It’s Not Just a Job, It’s a Soap Opera

About a year ago, we were approached by a consultant for a certain Direct Sales company, to create a site system for the consultants of that company. We had no affiliation with the company, we just created a site system that their consultants could use to more quickly set up a working website.

I was unprepared for some of the issues that came from it. Technically, it has been fun, and challenging, as we worked out the details to provide exactly what the consultants needed, with enough flexibility to allow each consultant to customize it for their particular way of doing business.

It wasn’t the technical stuff that threw me. It was the personal and relationship stuff I was unprepared for.

Working with these ladies (ok, there is an occasional man, but most are women) has been great. They are, overall, terrific people, and most are very enthusiastic and willing to work at it. But since they are linked to each other through their signup genealogy, I not only have to deal with relationships between us and the client, I also have to cope with relationships between the clients! This isn’t something we usually have to deal with, since most of our clients don’t know each other unless we introduce them (which we often do if we feel that it will help them both).

I can’t go into detail – that would violate confidences, and I’d not want to make one of our clients feel singled out or embarrassed. But there are some generalities that will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

  • If a consultant does not like their upline, they may come to us for things that are really outside our expertise – we are not experts with the parent company, we are only experts with our own website system.
  • If two consultants have a falling out, it may have reverberations through many of the site owners. It challenges our professional ethics to handle things without taking sides, and without being unfair to either client. Standard confidentiality policies are put to the test – in ways we had not anticipated that they would be.
  • If one consultant decides that it is too much work to own a site, and leaves with a bad attitude, it may affect many prospective clients – because the consultants are not only networked through the company with each other, but also with a huge body of prospects. It means that we have to have fair policies, and then we have to meticulously enforce those policies.
  • If we grant a refund outside our policies, word may get around, and others may purchase, feeling they can get the same refund, even though our policies would normally prohibit it. If we refuse to grant a refund, and our policies don’t clearly back up our position, then word may get around about that. Our reputation is more visible within this community.

The interconnectedness of the clients is a strength – they refer their downline. But that very strength has also meant that there are other challenges with it that we hadn’t expected to have to deal with. It has meant that our policies and standards with this particular line have had to include provisions that we’d never considered as being a potential issue previously.

Overall, it has challenged us in ways we did not expect. But it has also been worth it because this single line, which launched in February, has yielded profit in five figures, in less than a year. Expenses are low, and sales are good, and this line is becoming a significant factor in our income picture. It has provided a means for testing our automation software, and has proven a successful income model which involves partial automation, partial customization, at a fairly low cost to the client, combined with a fairly low workload for us. We spend an average of 1 hour per site sale on personal service, and about half an hour on long term development or maintenance for the entire program (averaged per client). We invest in custom programming as needed to maintain the infrastructure. When we are paid for a new site, the majority is profit, and the workload is light.

I sometimes tire of the soap opera of relationships – it can make me feel like a Mom with a houseful of other people’s kids. But the ladies are wonderful for the most part, and worth those moments of exasperation.

I’ve just really realized with this line of business, how much the individual marketing arenas can change, depending on factors we might not have considered ahead of time.

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