Cliff Walker holds the opposite view of what you may have about network marketing so I ask, why network marketing is a perfect business, but only for some. Yes, he is absolutely certain that it is not for everyone. 

We can no longer rely on job security so many people are exploring business opportunities and it is right that we ask why network marketing is a perfect business, for some. If not for everyone, who?

Some people have personalities and skills that are a perfect fit but we have to be honest, most people don’t. Paul Clegg has been talking to Cliff Walker about a proven e-commerce business model, driven by digital marketing strategies. Check out the video interview.

Cliff Walker has had a dream career with a market leading company in a corporate environment within the drinks industry. At a particular point he chose to ‘go it alone and start up his own business’.  He is just like you, wondering what to do after furlough has ended or the options for starting your own business if your company doesn’t make it into 2021.

He was paid as a consultant to research a particular marketing model that many people, brought up traditionally, dismiss out of hand.  The network marketing business model has much to offer in today’s environment of eCommerce and digital marketing strategies so I wanted to talk candidly with someone who has mastered this channel of distribution. 

If you are considering starting your own business (online, offline) or maybe investing in a franchise, considering the network marketing model as a side income or perhaps pivoting your existing business after Covid, take time out to watch the full interview. I promise it will open up your options to what is possible by focusing the skills you already have with a collaborative, supportive network of people genuinely interested in your success.

Naturally, I wanted to ask Cliff about his background.

CLIFF: I have a corporate background. I spent most of my life working for large multinational companies. 

When I left school I started my career in retailing because my dad had been in retailing. I then moved into sales and ultimately into Sales Management and then into sales training. I tended to work in a lot of different Industries, but the last first corporate role I held was with a company called United Distillers, which is now Diageo, the world’s largest drinks company. 

We had brands like Bells Whiskey, Gordon’s Gin, Absolut Vodka, Johnnie Walker some wonderful brands and I eventually I held an International role with them. I was a regional sales manager in the Northwest for them originally when the old Arthur Bells company merged with the distillers’ company and then I moved into sales training as I said.

My last roll with them was an international project based out of Hammersmith where I worked in a number of international markets including Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, USA, Canada and throughout Europe. I was launching something called the Knowledge Program, a program designed to educate people about these wonderful brands that many people didn’t know about because they had come in from other companies.

We impacted about 14,000 people I think around the world with that particular program. And then after the corporate world, I left to become a Management Consultant. I was given a couple of options corporately. We were due to go and live in Hong Kong and then we looked at the Middle East and Africa couple of other options came up, but I left the corporate world and became managing director of a consultancy. 

I was actually paid to look at the network marketing business model as a consultant.  I was working on behalf of another consultancy company who had a client looking at how would could they get their brands to the consumer, without going through the High Street. It was a leather goods company actually and they were struggling because their brands would normally be sold through the retail stores in the High Street.  They were struggling to get their brands through to the consumer, so they wanted to look at how could they get to the consumer directly.

So I started looking at the marketing model and how companies could use what I now call collaborative marketing. I think collaboration is so key today. The network marketing model is also called direct-to-consumer marketing because that really describes route to market, especially these days with the e-commerce facilities that we’ve got. So they were looking at how they could get their products directly to the consumer so they didn’t get held up with distribution or the cost of gaining a foothold in the High Street. 

As a result, I looked at the marketing model and thought, this is great. One of the things that stood out for me Paul was how sensible it is for corporations to use that model.  If you think about the way companies pay for their marketing costs. If they’ve got a choice of a fixed cost or a variable cost most companies would go for variable cost, based on sales. But in fact, most have fixed costs. They have to pay the sales force. They have to pay the sales force expenses. They have to pay for TV advertising. They have to pay for listing allowances to get into the stores. They have to pay for promotional activity in the hope that they’re going to generate some sales. Whereas what network marketing or direct consumer marketing companies do is they use their marketing budget, after a sale has been made. 

So most people would choose that way of using a marketing budget, variable based on sales is much more sensible. So it just made sense to me as a model, you know from a corporate standpoint. And in fact, Guinness approached me (United Distillers was part of Guinness). They were looking at how to get some of their secondary (brands that they could not get into the High Street stores), directly through to consumers. 

