themselves.
Over time you see a pattern of growth, belief, and transformation: that new person starts to take more action, believe in herself, and eventually moves from hopelessness to believing that anything is possible!
We’re very specific in the way we attract people and bring them onboard, as well as with the culture and the community we build. It’s been humbling to see how people are gravitating towards the message of building a company based on compassionate capitalism, and a business that’s about more than just making money.
We’ve infused into our model almost a Toms Shoes, philanthropic 1-for-1 type model. For every kit we sell, for every “challenge” people complete, for many of the actions our members take to grow the HOPE movement, we make donations to organizations that help battered women and children, such as Emily’s Place. Last week we had an event in Minnesota where we raised $20,000 in less than an hour for a local battered women’s shelter.
The impact we’re having in local communities is starting to ripple out. As our company continues to grow across the world, we’ll continue this kind of giving and support the communities we’re building in. We’ll go spend a half a day putting our time and energy into helping people in need. Doing these kinds of activities together creates an even stronger bond and experiences that are priceless.
Why does the direct selling model fit your purpose so well?
TREY: We are in the people business, and we create communities of change. If we were a traditional retail company, we wouldn’t be able to create this kind of community where everyone is focused on the same result. Looking at our field and the culture we’ve been able to create, we have led not with a product, not with an opportunity, but with a purpose. We are the H.O.P.E. movement, and we believe that in the future direct selling companies will want to lead with powerful purpose.
Of course we have intellectual property and millions of dollars invested in our products which are known for their life-changing benefits. However, the culture and the movement is powered by people who feel alignment with our mission.
This company was founded not on the principle of trying to make another million dollars for the founders. It was founded to help people, to put people back to work in the heart of a recession. Research shows that just $700 a month would have averted close to 80 percent of the personal bankruptcies in America in 2010!
Offering families a way to earn an extra $500 or $1,000 a month is one of the things we are passionate about. However, we also want to help new members catch the spirit of service this community embodies by asking them, “Are you willing to help somebody first? If you’re willing to help somebody first in order to help yourself, this movement is for you.”
Through hope anything is possible, and millions of people, not just domestically but around the world, need hope in the areas of health, finance, relationships, and so on. Part of our culture and the reason we chose network marketing over a traditional retail distribution model is that we get to partner with passionate people focused on improving the lives of others who are less fortunate.
Tell us a little about the HOPE movement.
TREY: It’s much bigger than Brent or I or the executive team. It’s about our current membership and the millions of people we will attract to the movement because of our mission. Brent and I have both been very successful entrepreneurs and we enjoy sharing with others what we have learned to help others succeed. Many companies have a give-back strategy, but it’s almost like a footnote at the bottom of the page, because they’re focused on promoting a product or a compensation plan. We believe the future of our business is about service and contribution.
We chose to build a purpose-based organization because only by helping people can we bring change to our communities. This is the most powerful model in existence for doing so, while making a profit makes it sustainable and scalable. My background was in the Internet space, back when it was Internet 1.0. Social media has transformed our business model, and we see social giving as another extension of social media. We’re in the social-selling and social-giving business. Only in network marketing can you merge a social mindset and a product-oriented mindset with an emphasis on helping others.
Applied to our company and community of members and customers, this creates the righteous rewards of a win-win business model. Hope means different things to different people, because everybody has their own needs and wants. Our job as a company is to create the framework so that people can join the HOPE movement and create success, depending on how much time they want to invest in their business, their financial goals, and how they want to grow as individuals.
How do you distinguish abundance from wealth?
BRENT: Abundance is a mindset. It means believing that there is more to want and to give. It’s having a cup that’s overflowing. Before I can go fill anybody else’s cup, I have to fill my own. How do I fill my cup? By being present and coming from a place of believing there’s enough out there for me and for everybody else—spiritually, emotionally, physically. It’s seeing the cup half full and realizing we can have anything we want.
