Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested.
The way pyramid schemes are structured requires them to constantly recruit new people into the scheme. But this is unsustainable because at a certain point you run out of new recruits either because 1) you can no longer find anyone interested in joining, or 2) everyone on earth has become a member of the pyramid scheme. When you run out of new recruits, the pyramid collapses, leaving those at the bottom with a loss.
Lauded as the #1 leadership expert in the world by Inc. Magazine, John C. Maxwell is a speaker, coach, and New York Times Bestselling Author. He has written more than 80 books - including the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and the 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader - that have sold more than 26 million copies and have been translated into 50 languages. In 2005, he was one of 25 best-selling authors named to Amazon.com's Hall of Fame.
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As noted, many MLM companies do generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit. However, the profits of the MLM company are derived to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of the company's non-salaried workforce (the MLM participants). Only some of the profit is then significantly shared with none but a few individual participants at the top of the MLM participant pyramid. The earnings of those top few participants then allows the creation of an illusion of how one can potentially become financially successful if one becomes a participant in the MLM. This is then emphasized and advertised by the MLM company to recruit more participants to participate in the MLM with a false anticipation of earning margins which are in reality merely theoretical and statistically improbable.[14]
As for Trump, his pleas to “trust me” and “believe me” have continued to pay dividends, only now he’s saying, “I alone can fix” whatever stands in the way of American greatness. But even as Trump pursues his biggest scheme yet, one of his old ones will continue to thrive in 2017: The Trump era could ignite a golden age for politically connected multilevel marketing companies—or what critics (and John Oliver) say are often merely disguised pyramid schemes, illegal enterprises in which people primarily earn money by recruiting others instead of by selling products to the public.
Then we get to compensation plans behind DS and NM. That would be SLM or MLM as in Single Level Marketing or Multi Level Marketing. In this sense, the expression Marketing is not ideal, it should be Multi Level Sales…in most cases. Depending on your activity, you can either be a selling person, or a referring person where the company, website, Fedex does the sales, payment and delivery. There are many forms of the compensation plan, about 1 for every company with a few overlaps. Some of them are by law illegal, most of them are just messed up from the beginning. Success ratio is about 1:200 for a network marketing company to become great and lasting.
These nonsalaried workers may be stay-at-home parents, college students or part-time workers hoping to make money by selling products such as vitamins and makeup to their friends and family. But experts note that just selling products is typically not enough to make a profit, and workers are encouraged to recruit a "downline," a team of underlings from whose sales they also earn a commission, creating a pyramid-shaped compensation structure.

Many people who complain about network marketing say they don't like the idea of "using" their friends and family to make money. However, network marketing doesn't reward people for using others. Success in network marketing comes from helping others reach their goals. A person cannot earn income from the efforts of their recruits without investing time in assisting them to earn income, as well. Admittedly, some network marketers see potential recruits as dollar signs, but those people are not as successful as those who are genuine in their effort to help their recruits do well.


First of all, Avon “has” been. Second, Avon really needs to work on their appeal to a younger generation. Third, Avon makes it difficult for representatives to make any money unless you are purchasing a ton of catalogs and knocking on doors. The company really needs to allow representatives to advertise online, and I don’t mean spamming friends on a Facebook or Twitter feed.
I know there are a few companies, like Mary Kay and Lia Sophia, who have a generally positive image, but there are many more, often built around some investment scheme, which continue to give this sector a bad image. If you scan the Internet, you will find dozens of negative articles, like "What's Wrong With Multi-Level Marketing?", but very few singing their praises.
That brings up another difference between traditional franchises and MLMs: When you own a traditional franchise, you’re not pressured to recruit other people to become fellow franchisees. In fact, if you did that, it could ruin your chances at economic success because you’d be competing with multiple business owners for the same customers. Also, that would be an illegal franchise pyramid scheme. 

Many people may have done quite well for themselves in their network marketing / mlm’s / direct sales companies. But just think, how much better financially they could / would have done if they had started with their company in its infant stage, the beginning!! Well, if that’s something you have dreamed of, wished for, or ever thought about, then the time is NOW!!.
Multi-level marketing (MLM), also known as direct selling, is a strategy that some companies use to peddle their products. Consultants get paid by selling the product directly to friends and family in addition to recruiting new sellers into their “downline.” There are no physical store locations for this type of merchandise — if you want to order your leggings or anti-wrinkle cream, you have to call up your local sales rep.

