Why does it seem like everybody and their mother is a marketer in a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme? Those things are everywhere! There’s an MLM scheme for every imaginable product, from foodstuff to pharmaceuticals to beauty products. I have had many people try to convince me to become a products marketer in several MLM schemes. The various pitches included promises of ‘becoming my own boss’ and ‘becoming financially independent’. I have been invited, more than I can count, to several discussions on ‘ground-level, exciting, new business opportunities’. I have gone for a few and I have always come out with the same feeling; that these are exploitative schemes masking as entrepreneurship opportunities. Let’s get one thing straight, MLM is NOT entrepreneurship!
The truth is that MLM as a business model is a market place hoax. Research from experts has shown that “MLM’s economic score card is characterized by massive failure rates and financial losses for millions of consumers. Its structure, in which positions on an endless sales chain are purchased by selling or buying goods, is mathematically unsustainable and its system of allowing unlimited numbers of distributors in any market area is inherently unstable.” *
Robert L. FitzPatrick, author and internationally recognized authority in multi-level marketing schemes and pyramid sales fraud says, “In general, MLM industry claims of distributor income potential, its descriptions of the ‘network’ business model and its prophecies of a reigning destiny in product distribution have as much validity in business as UFO sightings do in the realm of science. Financially, the odds for an individual to achieve financial success under those circumstances rival the odds of winning at the tables in Las Vegas.”
But that’s not even why I have a problem with them making waves in Nigeria. Most of the MLM pitches I have heard target people’s desire to be rich and comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with desiring to be rich and comfortable. It’s just that to make it the primary purpose of going into business lessens the value and the economic and social change that true entrepreneurship brings. Self-centeredness is at odds with innovation and enterprise. The truth is if you have the energy, tenacity and resilience needed to go around passionately trying to convince strangers to buy a product they have never heard of and probably don’t need, you can go into business for yourself. And if you want to go into business for yourself, look around for a problem or gap in your community or state and build a business around it. That is true entrepreneurship.
Nigeria is at the stage where it needs young, fresh, innovative ideas. It needs its young people to be creators, inventors and pioneers, anything else and we will fall short of having the future we are all praying and hoping for. Nigeria’s development will be championed by people who think outside the box, people who want to make the lives of other people better on a large scale and on a long term basis. Vacations, brand new cars and a full store should not be your goals in life. Strive for better. The thing about great ideas that add value to humanity is that they will also make you rich. Think of all the things we enjoy today: electricity, cars, gadgets, they were all invented by entrepreneurs, who wanted to change or elevate the human experience. This is the kind of thinking we need. Nigeria has the largest population of young people in the world, but that number is barely reflected in our various institutions. Entrepreneurship is often synonymous with pioneering and breaking new ground, and young Nigerians must begin to think along those lines. Stop ranting about the government’s failures and begin to think forward. I once heard a Nigerian businessman say, “Nigeria has too many problems for you to be broke!” I totally agree.
Another issue with MLM schemes is that most of the products are priced such that the average Nigerian cannot afford them. The makers of the product often label the products as healthy alternatives that will foster better living etc. etc. This is good and all, but how many Nigerians can afford to buy them regularly? So basically, you have a person, running around, trying to sell a product that only a certain class of people can afford. It is better to focus that time and energy on creating and adding value to people’s lives, especially those who really need it.
I am not completely against MLM, mostly because they are here and there’s nothing I can do about them. I have found that the most successful MLM practitioners are those that use them as a means to an end; entrepreneurs who want funding for their business or who want to start a project. If you must attempt an MLM scheme, I suggest that as the best approach.