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. You don’t have to trust me on that statement though though, read this, this, this, this, and this for proof.
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 bullsh*t.
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.
Not convinced? Below are more reasons being a sales rep for MLM companies does not make you a small business owner:
Creation of your own competitors
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.
Control of the beast
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 and marketing
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 once; 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 perpetuating the “easy way to make income from your smartphone” myth.
In the meantime, on behalf of all small business owners, please stop comparing your multi-level marketing sales job to my small business.
Amen! I am a realtor, the number one target for MLMers! Once they know you can sell something, they want you! They know you have the skills to sell others on investing to sell others to invest to sell others a fad product. “Don’t you want to make some extra money on the side?” Um… no… I, too, have a brand I have built and two employees that deserve to keep their jobs. I am responsible for my clients largest investment. I don’t really want to make 50% of the sales price on this months weight loss method after spending 3 hours of my evening in someone’s living room packing and unpacking products to show people who were told “just come over and have some wine! Don’t even buy anything! Consider it a free night out and don’t even bring your credit card!”. No thanks!
Rochelle Gillen says
Thank you so much for posting this. I am not a small business owner, but it makes me so mad when MLM reps chant ‘help my small business.’ sorry, no. You’re a pawn in a money making scheme.
Ivette A Serrano-Mollan says
Oh my gosh!!! I am at work at home mom. With a small home daycare business. Legal, state registered, certified etc. I have to do all of my marketing, accounting, paperwork, lesson planning etc myself and Im sick of people coming to me telling me tk give up what I have worked so hard on to make an easy buck selling Avon, fitnet, nutrition, make up, jewelry, etc. It’s become disrespectful to a point.
Lois Lane says
I’ve done many small businesses, and continue to. I love creating. I also love health and wellness and have researched and done my due diligence for 40 years. I’ve invested money in education for my health coaching certification (at age 61). I’ve invested in writing courses. I am now very successful in the direct selling business I am part of which has high integrity and supports all the causes near and dear to my heart. Mainly disrupting healthcare. Most of the top people who succeed in MLM’s do so because they already learned how to succeed in other businesses, including small businesses. The top in my company have had lots of successful small and large businesses. It isn’t a get rich quick which is why it gets vilified so much.It isn’t easy money. Are there people who have given it a bad name? Of course! Just as there are people giving home-schooling, and a number of other things a bad name. But it shouldn’t be women doing this to each other. If you don’t work it like you work every other business, forget it. I ALSO support lots of small, home-based businesses because I’ve been there and done that. I home-schooled and made ends meet many ways. I love small business. And I have the money to support others now. Including lots of people like you. MANY of us who you guys are vilifying have done that. We are the ones having great success because we are creative and passionate about what we are doing. And we work. Travel. Educate. I continue educating myself. Neither business – yours nor mine should vilify any woman in business. I will continue supporting women in business no matter what that is as long as it is legit.
Jill Colombo says
Truly hate that you feel this way. We are direct sales but my money comes from my personal team…The team is simply a bonus. I’m not saying every, or even most companies work the same …Just that it makes me sad seeing anyone’s entrepreneurship devalued
Jill Colombo says
Haha *From Me, not my personal Team
Thank you! As someone who has been trying to first start and then run a small home-based business, I am beyond fed up with the bullsh*t “support your local businesses” memes with MLM companies printed all over them, posted by people who can’t be bothered to spend $7 on a product I spent years researching and made myself.
What especially irks me is when my “friends” invite me to join their most recent MLM page and then have like a million groups for all their events and invite me to join all those things asking me to support them, yet don’t even bother to like my business page and don’t buy my products.
OMG I can TOTALLY relate to this! I started making jewelry years ago, then my own crafts, candles, and other products, and FINALLY managed to open my own store-front this year. I have a friend who does Pink Zebra, and every time I invite her to join my groups, she leaves them because she has “too many posts from them”. When in fact, the only reason she leaves is because she has her own million groups to monitor. UGH! I hate MLMs for this reason. Thank you for posting this. Those who are in MLM’s are in a sort of cult-like situation, and it’s not a healthy business structure to be involved with.
MLM software says
Great post, thanks for sharing.