Thursday, January 8, 2009

Quixtar, TEAM and Me (part 1)

PREFACE: I've decided to write in several parts my experience as a member of TEAM (f/k/a Team of Destiny) and as a Quixtar "Independent Business Owner" (IBO.) Some names (mainly the people we worked with closely or who are 'bit players') have been changed for various reasons, mostly to avoid hurt feelings or embarrassment that might possibly be caused from perceived negativity in these pieces. I see no reason to change the names of the leaders of these particular organizations. They are well known folks, especially here in Michigan. I have no particular axe to grind with individuals or these organizations. I just want to chronicle my experiences, both good and bad.

Part 1.

Our daughter had a playdate with a friend from kindergarten. When my wife came back home with our daughter, she commented on where the family lived, that they were in a nice subdivision in a big house. Like people typically do when they learn that others have been (or appear to be) financially successful, I asked, "Oh, what do they do?" "'Mark,'" she replied, "owns his own business. I didn't ask too many questions."

Some other get-together with the kids brought my wife and the wife/mother of that family, "Vicky," back together. It was then she learned that family was in some sort of "leadership development business." Intrigued and looking for something better than the doledrums of her current job, my wife prodded Vicky for more information. Whatever was said, my wife ended up at a meeting hosted by Tim Marks, a giant in these organizations. (I've had the pleasure to meet Tim and I think he's a decent guy and incredibly good at what he does.) My wife came back impressed but still couldn't explain to me what this "business" did or how it worked.

"We're meeting Mark and Vicky Saturday morning at Panera" was about all I could get from her, mostly because she didn't know what she saw, she just knew she liked it.

Saturday rolled around and we (me with some trepidation) met Mark and Vicki at Panera. I recognized her from dropping off/picking up our daughter from school. She was a pretty lady with a nice personality and sweet smile. He looked very studious but he really wasn't. (Mark, through this business, learned to be a reader, a learner, grew spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and relationally, about that I have little doubt.) Both Mark and I did most of the talking after introductions. After the better part of an hour, he "showed me the plan." I won't bore you with all the details, but he talked about Michael Dell's "content, commerce, and community," some of Robert Kiyosaki's business success principles (from all his "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" stuff), Wal-Mart and retail distribution, internet commerce and franchising.

Soon I asked, "Ok, this is a pyramid deal right?" "No," Mark replied very definitively. "Pyramid schemes are illegal. We're aligned with Disney (etc.) Do you think they'd do business with a pyramid scheme?" "Probably not," I answered, "but that stuff you drew, those circles, how is that different from a pyramid?" "Well, we build communities of people who shop on line in teams, which is one of the reasons we are called TEAM." He went on to differentiate their organization plan from the so-called 6-4-2 business model that organizations like Amway have used forever.

It turns out the way TEAM did (and presumably still does) build organizations is through what network marketers like to call "stacking." Instead of me sponsoring 6 people who are in separate lines below me, I would sponsor person A in "leg" 1. The next person I brought into the business would be sponsored by person A in leg 1. Of course, person A is trying to bring in people and he might introduce someone that would be sponsored by the person below him. A big TEAM organization doesn't look like a pyramid, it looks like an inverted bar graph. The truth is that it's network marketing, plain and simple, regardless of who "sponsors" whom.

I next wanted to know if it was Amway. Mark told me, flat out, it wasn't Amway, which was technically true but somewhat misleading. One of my college roommates had introduced me to Quixtar several years before that and I had no interest, so I wanted to know if it was Quixtar (started by the DeVos family, Amway's primary owners.) Mark told me, "Quixtar is just a shopping portal. That's all it is. It's kind of like You just get your stuff through Quixtar." In my mind that meant there was little or no affiliation with Quixtar, which was a relief to me.

What TEAM members "sold" was the business model. Just about any item you could imagine -- and some services, too -- could be purchased through your own internet-based business and "the manufacturers" (actually Quixtar) paid you back. If you're interested in the nuts and bolts of the business model, there's lots of information on the 'net. It took me months to understand how money was made through TEAM/Quixtar and I won't bore you with the details.

Mark and Vicky gave us a few books, several CD packets, offered us tickets to a seminar the next Saturday (which we took but returned) and said we'd get back together in a few days.

To be continued...

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