Rob Sperry and Lance Conrad are passionate, purpose-driven entrepreneurs who have been business partners ever since they joined network marketing in 2008. Based in Utah, they are both happily married, raising a family, and heading up a dynamic organization in 40 countries. The glue that holds their team together is a unique culture based on humanitarian service and self-development.
Rob and Lance use a “pull marketing” approach that attracts all age groups and increasingly Generation Y. Seeing this growing youth movement concurs with their belief that the future of network marketing hinges on how well we can engage the most globally connected generation in history. Aligned in this vision, Rob and Lance teach young people around the world how to live balanced lives of growth and contribution.
You have been successful in multiple companies. What’s your team demographic? How do you attract mainly young people?
LANCE: When we got started, we had mostly baby boomers, because we were taught to look for successful business people with a lot of life experience.
Over time, that shifted to where we now attract all demographics, but we see a huge shift in the profession coming with the Gen Y movement. It is the most naturally networked generation in history. They grew up on social media. They thrive on it. While I started with 10 names in a flip phone, we rarely get somebody in their 20s who doesn’t have 300 to 500 friends they’re communicating with on a daily basis through one of their social media platforms.
Our demographic has increasingly become “young and fun.” It’s not that we’ve shunned the existing leaders, the 40-, 50-, 60-year olds, but our culture attracts a lot of young people. They love the pay-for-performance business model of network marketing and being able to choose their own hours. They thrive on the competitive spirit of being able to be recognized for success at a young age. They love getting involved in service projects and doing things that might be considered goofy or out of the box. They see them as social-media friendly, fun, and engaging.
ROB: Gen Y is more humanitarian-driven than any other generation. The old way was often to donate money as a way of buying peace of mind without getting involved. The younger generation wants to get in on the action. You see them travel all around the world helping people, because they enjoy serving and get an experience that changes their life.
The world has never been more connected through technology, however people feel more disconnected than ever. They spend their days texting and on social media. They miss having live interactions and are hungry for personal connection—real life experiences!
LANCE: Gen Y would rather make $30,000 a year and work when they want, how they want, than make $50,000 a year and have a job where they don’t get to take time off or travel with their friends. Life becomes more about freedom and lifestyle.
One big myth is that Gen Y shuns work. In our experience, they work harder than any group we’ve ever had, as long as they have a purpose and passion. Working to them is hanging out with friends, which they do till 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, because they’re always networking. They prioritize humanitarian service, recognition, learning, and travel over making money. When you offer them a vehicle that provides all these things, they’ll outwork everyone.
Our strategy is not to focus on one age group. We are an all-inclusive team. We teach the baby boomers and the Gen Xers the value of Gen Y. All of them feel included as they get to mentor each other in different areas. Baby boomers feel they get to raise the next generation by teaching young people how to do business the right way. Our approach is unique in that it appeals to all ages.
How does it fit in with your company culture? Do other leaders appreciate what you do?
ROB: They absolutely love it. It’s a new dynamic. At first our company wanted to make sure we built it right, meaning that it wasn’t based on hype and car programs and money, things we’ve seen too much of, both with the older and the younger generation. Now everyone trusts us, because we’re teaching people the right vision. We’re telling them this is not an overnight success; that they have to work on themselves and develop skills to be successful in this business.
I always tell people the best part of this business is that I’m a better father, husband, leader, friend because of it. That’s much more valuable to me than money. Money becomes a byproduct of me being a better human, and helping other people achieve the same.
My first 18 months in the business I read 100 books, and the same goes for Lance. Last year, after doing this business for seven years, I still read close to 40 books a year, because I need it. We always need to grow. The greatest ability one can have is the ability to learn, and that’s what we teach: be coachable and teachable, no matter how good you are. Whatever you do well duplicates sometimes, but whatever you do poorly almost always duplicates in your organization.
Our notion of wealth is evolving, from being based on externals, to being rooting in who we create ourselves to be.
ROB: Exactly. The fun thing about this business is the more you give yourself to it—by networking, by becoming a leader, by helping others achieve their dreams and goals—the more you’re creating this family, this culture, this network, so that no matter what happens to your team or company, you’re fine. If you learn to create culture, attract leaders, and develop teams, you will always be successful.