Lots of companies are exploring how they get directly to the consumer instead of through the High Street. The model made sense and then I looked at the skillset required and I thought, you know, I’m sure I can use some of the skills that I’ve developed over the years and apply them here and do pretty well. So that’s how I got interested and got started. 

PAUL: I was having a conversation yesterday about a particular company that grows their business through the network marketing business model and I had to explain that there is no such thing as a network marketing company. We’ve had this discussion before.  Network marketing describes the route to market. Either the  company is a skincare company, a nutrition company, a telecoms company etc. that chooses to market via a word of mouth recommendation. I think when people get that, they start to look at the sort of things that you’ve talked about. It’s a route to market, another channel. As simple as that. Route to market is where the costs lie. 

 The same person asked ‘why is it they’re not selling through retail?’ If you examine the retail business model, especially in the High Street which has been challenged by people like Amazon etc. we see that the typical retail model of distributor to wholesaler, to retailer is broken.  Broken.

CLIFF: The cost to get into the retail market! You can’t get your brand’s onto the shelf. Take Asda as an example. I don’t mean to pick on Asda, Tesco’s probably the same.  If you wanted to get in into the Asda stores, you have to pay a listing allowance. You have to pay for the privilege of being on their shelves and actually, what Asda used to do I think, is they used to take that money and literally put it in a drawer.  That was their new store opening budget. They took that money and used it to expand their stores. 

There’s a reason why companies don’t get on retail shelves. It’s because there’s only so much space on a retail shelf. It’s very competitive, cost you a lot of money to get into a store. Then you’ve got to pay extra if you want to be at eye level versus low level. They want a massive TV advertising budget because they want that stock off the shelf faster than it went on the shelf. So unless you can support your brand with huge marketing budgets and huge TV advertising budgets, it’s a very tough route to market these days. 

PAUL: I think the other point that you’ve not even alluded to is the fact that the companies that are marketing through a direct to consumer marketing model are actually paid before the product leaves the warehouse, before it’s shipped. Whereas in the retail distribution model you have just described you’ve got all those upfront costs and then you have to get paid for the product, probably after ninety or one hundred and twenty days. Cash flow is a vital component for every business.

CLIFF: All of those things we describe, become your fixed costs and then you wait for your money verses variable cost (based on sales), where you’re actually getting paid prior to despatch. When I’ve spoken to sales directors and and corporate people and ask them the question. ‘If you had a choice, would you prefer a fixed cost for your marketing or a variable cost based on sales actually made, they would choose it every time. Unfortunately, it’s just not feasible for for most corporations. It’s not the model they operate. 

PAUL:  Okay, so there could be people watching this thinking. Oh, I’ll start to market my product through word-of-mouth. Of course a lot of people do this already through social media etc. But let’s just talk about you seeing an opportunity. Did you give up your consultancy business? Were you looking at this as a ‘side income’ or were you looking for a serious income? What was your approach?

CLIFF: I would encourage people to start part time. I like to refer to the term ‘parallel income’.  I think with what’s going on in the world today some people talk about a ‘Plan B’ or a part-time income. A parallel income can be run in parallel with how people generate income normally, but without risk. And for me what happened was I was actually doing some consultancy work for United distillers or one of their off shoots. I was a month in the UK and then a month in the US and a month in the UK and a month in the US.  So I started my business part time, but I started it in the wrong way.  I think if you want to start a business part time, it’s much better to put a dedicated amount of time in, consistently, even if it’s a restricted amount of time. I was doing quite a bit when I was at home in the UK for a month, not able to do much when I was in the US. 

It’s like pushing a car. I use the analogy of pushing a car. Once you get it going, it’s great and it will pick up its own momentum. But what I was doing was pushing the car and stopping and pushing the car and stopping and pushing the car and stopping. Eventually I got the car going and it’s turned into a great career for me.  So I started part-time and after about 12 months I gave up my very lucrative consultancy project. It was a significant, multiple six-figure income that I was earning and told my wife that I’m going to take up this little part time business. She thought I was mad. 

Then a few months down the track, when we got our income up in the business that we were in together years ago, it was the best thing best idea she ever had. 

