Getting rich (hopefully) or caring for the poor?
Warning: this is long. But it's something to seriously consider.
This afternoon I went to a presentation by FHTM Canada . About a year and a half ago, a couple of friends introduced me to this "business opportunity" but it really wasn't good timing for me (and to be honest, the DVD they gave me of a sample FHTM meeting was pretty scary: it had the gospel-crusade methodology down pat, and in fact the presenter enthusiastically pointed out how "Christian" the business is). Another acquaintance shared the opportunity with me earlier this week, and since I am trying to decide what I want to do next, I thought it would be worth checking into.
I've been involved with various forms of MLM before. Usborne Books, Watkins Products, Amway, for example. I've been introduced to MLM financial planning companies. What I do know is I don't want to sell products that require me to demonstrate, throw parties, warehouse, invest in inventory, etc. And I don't have a lot of money to invest in up front. I don't want to deal in something that has a rather limited market (the financial planning MLM I was introduced to was aimed at customers who already had at minimum a quarter to half million to invest). I don't want to sell something that I wouldn't want to buy myself, or that I am not enthusiastic about myself. If I am going to invest the time and energy it takes to really be successful, I want to be selling something I am passionate about myself. I also don't want to be forcing products on people that they, in reality, don't need or can't afford. I do want good support and training from my up-line.
So the introduction my friends gave me to FHTM sounded like maybe this MLM (multi-level-marketing) company was different than the others I've been involved with or explored. They told me that:
- FHTM provides services rather than products.
- FHTM partners with many large companies that people are already purchasing from.
- And that by getting people to become FHTM "customers," (aka part of the FHTM team) those people (including myself of course) get credit for "word of mouth" advertising (bringing in more "customers") so they save money on using those services.
- The fee to start is "only $300."
- FHTM provides an online book-keeping service that takes care of all the record keeping so you don't have to worry about it yourself.
Okay - so no huge upfront investment, no warehousing of products to sell, no complicated order forms to fill out, you're providing products that people already are buying, and supposedly you can save them money. Sounded pretty good. If a little bit "too good to be true." Still, a friend who had her own retail business for years, and still struggled financially despite how hard she worked at, had joined up with FHTM, and within less than a couple years, was earning (so I'm told) at least $10,000 month. Well, I thought, it couldn't hurt to check into it a bit more.
So I went to this "business opportunity presentation" today. There were probably 50 or 60 people there, including about 8 people looking into the business. So the presenters were mostly "preaching to the choir" - and the choir members were pretty enthusiastic, of course. No different than other "presentations" I've attended. The presentations were polished, and the Power Point worked well (mostly). (Did I mention I'm not terribly enthusiastic about Power Point? Another story... going back to "church Power Point" experiences... but I digress). Oh yes, and thankfully no mention of the "Christian" tag-line, although I recognized a lot of the choir members as being "church members" whom I've met in the past. But of course that isn't surprising; in MLM you're encouraged to sign up friends and relatives, and most "friends" of church members tend to be other church members. But at least the "spiritual" angle wasn't pushed. (The "top presenter" did mention briefly that she used to be in youth ministry).
I arrived at the presentation with a number of questions (having done a fair amount of research on-line, examining both pros and cons). The presenters did answer quite a few of my questions in their talks, though no time was given for questions and answers, as there was to be a "training session" immediately following for the already-converted. By the end of the presentation I did have some more questions. And I will be calling up folks I know who are (or have been) in FHTM to get their viewpoints.
But after I got home and reflected, I realized that there were some things that did trouble me:
The big "positive" being pushed is that as an FHTM member, you are "helping others." It's not about you; it's about relationship-building and caring for others. Oh, of course. But then we were given all kinds of examples of how wealthy you can become (with a lot of hard work - that was admitted, thank goodness). The lead presenter told us that her two daughters will never have to work (then added that "of course we aren't raising them to think that way." I hope not.).
You can win (earn) an I-pod this month by signing up today! Who wants an I-pod? Hands up all over the room. Except mine. Not that I wouldn't like an I-pod. I'm just not sure that I'm ready to jump in and do all those things you have to do in the next 17 days. I need time to think this through.
You can win (earn) a platinum colored Lexus. Some people get to that level in 7 months. Well, actually it's a 3 year paid lease, and no, you can't get any other colors or makes. But still. Who wants a Lexus? Well, um... not me. Well now, maybe if it was a sweet little cherry red sports car .... :-)
The lead lady won (earned) 5 free vacations this year. Next vacation is Dominican Republic. Okay, think about that for a minute. 5 vacations in a year. In sunny tropical climes, by the sound of it. Great. I have to stay out of the sun because I get melanomas easily. Anyway, if I'm going to go to sunny climes, I'd rather stay for a year or two (or more) and do something really truly helpful. For others. Like I'd rather go next door to Dominican Republic, and help out in Haiti. Somehow 5 vacations in a year sounds kind of, well, selfish. For a company made up of people than always think of others first, I mean. Of course, working with poverty-stricken people in third world countries for an extended period of time might not be a very good way to build the business, either. Oh dear.
So when I got home and looked at the FHTM site, all the Canadian big earners who they show are couples, except for one. What if my hubby doesn't want to get on board? Or worse, what if my hubby doesn't want me to get on board? Relationships are the big thing in FHTM I'm told. What relationships are priority? Customers/team? or my spouse and family? Will making lots of cash for years and years, right on into the retirement years, and leaving enough to keep my kids going (theoretically) be enough to keep those family relationships going?
What about my dreams of writing? What about the opportunities on-line that I've been working on? What about the hobbies I love? Am I going to shelf those? Because I'm pretty sure that to really "go for it" with this "business opportunity" will mean cutting out some other things.
What about the volunteer work I am passionate about? I mean, spending time with my street church family sure doesn't make me rich in money. But the riches in those relationships and in the Kingdom of God are far more important to me than building a big bank account.
So what do you think? Am I crazy to pass up this great opportunity? Are my other passions in life silly in comparison?
(And yes, I've thought about the fact that theoretically I would be able to "give" great amounts of money to "the church" and "missions" and such. I know some people do that. But I'm not at all sure that's my "gifting." I'm a taking-care-of-people-person. Not a giving money to other people so they can do the caring.) (Father? I don't sense You encouraging me, either).
(Oh. And I wonder. Once I started making all that money (if I actually succeeded), would I still want to give most of it away? Or would I start caring about "me and mine" more than caring for others?) (And I wonder. Is this Jesus' design for believers? Just wondering about that, because I keep thinking about that DVD...)
So what do you think?