Brett Duncan is a “transitionist” who specializes in helping direct selling companies define their best next steps as they transition into the new era of direct selling. He is co-founder and managing partner of Strategic Choice Partners, a consulting firm that offers strategic support and services to direct selling companies.
What to Do When Your Direct Sales Company Closes Its Doors
I was recently involved with a company that decided to close its doors after experiencing a long and successful life as a direct sales company. This is certainly never any business’ intent, but you are reminded that some (all?) businesses have a lifespan, and that’s OK. Direct selling has had so many great companies come and go over the years, and their legacy, influence and impact can be seen in so many ways still today.
With that, I was involved in communicating this decision with the field. As you can imagine, this news was difficult to give and receive, and it stirred up all kinds of emotions. But more than anything, it stirred up a sense of gratitude and appreciation, even in the midst of the sadness and stress of a door closing.
I had the opportunity to share some thoughts with the field leaders how they can think through the ominous question of “what now?” And I know it’s a very common question that is top of mind for so many direct sellers, whether their company also chooses to close its doors, or they personally have decided they want to move on. I’ve summarized some of my advice in this article, hoping it can provide some guidance and provoke thought for anyone looking at what’s next. And, if you work on the corporate side, perhaps this article will prove to be resourceful for you at some point.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are 12 thoughts on how to figure out the next best move for you.
1. Do Nothing.
If your direct sales company is closing its doors, there’s actually nothing that you have to do. Sure, there are many things you may choose to do, but it’s so important to have a mindset of empowerment in this situation in the midst of what can feel sad, disappointing and even frightening.
If you can rise above all of those normal feelings, you can actually take advantage of a moment in time that so rarely presents itself to you: you don’t have do anything unless you want to.
So take advantage of this moment. Spend some time thinking and strategizing without letting all the other emotions dictate your actions. No one can force you to do anything right now. It’s your choice.
2. Get Rest.
This is a practical but vitally important tip. If you’re like most, once you heard that your company would be closing its doors, assuming you got at least a little bit of a notice (side note: companies, please, if at all possible, give some kind of notice before just shutting things down), you’re scrambling like never before to get those last sales in and communicate with your team and reach to your customers and plan for the future… on top of everything else your busy schedule required of you. You’re tapped out, and that’s no position to be in to make a big future decision.
Find time to refuel and refresh. For most of us, that actually means get some sleep. On top of that, find ways to rest your weary mind. You’re going to need it as you think about your next steps. Make sure your tank is full before you make the call. I know every situation is different, but if you can set things aside for a few weeks, it can only help you develop the clarity and decisiveness you’ll need moving forward.
3. Reinvent Yourself…
We all know the phrase “when one door closes, another one opens.” Similarly, when one phase ends, another can begin. In many ways, you’re looking at a blank slate of sorts. This is an opportunity to take stock in yourself, and figure out what you want your life to look like moving forward. And … if there are parts of it you want to leave behind, what a great opportunity you have for that!
You could apply this to anything, but in a direct selling context, it could look like this:
– “I don’t want to be known as ‘the lash lady’ anymore.”
– “I wanna be known as a team leader, not just a great retailer.”
– “I’m done with network marketing; I wanna look at party plan.”
– “I’m done with party plan; I wanna look at network marketing.”
– “I’ve been known as the ‘sidekick’ forever to my upline leader; I’m ready to branch out.”
Of course, your reinvention may have nothing to do with your direct selling business. Whatever it could be, leverage this moment.
On the other hand, you could…
4. … Double Down.
At the same time, you may have a moment of recommitment to what you’ve done or what you’re known for. You may not know exactly what the future holds for you, but as you think about it, you may see very clearly that you want to not only keep doing some of the things you’ve always done, and even at a higher level.
That could look something like this:
– “I don’t know what’s next, but I know I love sharing jewelry with others and how it makes women feel. So I’m definitely gonna keep doing that.”
– “I’m known for mentoring young leaders, and want to find a way to do it more.”
– “I just love hosting home shows, even during COVID! I’m gonna find a way to make that work in a modern way.”
You get the picture. One of my mentors, Tony Jeary, has an exercise he calls MOLO: “more of, less of.” Take the time to write down what you want to do more of in your life, and what you want to do less of. It seems simple on the surface, but it’s extremely powerful in helping you find the guardrails needed for your next step.
5. You Are Paid in Full.
In order to move on in the healthiest way possible, you need to accept that you are “paid in full” as far as your experience with your old company goes.