If you’re headed towards the future, WGN will be there waiting.  This company is ready to take on the world and they just may be ready to do so.  They sell every futuristic gadget you could think of, some items include their space phones, wearable tech, and VR (virtual reality gear).  They’ve only been in business for a limited amount of years, but they are on a constant rise in the MLM list of top 100 businesses globally.


I see Melaleuca on here. I see that as both good and bad. They are an awesome company with a great compensation plan. However, they are not an MLM. They are not even listed with the federal agency that oversees those companies. They are a Consumer Direct Marketing company. How does that differ? While I am required to purchase a certain amount each month, that’s all I need to purchase. It’s all products I use in my own home for myself. I don’t have a monthly quota to meet. I don’t have to buy product and sell it to people. The idea is that the product goes to the consumer only. In fact, it’s against company policy to buy product and sell it to others. The only comparison I see are the “levels” of customerS in my group. Can you shed any light on why you think they are an MLM? Thanks, so much!

This group effect also plays into the vital role that a person’s social network can have on their retirement. Studies show that being around negative, pessimistic or sarcastic people can actually be detrimental to your health.  And many people can get stuck in a rut when it comes to who they hang around and associate with. Which means successful aging includes hanging around upbeat, positive people.
These brothers from Israel changed the minds of the entrepreneurs behind the company, Seacret Direct, when they managed to take the typical start up business from the kiosk (you know those booths in the mall) to the beyond and turned it into a global direct selling company worth millions of dollars.  These skincare product companies are pretty boring these days, but the company’s dead sea products originate with a 5,000-year-old history and a huge fan following.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states: "Steer clear of multilevel marketing plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors. They're actually illegal pyramid schemes. Why is pyramiding dangerous? Because plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors inevitably collapse when no new distributors can be recruited. And when a plan collapses, most people—except perhaps those at the very top of the pyramid—end up empty-handed."[45]
Network marketing is considered by many to be a form of direct selling (the person-to-person sale of goods or services). It utilizes a few different strategies to generate commission payments, such as recruiting, lead generation and management. Network marketing may be referred to by a variety of names, including "multilevel marketing," "cellular marketing," "affiliate marketing," "consumer direct marketing (CDM)," "referral marketing," "pyramid selling," or  "home-based business franchising."
A newer aspect of network marketing is using online affiliate marketing programs. Website owners and bloggers integrate links to specific products on their platforms. When people click on those links and purchase products, the website owner is rewarded a referral fee. This provides customers with access to a trusted site where they can immediately purchase the products being advertised.
Here we provide an overview of what network marketing is, how it works, and some educational options that may prove beneficial for a career in network marketing. Network marketing, also known as multi-level marketing (MLM), is a direct selling method that uses a network of people to sell a product. According to the IRS, network marketers earn money either by directly selling products themselves or by recruiting others to sell products for them. Those persons in turn recruit others to sell the same product, and so on and so forth, until there is a hierarchy of distributors who are selling and promoting the product, hence the term multi-level marketing.

Mentor your recruits effectively. If recruits are successful, you make more money, so you should be prepared to train them well. This may be a substantial time commitment, even up to several weeks. But you should understand that you're building a team and it is in your best interest to spend enough time making sure your recruits are competent enough to go off on their own.[8][9]
Meet Zen Cryar DeBrücke Inspirational teacher, speaker, coach, and author of the international best-selling book Your Inner GPS, Zen Cryar DeBrücke helps people transform the stress in their lives into powerful guidance that leads them to living in greater states of happiness. Her groundbreaking work in using ones Internal Guidance System creat ...…
Businessman, master networker, and one of the top five speakers in the world, Harvey Mackay is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt – both of which are among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time according to the New York Times.

Even while the popular culture’s view of MLMs is shifting, FitzPatrick doesn’t think we’re yet at a tipping point where consumers reject them en masse. Trump’s election may help explain why. After the election, FitzPatrick says he sent out a newsletter to the many victims of pyramid schemes who’ve come to him for help, explaining the connections with Trump.


A good MLM will have more than a few products to sell. They will have more than market sector covered (not just nutritional supplements, water filters or essential oils). They will also have other major retailers that they market for. The money those major corporations spend on the annual marketing, will be paid out to the MLM and their distributors for their sales & marketing efforts and results. That is where those companies will get
Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.[46]
Think back to when you were recruited and consider if it was primarily as a customer, with just a mention of "income opportunity," or if the primary pitch was for the business opportunity. The ethical way to build a downline is to sign up people as customers first, and then if they like the product, they'll be drawn to becoming a rep. A hard sell on signing up as a rep right at the outset should send up a red flag for you.

