Chris D. Estes is a dynamic Gen Y leader who heads up an international network marketing organization which he started from his small home town in central Kentucky. His calling to help others develop their talents and reach their potential led him to a successful career in education, teaching, and coaching sports. When Chris’s first child was on the way, he realized he didn’t want to spend his life raising otherpeople’s children and opened his mind to other streams of income. In 2008 a trusted friend shared an opportunity with him to build a business on a part-time basis that would allow him in a short amount of time to have the choices and options he never would have with traditional employment. His third year in the business, Chris was able to quit his job and earned one million dollars doing network marketing full time. Chris currently travels the world speaking, training, mentoring, and living out his motto, “Service to many leads to greatness.”
Who introduced you to network marketing?
I grew up in a rural area in central Kentucky. I bought my first car with money I earned from raising a tobacco crop. Working hard was a value my parents always instilled in me and my brother, and I believe it is at the root of all my success.
I’m a sports guy by trade. I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I played college baseball. I’m competitive and like to win. I always tell people, “It’s never too late to start, it’s always too late to wait.” Once I graduated from college with a degree in education, I picked up tennis for the first time, as well as cycling and swimming, and I began to compete in these sports.
I was a teacher and coach for eight years before I got involved in network marketing. I had been introduced when I was in college, but the timing wasn’t right. I was focused on baseball and majoring in “girls.” I wasn’t open to what network marketing had to offer, or the options and choices it provided.
In 2000 I began teaching and coaching in the public school system. In 2008 a colleague and friend of mine introduced me to a network marketing company that sold a health product. He wasn’t involved in the company himself, but he knew I was into health and fitness, and that I was open to creating other streams of income. Because I trusted and respected him, I took a look at the product and the company.
Right away I began thinking of all the people this could benefit—family, friends, and colleagues. The more I learned about network marketing, the more impressed I was. I saw it as an opportunity that could take people like me, a schoolteacher and coach, and give them a real chance, a real vehicle to have time and financial freedom.
Did you get started right away?
Like most people who first discover network marketing, I had lots of doubts. I wondered if I could be successful at it. I had tons of excuses: I didn’t have the money or the time. I’d never been in any type of business before. To come to a decision, I did a “life audit.” I looked at my life, assessed where I was, and where I was going. I realized that if I kept following the same path, I was never going to have what I truly desired. Until that point I’d never really looked at where my career was taking me. I realized I was never going to be free—and that scared me.
I saw myself spending my life raising everybody else’s kids, while I would barely get a chance to see my own. This assessment also taught me: life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change. I decided to change my perspective and turn my excuses into reasons why I could do the business. I didn’t have the money, but I had card called Master, and that’s what I used to start my business.
Being a teacher all day, and a head coach of multiple sports, I didn’t have any free time. Instead of using “lack of time” as a crutch, I changed my perspective. Because I was so busy, I was around tons of people, and network marketing is a people business! It’s also about personal development, about growing and becoming more. Even though I’d never been in business before, all the training systems I could ever need were in place, and they were free! I knew I would have all the support I needed.
How did you launch your business?
The town in which I taught brought forth a famous man by the name of Abraham Lincoln. Abe once said, “Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” Kevin Durant is famous for saying, “Hard works beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
I knew I probably wasn’t the most talented or gifted, but I also knew the smartest person at the table doesn’t win… the most intentional person at the table does! I figured if I could get off to a fast start and go to work, I had a good chance. I had no experience, but I bought into the saying, “Ignorance on fire is better than knowledge on ice.”
I learned by doing and made lots of mistakes. If I could go back, I would do some things differently, but my mistakes shaped me. My biggest advantage, and this should be everyone’s biggest advantage when they first start, was my energy and excitement. I was excited about where this could take me and all the people I could help. Others could feel my passion and hear it in my voice, which helped me bring in some people on the front end.
Of course, you can’t do a seminar on excitement, so I learned some strategies. I encouraged everyone, even before they joined my business, to make a list of people they knew, trusted, and respected. “If you were to pick a team to work with in business, who would those people be?” I asked. As a coach I always asked myself, “Who’s my dream team? Who are the winners? Who has influence? Who has a great attitude and personality?”
I started thinking who I’d want to align myself with, and most of the people on my list were what we call my “common market”: I knew them, but I didn’t know them very well. They weren’t family or close friends, which we call our “warm market.”
My common market were people I taught school with, people I coached with, and that’s whom I approached first. We had mutual respect for one another in our professional lives. This initial list is what helped me, in addition to making a decision that I was going to do this.