Realistically, part-time is the way to go unless they have a chunk of money that can sustain yourself for at least 12 months because otherwise there’s pressure. There’s pressure on paying the mortgage or paying the credit cards or meeting car payments or putting the children through University. And if you’re under pressure that comes across when you’re speaking with people.  For me, part time is definitely the best way forward. 

PAUL: I know everybody talks about part time but you make a very good point about giving a devoted amount of consistent time. If you had a part-time job in a bar from say six to eleven, three days a week you would turn up and work those three days. The trouble is most people work their part time business ‘some time’ and ‘some time’ businesses don’t really pay much. If you turned up at the bar ‘some time’, you’d be fired pretty quickly.  

CLIFF:  Yes, some people try to work it in their spare time but they don’t have any spare time. That’s why it’s not a spare time business. It can be a part time business, but it can’t be a spare time business. 

 You raised a good point Paul. If I can just raise this because people do fail in network marketing. You’re absolutely right, most people fail at many things but for me to a large extent the wrong people have been attracted to network marketing. Those people are often the people that are desperate and they’re very unlikely to be successful in any type of business. They’re not really cut out for business. 

I look for a different type of person. I’m not looking for the desperate or the needy. I’m looking for the people with a skill set that can be used to integrate into the model to have success. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges. If the wrong people are attracted they stick at it for a week or two. They don’t have any success they drop out and then ‘oh, it’s the worst thing since sliced bread. You don’t want to be touching that sort of thing. I had a go at it and it just doesn’t work.’ 

So I think there’s a failure within network marketing of attracting the wrong people and often that’s driven by people in network marketing saying ‘the first thing you’ve got to do is get your first couple people in two days or in the first 24 hours’. People become desperate to attract people, so they’ll say anything to try and make it sound simple so that they’ll join them. Then of course, it’s not as easy as it’s made out to be. I was told I just have to sign up and sit by the letter box and the cheques would come through the door. That’s not how it is. It’s a business that requires effort. I think, over the years, the wrong people have been attracted and they’ve been attracted almost out of pressure of people feeling that the job is to bring people in and I think that’s a big failing really.  

PAUL: You have just said effort it also requires skill.  I think if people have had a business and know the challenges of a business in terms of cash flow issues, people issues, deliveries, all of those things.  I find that those people are probably more open, if they’ll ‘take their blinkers off’ toward the network marketing model.  I was attracted to the industry when my first business venture failed, not because of my lack of skill or sales. My lack of awareness of cash flow. So I didn’t want cash flow issues. I didn’t want people issues either. But it is still requires a new set of skills. I wouldn’t expect to walk into a franchise for a McDonald’s and think I could run it. I’d have to be trained and have to develop the skills necessary. 

 CLIFF: You’re absolutely right. A lot of people in networking talk about attitude being so important.  Of course that’s important. It’s important in any career frankly, I believe but skill set is critical. You’ve got to develop the skills. Now some of the skills you might have developed in your corporate career are transferable skills, depending on the type of role that you held. That’s why I tend to look for people who work in people oriented businesses, like sales. It’s not because this is necessarily a heavily sales type business, but because the skills that you develop in that type of career relate to listening and questioning and people skills. It’s so important to develop the right skill set. It’s often said you don’t need any skills. Just have the right attitude and you’ll do well. However, you definitely need skills as well. 

 PAUL: When I left my corporate career, I had been extremely successful. I was a general manager of a large International Hair Care company and I was open-minded about network marketing, fortunately.  The first person I met (a mutual friend who clearly knew what he was talking about) became my mentor and a life long friend. I remember distinctly putting my ego to one side, about what I thought I knew and what my position had been etc. I thought I’m going to listen to this guy. 

I’ve always thought that salespeople can be their own worse enemy because they think it’s only about selling.  It’s about building a distribution network, training and supporting people. That’s got to be a big part of what you do, which is probably why you’ve been particularly successful because of the training skills that you brought to the party. 

CLIFF: It’s not a selling business. I’m laughing because you’ve just described me perfectly. When I got started I was very fortunate to be introduced by an Industry Legend and you probably know the name, Jerry Campisi. An exceptional character and this is back in, I think 1997, and Jerry was making $3 million dollars a year then. I mean that’s a lot of money now and a great deal of money back in 1997. 

