Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sleep Plays a Large Role in Weight Loss

We all realize that adequate sleep is vital to maintaining our health and aiding in recovery from illnesses. But new research indicates it also plays an important role in healthy cognitive function, losing weight and avoiding chronic problems such as diabetes and heart disease. How much sleep is enough? Listen to the full report and find out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Doing Your Due Diligence

Its time (ok, past time) to wrap up the discussion of network marketing and why it makes sense for pretty much everyone to at least take an informed look at the business model before deciding if it has a place in your financial future. Like any other business opportunity that you are seriously considering, you need to carefully research, examine and verify that this is legitimate, sustainable and a good fit for you. Here are some of the things I looked for before becoming involved with my direct selling business.

  • A product or service that you love, believe in and want to use yourself, regardless of whether or not you enter the business. Because network marketing is based on personal relationships and trust, the odds of being successful with a company who's products you are not genuinely excited about are very low.
  • A company that has been in business continuously for at least 5 years. The idea that you have to be an early entrant to make any money in a network marketing business is a variation of the pyramid scheme mentality. A track record indicates stability and attractive products. Network marketing companies are easy to start, and a good many of them never see their second birthday. Also, a company that has been in business for a few years has done the hard work of figuring out how to be successful selling its products, which means you don;t need to figure that out through trial and error.
  • A compensation plan based upon sales, not on recruiting. If you are being paid each time you recruit a new distributor into your network, for recruiting them, be suspicious. In many (maybe most) companies, salespeople are paid commissions for the sales they make. Not for hiring more salespeople. Network marketing is no different. Of course you make more money as your distribution network grows. But it should be because a larger network produces more sales. If you are being paid simply for signing people up, regardless of whether or not they ever sell anything, ask yourself how long that can continue.
  • A low initial fee to enter the business (under $100). It is perfectly reasonable for a company to charge a "license fee" to become and remain a distributor. They will be providing you a basket of services (tax reporting and collection, company web sites, product distribution, distribution network record management tools, etc) that will have definite value to you and your business. But charging a fee of hundreds of dollars should raise eyebrows.
  • Minimal or no monthly purchase requirement. If the product or service offered is a good one, people will want it and buy it. There should be no reason to require distributors to make minimum monthly purchases. The company should be selling its products or services to consumers, not distributors. The cost of supporting a distributor should be covered in the license fee. Walk away.
  • Minimal inventory requirement and direct distribution from the company. You want to be selling products, not delivering them. A modest inventory, enough to get new customers started, is reasonable. But look for a company that provides an online and/or phone ordering service for your customers and that ships directly.
  • A money-back guarantee on the products AND on the business. You should have an escape hatch if for any reason you decide after starting that the company or the business is not for you. Rather than leave you with a garage full of inventory, companies should have a clear buy-back policy.
  • And active, ongoing system of training, support and selling resources. Reliv likes to say that its distributors are in business for themselves, but not by themselves. Any company you join should have a local, active program to train you, support you and connect you with other distributors.
  • Direct Selling Association membership. There are no guarantees in life, but membership in the invitation only DSA is a strong indication that the company has and follows ethical business practices. Require it.
Starting your own business always involves some level of risk. This is why most people never do it.  A network marketing may not be right for you, but its unique combination of low start-up costs, flexible hours and long term residual income potential makes it a business model that you owe it to yourself to consider.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oh no! You're Not Involved in One of Those!

I want to pick up again the discussion of Network Marketing. In previous posts, I've talked about network marketing's enduring image problem, made a good faith attempt to find an objective definition of it, and reviewed what I find to be the most attractive features of a network marketing business. This time I would like to consider some of the most common objections and concerns that people raise about direct selling.

Before getting started though, let me admit right up front that network marketing is not for everyone, any more than being a fighter pilot or a brain surgeon is for everyone. Not everyone is suited to or even wants to own their own business. The timeless advice "Know thyself" certainly applies here.

That being said, here are some of the reasons I commonly hear for dismissing network marketing out of hand.

"Its a pyramid scheme." This from people who regard Social Security as a serious pension program! A pyramid scheme is a fundamentally unsustainable system that involves the promise of payments to participants primarily for the enrollment of more participants into the scheme rather than supplying any real product or service to the public. This objection arises from the fact that network marketing, by its very nature, usually involves recruiting people into the program. But here is the key consideration - are you compensated based upon the number of people you recruit or for the amount of product/service sales your distribution network produces? If no one else ever joined you in the business, would you still make money?

"Its too risky." Generally, the exact opposite is true. Fees for establishing a distributorship are generally quite modest, and most reputable network marketing companies offer a "buy back" guarantee should you change your mind down the road. And really, how risky is employment  (a business in which you have but one customer - your boss)?

"You have to get in early to make money." This is a variation of the pyramid scheme concern. And for a pyramid scheme it is most certainly true. For network marketing companies, just the opposite is usually true. There is a high failure rate among new network marketing companies, so it makes sense to look for one that is several years old rather than just launching. And again, if compensation is based upon product sales and not recruiting, the longer a company has been around the more likely they are to offer good products with a good support structure behind them.

"Its too expensive." While it is not unusual to find the products to be somewhat more expensive than similar products found in stores (quality considerations aside), the business itself is anything but. Overhead is extremely low, initial investments are modest, inventory carrying costs minimal and there are significant tax benefits.