The most common question people ask as they get started is, “Can I do this?” Your list helps provide the confidence that you do in fact know enough people who want something more than what they have, who may be looking for another stream of income, or for more time freedom. I knew a ton of candidates whom I thought were perfect for this business.
As a young dad, busy teacher, and sports coach, how did you find the time?
I learned that the busiest people in life tend to be the most successful. This is especially true in network marketing, because it is a people business. It’s built belly to belly, eyeball to eyeball, face to face. I love technology and think it has great benefits, but with every strength comes a weakness. People today tend to hide behind some of the technology, hoping it can do the work for them. Your phone or laptop may be a communication device, but it’s not a connection. For me being a teacher in front of other teachers and coaches was a benefit. I was able to listen to them and find out about their problems and needs.
I was always listening for my point of entry to offer a solution to their issues. Instead of using a sales approach, I focused on solving problems for them. I coached and taught kids, which meant I met a lot of parents. Parents have issues. Quickly my busyness helped accelerate my business, because a lot of people wanted to know what I was doing.
Of course, I always made sure to respect the school district and do my job while I was there. At the same time, if you have something good and you don’t share it with the people you love and care about, then shame on you. I always kept it professional in the workplace, but I absolutely provided a solution to those who showed interest and let them take a look at my information. Then, on my time, I got back with them to discuss and answer questions. There was a fine line, but I did a pretty good job of separating the two.
What are some of the challenges you encountered?
In those first couple of weeks I thought people on my list were going to join me, because why wouldn’t they? They didn’t. Of course, I wasn’t used to getting all the nos. I was used to working with people who wanted to do what I told them. I heard wisecracks at work that made fun of me and network marketing. I had a couple of critical moments that taught me you have to be tough in this business. If you get knocked down seven times, you want to make sure you get up eight.
One of the things that made me tough is the person who sponsored me into my company tried to recruit me and my top people at the time into another company when I had only been in a couple of months. That was difficult for me to handle, because this was the person who was giving me instructions on how to do the business, and all of a sudden he cut my legs off.
Another challenge was about five months into the business we had an ice storm in Kentucky. School was out for a month, and my entire business shut down. People weren’t thinking about making money or building a business. They were worried about their water running and having electricity and heat. That was another trying time when I asked myself, “Is it worth it? Is it really worth making all these sacrifices,” because my business was now going backwards. I learned how to do what we call an I-Q test, asking myself, “What’s my I-Quit level?” My answer was, “I don’t have one. I’m going to do this until.” Slowly we began building our base back.
How did your team grow and when were you able to leave your job?
Every single day I was talking to as many prospects as I could. Because I did it daily, over time it developed into a habit. It became a daily routine to make calls and get in front of as many people as possible.
Because my team saw me talking to people, calling people, getting in front of people, it started to duplicate. Over time that consistency created a lot of team momentum. After doing this part time for two years, I was able to walk away from my teaching and coaching job to start teaching and coaching in the much higher paying profession of network marketing.
Over the 90 days following that decision, my income and business doubled. We created an incredible amount of momentum, because I was able to travel to more events, do more presentations, and get in front of more people. I was now the full-time person for my part-time people. I became a seven-figure-income earner after just two years in the business.
That’s impressive, having never done network marketing before. Did your coaching background help you?
Absolutely. One of the things I teach people is to multiply their strengths, to focus on what they’re good at, and become great at it. Then delegate your weaknesses by bringing in team members who are good at the things you’re not. I believe we all walk into any profession, and especially in network marketing, with a specific advantage. We tend to notice our disadvantages. In reality, we have everything we need to be successful. We just need to bring on board other people who complement our weaknesses, thus forming a team.
Because of my athletic, coaching, and teaching background, I had an advantage of understanding the mission and how to be intentional and consistent. There are always some failures along the way. That’s what happens when you coach. You try something, it doesn’t work. You make an adjustment. Knowing these things was another advantage for me, and the team caught on to it. We created a big organization and a culture around that family comradery you typically see in any successful sports team.
Who would you consider some of your mentors?
When I started the business I was introduced to a leader in our company by the name of Mike Sims. He had been in the profession for quite a while and had earned millions of dollars already. Mike started mentoring me and became a big accelerator for me and the team in the early phases of my business. He continues even today to pour into me and into leaders across the network marketing community.