I’d come from corporate and I had a sales and sales training background and I looked a what Jerry was doing and I thought, wow, if he can make $3 million a year doing that, I’ll make 6 million a year doing it Cliff’s way! 

Well, of course, I didn’t make a penny because what I didn’t understand then, that I understand now, is that I had the skills but he had a proven and predictable pattern of activities that were working. I was trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’. 

So what you’ve just said is absolutely critical because no matter how successful you are, just as if you went into a new career anywhere else, you’d have to learn. Understand that putting that ego to one side is key. That is one of the biggest failings of people and it was the biggest failing for me – trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when I first got started.  

I was fortunate that I put my tail between my legs went back to Jerry and said ‘look Jerry, show me how to do it properly’ and I’ve gone on to be very successful. I put a lot of that down to the coaching and support that was given by Jerry way back in the late 90s, but absolutely, that’s a critical point you just raised there. 

 PAUL: You also make another good point which I’ve always thought to be an attractive way in which this business works is that Jerry actually saw something in you that maybe you didn’t see in yourself. He saw something different in you and very often if I look back on my career (and if most people do this) it’s because somebody sees something in us that we don’t see in ourselves. I think the nature of this business, is that everybody can be successful if they’re coachable. That’s why I believe that the industry does breed a very good attitude to one another, whereas corporate can be a bit ‘dog-eat-dog’. Right now, with all the friction that’s going on and the uncertainty you can actually see that there’s a lot of people stressed, a lot of people unhappy, whereas I’ve always found attending a network marketing meeting that the people are very upbeat and very positive. 

I don’t like the hype. How do you cope with that? I think that puts a lot of people off and the hype is the overselling of the whole thing. I mean you are extremely practical and down-to-earth. 

CLIFF: I put it down to a phrase I’ve used for many years ‘Excitement – Hype – Hope’ And if that’s all you try and use as your methodology or process for building a business, it will work for some time. It might work for 12 months, might work for a couple of years. But what happens then is you find everybody is dropping off the back because they’re not being giving the support. They’re not being given the training. They’re not being taught the skills that they need to be successful. They’re not being mentored properly.  

If you go to a large corporate event, there’s obviously going to be a little bit of excitement and a bit of ‘ra-ra’, a bit of energy. Just like the would be in a sales conference. There’s always a lot of energy there, but I think that we’ve got to consider the practicalities of over excitement. That’s what pushes a lot of good quality people with a corporate background away, because they go to a network marketing meeting and they think ‘what is this?’ I work for Gillette. I work for Diageo. I work for Proctor. This doesn’t look or feel like a proper business. In their minds, a proper business is the corporate organisation that they work for. So we push a lot of good quality people away

One of the attractions is the fact that corporately now it is ‘Dog Eat Dog’. Even when I was in the corporate world the reality is that as you try and go up that corporate ladder you are competing with colleagues and there’s less and less opportunity as you progress upward. If you’re trying to get the sales managers job and you are a salesman, there might be seven salesman competing for the same job. The beauty of a network marketing business, of course is there’s plenty of open space. So there’s no competition because there’s as many openings as there are people that want to get into those openings. I think that’s refreshing because corporate organisations are much flatter. So I think that’s attractive but I do think we have to play down that ‘Excitement, Hype and Hope’ element and try and present the business in a businesslike way so we attract some of these professionals that are under pressure given the current situation around the world as a result of this pandemic. 

 PAUL: If anybody’s watching and follows YouTube increasing numbers of people are resorting to Excitement, Hype and Hope.  I see a lot of people who clearly haven’t made it pretending they have. Effectively over hyping their business. You’ve seen it, ‘I made £3 million last year, and I owe it all to Amazon affiliate or drop shipping etc. I do fear that people are being ‘sold down the river’  It’s of concern to me also that when you are making that transition from employee, (whether it’s at the bottom run or whether it’s as a manager) through to starting something on your own it is fraught with challenges. People are going to buy into things quite naively, especially if it’s made to sound easy. 

What would you say to somebody who is open enough to look at this industry? What should they do? 

 CLIFF: That’s a really good question again Paul and I would say ‘do your due diligence’ but do proper due diligence. People think that going on Google and typing in a company’s name or something is due diligence and it’s not.  The internet is full of misinformation, as well as good information. That’s not due diligence because if you type any company name your I’ll see good things, you’ll see bad things. You type in the term network marketing. You’ll see good things and you’ll see bad things. 

