Tuesday, April 05, 2005

My "failure" in the world of Multi-Level Marketing

I used to sell Mary Kay- started when I was about 20 or so and quit after a couple of years. I then tried again while pregnant with my first child because I thought it would be a good way to replace my income from working outside the home. Again, quit after a year or so. Why didn't I stick with it? Well.....

I like meeting new people and am not shy, but didn't like the way I was to think of and relate to people in the MLM world. Mostly as prospects. I felt like I was imposing on friends and family if I asked them to have a class, or come to a meeting, or talk to my director about the "opportunity." I didn't want them to feel obligated because they knew me. And then strangers or acquaintences- well I felt like I would have to be pretty bold to approach people I had just met or barely knew! But as my director taught us, Mary Kay said that to be successful you had to follow the 3-foot rule: tell anyone within three-feet of you about the "opportunity." I did do this a few times and felt extremely uncomfortable with it. I thought that if I was going to be so bold with sharing something with others- it should be the gospel of Christ and not the Mary Kay opportunity!

Another thing that MLM companies are big into is what I now think of as propaganda. There are meetings, tapes, training, seminars... all designed to pump you up and get you excited about the company and the opportunity. Sure, it was fun for a while, but I never really totally bought into it. At first, the promises of unlimited income potential, flexibility, getting to stay home with my famiy, recognition, rewards sounded enticing. Who wouldn't want these things? But, I realized that to get there you have to be willing to do what I wasn't. I wasn't a totally committed convert.

Dream BIG!!! Believe and achieve!!! Anyone can do it!!! See this lady? She started out dirt-poor and now makes $5000 per month and lives in a big mansion. She's no different than you!! Think positive and you can do anything! Go for it!!!!!! -------These were all things I routinely heard in the MLM world.

What I NEVER did hear was (and my director was a nice Christian lady as were many of the other directors and consultants): Is this God's will for your life? Should you be doing this? The only reason I heard them give to not continue was if you just didn't believe in yourself and the dream. *Yikes*- New Age thinking alert!! But then you could just go to more meetings, get more training and listen to more tapes in an effort to get yourself all pumped up again.

I always felt slightly self-conscious and embarrased approaching others or sharing that I was in MLM. Traditional business always sounded more appealing and respectable to me. You know... like I make my own soap or jewelry and then sell it a craft fairs or online. I would be proud to tell people about that. Partly because I know that I couldn't sign them up for anything or "share the opportunity." And partly because it's something you build yourself.

Since quitting Mary Kay I've been approached by some and run into others who are part of other MLM companies. I actually did go with my husband to a Nikken meeting to see what it was like. Pretty similar to Mary Kay except no pink and more guys. But it had all those other same elements. I've also listened to presentations for Shaklee, Melaleuca and World-Wide Group. The last company really kind of threw me off because when I went to their site online, I wasn't greeted with their "great products." It took me a while to figure out what exactly they really did sell- at least physical product-wise. It was pretty evident right away that they were selling "the Opportunity" first and fore-most.

I have learned lots of good and valuable lessons from my experience with MLM's that I wouldn't trade in. God showed me that life isn't about "unlimited income potential" or the "opportunity" and everything else these companies claim to offer. It's about serving Him through whatever circumstances He calls us to. I want to get excited about Him and His word and not by some enthusiastic, appealing, positive-thinking training tape or seminar designed to hook you in.

A dear friend gave me a link to an article that I think anyone (especially Christians) considering MLM companies should read. I learned some new things about MLM and it also summed up some of my own personal problems with it. It's at: http://www.vandruff.com/mlm.html
And another one: http://www.mlmsurvivor.com/fitzpatrick.htm

****Disclaimer**** I don't judge or presume to know what God's will in regards to involvement with MLM is for others. I see lots of problems and flaws with MLM's, but don't have problems with any specific people involved in them. Do I think they should be involved in them?....I don't know! That's not my call to make. I know many wonderful Christians that I love and respect that are part of an MLM company. Does their involvement with one lower my opinion or regard for them- NOT AT ALL!! I'm sharing my own personal experiences, convictions and opinions on MLM's in general. :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)


Kristen said...

Anne, what a wonderful, personal, cogent treatment of this subject.

"I thought that if I was going to be so bold with sharing something with others- it should be the gospel of Christ and not the Mary Kay opportunity!"

Amen to THAT.

I almost missed an incredible friendship because of a MLM gig. A new acquaintance of mine at my former job asked me to lunch. I was excited, thinking she wanted to get to know each other better. When she started talking about the MLM at lunch, I was massively disappointed, thinking she'd only invited me to talk about "The Opportunity."

I was wrong--and she's one of the best friends I'll ever have. But it just goes to show what the person you're presenting "The Opportunity" to is probably thinking. People are not dumb, and they've pretty much all heard the pitch before, you know?

Anne said...

Kristin- I'm blushing! Thanks for the compliment. Thanks also for sharing your thoughts. You're right about the people- some of the greatest people I know are involved in MLM. I'm not judging the people- just MLM in general.

Kristen said...

Oh, I know, Anne! :) ((HUG))

Anne said...

thinking she'd only invited me to talk about "The Opportunity."
That's exactly what I thought people might think. I just didn't want to relate to people that way!

I've met MLM'ers who do approach people that way (only as prospects). It's unavoidable if you are going through enough people to make it *really* big. You just don't have the time to develop meaningful personal relationships with all the people you are trying to potentially recruit.

Even though I realize this (about the time thing) and I don't blame her whatsoever, I was still kind of hurt when I never heard from my Mary Kay director again. I liked her a lot and was sad that the attention I received from her was directly proportionate to how much I was doing in sales or how many potential recruits I brought to meetings. I understand- it's about business, but I still find it kind of sad. I thought we were friends outside of the Mary Kay world.