Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In the spirit of gentleness..

I'm trying, but it's going to be hard, to be gentle about something I have strong feelings about.

O.K. try not to tune me out, and bear with my loose thoughts.

There may be readers out there who are very happy with their new found opportunity and don't want to change their minds. If you have a company that you are happy with, leave me a comment. I am looking for one of these MLM companies that does actually serve its salespeople well. Some of the brightest and best of us have had a hand in the MLM industry at one time or another. What I really want is for Christians to step back and take an objective look.

Here is an example of the compensation plan for a new MLM, nutritional company. When I go to their website, I see no difference in this product or company than Shaklee, Amway, Mannatech, or ?? It's the same business model with a nutritional supplement with a new name.

People have actually done the math. The average person working in an MLM would make more in a min. wage job than from their company. So, what about stay at home moms? Aren't we supposed to be with our families? And I've got some thoughts brewing on that. Anyway, let's stay focused here. What about those of you who have committed to succeeding in your MLM business?

Have I mentioned that I like nutritional supplements? I actually buy that stuff. The grand-daddy of nutritional supplements, in my mind, is Shaklee. I've ordered stuff from Shaklee, Amway, and Mannatech--just so you know that I have no issue with any of them. I probably would enjoy supplements from Reliv also.

And I would sell nutritional supplements from my home IF it were not connected to an MLM structure. I would. I really would. Just give me a direct link to the main supplier, a 50% profit off the bat, and all and any information related to the product with no pressure to recruit any salespeople, and a reasonably priced product, and WE are doing business. So, it's not the supplements, the products, or even the salespeople I have issues with. It is the MLM business model that I have issues with.

So, let's not get all huffy about this issue. The idea of using an MLM business model is not new. Well, in the big picture of things, the model (starting with Amway) is about 30 years old. And if you are one of the first in the system, you can and do make a lot of money. Very few people hear about a business opportunity immediately and get in on the first wrung of the ladder. But some do.

There is a brand new nutrition-based MLM starting amongst the ranks of our homeschool families right here in Rockford. See? It just proves how smart homeschoolers are! The KIDS seem to be the ones promoting it. How clever is that? And don't worry about sales going down because of this little blog. Impossible. Nobody reads this, and we have no intention of becoming "professional nay-sayers". My kids told me that whoever started the thing bought a Lamborgini to promote it. Wow! Now, that's clever! Young kids, just done with high school, see a big fancy car and start selling. Pure genius. Some of our brightest and best in the ranks of its foundational level. And no, my kids are not involved. They are watching with a wary eye, though.

So, can we all be agreed that this is EVERYWHERE? Some are in the companies, some have started companies, some are product buyers, and some are sitting there with their mouths hanging open. It's such a part of society that it is bound to get into the lives of Christians. It's kind of like television--can be used for good or evil, but its presence in our culture is here, and it's here to stay.

I want to explore some of the potential problems that happen when these types of things come into the church. If you are already hooked in with an MLM and so no problems with their compensation plan and plan to be an active member of a church or other groups where Christians gather, you can be informed about some potential problems that could occur.

In some ways, the dangers of brining the MLM into the church are just the same as bringing anything into the church that is not directly related to the work of the Lord. I have caught myself giving too much time and attention to side issues like nutrition, homeschooling, fitness, garage sale finds (you name it) instead of the Lord. The temptation gives way to action very easily when you have a lot of interests.

Also, in the interest of helping people, we often get side tracked by the many ways we can serve them. For example, if a person has a stomach ache. Various people will want to help them in various ways--some on a very practical level, some on a very spiritual level. If you sell a product that you think will help someone, when does it cross the line from serving them to a business transaction?

When does my father's house become a house of financial transactions?

I guess, in a sense, only you know when you've crossed that line. I like to play it safe and not get involved with business things at the local church--whether it is someone selling girl scout cookies, to inviting me to a MLM party, or to selling a house. The meetings of the local church are just not for that. We reject it on principle.