Sometimes people need a fresh start. Over the years we’ve had some leaders on our team for whom our business wasn’t a good fit. We not only accepted that, we even helped them find a new mentor, a new team, a new home, so they could do what they were passionate about. We wished them well and believed they’d be able to build it better, bigger, faster than ever before, because they’d been trained and taught how to make it fun, how to make it about more than just the money.
We didn’t say, “I can’t believe you’re leaving us, after all we’ve done for you.” There was no guilt trip. We’ve maintained that relationship so we can help them succeed in their next journey.
The principles we teach help people in all aspects of their lives. Success principles should permeate not just your business, they should help you become a better spouse, parent, and friend. Who cares how much money you make if you gave up everything else that’s important to you? We want to teach people how to have a happy, successful, and balanced life.
How did the two of you become business partners? Who introduced you to network marketing?
ROB: I was running a tennis club and teaching kids tennis. One day what seemed to be a normal parent approached me, “How can I get my kids to take tennis lessons with you?” I told him I had a long waiting list.
As a smart networker, he kept coming back and asking how he could get his kids lessons with me. Eventually he said, “What is it you want out of life? What do you want out of business?” I told him I was ambitious and wanted to own a business, perhaps in real estate. It turns out he was a very successful business man. He offered to be my personal mentor and coach me on a weekly basis if I would move his kids up the waiting list.
I spent several years teaching this guy’s kids tennis, and I would go over to his house once a week. He would teach me about finance, real estate, and business in general.
Three years passed and I found out through the grapevine that he was involved in network marketing. One day he said, “Rob, I’m coming out of retirement. I’m making another run. You’re going to be working with me.” He sat me down and said, “We’re going to do network marketing.” I thought he was crazy. Living in Utah, I’d said no to dozens of network marketing companies. He said, “Most people don’t truly treat this like a business. I do.”
Then he asked to see me with my wife and said something poignant: “I need to know that your life’s in order right now.” I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Money makes you more of who you are. I don’t want to create a greater screw-up. True wealth is not what you have in the bank, it’s your ability. I’m going to teach you and train you. It’s going to be hard, but it will be worth it.”
Next he told me to call the most successful and influential person I would want to do this business with. He said, “When starting a business, you have to find your battle buddy.” The first person that came to mind was Lance Conrad. I was reluctant to call him, because for years he’d been extremely successful in his staffing/headhunting company. I looked up to him as a business-savvy entrepreneur I’d always bounce ideas off. To take the pressure off, I simply asked him for his opinion on what I was doing. He wasn’t interested and I felt deflated.
My mentor told me, “Wealth requires urgency. It’s now or never.” The day after Lance told me no, I made calls for eight straight hours. Over the next few days I signed up some people, which built up my confidence. I called Lance back, but this time the tone of my voice was different. He could sense my passion and commitment. I didn’t sell him on empty promise or on false bravado. I shared my goals with him, then told him I was going to do whatever it took to achieve them.
LANCE: This was August 2008 and I had owned my business for almost 10 years. Being a headhunter, I’d get recruited for network marketing several times a week. I made fun of MLM as a sport. I regularly shot down people and would take pride in the creative ways I could tell them no. If it was a friend like Rob, I would say, “The answer is no, but if you want me to, I’ll attend your business presentation—at the end of which I’ll tell you no.”
Network marketers had never connected the dots for me. I could see if you started with one you weren’t making a lot of money, and if you had tens of thousands you’re making lots of money. But I couldn’t see how you get from one to 10,000, or 100,000.
Also, those who approached me always seemed needy, desperate even. They wanted me to make them rich. The first couple of times I’d been introduced to the business I’d been tricked into meetings, and I could never see myself do this to anyone.
When Rob invited me to meet a top leader in the profession, I agreed to come and listen. The presenter covered the history of network marketing, where companies and products came from, how to create market share, the importance of timing, and how to grow a business through cities, states, and countries. He showed me the value of building a distribution channel of both retail and preferred customers. He used business language I could understand and relate to.
Next he said, “If you want to make world-class income in this profession, it’s going to take world-class sacrifice at first.” He said he wouldn’t even work with us unless we were willing to give up everything—birthdays, holidays, anniversaries…—for the next two years to do this around the clock. He promised it was going to be a lot of hard work, but it was going to be fun and worthwhile.
In the end, what convinced me to jump in was realizing that Rob was going to succeed with or without me. He didn’t have any experience, but I knew his work ethic and he had a good mentor. My thought process was, “If I tried and failed, I could live with it. But what if I didn’t try, and all of a sudden Rob’s going to the best beaches in the world, living this amazing lifestyle?”
