Once upon a time, a friend invited me to a presentation. I was excited to attend because my friend stated that she would be presenting. As a consultant, I am happy to provide my advice, solicited or unsolicited, to friends who are embarking on entrepreneurial ventures. As I got ready to show up, I had the sneaking suspicion that it would be a network marketing presentation. I determined that I would still attend in support of my friend’s presentation.
I arrived, and most certainly it was a network marketing presentation! I sat (10 minutes) until I realized that my friend was NOT actually going to speak. I grabbed my gear and headed for the door, speaking briefly with my friend as I exited.
As I drove home, I was reminded of my work as an entrepreneurship coach. The first article on the MAWMedia Group blog was a post about building a bakery as opposed to viewing success as a piece of a pie. Though I did not mention network marketing by name in the article, the “piece of the pie” analogy fits well with my view of the opportunity. I do not portend to dismiss or denigrate network marketing. They are not synonymous with “pyramid schemes,” which are almost universally illegal. I only want to ensure that my readers make the best choice from a selection of revenue generating options. As long as your eyes are wide-open and your options are fully exposed, I will not question your choices. Humor me while I conduct my customary check of your perception of the options.
Your Network and the Marketing
A predominant paradigm in society today is that of a pie—a reality of scarce resources and expanding needs. Everyone is conditioned to seek her piece of the pie. Let us take that analogy for a moment. One option is to get a piece of the pie. Another option is to find another pie. Network marketing suggests that you can gain residuals on the sale of… pies (enter your favorite product here).
Network marketing programs, also called multi-level marketing, seem to make a lot of sense. If you are able to access your network, connect them to quality pies they would purchase anyway, secure access to their network, and replicate the connection, you can create a substantial residual income. Missing from this calculation is the value of your non-monetary resources.
Your resources are money, people, information, and time. My check on your options?
- Be sure that you are not investing money without a sure return (i.e. money back guarantee) or receipt of an actual product. If you are not eating pie, something is fishy? 🙂
- Be sure that the social capital you spend to engage your friends respects their intelligence and priorities. Your friends value YOU more than a deal on pies.
- Be sure that the venture does not require you to mislead or leave out any information…at any time (recruitment, presentation, or maintenance)! As your friend, I should not smell the apples and cinnamon BEFORE you tell me what you are selling.
- Be sure that this venture is the BEST place to invest your money, network, know-how, and time. If you are not living the pie eater’s lifestyle, you are not going to be able to convince me that pies are taking the world by storm.
And here is why I argue against your participation as a network marketer: You have enough friends that you believe that you can create a residual income stream from participation in network marketing. What you have failed to consider is the immense array of possibilities that exist if you are really able to engage that number of individuals. My first thought is that you should run for office. My second thought: crowd funding your business idea. If your friends care enough about you to sit through a network marketing presentation, and they have the financial well-being to invest in that venture, you are wasting an incredible resource in social capital. You can site individuals that have succeeded in creating residual income from network marketing through Avon or Tupperware. I can site companies that have been built on the strength of friendship loans and crowd funding like Intuit–makers of Turbo Tax– and Whole Foods.
My other argument against your participation as a network marketer you have heard before: You will not make money, and you will quit prior to making money (or enjoying enough pies to have made it worthwhile). Listen to my remix on this advice! You will not quit because you are lazy or unintelligent. You will quit because you will realize other opportunities arising from your creativity and the utilization of your network.
The Pie and the Bakery
What would you need in order to create another pie? This is where I often find myself with a belief in you that is beyond your belief in yourself. Realize that your belief in your ability to succeed in network marketing supports my belief that if you opened a bakery, you could accomplish two important goals. First, you could address each question I listed above concerning your resources of money, people, information and time. Second, you could provide specific specialties to each of your friends. No longer would I have to accept pie when I desire doughnuts or tarts. Your market extends because you gain the ability to engage people at the point of their need or desire.
To expand from a pie to a bakery, you will need recipes, materials, and ingredients. Again, this is the value of your network. Call your aunt, your sister, your high school home economics teacher. What materials do you have? Do you have baking pans or just microwaveable plates? You may not have an oven available to you. This does not mean that you cannot make a pie. It just means that the recipe you choose will have to be no-bake. Or, you could raise the capital to buy an oven through loans from friends. (!) Do you have apples, pears, chicken…What? Realize that you can work with what you have to make the pies and other treats that you can be proud of. Rather than attempting to find ways to incorporate into a corporation’s pie, consider creating your own bakery.
Starting Your Personal Bakery
The first question is: What do you know? What is it that you know more about than anyone in your circle? What advice or services do you always seem to be providing for others? What need do you continually run into? Consider that you respond, see, or know about this topic because it is key to your potential. Network marketing catches your eye because it releases you from the work of conceptualizing and producing a product. Its greatest downfall is that what appears to be lucrative or “easy” may have little connection with who you are and what you enjoy doing.
Consider what you are good at. Review your models, advice, market structures, and other knowledge that you can learn and expose yourself to. Multiple options exist. Your choice will be cemented in the context of your uniqueness. Realize that you can mix and match models to best fit you. Organize the tools that you have at your disposal. Power saws, computers, pen and paper…What do you have?
Start with what you have including people resources. If you have money, consider wise investments that will provide materials for your product.
Begin by producing content. Use your know-how and perceptions to develop a product. Focus on creating the content in a raw form first. Next, consider it in the context of your tools and models. Once you have a handle on your product, consider partnerships to package and share your product with others. Consider your network as the initial market for the products you have created.
[Michael A. Wright is mentor, life coach, entrepreneur, curriculum specialist, and Owner/President of MAWMedia Group. His interests span behavioral health, family systems, and wealth creation. Follow @MAWMedia ]
[An earlier version of this article was posted at MAWMedia.com/blog in two parts entitled “Your Personal Bakery (1 of 2)” and “Your Personal Bakery (2 of 2)”]