So, if meetings of the local church are off limits (for me) what about talking with people in their homes, or having parties to promote the product, etc? you tell me...

But here is something to think about. If most businesses are relational in nature (to some degree), MLM businesses are relational on steroids. In other words, relationships fuel the industry more than any other type of business. Look at the business model again. It's about friends sharing with friends, sharing with friends, sharing with friends... It's a friendship based business model. And where do we have most of our friends? through church. through homeschooling groups, through Christian circles.

Do I feel right using my influence that I have gained through a Christian testimony to promote something completely unrelated to Christ that will have a direct profit for me, if they get involved? (Is this like using God and the kindness of Christians to benefit my business?)

I feel like it is a misplaced influence and trust that would have me sign them up to work under me in an MLM structure.

I would rather use my influence for the Gospel and for genuine matters of spiritual concern.

Notice I did not say that you couldn't have a business. But have a business the way you would do anything else--secondary to the true work of God. Let these things be side issues-not the main focus. Every time someone has an ailment, it's not time to drag out the products. Listen with your heart; not your wallet. These relational businesses can become obsessive. Every person in your sphere becomes a potential client. Every stranger in your path becomes "fresh meat". Recognize when it is taking over your life.

Here's some things to ask yourself. Pray through each one of these, and ask God for help.

Have I rejected opportunities to share the Gospel and opted to promote the business instead?

Have I given God the glory when someone is made well, or given credit to the products?

Have I noticed people are avoiding me or my calls?

Is my family concerned about me?

Do I have any friends who have out right rejected my business and am I able to still love them?

Do I listen to reason anymore or do I make all of my decisions based on pure, unchecked emotions?

Am I pursuing security in this business rather than the Lord?

Have I bought into the get rich quick scheme?

Is God my provider or is the business?

Who are my role models?

Do I avoid blog posts, "nay sayers" like this in order to not loose my focus?

O.K. then, I'm done. I could say more, but these are the main concerns. They are questions only you can ask yourself. In my mind, the recruiting security-building side of the MLM is darker than the basic retailer end. You need to decide. I was pursued by two different MLM recruiters at the same time for two different companies. I did a lot of research on this topic during that time frame. That was 3 years ago, and I am very thankful I did not get wrapped up in it. I am not bitter or angry about anything, since I was not involved in any other level than consumer. I hope God will give you wisdom about what you should do also.

Only one life, twill soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ will last...

9 comments:

Mrs. Santos said...

I think you asked some wonderful questions. I have asked the same one's myself because I am involved in Network Marketing. I didn't plan on getting involved and I don't "do the business" BUT I do LOVE the products and share my belief in them with friends and family.

I really liked your comments about MLM's being about relationships. This is so true. When sharing your products it is not so much the product, or what you say or know about it, but who you are being. People can tell when you care about making a sale or sharing a product just for the sake of sharing.

Do you think these questions need to be asked because people may benefit financially from sharing a product? If someone at church was sharing their favorite recipe or movie or laundry soap, I don't think that would cause any division. But the fact that they may get a "thank you for sharing" check from the company might offend someone or put them on their guard.

It is hard for me to see people suffering and not want to offer a solution...especially if I believe it is THE solution for them.

Health and nutrition is big now - since most people suffer from some ailment. We don't have headaches for lack of tylenol or allergies because it is Spring. We have a cellular need and if we give our bodies what it needs (nutrition) then it can take care of its health challenges. MLM's are everywhere because it is the most cost effective way of getting products out to people.

You asked, "If you sell a product that you think will help someone, when does it cross the line from serving them to a business transaction?" Does this mean you think it is wrong to 'cross the line?'

There is a roofer who goes to our church and many people use him when they need a roof...There's also a guy who owns a nursery. Most of us get our plants and seeds from him every Spring. We support one another. We do business with each other.