As I was considering my options, Rob’s business was taking off. The first meeting I went to he had 30 people. His next meeting had over 50 people. His business was obviously gaining momentum, and I didn’t want to be the one missing out.
Rob, how did you fill those meetings?
ROB: I knew a lot of people and was a great connector. I was so scared of failing that I was going to call as many people as needed. My whole pitch was not to do the business or buy the products, but simply to come take a look. I wanted people to see what I was excited about.
I said, “Regardless of whether you do this or not, we’ll always be friends. I’ll never pressure you or make things awkward.” I would joke, “I won’t be part of the NFL, the No-Friends-League.” I said, “You need to take a serious look at this, both the business and the products. You may be a customer. You may be a distributor. You may be neither, but it’s worth your time to check it out.” That’s how strong and short I was on the phone. Then I would follow up with texts, confirming the event details and appreciating people for making the time.
In the beginning I didn’t know how to explain the business, but I knew it worked. I didn’t understand everything about the products, but I had others who presented the information, so I was able to develop a strong customer base. I would bring people to in-person meetings or nowadays it could be Google Hangouts—any venue where someone other than myself was presenting. I was simply the connector. I called probably close to 250 people my first month. That may sound overwhelming, especially to those who are doing this business part-time. We understand that and encourage everyone to go at their own speed.
I had full-time goals, so my business needed full-time effort. I was taught to put extra energy into it at the beginning. There are times to sprint, times to walk, times to jog. It doesn’t matter at what speed you’re going to grow your business, you still need to make sure that when you launch it, you give it extra effort. Even if you only have two hours a week, give it every ounce of your energy during that time. Then month two, if you want to slow down, go ahead. I understood that if I didn’t launch at the beginning, the odds of having success would decrease dramatically.
Lance, how did you launch your business?
LANCE: Being an introvert and the polar opposite of Rob, I had a different approach. When our mentor told me to make a list of my top 10 candidates, I looked at my razor flip phone with 10 names in it, thinking, “I’m glad he didn’t ask for 12.” The very thought of talking to my friends terrified me. I’d made fun of networkers for so long, and all of a sudden I’d become one. What would people think?
I did understand the importance of leadership: the better the leaders you bring in, the more successful you will be. I wasn’t the social butterfly, I didn’t have Rob’s huge network, but I could contact successful individuals.
Almost everybody on my list had made six figures at some point, owned a business, or was already entrepreneurial. I told them, “I’m starting a networking business with company X and product Y. I know it’s out of the box, but you know me: I’m going to do it at the highest levels, and I only associate with the very best. Trust me, you’ll want to take a look at this.”
Similar to Rob, my message was quick and forward. I wanted the whole conversation to be less than three minutes. Then I would close for an appointment.
My goal was never to fill the room, but to show up at each meeting with a new person. I’d pick people up in my car and sit next to them at the event. Afterwards we’d debrief and I’d say, “This is what I’m going to do. This is how we could work together.” If they bought into my vision, I’d spend the next month helping them launch their business: presenting at their meetings, doing three-way calls, using their network to get things off the ground.
I looked at it from a headhunter perspective: start with the right leaders, build a team around them, build up their confidence and credibility. Then have them duplicate that and move on to teach others.
Can you give us an overview of how your team grew?
LANCE: At the beginning our business was growing so fast everybody wanted to join. Then people would quit and teams would fall apart. Six months into it, we were almost starting over. There were days we felt like crying, days we wanted to quit, but we’d always cheer each other on, or pick each other up after failures.
We set a goal to reach the top rank of our company in one year. Rob did it in 10 months, I did it in 12. We were holding each other accountable to a hundred phone calls a day—prospecting, three-way calls, training calls, crossline, upline, or downline, whatever came our way. Another target we had was to give three to six presentations daily to new people.
ROB: We were crushing it in the fall of 2008, and then in December, we absolutely got our butts kicked. We call the beginning the Honeymoon stage in the business. Then you go through the sophomore slump, when you realize there are people who aren’t going to make it, and they start bringing you down.
Then January came, and Lance and I recommitted to outwork everyone. Instead of focusing on the fear, we started seeing what can happen, what will happen, what we can control. That month our volume went up to four times the amount of what it was in December, and it never went below that threshold again.
