Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who Owns Your Network Marketing Business?

Who “owns” your team of independent contractors, your army of volunteers?
Your downline belongs TO YOU first, not the company you rep for. Some would consider these comments heresy. It’s a complicated idea fraught with all sorts of potential landmines. I'm bound to get emails from nervous uplines. What if my downline decides it doesn’t “belong” to me ? Does this kind of thinking lead to chaos in the organization?

At some point in one’s career in MLM, one realizes that one has taken on full-responsibility for one’s future. Business ownership is more than just a way to get tax-breaks. Leadership is more than encouraging higher volumes or giving out awards and holding rah-rah meetings. Leadership becomes setting a direction for your organization that matches your business vision and philosophy. It may mean acting independently of your vendor, (but within the framework and contractual obligations you have with your vendor when you enrolled). Your decisions and your direction are geared for the overall health and longevity of the team, not your personal convenience.

Early in my network marketing career, my leadership style was more like a “boss” than a mentor. It was immature and short sighted. I saw myself only as a rep for the company “in charge” of other reps. I allowed the company to set my agenda and depended on the company for motivation. When the company started making poor business decisions, and the uniqueness of the product was lost and became a commodity, I realized that I needed to make a change. However, I had tied my organization's loyalty to the company more than me. So when I came to my current company only 3 wanted to follow. Lesson learned.

I'm keenly aware that in MLM our incomes are intertwined with each other. What I have noticed about those who have built huge (10,000+ organizations) is that they perceive themselves, rightly I believe, as independent marketing organizations that are in a joint venture with a given vendor until such time as it is no longer a mutually beneficial to them or their organization. The best of them treat their top leaders as a “Board of Directors” who participates in choosing the direction and policies of the organization at large.

Do not take my comments as advocating company-jumping. I think “company-jumping” and frequent system changes is unethical and irresponsible. But there are times when it is a sound business decision. If the market share and product mix in my company was not keeping up with trends, or they were showing poor management, or bad ethical choices, I'd read the writing on the wall and take my business and downline else where!

If you are a downline, you need to respect your upline. You model this because your downline needs to respect your leadership. If you don’t like your immediate upline, or they are a poor leader, then go around them to your upline’s upline. Provide solid leadership for your team. Work with your vendor and your upline to create a successful system and joint venture.

Do I ever intend to leave my company? No. But before it was purchased by Roger Barnett, I started reading between the management lines and knew that something wasn’t right, and I started investigating other options for myself and my team. I will not allow myself, nor by extension my team, to be left hanging because some corporation decides to close its MLM doors. (Fortunately Roger's purchase of Shaklee turned out to be a tremendous advantage to all of us).

When you join a network marketing company, you don’t join the corporation itself; you join a marketing team affiliated with the corporation. It’s a partnership, not a marriage. Responsible senior leadership in network marketing must be able to see beyond the company/vendor. You must be able to set a successful direction for your team. To me, that's part of leadership and leverage.

About the Author:
Karen Miner Hurd has owned a home business since 1988 when she
retired from her Public Relations career to stay home with her
children. Her secret passion is Foxtrot books. To learn more about
her current business venture, so you can work at home visit:
The Freedom Project

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