Individuals do have to ask the questions you posed and consider their motives...That is why I appreciate your series. Any business venture requires prayer and research. For example, there is a "stove guy" at our church. We needed a new wood stove, but his quote was too high so we did not buy from him. I'm sure he had to deal with the negative feelings that may have come from this - as we also had to deal with the fact that we bought our stove from someone else. This was potential division...but it turned out ok because we serve one another to serve not to profit.

I don't have quotas or inventory or pressure with the MLM I am involved with. If someone I know buys the product because they heard of it from me, then I get a "thank you" check. It is the same thing as having Adsense on your blog. They click on an ad from your blog, so you get a commission.

My first year with the MLM I am in (I don't do it as a business - just share the product when it comes up) I made $600. The next year, 1100, and last year I made 2100. You can make money with an MLM...way more than minimum wage. I'm sure if I invested time into it I would make more, but I have a house to run and homeschool etc. I think it is a wonderful way to help the family without leaving the home even if it is just so I don't have to pay for the products I love.

You wrote: Just give me a direct link to the main supplier, a 50% profit off the bat, and all and any information related to the product with no pressure to recruit any salespeople, and a reasonably priced product, and WE are doing business. How about 55% profit off the bat?

Mrs. Santos said...

AH! I didn't realize my comment was so long until I posted it. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sabotage your blog...guess I just have strong feelings about the issue too.

Thank you for all your thoughts and for "listening" to mine

Mrs. Santos

Roxanna said...

I have been soooo busy I haven't been able to check up on your blog but did get to read your post about MLM and honestly it was one of the best I have read about them. It was well balanced and emotions were extremely level(something you don't usually see when MLM poops up in a conversation.

My DH and I have had to cut off 3 friendships because of these. There has also been many others we have distances ourselves from. Nothing is worse then having a friend pressure you and make you feel like you are missing the OPPORTUNITY of a life time. I can't tell you how many times I have thought I was being invited over to someone's house for a together/coffee and then be bombard with products to buy.

I have noticed the last 5-7 years that more and more people seem to be using churches as a way to 'build a clientele' I think it has a lot to do with the safeness people feel in their church community. I have also seen it pooping up in a lot of HS groups.

Love your blog :) Do you have a button? I know a few people who read my blog that would love yours!

Organizing Mommy said...

Mrs. Santos: sign me up! Just kidding... I love your spirit about it. I'm sure you are the model that all the other MLM distributors look up to as a good example! Keep up the good work.

Roxanne: There is a button on the side of the blog with an HTML code. If you want it, all you have to do is.. send me a box of dark chocolate and Starbucks gift cards.... Just kidding. OF COURSE you can have it.

Braley Mama said...

Reading this makes me reflect on my missions support. I feel like people think it is like a business sometimes. But it is not, it is getting the gospel out to the most unreached. I think we all have lots of prayer to do to make sure we are keeping our hearts focused on eternity. Good post!!!!!!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Good, balanced, fair, and calm.

To squander that relational trust with friends on trying to get them to buy/sell products just makes my skin crawl.

I've had the same experience of being invited over to someone's house... and then presented with products. Or invited to go hear a "motivational speaker". (Huh?) Right... Amway. So deceptive! I avoid those people like the plague!

Mrs. Parunak said...

More good info! I really never knew much about MLM's before this, so it's been a good education.

Kristi Lea said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clever Colleen said...

I do understand your concern about MLM business models. I found many of your points to be true.

I absolutely LOVE my business with Clever Container. However, I make it a point to not talk about business at church, nor do I talk about it much with family and friends. However, these are family and friends and I would definetly invite them to open houses, parties, etc. These family and friends (mostly from church) are also encouraging and desire to see me do well with my 'business'.

As a homeschooling mom of 6, this means of making money was the most logical fit for my family. I'd even guess you might like what we offer . . . organizational products. :-) We teach classes, where we offer tips and processes. You leave with new knowledge AND products. It is a blessing for me to be able to help other ladies gain more order in their homes.

I'm with a well run, highly ethical company that is still in its beginning stages and I couldn't be happier!

Having said that, it is perfectly fine for you to hold that opinion.

Love your blog. :-)