Saturday, November 15, 2008

Of "Pyramids" and "Schemes" and Objectivists

In the last week of working my MLM (multi-level marketing) business with Ignite Inc (the marketing arm for Stream Energy in Texas and Georgia), I've received feedback from Objectivists that has floored me, for lack of a better term. Two Objectivists expressly stated their contempt for "pyramids" and "schemes" and two others expressed veiled contempt in their wording.

The first occurrence surprised me, so I explained why I thought MLMs were legitimate and moral marketing techniques (more on that later). The second occurrence floored me. And by the fourth occurrence, I'm thinking, "What the hell is going on here?!" I'm genuinely upset now, aghast, disbelieving. These are, after all, capitalists I'm talking about here -- and they won't explain themselves, as if they've got false presumptions that they don't wish to revisit.

The only meaning for "contempt" is that you feel something is immoral. Yet, only one of them has explained in some detail why he thinks MLMs are wrong (they dupe people, he said), and after I explained how there is no duping going on, he again equated MLMs to ponzi schemes, wherein investors ARE duped. I explained why MLMs are not ponzi schemes and got no reply from him, except that he decided to use another energy provider other than my company. I guess that is his reply.

And, so, I'm left shaking my head and asking again, "What the hell is going on here?"

Here's why MLMs are perfectly moral and one can feel proud about working within their structure. You must acquire customers and you must build your own team to expand your customer base. This requires lots of hard work and persuasion and constant training of downline people. Here are the 4 things you should consider before joining an MLM:

1) Is the company product of high quality?
2) Are you getting involved early enough to make the kind of money you wish?
3) Will the company expand either its product base or territory base to allow even further earnings?
4) Does the company seem to have a high degree of viability in the long term?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then it can be a magnificent earnings opportunity and, also, lots of fun because you are working with dynamic people who are constantly brainstorming on new presentations and procedures to be effective and wealthy.

One knock I've heard about MLM is that people don't know what they're getting into. I can hardly believe I'm hearing THIS from Objectivists, who allegedly believe that people must do discovery on every aspect of their lives before jumping. Some people's willful ignorance is not a slam against any business idea.

Another knock I've heard several times is, "Well, it'll eventually max out, and then nobody can make money anymore." That's pretty close to true. Amway and others have proven that it's not totally true, but MLMs do get to a point where the newest reps have less of a chance of making extraordinary money as fast as those higher up -- though there are exceptions to this rule when you consider a super high-achiever. All of that said, this market reality does not make it immoral. It simply means that it has a lifespan. That is the context in which you come on. Where are you going to be in the lifespan of the business? Every job has its context: bad bosses, low pay, stifling working conditions, irrational co-workers, lifepans, etc. I, by the way, have to put up with little of the above. A lifespan on a job does not make it irrational. It might be irrational if the business owners somehow hid a short lifespan from a prospective employee, which happens all the time in the business world. But in MLMs, we know the lifespan could be short, and that's one reason why many of us look at Nos. 3 and 4 above before coming on board.

If you wish to call all the above a scheme, then please pardon me while I call your job a scheme. Your employer pays you a set salary every year. Egads! My income is relative to my hard work and virtually open-ended. You must answer to your boss. I am my own boss. You are required to go work in a building with incompetents. I work from home and eschew incompetents.

Of course, I jest. You job is not a scheme. And neither is mine. It's time for those who have knee-jerk responses to "pyramids" rethink them, if they wish to be fair to their friends who are conducting their business life within that context. If you have a distaste for such "hard selling," then I understand. Don't do it. I like it. It fits my personality, though I'm soft about my hard selling. I couldn't be successful, otherwise.

(One thing that has disturbed me about the contempt I've been hearing is that if my friends care so much about me, why aren't they trying to convince me to NOT be immoral? If they are so confident I'm wrong in this, then they should be pow-wowing on the subject to enlighten me. It makes me question either their confidence on their knowledge of the subject or their love of me.)

Whatever your reason for disliking MLMs, please read the above carefully. If you still disagree with me, then I would love to hear from you in the comment section of this post. If I am wrong, please tell me so. If I am wrong, I will quit my job. Meanwhile, I've got calls to make.

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