Last week, I received my thousandth (or so it feels) invitation to be part of a direct sales business. Like most people, I have attended umpteenth number of such sales presentations, and have signed-up for a few. And like most people, I have never made it to the promised land of wealth, financial freedom and free luxury cars.
Maybe, I was, in the parlance of MLMs, weak and non-consistent. Perhaps. But I did put in many hours into such businesses, recruiting (and alienating) many of my friends, and spent uncountable amount into ‘start-up packs’ and ‘maintenance packages’. Yet I have never made millions by joining and working hard on MLM businesses. On the contrary, I have spent thousands on such businesses, turned my friends into enemies, and lost many real business opportunities that could have made me real millions.
So are MLMs really a great way to achieve financial freedom? Yes, according to speakers like Robert Kiyosaki (who insists he’s speaking not because he has to speak for a living, but because he’s got billions in the bank and can’t stop the itch to teach people how to do it. Yeah, right.) Or the countless uplines who insist that your past failures were the result of poor systems and poorer mentors.
A quick check on the list of the 100 richest people in the world, however, turned out zero MLM business people. That’s really odd, given that many of those who’s out to recruit you insist that it’s the fastest, easiest way to make money. Unlimited, obscene amount of money. If that’s the case, why is it that a used-car salesperson tells me the majority of his clients who buy pre-owned luxury cars are MLM ‘leaders’ who want to be seen as more successful than they are, yet unable to fork out the extra dough for new cars?
BUILDING WEALTH BY CREATING VALUE
It is a well-known fact that entrepreneurs create value. Successful entrepeneurs are those who create the most value. Value, as a term, used to mean production. Hence the old-world term ‘industrialist’ to describe a successful businessman – because a century ago, the most powerful tycoons were manufacturers. And then as population grows and scarcity rises, the wealthiest entrepreneurs are those in the real estate business – developers and builders. In the current decade, new wealth can be found in those who control information and data – people like Google, Facebook and Alibaba. The new definition of value, therefore, is something that’s not readily available. So, the more you create and add to it, the more entrepreneurial you are.
The common thread among successful entrepreneurs is therefore value creation. A manufacturer produces goods. A service provider offers services. An internet marketplace provides the platform. A bank provides the liquidity and transactional security. If however, you business is merely taking a product and selling them at a profit, that’s profit-making, but not necessarily value adding. There’s still money to be made, but it becomes less than sustainable and your growth is limited.
For your business to become a true wealth creator, you need to be adding value to the whole consumption cycle. If you are a retailer, you need to be offering choice, pre-selection (i.e. you pre-approve the quality and range of goods you are offering) and convenience. If you are a transporter, you need to be not just moving goods, but ensure timeliness and security.
Some of us are so caught up with how businesses have been run in the past, that we fail to see that’s not necessarily how they should be run now and in the future. We often model our businesses on past successess of those who came before us.
We need to constantly ask if we are adding value to what we are doing. And whether what we do are adding value (or reducing the value) to our customers and other stakeholders. Only then, can we be sure, that our businesses can be sustainable in the long run.