Another mentor was Paul Orberson. He was the fastest ever to reach a million dollars in monthly earnings in network marketing. His story is similar to mine: he was a teacher and a coach from Kentucky. Our paths crossed through some connections, and I simply reached out to him to see if we could meet. Then I asked if he would speak at a team event. We built a relationship and he mentored me for several years until his passing a couple of years ago. He was like a network marketing prophet for me. He always let me know, “Here’s what’s going to happen, Chris. Beware. Be cautious. Get excited.”
I also met John Maxwell, one of the greatest leadership experts of all time. He spoke at an event I hosted and was really impressed with our team culture. When we connected, he took me under his wing and began to guide me. It’s nice to call him a mentor, and a real pleasure to call him a friend.
Any books or audio programs?
Some of your greatest mentors can actually be people you never meet. For me, my first six months in the business were the most challenging. Thankfully I was plugged into Jim Rohn’s Building Your Network Marketing Business CD. I listened to it every day for six months, and it really helped me understand the game of network marketing.
When you understand the rules of the game you’re playing, you can figure out how to win. If you don’t know the rules, you’re probably not going to play for very long, because it’s not going to be much fun. I never saw Jim Rohn speak live, but he really helped me through those first six months.
Then Darren Hardy has a CD called Making the Shift thatI think every network marketer should listen to. A few other books that were game changers for me are The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, and Lead for God’s Sake by Todd Gongwer, a must-read leadership book.
These books and mentors inspired me to write my first book, The A.P.P.L.E. Principle, which I self-published in 2013. I also formed a personal mentoring group, The Nest, to add value to qualified folks using the principles taught in my book. In 2014 I coauthored with Mike Sims a highly innovative quick read titled The 10 Core Commitments.
Now that you’re at the helm of a big team, how do you provide leadership? What are some of the challenges people come to you with?
As you take your organization from a little squad to a team, your responsibilities grow bigger. We always say, “Cry up, praise down.” As my team grew, people were now beginning to cry up if their product didn’t come on time, if they had one of their best friends telling them no, or if at work someone said their business was a pyramid scheme. This was my chance to bring out my Masters in Counseling and become a counselor and a father. You have to protect your team members like a father and nurture them like a mother. I had to show some love and let people know I cared. I also had to be tough. I didn’t want a bunch of thumb-sucking, diaper division crybabies. I wanted to create a culture around toughness. “We’re going to get hit in the face. We’re going to get knocked down, but we’re going to get back up. We’re not going to whine about it, because we know that’s part of the process.” That was the focus I wanted to instill culturally.
That culture helped minimize or limit some of those basic challenges, the primary ones being rejection, limiting beliefs, and learning to develop the daily consistency. This isn’t a business you do once a week, or three days a week. Building a network marketing business is doing it every day. I’m not saying you have to work it 24/7, but it’s doing a handful of actions every single day.
If you’re going out to eat, listen to your waiter. If you have to wait for your table, build relationships with others who are waiting. If you’re at the airport, make conversation. I call it “ship building,” relationship building. Thus you always have people entering the marketing funnel. Many people are going to fall out and enter your business over time. That’s how any business works.
Do you build internationally?
I have an international business, but fortunately for me, I introduced someone who introduced someone, who introduced someone who brought the international market to my business. I have plans this year to go to Indonesia where we have a big market of leaders forming, as well as to different parts of Australia. Thankfully I don’t have to get up at 2:00 AM my time to talk to someone on the other side of the world. The beauty of network marketing is you start with your local network. I was from a little town and started with people who had never been out of the state of Kentucky. We quickly moved to other states, then across the country. Now we are in other countries where I don’t have direct connections, but I have high hopes that I will be able to impact people globally. That’s the beauty of network marketing and having that leverage we teach and talk about so much.
Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now?
When I got into this business, I was sold a dream. I believed that if I worked hard and made sacrifices most people wouldn’t make, for three to five years, I’d be able to live a life most people are never able to live. Because of what I did, I’m able to spend my days focused on growth in the seven areas of my life which I feel are important—faith, family, finance, fitness, food, fun, and philanthropy.
Five or even ten years from now, I’m still going to focus on these specific areas in which I hope to have grown. I like measurement, but regardless of how much money I have made and will continue to make, it’s not going to change the fact that I’m always going to stay hungry to be better today than I was yesterday. I’m always going to be focused on moving forward.
Someone told me once that if what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done that much today. I always ask myself, “How can I be a better husband? How can I be a better father? How can I be a better leader? What can I do today to accomplish that?” I also want to continue to add value to my company and to the network marketing community, by always being focused on growth.