When I was 21 years old I had a life-changing experience that has guided me through the past 20 years. I was visiting a little town called Tahlequah, Oklahoma with a good friend of mine. Out in God’s country, after looking at the stars one night, I went to bed praying for wisdom. I felt lost. I didn’t know who I was, what I was supposed to be, or who I wanted to become. I prayed harder than I’d ever prayed before. In the middle of the night a thought dropped into my mind and kept occupying it for the rest of the night. The thought was, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
The next morning as we were having coffee, I shared the story with my friend and asked, “What does meek even mean?” He said, “People think meek means timid and weak, but what it really means is humble and teachable.” That day I learned that those who are humble enough to be teachable can accomplish anything.
To accomplish our goals and dreams, we have to come from a place of humility. If we think we know everything, we’re done growing. When we’re humble enough to be constant students, then what can we not learn? If we’re willing to learn anything, we can accomplish and be anything. To me that is true abundance—believing we can do and have anything we want and coming from that place of “My cup is overflowing, so let me fill other people’s cups. Let me help and teach them.”
I think that’s what’s incumbent upon us as humans. If we learn something, let’s share it and help each other. That’s what the acronym HOPE stands for—Helping Other People Evolve, helping them become more. It’s a life value we all subscribe to and live by—Trey, myself, and the rest of our executive team, Craig Smith, Justin White, and Dr. Anne Smith. We fill our cups so we can fill others’ cups, which in turn fills our own.
How do you cultivate abundance thinking through your organization?
TREY: We appreciate everything we have, and we build the company and our lives around appreciation for others first. Next we reduce the negative thoughts and the things we spend our time on that conflict with this abundance mindset. Success starts with thoughts that create actions, actions create results, results create belief, which in turn reinforces our mindset. You can’t create what you want without being in the proper mindset.
Abundant thinking is the absolute foundation of the HOPE movement, and one of the reasons why we were so excited to build this business. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, this message deeply resonates with people. People want to do and be better—and they want to be part of something bigger.
Because we are a movement, we’re seeing tremendous growth here in our company. I’ve made a lot of money in my career before this, but I’ve never made money helping people. As the saying goes, “I got into network marketing, and then network marketing got into me.” I saw the health benefits our products delivered, and because of it, how many people we’ve helped in our local community, and the culture of likeminded people we’ve created. Only through network marketing is that possible.
BRENT: At our last event in Minnesota, I got up on stage and said, “Here’s what I’m going to commit to,” and I launched a pledge. It was to live a life of significance, to put a stake in the ground, to never crush other people’s dreams; to always be learning and let reciprocity set in; to focus on becoming an authority and an influencer, to respect my body by feeding it and treating it properly.
Then I went into “I will…” statements, including: I will honor God, respect my wife, and share with others. I will come from a place of abundance. I will share what I learn. I will invest in myself and others. I will contribute my time. I will be present in the company of others. I will have fun. I will love and allow myself to be loved. I will be a light in the darkness. I will respect everyone. I will stand for what I believe. I will take responsibility for my actions. I will fight for my dreams. I will forgive, and I’ll Help Other People Evolve.
We wanted to expose everyone to the core of who we are and what we stand for. Through my pledge I wanted to show my commitment and have everybody hold me accountable, and attract other likeminded people.
What your company offers is much more than a business.
BRENT: Yes, our products are absolutely world-class and our compensation plan is one of the best out there, but those are things we’re supposed to offer. Having excellent products that are competitively priced so they bring more customers than distributors—to us, that’s a minimum standard. We’re supposed to have all this to enable our members to build a sustainable long-term business. For every one distributor, we sign up four customers. We’re 80 percent customers, 20 percent distributors, because we have outstanding products, but that’s not the thing we want to focus on.
What we really want to emphasize is our HOPE mission and making people feel at home. Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Oprah Winfrey said in her final syndicated episode, “We believe the key to life— and we have firmly adopted this into our culture—is this: I see you, I hear you, and what you say matters.” People want to be seen. They want to be heard. They want to know they matter. To accomplish this, we constantly ask ourselves, “How do we make people feel? How do we lift them up?” Those are the reasons why we started the company, why we enjoy what we do, and why we continue to build a community of hope.