I would encourage people to do proper due diligence and that means proper research. There’s lots of great books on the industry. Become a scholar of the industry. Research properly, understand the business model properly. I was very fortunate to get paid as a management consultant, so I’ve seen it from a very different place than most people that get invited by a friend to go and watch a video or come to a presentation. 

Do your due diligence and if you find a company that you like, check out that company? Don’t just Google it, speak to people that are working the business. If you’re just generally looking at network marketing speak to leaders from different companies and get a sense of what the industry is or the business model is really all about.  If you pick a particular company try and speak to some of the corporate people in the company and if you can, make a visit to the company. This is potentially a career move.  

If you were making a career move to one of the companies I spoke about, Procter and Gamble, Gillette, Diageo, you wouldn’t just take the job by Googling it. You’d go and visit the company and I would encourage people to do that. I know some of the companies might be based outside of the UK, but I would do whatever level of due diligence, proper due diligence. Don’t just Google it because I’ve seen so many people come back with horror stories that aren’t really horror stories about good people and good companies. 

PAUL: There’s also has to be a ‘good fit’ with the company that you’re partnering with.

CLIFF: Absolutely and that good fit is not just about the products or the services. It’s about the people that you’re going to be engaging with. You don’t have to necessarily be completely in love with the products. Most people who have got a McDonald’s franchise haven’t got it because they love burgers They got it because they love the business model and the market potential. So pick a company that has market potential. Pick people that you want to work with you feel that you can trust and that you can engage with and that can support you. Go to market and run it like a real business. Don’t ‘poke it with a stick’ because you’ll not be successful and then you’ll be one of those people that probably write on Google ‘I tried that, didn’t work for me’. 

So don’t ‘poke it with a stick’. If you are going to engage, give it at least 12 months and build a proper foundation. This is a 3 to 5 year project, not a 3 to 5 minute project, or a 3 to 5 day project or a 3 to 5 week or even a 3 to 5 months. This is going to take some some time but you’ve got to put the investment in, in terms of time and effort. But picking the right company, the right partners, as you’ve said, is absolutely key.

PAUL: There’s people out there that have put years of time and effort and yes, they’ve been paid but they are at a stage where they have reached a position in a company and all of a sudden, they’re no longer needed. 

A challenge with this industry is that, certainly in this country, you can’t spend any more than £200 in the first 7 days to get into such a business. There are even businesses where there’s no financial commitment at all.  Unfortunately, if you have a low cost you almost certainly will take it for granted.  It becomes ‘easy to get into and it’s very easy to walk away from’. Whereas, if you had just invested in premises to open a cafe with all the equipment you need for that or you had just invested tens of thousands of pounds in a franchise, maybe had to borrow money to do that. Then you’re going to approach business in a totally different way, even though you know you’re not going to recoup that investment for another 3 to 5 years. I think if people had to invest at the level of a franchise or a business brick and mortar business they would take network marketing more seriously. They would stick at it for longer and probably they would actually interview the people they wanted to partner with a lot more diligently. I mean, how do you approach this issue? 

 CLIFF: The same way Paul really. When I’m engaging with people, I’m quite selective. So for me, I have a couple of Assessments. I’m the only person that has access to these assessments. I work with Dr. Paul Stoltz from Peak Learning and we have two assessments. One is called the Grit Gauge which looks at the the quantity of grit and the quality of grit that somebody has.  The other is what we call the AQ profile and that measures the adversity quotient. And so it’s looking at whether people have got the stickability, the grit that it takes to be successful and how they handle adversity. Like any other business, it’s going to be a little bit like a roller coaster. So I actually use a couple of assessment and it’s helpful for them as well as me. 

I want people that have got the right grit and stickability and I want them to understand if they have or are they likely to have what it takes to be successful in a business like this for themselves. Then, what I look to do is say hey, let’s engage in a 12 month plan. Let’s develop a 12-month plan, grounded in reality. 

