Nov 2 2006, 08:07 PM
Some of the readers of this blog know that I’m at the “end of life” in my radio engineering career, which largely replaced my graphic design career, which I started after retiring from the corporate 9-5 world in the 1980s.
With property tax debts piling up and an income that was more business expenses than income, the time was right for a change. Last spring, I was in the middle of a huge emergency with renovating the worst part of the roof of our home. Water damage, carpenter ants and maybe termites had been busy for at least the last 20 years (after the Chlordane treatment probably wore off) and the water was coming in everywhere, in a new place every time it rained. Something had to be done and this was the year to embark on it.
While I was in the midst of the worst of this renovation, racing against time, because I knew I’d taken on a 365-day project and had only about four to five months of suitable season to do it and as such, in a big hurry, a former co-worker called me about an opportunity in Primerica.
It couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time in my life, given the tremendous scope of the burden I had taken on. To take on such a project alone, I had to psych myself up by planning, making drawings, determining if it was even feasible for me to do the work by myself. I had to overcome a lot of mental obstacles to get to the point where I had little doubt that I could renovate the superstructure of the house and protect the inside from the weather, without a roof for up to two months. So the wife and I decided to attend the nearby “Career Overview” that my former co-worker invited us to.
My first reaction was “MLM, it’s another MLM… let’s get out of here now!” But as I sat and listened to a presentation that provided real meat in the form of factual information, I decided not to get up and leave. This company looked different. Instead of another health drink, or another soap product, they were helping a lot of families steer clear of future financial disaster, though intelligent financial planning, debt consolidation, investments and income protection. I began to like what I was seeing and hearing about. I also learned some useful information, which was something I never got out of an AmWay or a Shacklee presentation.
So, despite my dire emergency, I signed on and began my training as a rep with Primerica. I wasn’t able to really participate in the business right away, due to the massive demands of my renovation and repair project, but I attended the meetings regularly and went to school to earn my life insurance producer’s license in the meantime, so that I’d be ready to hit the pavement running, just as soon as the house was secured for winter.
Last month was pretty much the last of the weather in which I could do any roof work. Asphalt roof coatings just turn to solid muck when the temperature goes below 55ºF. The best days to do the roofing turned out to be those 105º days in August. So I got things closed up as best as possible and started focusing on Primerica and building my business.
Due to the fact that I have been a misanthropic xenophobe for the majority of my life (being Objectivist put me at odds with so many people that I had few friends who could tolerate my philosophical thinking) I had few friends to contact as my “warm market”. Since Primerica’s concept of not using high-dollar salesmen and expensive offices to keep costs down so that they could offer their insurance products at very low costs to the consumer meant that using a “grass roots” system of getting the word out about the products and services was proven to be effective—given normal people’s social relationships. Normal people have at least ten friends that they have a good relationship and credibility with. I have two or three good friends, but even with them, my sense of credibility is not all that stellar. Maybe it was my history of getting involved in MLMs in the past. Or maybe it was my continous and ever-worsening state of poverty that caused them to think that any new endeavor that I would undertake would be simply more of the same.
Whatever the reason, I knew from the start that this was going to be very hard for me. Even reading Art William’s book, “COACH”, on page 65 he mentions that if a person doesn’t have at least ten friends, then he’s probably not going to make a good representative in the business. Oh boy, I’m in trouble now.
But there’s also the other side of the situation: all my friends think this is a scam. The people on another forum that I frequent a lot think it’s a scam (enough to censor the name of the company from every post) and my ego wants to prove them all wrong.
I did call the few friends that I had, and set up “15-minute interviews” in which my trainer would accompany me and we’d go over the company and interview the prospect, all in the name of “practice” for me. Well, my few friends are like this: one of them is already wealthy beyond crazy—he owns a large number of FM radio stations throughout New England, another is a successful self-employed software engineer who works for big money on a contract basis, and the last one is a gentleman who’s about to retire and very much steeped in the “work til 65 and then you die” attitude of many worker-slaves.