At the corporate level, MLM professionals develop an easily communicated mission and image, and create resources that facilitate that communication. The key to knowing how to communicate this message to customers is knowing and understanding them. Therefore, effective MLM begins with data, and builds upon that data throughout a campaign. With the sales and customer information generated at each presentation, companies can better discern what products to acquire and/or develop, how to best portray them to their audience, and how to tailor their message to different market segments.
I have a very successful doTERRA team and am looking for international partners in Europe. The opportunity for growth is immense! I was able to create a six figure income in just over 2 years. I am seeing amazing growth on my US team and I want to take this incredible opportunity abroad. If you are a motivated individual who is passionate about helping people, please get in touch.
Today, I want to talk about the past. I know the past isn’t a topic that many people in Network Marketing want to talk about, but it has a huge impact on your future. Faulkner once wrote, “The past is not dead, nor is it past.” What he meant is that the past has a life. All of our histories have a life and contribute to our future. And as I hav ...…
The content here is for information purposes only. By delivering the information contained herein is does not mean preventing, diagnosing, mitigating, treating or curing any type of medical condition or disease. When beginning any natural supplementation regiment or integrative treatment, the advice of professionally licensed healthcare providers is advisable to seek.

The structure of MLMs is very similar to a pyramid scheme. This doesn’t mean that all MLMs are pyramid schemes, but some certainly are. Those interested in pursuing a career in multi-level marketing should do research before joining a particular MLM. Generally speaking, if the bulk of the money you stand to earn comes from recruitment rather than direct sales, it’s wise to be very cautious.
Businessman, master networker, and one of the top five speakers in the world, Harvey Mackay is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt – both of which are among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time according to the New York Times.
What a great book for anyone getting started in network marketing! I love that it's positive and motivating, and yet gives me what I need to know in order to move forward with my business. This is an absolute must for anyone started out, or maybe for those who have been stalled for awhile in their business and needs that extra umph to get them moving in the right direction. I would highly recommend it!!
How MLM companies are NOT considered Pyramid organizations is beyond me! They are all scams by the very nature of their organization structure. Those who start or get in early benefit directly from the efforts of those beneath them, forever. Not to mention the fact that most product sold through any of these MLM organization’s is to the dealer network itself. The top dogs are making money regardless as long as there is new blood coming in. And the best way to keep new blood coming in is to incentivize those at the lower middle and below to continue recruiting to build “a network of their own”. And those on the verge of “breaking through” who have already invested a small fortune in products along the way that are sitting on their pantry shelves NEED to keep recruiting. The very thing that differentiates a Pyramid scheme from an MLM is that an MLM sells an actual product. That is it. It doesn’t determine who that product is sold to as it should since we know that most product is sold to the worker bees and not to the general public for long.
An example of a high-profile multi-level marketing company defending its practices is Herbalife Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of weight-loss and nutritional products with more than 500,000 distributors. Although the FTC had been investigating Herbalife, it was activist investor William Ackman who shed a national spotlight on the company by shorting $1 billion of the company’s stock in 2013. Ackman accused the company of operating a pyramid scheme and backed his allegations with a bet the company’s stock price would fall under the weight of the scam.  

Over twenty years ago at a company convention, Eric Worre had an aha moment that changed his life forever. At that event he made the decision to Go Pro and become a Network Marketing expert. Since that time, he has focused on developing the skills to do just that. In doing so, Eric has touched and been touched by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Now he shares his wisdom in a guide that will ignite your passion for this profession and help you make the decision to Go Pro and create the life of your dreams. In this definitive guidebook, you will learn to:-Find prospects -Invite them to your product or opportunity -Present your product -Follow up with your prospects -Help them become customers or distributors -Help them get started right -Grow your team by promoting events -And much, much more. Eric's wish is for you to make the decision to become a Network Marketing Professional. For you to truly Go Pro. Because it is a stone-cold fact that Network Marketing is a better way. Now let's go tell the world.


The structure of MLMs is very similar to a pyramid scheme. This doesn’t mean that all MLMs are pyramid schemes, but some certainly are. Those interested in pursuing a career in multi-level marketing should do research before joining a particular MLM. Generally speaking, if the bulk of the money you stand to earn comes from recruitment rather than direct sales, it’s wise to be very cautious.

