This is a series by Athena Dean Holtz on Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) in the Church. Click here to start at the beginning.
It’s Not What You Have, It’s What Has You – Part Two
This financial success through the business model known as multi-level marketing (or MLM for short) had its beginnings for me in early 1982, which was about 4 years before I came to know the Lord. Chuck’s Friend, Jason, invited us to a meeting in Burbank, California. He said he wanted our opinion on a new business venture he was getting into.
“You know, I admire your success in business,” he said in his sincerest tone, “and I would like to get your opinion on something. It would really help me out.”
That got my attention. He as asking for our opinion! We both felt important and flattered. Of course we could help him out!
“Sure Jason, what can we do to help?”
“Well, you know the construction business here in Southern California is really hurting. I just have to make a change if I’m going to be able to keep up with my house payments and the lease on our two cars. I’m considering going into a new business, and I would like you to come along and check it out. I’d like to see what you think of it; your opinion will help me make my decision whether to get involved or not.”
When we walked into the darkened room, a video of an old Phil Donahue show was playing. Donahue was exposing corrupt practices in the insurance industry, the same industry that this new business was going up against. After the video was over, a down-to-earth man in his 40s got up and very eloquently embellished the crusade. He spoke of the common-sense ideas that would help people make and save money, and sound financial principles that had been hidden from the average American family by the greedy insurance and banking industries. The “wrong” that was being perpetrated on innocent consumers quickly began to draw us in.
The speaker then began to paint the picture of the deception of the corporate dream.
“Do you really think your company is going to be there for you when you retire? Do you really think that corporation cares about you and your family?”
He was weaving a feeling of discontentment for working nine to five for a paycheck and benefits from a big corporation who wouldn’t be there for you when you really needed them.
“What would you do with an extra $1,000 or $1,500 a month? Buy a new house, car, RV? Send your kids to private school? Travel? Retire early?” the speaker questioned. Our minds were reeling with possibilities and stirrings of dissatisfaction and greed.
Next he began to explain the incredible compensation plan. “You could start your business and make an extra $500, $1,000, or $2000 a month—part time!” If we followed certain steps of sales, and recruited friends and family, our income would increase accordingly. The clincher came when he introduced a 26-year-old guy who was making $25,000 a month after only 18 months in the business! This really did it for us. If he could do it, so could we! When he said he only had 20 kits for people to buy to get started, we scrambled to the front of the room to claim ours!
At the time, my fund-raising business felt like a ball and chain around my neck. This opportunity seemed like something that could really give some financial independence. I could spend time working hard to build the business, but then would be able to do what I pleased while it continued to generate income. It felt as though I was getting in on the California Gold Rush—and I wanted to sink my pick and shovel into it before anyone else!
What I was sinking my life into was network (or multi-level) marketing.
I rushed home and began to share the “dream” with family. It could be the answer to all their dreams; the thing that allowed us to have all the toys we’d ever wanted! My husband’s daughter and son from a previous marriage, Roby and Ailen, were eleven and seven years old. They were definitely old enough to grasp what money could buy. They started dreaming of closets full of new clothes and bicycles and toys of every description. And even though Garrett and Aaron, my two and three year old boys, were too young to understand what was happening, they got excited with the rest of us.
I was so enthralled with the opportunity that it didn’t dawn on me that our friend Jason wasn’t just thinking about joining the company. He wasn’t really looking for our opinion. All along his plan was to recruit me. I was on his “hot list” and the “opinion line” that he used was the one he thought would get us to a meeting. That line worked, so I in turn used the same technique on the prospects I eventually listed out.