After I exhausted all my friends, I went on to neighbors. Well, the one’s that aren’t explicitly trying to get our home condemned and bulldozed, that is. Which left one, good, neighbor whom I trust. As it turns out, he was quietly a financial genius, having financed the purchase of an inn and restaurant on Lake Ontario last year and will plan to have it paid off in seven years. I talked to him about several aspects of our company and he has all the bases covered. He needed nothing and he had no time to pursue the business opportunity, between his own job and running back and forth to Canada to operate the inn. And my other two neighbors? One earns about a million a year as a day trader on Wall Street. The other is a big land developer, owns the biggest marina in the region and is a politician on top of that. No opportunity there.
Given that due to my age, I have no living relatives, and my younger cousin just passed away last February, so that puts me right in the cold market.
In the beginning of October, my trainer and I spent an afternoon at a busy gas station in New York, “surveying” as many customers as possible about four economic questions:
1. Do you feel that people aren’t being adequately paid for their jobs/work?
2. How long have you been with your current employer?
3. Do you feel that you pay too much in taxes?
4. If I could show you a way to earn an extra $1000-2000 per month, would you be interested in more info?
We were out there for hours. Many people did not want to do the survey while they pumped their gas at all. A few did, but weren't interested in the opportunity.
A surprising number of people answered yes to #1 and no to #3—that’s right—quite a few New Yorkers did not feel that they paid too much tax! (That was a real eye-opener for me.)
Out of an entire afternoon, we had four people who said they were “interested” and gave us contact phone numbers. Upon following up on those in the next three days, only one phone number was correct (the others were wrong numbers) and that person, when invited to the career overview, never showed up and never called to say that she couldn’t make it.
Then on October 21st, working from the back page of the local newspaper classifieds, I called 30 small business owners and did my best to interest them in a part-time opportunity where they could earn some extra money.
Toward the end of the month, I was picking up business cards off public bulletin boards posted in stores and other public locations. I made more phonecalls. Initially, I had maybe three that expressed some interest, but wanted me to call them back at another time. I’ve returned those calls and left messages to answering machines. I’ve had a few that were downright not interested and annoyed that I had even called them. I had one that had already been served by a Primerica rep from the same office that I work out of (they were very pleased with the company and what was being done for them). There were a couple that said to send them a business card in the mail and gave me a street or PO box address. And there were several answering machines. My policy is if I get the answering machine three times, I leave a short, direct message on the third try. I figure that if they have any interest at all, they’d call me back.
After another afternoon of calling, I have the possibility of perhaps one person showing up at our November 4th career overview. I can’t tally the score for this month until then, but I can say that I have been working against some very difficult odds.
As scary as it seems, the next step is to take out the local telephone book and start calling people at random, until I find someone who’s motivated, has the right frame of mind, and believes he/she has a moral right to want to make more money than the poor slob who goes to a dead end job all of his life for annual 2% capped raises that don’t even keep up with the cost of living, while living with increasing abuse from bosses who know they have them by the balls, and the ever-present threat of layoffs and outsourcing. It won’t be easy, but I’m not giving up.
There is a couple who came here from Ecuador who, in the first three years in Primerica, didn’t get much results. They made maybe $30,000 in their third year. Not terribly exciting. That was eleven years ago. They made the top income earner’s list in July, having earned a personal income of $115,000 for the month of June. Whenever I have trouble with the slowness to success, I just remind myself of that couple, who, had they given up because the money was not really coming in during the first year, would not be enjoying over $100K/month of regular income today.
The way I look at it, I have to reinvent myself. I have to forget about the abuse and the taunting I received when I was a boy, the psychological problems that such a rough childhood carried with me into adulthood, putting a choker on any potential I had for being as success. Now that I’m married and we, after waiting years and years and years to have enough money to have a child, decided to have one anyway because the biological clock was about to run out, I have to build up real wealth so my wife and daughter can have a good life after I’m gone. Therefore, I have to become the person who will attract ten friends, stop making enemies and learn to care about people, even if they are religious or have Socialist ideas. That means I have to stop arguing with people and telling them that their premises are totally wrong, instead, ignoring that aspect of relationships with people and focusing on family matters and financial security for those people.
Since I can’t find another country where we can all be free of taxation on people with no ability to pay taxes, I have to deal with improving the supply side of the equation, so that it won’t hurt me to write out a check for $26,000 to the town every year, and more.