I’ve been approached for several multi level marketing “opportunities” – and in all honesty I considered joining a few, because multi level marketing opportunities are great – provided you started the company. If you’re the guy (or girl) who invents the next weight loss milkshake and you get a small army of unpaid volunteers to promote it to their friends and family on your behalf, while you force them to buy your products on a monthly basis – you’re in the golden seat. As the volunteer, who we call independent associates or consultants just because it sounds better, you’re left doing all the hard work while not making much (or any) money for a long time.
This post is probably going to upset or offend a few people and for that I’m sorry. However it’s time that what everybody else seems to be thinking is going to be said out loud – or at least written down. As a good Canadian immigrant it’s not my intention to offend anyone, but to open the conversation about some of these topics. If you disagree you’re welcome to post equally constructive comments below. Thank you. And sorry, eh.
So here we go: have you ever met one of those guys? Someone who you know is going to sell something to you? We all have. A few months ago I was invited for a cup of coffee by someone I met on a networking site, and since I’m addicted to caffeine anyway I decided to give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s just like dating. While your date might be not as awesome as advertised, at least you’ll enjoy a nice meal. You’re going to have to eat anyway, so why not.
We talked for about an hour about anything and nothing at the same time, and I enjoyed my usual black dark roast coffee. At the end of the conversation the big question came out: “I’m an independent representative of […] – would you mind referring some people to me if you know anyone who needs my services?” Nice as I am, I agreed instantly. I enjoy meeting fellow business people and helping them out where I can. As fellow entrepreneurs I believe that’s my moral imperative. Everything good so far.
The next question was of a different nature: “we host an information session every once in a while, would you like to come out and see what we do?” Instantly, I agreed again. I like seeing and learning new things and being aware of what’s going on. However, I was also instantly aware of the psychological trick that was being played on me in this little sales pitch. I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that all of a sudden I was no longer referring other people, but being sold to myself. That’s not what I came out to have coffee for. So while I agreed, my new friend instantly moved from fellow entrepreneur to “that guy” who was trying to enlist me to buy or sign up for something. I wasn’t sure yet what – but the idea for this post and an interesting experiment was born.
Turned out I had to enrol to join some form of Multi Level Marketing program to sell financial services. I have worked in financial services before, and knowing some of the struggles Canadian families have with credit scores and cards (often these two are directly related) I gave it a shot to see what would happen next. If I could help some people implement some of the things I wrote about in my Happiness book anyway, it would be of benefit to everyone.
But that never happened. As I wrote about before, people simply didn’t respond to my invites or messages. I suppose all of a sudden I myself had become “that guy” with a hidden agenda behind every coffee “date” I went on. Even though I wasn’t really (at least that’s what I told myself) and had the most honourable of intentions. After about half a year I pulled the plug on my little experiment. Having spends thousands of dollars on courses and more or less mandatory conventions and training events I decided it wasn’t worth my time anymore for the simple reason that I didn’t see anyone making money – including myself. See, if it had just been me not making money it would have been ok. Just like my experiment with snowboarding, I could have concluded I just wasn’t good at it. Reality is nobody made any money until several levels upwards in the multi level scheme that was going on.
On top of that I realized that some of the products and services I was promoting looked good on the outside, but didn’t deliver and good have been considered sub-par to some of the financial products I already own and speak about in my Travel and Happiness books. While they sure could have helped some people, they couldn’t help me. I would have been the Ford car sales person who would drive a Porsche to work himself. Somehow things just didn’t add up – and my first gut feeling from my initial coffee date came back, just stronger.
So I decided to end that side of my company and discontinue my little experiment in the world of MLM. If I couldn’t make any money, how could I expect anyone else to do the same? I’m sure it might have eventually worked out, but at some point you just have to ask the question if not now, when?
The minute I cancelled my “membership” a huge weight was lifted. I freed up time, money and energy to focus on the things that were already working for me in the past: my books, online courses and photographic art. All of those things are directly aligned with my passions in life, as I write about in my latest Happiness book and teach fellow authors about in my Write a Book in a Week program.
At the end – one question remains: Am I that guy? I suppose to some I am. I don’t have much of a work/life balance (I don’t think you need one if you truly love what you do). So yes, I do tend to talk about my books and the work I do more often than not. But, in my defence, I usually don’t have books in the back of my car and my courses are all delivered online – so I don’t have to sell anything on the spot. I might talk about it, but if you decide to sign up or not is up to you in the privacy of your home or office. And that takes away a whole lot of weird pressure. Because in the end, I really have no desire to be that guy. I’d love to just meet you for a coffee sometime, without hidden agenda’s or cleverly disguised sales pitches.
Stay your true authentic self, folks.