So in other words, somebody comes into the business, I like to say to them. What would you like your income to be in 12 months time (for the12 month of engagement) where you could look back and say that’s a year well spent, grounded in reality. What I mean by that is that if somebody comes in and they’re making let’s say £60,000 a year. They’ve got a decent position. If they’re trying to make £60,000 a month in 12 months, how is that grounded in reality, when it’s taken them however long in their corporate career to get to £60,000, the equivalent of £5,000 a month?  Where’s that grounded in reality? 

I tend to say to people, how about we match your income or even half of your income. Where else are you going to go to get a 50%-100% increase and let’s set it in a sensible manner. Then I have a planning process for working back from that to get them to that. 

To summarise, let’s get the right people in. The assessments help attract the right people and help them understand whether it’s something that they’re likely to have a chance of success at and then let’s have a 12-month plan where we’re going to engage as partners over the next 12 months and not over the next 30 days or 60 days or 90 days. You see in network marketing people have 30 to 90 day plans because they expect people to drop out after 30, 60 or 90 days. 

So let’s have a 12-month plan. Let’s agree that we’re not really going to review how successful we’ve been until the end of that 12 months because obviously that first 12 months is the foundational period of building the business. 

PAUL: I suppose if you’re starting a traditional business and you intend helping up-skill your people, you’re investing time and if they’re constantly leaving it can get very frustrating. Given what you just said, when you’re about to invest in somebody you want to make sure they’re worth investing in.

 CLIFF: That’s part of the assessments for me, Paul. It helps me understand whether I’ve got somebody that has got a chance of success. I don’t want to work with someone who hasn’t because it’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to me. Like you say if you’re going to work this business seriously and you pick the right partner and the right support team in the right company, they are going to be investing a great deal of time and effort in helping you succeed. So, there’s investment on both parts. There’s investment required from the person starting the business, but there’s a great deal of investment from the person who might be enrolling or supporting that person in terms of helping them succeed. So that’s key. 

PAUL: People are talking about the ‘new norm’. People are questioning how the high street is going to survive. I personally believe that we will get through this. Where do you see commerce headed?  Where do you see this type of business fitting in? It has certainly changed its appearance in the time that I’ve been involved. I very rarely get somebody asking me about pyramid sales, which always makes me smile incidentally. What will the network marketing industry look like in 2 or 3 years time, in your view?

 CLIFF: I  think Paul it’s a very different business.  I told you about a conversation I had just before we came online. Somebody today said, ‘Oh, it’s one of those pyramid things.’  That’s a complete misunderstanding. The model has nothing to do with pyramid selling. It’s nothing to do with stocking your garage up with a load of product. In fact, you handle very few products, if you pick the right company. 

It’s an e-commerce business model. We use digital marketing strategies. It’s a very different business than it was even five years ago. And I think the future, it’s a sensible Plan B or Parallel Income for people because you can’t rely on job security. It just isn’t there. 

And particularly after the pandemic that we have faced and are currently still facing. We’re still in the middle of it here in South Africa. The reality is that the the future is going to be very different. The only person who is in control of your future is you and you’re the person who has the responsibility for that. I think it’s going to be very different because with the tools that we’ve got today Paul, you know with the likes of Zoom or Blue Jeans and Skype and all the technology that we’ve got available. 

You can run a global business.  The company that I’m partnering with is in 146 countries around the world and I can build it all from here it with the technology that we’ve got available, irrespective of what happens as a result of people not being able to travel.  The fact is that with the technology that we’ve got I’m in South Africa you’re in the UK and it feels like you’re sitting across the desk from me. It’s different today and it will no doubt be even more different over the next two or three years as more new technologies come out. 

 PAUL:  Well, it’s quite interesting here in Wells, Somerset. We have a great High Street, but it has suffered like everybody else. During the start of the lockdown, I’d wander around taking photographs etc and I would see businesses that had signs saying why they were closed. Occasionally you’d come across a shop (Sea Salt, Wells for instance) saying that they were closed, but you can still buy from us online.

There’s a lot of people wish that they had an e-commerce part to their business. They wish they had their business online and now there’s a scramble for a lot of those businesses to get online. Yet you’re talking about a business model already operating online. Customers order online. Product gets delivered (just like Amazon) and you get paid. You’ve created a business without any of the traditional investment or risk. I’m asking about the future but in actual fact this industry is already ‘ahead of the curve’. 