"I don't have the time." People find the time for the things that are truly important to them. Einstein managed to find time to develop the Special Theory of Relativity while working a full time job as a clerk in the Swiss patent Office. A network marketing business is unusually flexible in that people can scale the amount of time they will work on it to their interest and availability. Naturally, people who put in more hours will grow faster, but, again, that is a choice the owner can make.

"I don't want to annoy people by trying to sell them things they don't really need or want." Who in their right mind would start a business selling things they believed people did not need or want? Find a network marketing company that offers products you like, use and believe in. Others will too.

"I (my spouse, my crazy Uncle Elmo) tried it before and never made any money." Did you ever attend a movie that you thought was just awful? Ever have a horrible meal in a restaurant? Did you stop going to the movies? Stop eating out? Learn from the past and do better.

This is hardly a comprehensive list, just things I commonly hear. Network marketing is simply one model for marketing, selling and distributing a product. As such, you should subject it to the same scrutiny that you would give any investment or business opportunity that you might want to consider. Next time we will wrap up this series of discussions by taking a look at what that scrutiny should include.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Diabetes Generation

An entire generation of America's children now face the prospect and dire consequences of a lifetime as diabetics, according to a report on today's NPR Morning Edition. In just 9 years, from 1999 to 2008, the incidence of "pre-diabetes" among Americans aged 12 to 19 has more than doubled (from 9% to 23%).

"That's a shockingly high figure that has dire implications to the health of this entire generation of children. This report really sounds the alarm," says David S. Ludwig, a childhood obesity expert at Children's Hospital in Boston. "It's one thing for an overweight or obese 55-year-old gaining an extra few pounds a year to develop diabetes at age 65 and then have a heart attack at age 70. It's a very different thing if the clock starts ticking at age 10. Children have so many more years to suffer from the consequences from these serious medical problems related to obesity. We're looking at the prospect of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure becoming common complications of young adulthood."

As we as a society struggle to find a way to provide affordable healthcare, "lifestyle diseases" such as diabetes will have to be addressed. To fight this trend, more and more children will face a lifetime of struggling to keep their blood sugar under control. "It requires a long period of medication use, strict diet, exercise and surveillance, all of which is quite expensive," says Vivian Fonseca at the American Diabetes Association. And that, she says, will be hard on them and society.

Listen to the full story here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's so Good about Network Marketing?

Back in December, I began a thread looking at different aspects of the network marketing/direct selling business. Life and holidays intervened and I'd like to pick that up again. I'd gotten as far as "defining" network marketing before getting sidetracked, and while I may not have (or even know) an "official" definition, "A non-traditional way of selling and distributing a product or service in which the sales force is compensated not only for the product they sell but also for the distribution network they create" pretty much works for me.

Now I would like to take up the question of "so what, why bother?" What is it about network marketing that, despite the bad press and questionable reputation, makes it a uniquely attractive business opportunity? To me there are four key attributes of a reputable and viable network marketing business. And while these may not each be unique to network marketing, they combine to make it a business model that nearly everyone ought to at least take a look at.

1. Generally network marketing has a very low cost of entry. In the case of my Reliv business, $25.00. For companies that have achieved and maintain Direct Selling Association membership (and the best of them do), any initial inventory purchases should be accompanied by a 90%, one year money-back guarantee. Try asking your Coronary Burger franchise issuer for 90% of your money back if you change your mind a few months down the road. Network marketing offers you the opportunity to establish a real business for, often, less than $100.

2. Network marketing businesses require low or no overhead. You have no employees, no storefront, no equipment and, for the most part, not very much inventory. Large parts of your business can be done online and normally the tools you will need to get there are provided, sometimes for a small fee, by your supplier company.

3. Your potential income is unlimited. There really are people making 5-figure monthly incomes in network marketing businesses. As we discussed in an earlier post, that isn't typical. But it does happen. What are you doing now that even offers you a possibility of earning $10,000, $20,000 or more per month next year? Or five years from now? Or ever?

4. Residual income lasts a lifetime, and often beyond. This is without a doubt the most powerful and compelling feature of a network marketing business. That the distribution network you build today will continue to pay you for the rest of your life. Not only pay you, but continue to grow even if you choose to retire from actively working it yourself (most really successful network marketers never retire because they enjoy working this very social business), because your downline network is full of people who are still out building their own businesses.

There are lots of other attractive features of this type of business. No special background or education or training is usually needed, it can be built up gradually without having to leave an existing job until you are ready to do so, and you can set your own standard for success. But these four reasons top my list. If you need to generate some extra income, implement a Plan B for your retirement or just want to take on the challenge of building a business around your other chores and responsibilities it is hard to beat network marketing.

So then, if its so great why doesn't everyone have a network marketing business? We'll look at the reasons why in a future post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

US - Eurozone Accept Each Other's Organic Food Standards

After about 4 years of negotiations. American and European Union officials have decided that, with just a few minor exceptions, the differences in their standards for being considered an "organic" food were not significant and that they would begin to accept each others standards. This means that the market for organic foods, on both sides of the Atlantic, is about to double (at least from the producers' perspective). This should have the eventual effect of broadening selection and lowering costs (and, we may hope, prices). Good news for growers, distributors and consumers.

Coming Soon to Your Grocery Aisle: Organic Food from Europe

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Energy Drink Contents Are Often a Mystery

How much does "proprietary energy blend" on an ingredient label really tell us about what it is we are consuming? With emergency room visits for the effects of caffeine over-consumption up by a factor of 10 between 2005 and 2010, and about half of American college students using "energy drinks" on a regular basis, maybe it would be a good idea to find out?

Listen to this report from yesterday's NPR Morning Edition and decide for yourself.