TREY: The network marketing model has been built on financial reward, but that’s not everyone’s primary goal. If you build a company culture solely based on money, to me that shows a scarcity mentality. Sure, money is important, and there are many people earning a lot of money from their efforts with our company and sharing the HOPE movement, but financial gain is really the reward for doing the right activity, not the goal itself. If you come from a perspective of wanting to create value and serve others with an attitude of gratitude, then making money is actually much easier! When it’s not money that drives you, when you’re driven by a culture of hope and service, then what you find is the more you give, the more you receive.
The HOPE pledge is for anybody who wants to help through their actions and through consumptive giving. Focusing on what’s possible through our mission of improving people’s health, wealth, and mindset—this to me is abundance thinking. None of us were born thinking the way we do; we were programed over time by our experiences, people who may have taken advantage of us, failures and successes. Our job is to change the way we think about opportunity and situations. If you lose your job, that’s an opportunity to walk through a new door. Relationship ends? That’s an opportunity to create a different relationship that can last a lifetime.
As a company we strive to never let three emotions factor into any decision we make: fear, greed, and ego. Especially at the corporate level, we try to make decisions devoid of negative thoughts or emotions. The more we surround ourselves with likeminded people, the easier it becomes. If we associate with positive, abundant thinking people, we will see a transformation in ourselves. We’ve already witnessed this with tens of thousands of people, and we continue to marvel at the countless lives that are being changed every day.
Looking into the future, what are you most passionate about?
TREY: What gets me super excited is the ripple effect of what we do. When we help move someone’s mindset from scarcity to abundance, the ripple effect this has in their relationships, their family, and their community is nothing short of amazing.
Often people come here primarily looking to make money, but when they see the HOPE movement and surround themselves with others who think of helping others first, they then go through their own transformation, and now they feel empowered to take what we’re doing out into the world. They’re no longer simply promoting a product or a compensation plan.
For us, the HOPE movement is our primary focus, and the products are part of the movement: you need to have a healthy body to have a healthy mind and to help others first. If you do those things properly, the money comes. Even if somebody does come into our company focused solely on making money at first, when they get involved and steeped in our culture, they grow a deeper understanding of what we’re accomplishing together.
It brings a different posture to approaching others about the business. No longer a salesperson, you’re a builder of a movement.
TREY: You hit the nail on the head. It’s sustainable because it’s a message that resonates around the world. We see very low attrition with our customers, because our products deliver the intended results at a competitive price. When our customers are exposed to our culture, many will upgrade their membership a few months after joining as a customer, because they have become passionate about the HOPE movement.
We feel a responsibility not only to our members and our community, but also to the profession. If network marketing can be more mission-driven and purpose-focused and less about the profits, if our intent to contribute is not simply a footnote on our webpage but our overall strategy, this helps bring credibility to a business sector that historically has been challenged by some bad actors. There have been people who have used our business model as a money game. They’re in it for all the wrong reasons, and unfortunately some people have had bad experiences because of that.
Our aim is to show that you can be both one of the most profitable, fastest-growing companies in the world and be purpose-driven. We have a social responsibility to elevate our profession and create a safe haven for anybody who wants to join us.
To become a beacon of light for business at large, by creating synergy and ripple effect.
TREY: Exactly—and they build on each other, turning into a huge wave that will be felt around the world. Top global entrepreneurs and business experts are starting to recognize that a purposeful business is the way of the future. Companies that are on the leading edge of this profound and positive shift will benefit greatly in every area, not just the bottom line.
And it starts at the top. Corporate leaders have to be transparent and hold each other accountable to abundant thinking, and then inspire and support the field leadership to do the same. When you’re building an organization with hundreds of thousands of people, soon to be millions of people around the globe, there will always be new challenges and issues. It’s how we think about and handle these issues that makes all the difference. As Brent said, they can be a teacher or a tormentor.
At our events we don’t talk about how fast the company is growing in terms of revenue and membership. Instead, we measure how many people we are helping in our community, and how many people the HOPE movement is impacting. As we continue to fulfill our purpose in different countries across the globe, I truly believe that over the next 10, 20, 50 years, the impact our profession has on families and communities around the world will continue to ripple out beyond measure.