4 Ways Promoting a Doomed MLM Made Me a Better Manager

A MLM (multi-level marketing) company is a company that uses the distribution business model to sell products and services to customer and build a team of others to do the same. Also called Network Marketing, these companies include: Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, LuLaRoe, YTB, Younique, Beachbody, doTerra, Scentsy, and many others. If you’re curious you can find more company names here

To those who have known me a while it’s no secret that I got caught up in promoting a MLM that was doomed from the start (it’s defunct and not on the list above).

Granted, I was signed up without my permission and told “you’re signed up now, though, just give it a try”, but it was still my decision to go forward with it.

The first few years were actually fine. The leadership stayed the same throughout the whole time, but the services we promoted changed as trends changed. That should have also been a red flag, but I looked at it as leadership being sharp and in-tune with emerging trends that would make us all the most amount of money. For example, nobody wants to be promoting a travel company when that market is dead because people aren’t traveling due to a tough economy.

I try to distance myself from this part of my life because I feel terrible that I led people who were struggling financially into this lion’s den without knowing it. At the time I was making some residual money and had no idea it was crumbling from within. I truly believed I was helping people.

But try as I might, there are still things that remind me of how sold out to this company I was, like when those old status updates show up in my Facebook memories.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about how that horrible experience gave me valuable tools that I am using in my day to day life now as a Project Manager.

It occurred to me that there may be others out there who have failed at network marketing that might need to see how they can turn their bad experience into something that can help them now.

Here are 4 highly valuable skills that I learned from leading a team in network marketing that I use every day in my career.

1. Networking and Talking to people:

I’ve always been able to talk to people with ease, but promoting a MLM helped me learn how to have microconversations with people that are still meaningful but also foster valuable networking opportunities between the parties involved. Networking is key in any business, and can even be used between departments.  At a recent company meeting I attended I was able to go look for people in other departments that I interact with regularly but had never met. That face to face interaction has improved our already good working relationship. They now know me, and I know them- which leads to us being mutually willing to go the extra mile for one another.

2. How to lead meetings: I had done several face to face business opportunity presentations in my network marketing “career” in addition to leading weekly team phone calls.
Having meeting leading experience is invaluable in the professional world. Not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of others, and even some of those who do have a regular speaking assignment dread it.

Having that regular practice of leading meetings and doing business presentations has been immensely helpful in my job; I present to 2 different clients twice a week every week and lead a meeting for those that I supervise weekly, as well. I can’t imagine doing this as successfully had I not had this MLM presentation experience.

3. How to build and lead a team: Everybody knows that in any distribution model that there is a benefit to building your team, aka recruiting. I had a small but passionate team when I was in that MLM. We were in regular daily contact and had weekly team meetings. This interaction helped me learn how to motivate others, spot productivity and motivation issues and also identify the “stars” of the team- those who are budding leaders who can go on to do their own great things.

I use this skill every day because I manage a team of over 30 on a daily basis and also have to make the final decision when it comes to recruiting. This is also something I can’t fathom doing well had I not had this experience.

4. How to spot problems in the company:

About 1 year before the company fell apart I got the feeling something was up. Leaders weren’t as present on company calls. They suddenly stopped plugging a service they had been aggressively marketing for months. Updates on the website were less frequent. Then the payments started being delayed. I still got paid, but that’s when I got out. Something was definitely wrong.

This is another skill I’ve found myself using over the years since. I’ve almost always been able to tell that something big or different was coming down the pipeline. For example, I knew that when Michael Dell bought back his shares in the company in 2013 that in the next year or so many of us would be laid off- and I was one of those people. I was prepared, so when I got that phone call I was still upset, but at least I was expecting it.

I hope someone somewhere finds this helpful. You can take that not-so-great experience and use it to your advantage.

Have you learned any valuable lessons like these from your experience in a MLM?