* Go Pro Recruiting Mastery– the world’s #1 generic training event for the Network Marketing Profession. Join us December 4-6, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. You will hear from top international thought leaders including Magic Johnson, John Maxwell, and dozens of Million-Dollar Earners. It’s an extraordinary event that you and your team can’t afford to miss. To learn more, go to GoProRecruiting.com.
In recent years, the heavily publicized Herbalife battle has shined much-needed light on MLMs. Last year’s scathing John Oliver segment on them has received almost 10 million views, 2 million of them in Spanish. (Immigrant, often undocumented, Latinos trying to make it in the U.S. have become a major target group.) A documentary on Ackman’s Herbalife battle, Betting on Zero, hits theaters March 10 and will be available on demand April 7.

What a great book for anyone getting started in network marketing! I love that it's positive and motivating, and yet gives me what I need to know in order to move forward with my business. This is an absolute must for anyone started out, or maybe for those who have been stalled for awhile in their business and needs that extra umph to get them moving in the right direction. I would highly recommend it!!
I thought That your article was very good. My wife recently joined this company called World Ventures and me being me I figured it would be like some of the other companies that she has joined. You know a bunch of women companies scentsy, 31, etc but the reason I took notice is when she made 500. I know it’s not much but i know if she can make that faster than she has with some of the others she has joined without my help then maybe this thing is the real deal. What do you know about it? I have met some of the people and they seem genuine unlike some of these others like Amway and I don’t feel like it’s all about freaking selling like most of the others. Just shoot it to me straight.
In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s (after WWII) the concept of a franchise business gained traction. In a franchise, you rent the business model that someone else (Franchisor) has perfected. One of the very first franchises was started by John Pemberton in 1886 when he created a beverage with a secret recipe and licensed bottling territories to others. This became Coca Cola. Rexall Drug Stores and even General Motors started out as Franchises. As in any new industry or business model there are abuses by unethical promoters and business persons (think of the robber barons and anti-trust regulations). By the 1960’s franchising was getting a black eye. Deceptive sales practices, double selling the same franchise territories to different persons and financial insolvency of the Franchisor were rampant. Eventually, in 1979 federal regulation came into play. The unscrupulous and under-funded Franchisors went away and the legitimate players who complied with the FTC regulations changed and became giants. (Think Subway, McDonalds and others.)
Question your recruiter. When you've found a company you're interested in, you'll likely meet with a recruiter or another representative. Be skeptical during the recruitment process. Remember that your sponsor makes more money if you sign on, so he may not be as open with you as he could be. Don't get distracted by promises of how much money you'll make and really think about what you're about to do.[4]
Businessman, master networker, and one of the top five speakers in the world, Harvey Mackay is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt – both of which are among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time according to the New York Times.
The products produced by the California Vitamin Company were in such high demand that founder Carl Rehnborg began recruiting independent distributors to increase the number of salespeople. These independent distributors were instructed to find new distributors in their circles of friends, acquaintances, and customers. The representatives were paid on the sales of the distributors they personally recruited.
Hi JP, Your assessment of Melaleuca stating… “When you hit over a billy in annual sales, that’s reason enough to be on the shortlist. On top of that, they’ve been in the MLM game for over two decades, and they’re now the “largest online wellness shopping club” (basically just sounds like a fancy way of saying they sell a lot of miracle diet pills).” is VERY misleading and inaccurate. They offer “far more” products and services than weight control supplements. I have been a “customer” only of Melaleuca for over 20 years and can attest to the superb quality of their products. Please get your facts correct before posting inaccurate information. 🙂
Jim is approached by a friend who is already a distributor for Company A to become a distributor as well. Jim’s friend tells him it’s an “amazing business opportunity” and that he’s only telling Jim about this because he’s the kind of entrepreneurial guy who could succeed with it. The friend shares how other distributors have been able to make enough money selling shakes that they’ve paid off student debt and bought a second car. He says very little about the product itself except that it’s fantastic and practically sells itself.
"From a consumer standpoint, this is a gigantic siphoning machine just sucking dollars out of people," says Robert FitzPatrick, co-author of the book "False Profits" and president of Pyramid Scheme Alert, a nonprofit consumer education resource. "The bottom line is: It's a scam. It's a pyramid scam, it's a recruiting scam, and you'll lose your money," he adds.
By the 1980s, the landscape of U.S. economics was transformed. A financial boom coincided with women entering commercial life. These women were a huge target for network marketing companies, as they sought jobs that allowed them to earn money without neglecting their children and families. Women were able to acquire high positions within these companies, creating opportunities for women to achieve financial independence without giving up their families.

If you insist on trying one of these MLM offers, the least you can do is look for proper business registration with BBB, toll free number, and proper address (no Post Office box). Also, you will need lots of family and friends to make it work. As a final step, check the MLM materials for one or more of these "red flags" that are associated with the worst of the offerings:

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