Dear Friend Who Sells For A Multi-Level Marketing Company,
Before you get pissed, hear me out.
I am a small business owner. I create and develop my products, source materials and shipping supplies, and manage all marketing. I am the customer service representative, I keep track of inventory, order supplies, take most of my own photos and manage equipment. I am a copywriter. I print, package and ship every order that my business receives. And those are just the duties I have the brainpower to remember off the top of my head.
I am a work at home mom. So on top of the business duties, I have two boys running around underfoot on any given day they aren’t at school or daycare.
My family’s income is directly correlated to how well my business does because I choose what I pay myself after the expenses of the business. We’ve had some terrible, anxiety-inducing low income months and some let’s-take-a-vacation high months. Building a business is a rollercoaster because all of it rests on the shoulders of the business owner. There is no magic, quick, or passive way to make it successful; my tears, grit and creativity are what drive it.
As an MLM distributor, you do not have control or say in the key things that define a business. You work by using social media to inundate your friends and family with sales pitches to make your pyramid larger. You are told if you fail, you didn’t work hard enough when in reality the culture of the company you buy in to almost always guarantees your failure. Don’t trust me though, read this, this, this, this, and this.
Selling for a network marketing, or multi-level marketing, company does not make you a small business owner.
The other day, a friend who is an MLM distributor, posted a meme in her sales pitch that read, “When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third vacation home, you are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, a mom or dad put food on the table, a family pay a mortgage, or a student pay for college.”
I call bullshit.
The company you are representing is neither small nor local. You are, maybe, making extra money for your family (doubtful, since 99% don’t make a profit) and I have no issue with that. However, MLM companies made a staggering $36 billion and employed over 20 million people in 2015 according to the Direct Selling Association. There is nothing small about those numbers.
These problems are not your fault.
You are told by your company that you are an “entrepreneur” and you are going to make millions building “your business.” As a small business owner, I take offense to the use of these terms in that context and I’m insulted when you put what we do on the same playing field.
Below are even more reasons being a sales rep for MLM companies does not make you a small business owner:
In an MLM company, the goal is to have people sign up for your “team.” Essentially, you are creating your own competitors and saturating an already saturated market. Imagine if you walk in to a room of people and everyone sells the exact same thing to only people they know. How does that set you up for success? As a small business owner, I create unique gifts that don’t exist anywhere else and sell them to a carefully planned target market. It is the key to my success.
Small business owners have control over every aspect of their business: the product, the distribution, the marketing, the shipping, the accounting, the branding, the design. If you don’t, you are an employee. Furthermore, if you have to buy in to get started, you are a customer.
+ Questionable products
My product is my lifeblood. I can market, talk up, FB message the crap out of my family and friends but if the product doesn’t deliver, I don’t have a business. MLMs main goal is to recruit distributors under them, to work toward the goal of a steady passive income (the triangle!). Most of the time (most! not all) the product is the afterthought.
I understand the drive to do more for your family. I was you; searching for a way to stay home with your kids and support your family at the same time is the dream for a lot of people. My plea is that you be honest about what it is you do. I hope you represent something that you really believe in and stop pitching the “easy way to make income from your smartphone” myth.
In the meantime, on behalf of all small business owners, stop comparing your multi-level marketing sales job to my small business.