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Home » Networking, Travel Writing

South Africa turns up the volume in Salt Lake City

Submitted by on January 25, 2009 – 10:48 pm One Comment
The multitude, representing 37 countries, was nearly 4,000 strong. Easy to be lost and invisible. But you couldn’t miss the South Africans.

South Africans make noise in Salt Lake City.

South Africans make noise in Salt Lake City.

First you heard the ululations and the shrill whistle blasts. Then you saw the flags. A big one swirling above the heads of the multinational throng crowding the cavernous lobby area of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, USA. And many smaller flags waving and dancing with their bearers.

Several in the party, which numbered around 35 at a quick count, were uniformed — if a collection of crazy head-consuming jester hats adorned with South African flag emblems and bells qualify as a uniform. A core group, it seemed, was there, to make noise. The less raucous were being good sports and getting into the spirit.

And if the mission was to be noticed, they were succeeding.

Convention delegates who had jetted in from around the globe — and who probably had no clue where this diverse bunch was from, let alone why the song and dance — lined up for photo ops.

South Africans make their mark.

South Africans make their mark.

We were all in Salt Lake City for Agel World 08, the annual convention of a three-year-old network marketing company that is headquartered there. I went wearing three hats: journalist, my 25-plus year avocation; life coach, enthused by the prospect of coaching people to prosperity and abundance and achieving it myself (which a coach from Israel I’d met was successfully doing); and optimistic late-starting entrepreneur cum soon-to-be network marketing success story. (The lure? To live my values and revel in the delights of financial freedom, which others in the business were doing. So, why not me?)

Given the dire state of the print journalism industry — not to mention the implosion of the U.S. and world economy — I was ready to listen to network marketing advocates including Robert Kiyosaki (“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” author), David Bach (whose “Start Late, Finish Rich” is on the

Delegates lined up to be snapped with the South Africans.

Delegates lined up to be snapped with the South Africans.

shelf of many a fellow boomer), Donald Trump (“Why We Want You to Be Rich,” written with Kiyosaki), Fortune magazine (where the network marketing industry had been referred to as the best kept secret in the business world) and others financial whizzes.

To quote Kiyosaki, network marketing “… gives people the opportunity with very low risk and very low financial commitment, to build their own income-generating asset and acquire great wealth.”

In retrospect I would suggest that Mr. Kiyosaki introduce the word “some” as in “gives some people” the opportunity. It would transpire that not one of the super-enthusiastic group of people I met in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I got involved, achieved success in this particular network marketing venture. Why some do and some don’t when the whole idea, in theory, makes such very good sense — wouldn’t I love to do a book project on that!

South African network marketers in Salt Lake City.

South African network marketers in Salt Lake City.

Joining this network marketing in the wellness industry — currently the fastest growing industry in the world and one destined to create 10,000 new U.S. millionaires by 2016, many in the network marketing field, if U.S. economist Paul Zane Pilzer (author of “The New Wellness Revolution”) is to be believed — was a no-brainer. I had never done Tupperware. I had never even heard of Amway. I was a network marketing virgin.

And perhaps that’s why I had my credit card out soon as I was told, at a small gathering a friend invited me to in Oakland, California, shortly before the Salt Lake City gig;

  • that I could do this business part-time;
  • it didn’t involve having little parties, like Tupperware;
  • you didn’t flog products to your friends, but could share a U.S.–based, global, portable business opportunity (as in, you move continents, plug in a new address—and have your business up and running in your new location);
  • the company was scheduled to launch in South Africa, (which it did in August 2008);
  • and they were looking for coaches and teachers, not sales types.
  • With the internet, introducing it to people in Australia and Germany was a cinch. You could send them info and refer them to websites online.

    South Africans go on the map in Salt Lake City.

    South Africans go on the map in Salt Lake City.

    But how to find connections in South Africa when internet access costs an art and a leg and not a single friend had ever mentioned the words “network marketing” in my presence? Although I was to discover that several had being doing it under my radar for years.

    There had been a soft launch of “my” company in Johannesburg the month before Salt Lake. I was going to Durban the month after Salt Lake. My Salt Lake City networking objective was to meet some of the Israelis I’d heard were driving the South African growth.

    I hoped to connect with a couple of leaders. Instead I came upon this bunch of cavorting South Africans who, it turned out, had jumped right in and jetted to Salt Lake within days of signing on. I confess that seeing the spectacle made me cringe. But beyond the silly garb and noise were were a bunch of good, true-blue South Africans.

    “It’s a big deal,” said Koos van der Merwe, a kindly and urbane Afrikaner from Gauteng, who’s resume includes teaching, training and several network marketing ventures. “Usually major network marketing companies come to South Africa when they’re 12 or 14 years old and firmly established in the United States and elsewhere.”

    This company had launched in 10 countries — including Israel where it took off like a rocket. By September 2008 it was three years old and in 48 countries, South Africa being the newest.

    But hey, anyone in South Africa who got involved in a charity scheme that one of the Salt Lake City contingent told me he had been involved in — where you forked over $125, and $25 of this sum went to charity, and the rest into people’s pockets: that’s a pyramid scheme. A scam. Not ethical. Illegal. And what, when you call it network marketing, like he did, gives the industry its bad name.

    The South Africans I met in South Africa were fired up. I don’t know if they’re succeeding. I made plans to connect with fellow University of KwaZulu-Natal graduate Nhlanhla Ngcobo, who transitioned from the corporate world into HR consulting — and network marketing. We compared notes; exchanged e-mails; and lost touch.

    I left Salt Lake City with a jester’s hat with bells on it that Koos van der Merwe gave me.

    It would turn out that the joke was on me.

    What Robert Kiyosaki says makes sense. Lucky there are ways to put it into practice beyond network marketing.

    His “cash flow quadrant” looks at our income flow something like this: Most of us are taught a good education, a good job or profession, and hard work are the route to abundance, success and the good life.

    So why do I see people all around me following this so-called success track, as employees or small business owners, and complaining they don’t have a life? And now, in the current economy, losing their jobs, their homes, their pensions — and if they have any, their savings? And heaven forbid you get sick.

    This, Kiyosaki points out, is how 90 percent of the working population live. They (we) exchange time for money, and time is a limited resource.

    The other 10 percent have their money work for them.

  • The investor, for example: You have a whack of dollars, invest well, and reap the rewards.
  • And the super-talented — the best-selling authors among us, and the high-flying entertainers, and the hi-tech superstars — those admirable souls who create something special and the royalties and dollars flow in, and continue to flow.
  • And the big business owners. The Trumps of the world who create their empires and at some point, don’t need to be around to keep the wheels turning.
  • If you’re not Trump, don’t have unlimited resources to invest, or a special talent, Kiyosaki suggests creating a big business organization — read asset, passive income, residual income — by way of network marketing.

    And — I’m now exploring other ways.

    © Wanda Hennig, 2009

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