Everything worthwhile takes time and hard work. Every person who has accomplished something great will tell you, “It was harder than I thought it would be.” This was a powerful lesson we learned on our journey that we teach our teams to this day.
LANCE: We do our profession a disservice by telling people it’s going to be easy. If it were easy, everybody would do it, and it wouldn’t be this life-changing experience. Prior to network marketing, I was used to everybody listening to me, because I was the boss. I wrote the checks, so everybody did what I said. When I became a network marketer and started telling my team what to do, some told me, “I don’t have to listen to you. You’re not my boss.” I replied, “I’m your upline!” They said, “So what?”
I learned true leadership is influence, and that’s earned. People need to respect you in order to want to follow you. If you trick people into a meeting, into signing up, or into believing it’s going to be easy, you will quickly lose credibility when they find out the truth. They will decide, “This isn’t someone I want to follow or be like.”
ROB: There’s a difference between “get rich quick” and “get rich easy.” Some people get rich quickly, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. It takes a lot of work, effort, influence, and probably previous credibility. For many it will take forever. Most won’t ever get there. And some people will go fast. We prefer not to talk about how much time it’s going to take. We let people decide how big they want to dream. We’ll help them, but we always emphasize that it takes work. It’s net-work marketing, not net-lottery-ticket marketing.
Three years into it, you decide to change companies. Why and how did you move on?
LANCE: There are times in your career where things change. What you thought you’d signed up for is no longer there, and you feel it’s time to transition. We actually stepped back from the business in 2011 and continued to collect residual income, which allowed us to spend a lot of time with our families. We became consultants teaching companies how to create sales channels. We met with many company owners and master distributors. We discovered there wasn’t just one way to make a living in this business and became avid students of the profession.
At one point we were enlisted by a large company that had done about $3.5 billion in sales and was losing market share. They came to us and asked us to help them reinvent themselves.
We gave them our philosophies on creating a strong culture from the corporate level. We came on as consultants and focused on engaging teams in humanitarian events collectively as a company throughout the entire country. Sometimes we would raise money, other times we would show up to a preschool and clean up the yard, paint fences, or do other service projects. We’d organize scavenger hunts to create a fun culture of community service.
That’s how we presented it to the team. We told them, “Let’s go make a difference in the world.” One month we visited widows. Another month we did Toys for Tots and visited kids who were dying of cancer. We created some incredible traction with that company before the merger with our current company happened. We transferred that culture into our current teams. Right now we have a Facebook group called J Moments and we perform random acts of kindness once a month where we all participate in some kind of humanitarian or team-oriented event.
You do this in combination with income-producing activities?
LANCE: Yes, it’s part of what distinguishes us from other teams. It’s about giving back and paying it forward. Many people who join our business are introduced to us through service projects where we don’t even mention the business. They naturally want to know more about what we do, so they ask how they can be a part of it. They want to get involved, because they like what we stand for.
We really want to turn network marketing around, from the old get-in-now, get-rich-quick approach, which is all about posturing and pressure and fear-of-loss marketing, to what we call pull marketing, which is about making a difference in people’s lives. Guess what? The money will come if you provide the service and put people first.
ROB: It’s the business behind the business. Everyone agrees if you help enough people get what they want, you get what you want. If you truly focus on giving people a positive experience bigger than just the money, many will want to join you. Of course, the money and the products are absolutely critical. That’s a foundational piece of any network marketing company. But once you have that, if you can make it about something bigger than just that, you have a powerful differentiator and a compelling value-add.
How does it work internationally?
LANCE: A lot of people told us it wouldn’t work, that especially internationally it’s all about “Show us the plan, show us the numbers, show us the money.” We’ve gone to country after country, and what we’ve found is that people are tired of American companies coming in promising the next great comp plan or the next overnight millionaire program. We lead with, “We want to make a difference in your community. We want to provide humanitarian service. We want to be more than your business partners.”
We build relationships beyond just the business, and friendships that last, whether people stay with our business or not. When we ask why they choose our team, people tell us, “It’s refreshing that you’re not just showing up in our country looking for more dollars. You’re not simply seeing us as a new market to conquer.” Our approach is even more differentiating in international markets.
Any closing thoughts?
ROB: People follow those who are committed. Some take longer to achieve their goals, while others get there faster, but only the committed reach their destination. When you seek to serve and give, you will find network marketing to be one of the most rewarding professions on the planet. You get to make friends for a living, and they become part of your family. What a privilege!