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As human beings it’s in our nature to take things for granted and this can include being successful. If you’ve not yet read ‘Who moved my cheese’ by Dr Spencer Johnson, which describes the change in one’s work and life, and four typical reactions to those changes by two mice, Sniffy & Scurry and two “little people”, Hem & Haw, during their hunt for cheese, now may be the time to buy a copy.

This story is about Lianne Anderson, who like the mice in the maze of Dr Spencer Johnson’s fable, went back into life’s maze to sniff out new opportunities when life dealt a bitter blow.

Anderson grew up in Norfolk where her parents ran a pub. As many children of business owners will tell you, they get an early insight into the blood, sweat and tears that go hand-in-hand in running your own business.

“I grew up in a pub in Norfolk so, as you can imagine, my whole childhood was spent being surrounded by people. Because we lived in the pub my parents ran, they were always there for me as well. I also saw first hand how hard a job it was, preparing to open at 12 noon and when that shift was finished they cleaned up and prepared for the evening and did it all again. I worked in the pub from a fairly young age. I met a lot of people and it taught me a lot of social skills and adaptability as well. I have the utmost love and respect for my parents; they are two of the most incredible, hard-working people I know.”

Anderson went on to study Psychology at Lincoln University, a subject that she is still fascinated with today and that has had a profound effect on her life.

“I first came across it in college when I studied it as an ‘A’ level, then I used to read psychology text books just for fun. I’ve always had this real interest in human behaviour and what makes us behave the way we do. I believe psychology has applications in every single area of our lives, whether it’s relationships, our occupational performance, our wellbeing. My early years studying psychology and later self-development really has helped me understand myself and others. It’s shaped my perception of reality and my perception of myself.”

In common with most, on graduating from university, Anderson experienced a number of roles from Licensing Officer, a subject she had some knowledge of, to Business Development Manager for BIC.

“Well there’s been lots of transferrable skills in everything I’ve done. My very first role as a licensing officer had a bit of enforcement involved so that taught me stop being such a ‘softie’. Then I went on to become a business development manager selling pens, lighters and razors. This taught me about forecasting, marketing, how a sales force works, merchandising, KPIs, quarterly campaigns; it helped me understand how a business actually works. But the three most important things it taught me was that I didn’t enjoy selling, ironically; I didn’t enjoy working for someone else and I did not enjoy selling a product I didn’t have passion for.”

With Anderson’s husband running his own digital marketing business, the couple decided that she would end her employment and take on a new role running her father’s complex of holiday villa’s in Andalucia, Spain.

“I was working long hours, living pay cheque to pay cheque and had no autonomy. For me it just didn’t resonate. So I left my employed job and went to work with my dad on the villas, it was like a whole new life had opened up to me. I had to take on these villas that were pretty much dilapidated. My mum had passed away – she’d been suffering from cancer for four years, so they had laid dormant, exposed to the southern Spain weather. We had to take these buildings, renovate them and decorate them. I was responsible for the photography, the marketing, creating a website, doing market research, setting the pricing. It taught me how to sell holidays, how to overcome objections, closing, following up; it taught me customer service which is so, so important in that sector. It taught me about lead generation and in the space of two years, these villas went from dilapidated to being one of the top rated on Trip Advisor and we actually earned the 2014 Certificate of Excellence which is one of the best accolades in tourism.

I felt so passionately about what I did. I was basically making people happy for a living; making a difference in people’s lives in even a small way. It was passion – nothing else drove me: I wasn’t paid a penny for that work – it was all for my dad. It showed me my potential for the first time in my life.”

For the first time in her life, Anderson was working on a project that meant something to her and from which she could see her potential. While the holiday villas were Anderson’s full-time job she was not earning any money from it. Her entire livelihood came from her husband’s digital marketing business. Just when we think we know where we’re heading in life, it has a habit of kicking you in the butt. Not only was she dealing with the death of her mum but also her husband’s business became a victim of the 2014 recession and went into liquidation. This left Anderson and her husband penniless having to hold a garage sale, selling their possessions in order to live.