 CLIFF: It’s already ahead of the curve.  We have a business here and I’m not speaking specifically of my business but the business model, if you pick the right company, a global company.  I can be in South Africa, introduce a friend of mine in Australia. They can go to the website in Australia, order the product, shipped directly to them and I get paid. 

I think the other thing that I would say is that High Streets have been caught out by not having an online e-commerce business, but I think a lot of people in their career have been caught out because of this pandemic because they didn’t have a parallel income. 

They didn’t have a plan B to fall back on. Some people are really struggling as a result of that. I have recently been talking to an ex-Blackpool footballer who had started his own business. Then the pandemic hit and now that businesses has disappeared. Now he’s exploring the possibilities. My business might not be the right fit for him, but I think it’s just sensible for people to have [a parallel income], whether this is the right business model or not is not the point. 

The point is we don’t know what the future holds. To have some sort of fall back from an income perspective, and an income ideally that is not dependent on you the individual being the focal point. That’s what really attracted me. When I did the research from a personal standpoint, the concept of leveraged income, removing myself from having to go to work, day after day, after day, week after week, month after month, year after year and being able to build something that I could get paid on, time and time again, without being the focal point. 

Of course, you’ve got to put time and effort into building. It doesn’t happen overnight. But if you can find a business model where you can remove yourself from being the focal point of income generation. Because if the job stops the income stops, or if you can’t work, the income’s likely to stop. So having that Plan B or ‘Parallel Income’, if you find the right vehicle, I think is key as we move into the future particularly as a result of what’s been going on the last few months. 

 PAUL: It’s funny. 14 years ago I introduced a product to somebody who researched it on the internet, decided to buy that product and I’ve been paid every month for the last 14 years, yet I’ve lost touch with that person. I still find that incredible. 

It’s not a massive amount. I think one of the things that I would run away from is where people are talking about ‘you can be a millionaire easily’ and I think that puts a lot of people off.  Sometimes making an extra £500 – £600 as relatively little as that makes a significant difference in somebody’s life.

CLIFF: Disposable income.  When people have paid the mortgage, pay the credit cards, make their car payment and they put the kids through school, bought the food etc. The actual disposable income for most people is a few hundred a month probably and for some people it might be less than that. So if you can actually just double people’s disposable income you’ve made a dramatic difference in somebody’s lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be about making a hundred thousand a month or making a million a year.  It’s actually about how can we increase your disposable income. 

Disposable income drives your lifestyle, your lifestyle choices. Where you can go on holiday, the things that you can do, the Christmas presents that you can buy when you’ve got some spare cash, birthday presents, but all of that stuff is dependent on the availability of disposable income. So if you can find a way to increase that and as you had said, a few hundred pounds a month makes a massive difference, because for most people that’s more than they they have available as a disposable income. So a very valid point that

 PAUL: You see the pain that somebody is in. You see the challenges that somebody is facing and you see something in them that they perhaps don’t see in themselves. They know that what they’ve believed in the past hasn’t worked. I only wish people would take a more considered look again [at this business option].  Whether it’s for them, whether they’re capable of doing it, is another matter, it depends what their expectations are. In closing, what would you add to that? 

 CLIFF: I think you said it all Paul. It is frustrating and sometimes people just aren’t open enough to explore new possibilities. I do think that what’s happened as a result of the pandemic is that people who maybe would have been a bit closed-minded a few months ago, are a little bit more open now to exploring possibilities. We still do get some people pooh-poohing it. The big mistake is people think they understand what this is, without really understanding it.  Unless you explore it properly, you can’t make a decision whether or not it’s right for you. As I say, I was fortunate as a Management Consultant to look at this marketing model from a different place than most people. I would just encourage people to be open if the timing is right for them to explore new possibilities. Explore those possibilities, but explore them properly. Don’t make a judgment based on ‘old history’ or what you used to think a few months ago.  Explore it, find out whether it’s right for you or whether it’s not. If it’s not, no problem, but if it is you just might have unlocked the door to a very exciting future. 

Paul Clegg was talking to Cliff Walker about a proven e-commerce business model, driven by digital marketing strategies. As we can no longer rely on job security many people are exploring opportunities to transfer their people skills into a scalable business of their own.

Connect with Paul Clegg and Cliff Walker on LinkedIn.