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Network Marketing Ethics, Part Two: The Distributor

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This part of my series on network marketing business ethics is going to be much more difficult to digest than the first, where we talked about the company. It’s easy to think of an inanimate entity and say, “Yes! I agree! That’s evil!” It’s not so easy to step outside yourself for a while to objectively assess your own behavior.

Understand that my intention is not to condemn or judge anybody. I’m as much of a sinner as the next person. But we all have the ability to improve. And if we want the MLM industry to have an increasingly better reputation, each individual distributor will have to take responsible for his behavior and decide that ethics are better than quick riches.


Money changes everything

Ah, yes; riches. “The love of money is a root of all evil,” and in no place is this Bible verse more apropos than among a group of network marketers with dollar signs in their eyes. But what if you were to change your perspective about money? What if, instead of money being something you needed, it became only one of many tools to help you live a full life?

What if, along the way, you shifted your thinking about what a “full life” means? “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Your changed thoughts will lead to changed behavior. Better behavior.

As a matter of fact, after you’ve gone through this post you might shift your money paradigm so greatly that you come to realize that you don’t need an extra income from network marketing at all! So much the better. If I can get you to tweak your financial situation to the extent that you feel financially free without MLM, I will feel that I have succeeded as much as if you choose to join my own network marketing organization. I couldn’t be more sincere as I write those words.

So, let’s take a serious look at what is way too often the focus of MLM: money. As we do, in the spirit of being ethical, I will give credit where credit is due: most of the following information in the next five paragraphs is summarized from the book Your Money Or Your Life by Dominguez and Robin. If you really want your thinking about money and personal finance to be turned upside down, read that book.

Most everybody, when they think about money, think about it in one of two ways: its uses, and its personal meaning to you. An adult who was raised in a home where the refrain “We can’t afford it” rang continually will have a different attitude toward money than someone whose parents bought everything she wanted as a child. Money is seen as security, power, social acceptance, or evil. But money is just a neutral object.

We don’t often take conscious thought about the cultural perspective about money, but it is so ingrained in our brains that we take it for granted. The Western cultural perspective is, of course, more is better, less is worse. Therefore most Westerners are in constant pursuit of money, whether they need it or not.

The critical perspective about money, however, is missed by the majority. And that is this: “Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.” (p.54) In other words, you pay for money with your time and energy.  So it all boils down to this question: is how you make money worth your time and energy? For many people, the answer is “no.” But if they don’t try to make an income, how can they buy this, that, and the other thing?

Thus the authors emphasize what they call “The Fulfillment Curve.” The fact is, once you have too much of “this, that, and the other thing,” you can no longer feel fulfilled. You have too much, and the challenge is for you to figure out how much is enough for you – how much clothing, how many electronic gadgets, how many nights out a month, how many books, etc.

This is where it gets exciting. When people begin to track where they money goes, they often find that it goes mostly to things that are not at all fulfilling. They discover that if they reduce their wants, they can save instead of spend. And when they begin to be happy with “enough”, money ceases to be a source of security, power, social acceptance, or evil. This is true financial freedom, not the monthly five- and six-figure incomes that MLM company opportunity videos virtually promise.

Dare you to read Your Money Or Your Life. If you do, and embrace the principles the authors teach, you will automatically become a more ethical person.

Greedy for gain

The problem is, of course, that the larger culture teaches us to be greedy for gain. This is why network marketing appeals to so many people. If they could only make an extra $500 a month, they could have a nicer car. An extra $1,000 a month, a bigger house, in a nicer neighborhood. Now, it’s not evil to want nice things. What do you think heaven looks like – an inner city housing project?

But if  your main goal as a network marketer is to make as much money as you can, as fast as you can, you will use other people. Manipulate other people. You will incorporate unethical strategies in order to build your business.