“It was so soul destroying. It was like everything we’d ever achieved felt like it was going down the drain. We were left £70,000 in debt. We’d lost our only source of income and our future was looking really, really uncertain. I was on anti-anxiety medication, on anti-depressants and all the while, I’m interviewing for 9-5 jobs that I didn’t want. I would come home to phone calls, knocks on the door from debt collectors… it was just one of the most unsettling periods in my life. We were almost homeless and we were living off the goodwill of my husband’s parents who allowed us to live in one of their rental properties.”

Having tasted the freedom and ability to determine her own future, Anderson knew there was only one way out – to start her own business, despite having experienced through her husband’s business the effect markets and external forces can have. Anderson came across Younique, a skincare and beauty direct seller operating through a multi-level marketing model, and seized the opportunity.

“I’m interviewing for these jobs that I desperately didn’t want. I knew how it felt to be self-employed and the sense of autonomy and achievement and freedom that comes with that. I knew what it is like to be an employee and I knew what I wanted but I didn’t have an idea and I didn’t have a service or product. So, when Younique came along, it came at the right time and I was the right person and I was in the right mindset to take it up and run with it.”

For those of you of a certain generation, bear with me, – multi-level marketing, often referred to as network marketing, comes with a stigma, associated with pyramid selling. Pyramid selling is illegal in the UK and many countries beyond. Many direct selling companies, including Younique are members of the Direct Selling Association UK, an organisation that seeks to raise standards in direct selling and protect the interests of consumers. Being a millennial, Anderson was not hindered by this stigma seeing only the opportunity Younique would provide.

“I just saw people heavily engrossed in personal growth, working hard to build a living from home and having a lot of fun doing it. The whole thing in general appealed massively to me. The first thing I did was order a mascara because that was what everyone was raving about. The minute I tried it, I absolutely loved it and I knew that if I loved the product, I could get behind it. They’re consumable as well so it’s not a case of trying to find new clients every single month. I knew that if people tried the products and love them, they would become raving fans and it would create repeat custom.”

In common with all successful entrepreneurs, Anderson threw herself into her business drawing on what she had learned while running her father’s holiday lets. If further motivation was required, having gone through the trauma of selling her possessions in a garage sale, with this painful experience still in the forefront of her mind she was determined it would not happen again.

“I quickly learned that Network marketing is like any other business start-up, with success dependent on the amount of work and effort you are prepared to give. When I started the holiday villas, there wasn’t anyone holding my hand telling me what works and what doesn’t and exactly what do to. I had to figure it out myself and make all the big decisions based on instinct and bravery. But within network marketing, there is an entire upline and a side line and a corporate team to guide you and support you.

My first year in network marketing was pretty amazing but I was one of those people that took it seriously and ran it like a business. I used all the skills that I’d learnt in other areas and applied them. I found leaders in other network marketing companies who knew what they were doing and I made it my mission to learn and grow from them and use their experience as a platform for me to build my business from.

I was driven by the pain of what happened to us – I was never ever going to let them happen to us again. When I first came across Younique, I couldn’t even afford a hairbrush that I wanted. That stands out in my mind – a £5 hairbrush and I was a 30-year old woman who’d let her life get to that stage. For me, it was about taking control and designing my own life.”

I’m sure it will not be a revelation if I were to say that organisations thrive by increasing their sales turnover. This often requires the business to grow its team. Growing a multi-level marketing business is done in the same way, however the remuneration is based on commission and with members of a team buying into the business with low start-up costs. Unlike the more usual business models that require a reasonable amount of capital at start-up, the low capital investment to start a multi-level marketing business (Anderson’s investment was £69) could be one reason relating to the myths surrounding multi-level marketing as ‘get rich quick’ schemes. Equally it could contribute to a lack of emotional commitment by some who join this sector which in turn can affect their success. We’ve not yet interviewed a successful entrepreneur who was not fully invested in their business.

Listening to Anderson’s story this is not the case. Instead, and in common with any other type of business, her success in multi-level marketing was due to hard work, determination and growing her team which Anderson has done over the past 4 years. This has seen her rise to the highest status as a Younique seller.

“Traditional businesses usually require high investment with start-up and overhead costs, but because this is not the case with network marketing, there is often a lack of emotional investment. In successful businesses the two tend to go hand-in-hand. My only investment was £69 in the starter kit and that was paid off in the first week. And then with our company, every single sale is profit so we don’t have autoships; there’s no requirement to buy products; there’s no renewal fees or website fees or subscriptions. It’s one of the biggest things that does set us apart from traditional business. It gives average people like myself a shot at building a business.

So when people join my team and they have that low emotional attachment and say things like “I’ll give it a try”, “we’ll see what happens”, “hopefully it will work for me”, and they come in half-baked without doing the training, doing a lot of things wrong and putting people off, I would say I’m probably quite sure they’re not going to go far with the business because it is like starting any other business: it takes hard work, you have to have a lot of belief and you have to put in a lot of time to make it work. And you have to have the same level of emotional commitment as though you had heavily financially invested in the opportunity.”

Irrespective of the industry or sector, in my experience successful entrepreneurs and business owners are those that have a strong vision and values. They understand the importance of having the right people on board that are aligned to the business, having shared goals and who also benefit from the success. Anderson has clearly learnt this too as her business continues to thrive.

“The growth of the business is purely because of the core values of my personal team. We’re very much a ‘people first’ team. If you look after the people, they will look after you. We’re ‘mission before commission’ and have a really strong customer focus as well. It’s all about end consumers for us and the relationships we have with them. We want to provide an experience for people. We can offer something most concession stores can’t offer. When people go and buy beauty products, they want someone to have their best interest at heart, not just making a sale but actually telling them if a product isn’t right for them; consulting them and finding out what their skin needs are ; finding out what their pain points are and what they need help with. We’re very, very much customer focused, checking with people and providing a service that we can be proud of. I think that because everything we do is with love, this is very appealing to women and so my team has attracted strong, confident women who want more from life. For those that have joined my team that aren’t so self-assured, we help them focus on their personal development and confidence. I measure my personal success on the success of my team. My goal within the next two years is to have three new top level presenters from my team and others hitting leadership level along the way to black status which is our top level.”

With multi-level marketing Anderson has found a business model that through 100% commitment, works for her and her team, with a direct selling partner whose values they share – both Younique and its presenters are proud supporters of the Younique Foundation’s a nonprofit organisation supporting women who have been sexually abused and their ‘Defend Innocence’ programme seeks to empower parents, care givers and the community to help end child sexual abuse.

There is no doubt that multi-level marketing and direct selling is not for everyone. However, as our shopping habits change becoming more online and with more women feeling empowered to start a business or earn a secondary income, multi-level marketing is an attractive way to get started. Looking at the figures it’s clear that direct selling is the largest provider of independent earning opportunities in the UK with over 400,000 people being involved, contributing £2 billion to the UK economy each year.

However the real moral to this story is not whether direct selling and multi-level marketing is better than what could be considered a traditional franchise or starting a business pioneering something new. Like the mice, Sniffy and Scurry in Dr Spencer Johnson’s fable, it requires the resolve to go out and find something new that is right for you and then to believe in it and commit to it 100%.

Paul Bailes
Editor-in-Chief
Key Women in Business Magazine

Listen to the full interview with Lianne on KWIB Radio only available on the KWIB App – download today on the App Store or Google Play.

Checklist for recognising a pyramid scheme

Are you required to “invest” a large amount of money up front to become a distributor? This investment request may be disguised as an inventory charge. Legitimate MLM businesses do not require large start-up costs.

If you do have to pay for inventory, will the company buy back unsold inventory? Legitimate MLM companies will offer and stick to inventory buy-backs for at least 80% of what you paid.

Is there any mention of or attention paid to a market for the product or service?
Multi-level marketing depends on establishing a market for the company’s products. If the company doesn’t seem to have any interest in consumer demand for its products, don’t sign up.

Is there more emphasis on recruitment than on selling the product or service?
Remember, the difference between multi-level marketing and a pyramid scheme is in the focus. The pyramid scheme focuses on fast profits from signing people up and getting their money. If recruitment seems to be the focus of the plan, run.

Is the plan designed so that you make more money by recruiting new members rather than through sales that you make yourself?
This is the signature of a pyramid scheme operation.

Are you offered commissions for recruiting new members?
Another pyramid scheme trademark. It’s the number of people who are willing to sign up that matters in a pyramid scheme, not the products or services being offered.

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