Remember that first company I mentioned that eventually went bankrupt? Its training rarely had anything to do with product. Instead, it was mostly about earning money. In fact, the reason it went bankrupt was that a bunch of unhappy former distributors accused the company of making promises about income that it couldn’t keep. Remember: what’s at the top flows down. If the corporate body was playing mind games, its distributors were, as well.

I remember vividly one month receiving in the mail as part of the bogus “training” program a videotape (this was before the DVD existed) that had clips of the company’s annual conference. The only thing I remember was a guy standing on stage and bragging, “I just tell people, ‘Hey, give me your money.’”

I felt like throwing up. Literally. “Give me your money.” If he had a gun in his hand, he’d be breaking the law! I am not sad that dude lost his precious residual income check when the company went belly-up. The sad thing is, though, unless the crisis gave him a change of heart, he probably just joined another mediocre vitamin company and persisted in his unethical (and, I will venture to say, immoral) behavior.

Now, I hear some of you screaming at me, “Hold on! I joined this business to make money! What do you mean, I shouldn’t want to make money?”

Go back and reread what I wrote. I did not say it was wrong to make money. In today’s world, money is how you get food in your belly, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head. You need some money.

You need some money. But you don’t need $20,000 a month or more. If you go out and build your business in an ethical way and you end up making that much on a monthly basis, good for you! But your goal should not be to roll in riches. In the twenty-third chapter of Proverbs is written: “Do not overwork to be rich…for riches certainly will make themselves wings; they fly like an eagle toward heaven.”

In other words, here today, gone tomorrow. Riches are not important, because they will not last. If you focus on something that will not last, you will lose out on all the things that really matter.

So if your main goal for doing network marketing shouldn’t be making tons of money for yourself, what should it be?


Ethical goals

You can have whatever goal you want. The following list is an non-comprehensive one meant to give your brain a jump-start.

**Make money to give to charity.

**Help other people get healthy.

**Pay for a college education.

**Get out of debt.

**Cash-flow a missionary trip.

**Financial freedom so you can afford to quit your job and do work you truly love without worrying about how much money you make.

Note that most of these goals do have to do with making money. But they are not about getting “stinking, filthy rich.” They are about, as discussed in the previous section, having enough. When you know how much is enough for you, you likely won’t engage in arm-twisting and begging and verbal fencing to try to sponsor people. Why?

You won’t feel like your whole existence depends on the next person saying “Yes.”

Enough about the money track. Let’s move on to other ethical issues when it comes to the life of a network marketer.

“People Helping People”

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Opportunity videos use it, leaders parrot it, company presidents make it their motto: “This business is about people helping people.”

That makes for a nice warm fuzzy, but how true is it? Unfortunately, most network marketers couldn’t care less about helping other people. While they don’t want to admit it, many of the top players in MLM are like that guy I saw on a video years ago, bragging that he demanded that people give him their money. Those who are just starting are usually desperate to make their initial investment back, and approach people with that as their sole goal. Those who are somewhere in between are so excited that they’re getting a check, all they can think about is making that check bigger.

Again, it stems from the cultural belief that more is better, and is helped along by companies whose opportunity videos and training focus on earning as much money as fast as you can with as little work as possible.

That begs the question: is there any hope? Can you succeed in the MLM industry primarily because you want to help other people? Of course! It’s easy if your company’s product has transformed your life in a dramatic way such that you want to help others by getting them to use the product, as well. It’s easy if you have a heart for people struggling with their finances, and you’re convinced that MLM is the answer.

If you are already a network marketer, I challenge you to examine your heart. Are you doing this to help other people? Really?

Once you make a paradigm shift about money, realizing that it’s something you pay for with time and effort, once you establish your level of “enough”, once you have conquered the greed monster, you will be free to want to help people. When that happens, I guarantee you that you will become an ethical network marketer. More on the distributor and network marketing business ethics in a week or so.

In the meantime, want to learn how to build your business in an ethical way via Social Media? Sign up in the form at the top of the right sidebar, then, and get your FREE e-book right now to help you do just that.

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