I’m not necessarily talking about commissions and profits. I’m talking about having a feeling of someone owing you something, or you owing someone else something. To be the best you can be for whatever you’re gonna do next, you must release any expectations left with your former company.
For example, you may be a top leader in your old company, with a large team that you’ve led for a long time. It’s very easy to continue to feel responsible for that team, but let me alleviate you of that burden. You’ve likely given them so much over the years. Your company’s decision to close its doors isn’t your decision. Don’t feel like you’re responsible for your team’s next steps. They will no doubt come to you, wanting to know what to do. But, given all the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into building that team to begin with, you may not be up for having to do it again.
On the flip side, it’s important for you to not think anyone (like your upline) owes you anything moving forward. They’ve given you all they have to give you. Don’t feel like they owe you a certain spot in their organization at a new company, or a head’s up on what they’re doing, or anything. They don’t; you’re paid in full.
Similarly, you don’t owe them anything, either. For some of you, you may not be that crazy about your upline, or maybe others on your team. This is an opportunity to start fresh, with different people. That’s OK.
If you’re of the mindset of being paid in full for work done, then you’re in the best position to receive whatever is to come next.
6. Write Down What You Would Do Differently.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently? Not what the company should have done, or your upline, or your customers. YOU. If we can truly learn from our mistakes and misfortunes, what a learning experience you’ve been given! Don’t let it slip away.
Think back to when you started. Or maybe how you coached your team. Maybe it has to do more with how you balance the rest of your life. Whatever it is, think about it. So often, we cherish the experience we’ve had so much that we say we wouldn’t change anything. But I don’t think that’s actually true. I think there are little things in our lives we would definitely change. Hopefully we’ve grown wiser.
Document your thinking and here, and have it handy to apply as you move ahead.
7. You Don’t Have to Join Another Direct Sales Company.
Let me make this clear: I love direct sales, and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. That said, there are lots of different ways to start businesses and earn income and do whatever it is that you love most about direct sales. So before you dive head first into thinking you must join another company, think about what you truly enjoy the most.
For example, if team building really isn’t your thing, and you just like retailing, then there are all kinds of options outside of direct selling for you to consider.
You still may prefer direct selling because of the product or the profit margin, or something else, but you could also be an affiliate with another company, or leverage some influencer options, or something else.
Also, if you love building up people and coaching them, but don’t care for selling or retailing, you also have other avenues to look into.
Again, I’m all for you joining another direct sales company, but I’d be misleading you if I made you think it was your only option.
8. Make Sure You Can Do It with Passion.
If you’ve been with a direct sales company for any period of time, you’ve probably grown quite passionate about it. As you connect with the essence of the company, beyond the products and the comp plan and all that, it creates a connection that drives you.
Whatever you do next, make sure you can see yourself pouring yourself into it like this.
I’ve seen many direct sellers hop from one company to another because they feel like they just “need to find a home,” only to realize they aren’t that passionate about the company or how it does things.
9. You’re Joining an Existing Culture.
If you’re thinking about joining another direct sales company, this is the most important advice I can give you: every company has its own culture, and culture is very powerful. Above all else, you must make sure you connect with the culture of the company you are going to join. Otherwise, you are destined to fail, in one way or another.
Think about it: the company you are leaving surely had a culture, a way of doing things. You can probably remember when someone from another company would join, and you’d point out to them, “Oh, that’s not how we do things here.” Or, “at this company, we do it this way.” That’s normal.
Now, you will be the person tapping into that existing culture. And while there will be many similarities, it will still be different. Between how you are used to doing things and the new company, which culture do you think is going to prevail? 😉
So, more than anything, as you join a new direct sales company, make sure you resonate with the culture. Everything else is secondary.
10. Be a Student.
Likewise, don’t be that new Distributor who joins a new company and knows everything. Just calling it like it is, everyone is already going to be keeping their eye on you. Don’t come in trying to change everything and trying to show “a better way” right away.
Not only does that new company have an existing culture, but they also have an existing system, and training, and ideas on what works and what doesn’t. You may be able to influence and improve all of that eventually, but first seek to understand what’s already in place.
11. Know What You Don’t Want to Do.
You may not know exactly what you want to do, but you may know what you do NOT want to do. And this knowledge can be very helpful.
I spoke with someone who told me, “I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I know I’m tired of selling!” This is a great revelation that can guide this leader in her decisions. You may also know you’re tired of selling make-up, and want to try nutrition. Or maybe you don’t want to deal with hostess programs anymore. You may know you want to focus on a consumable product instead of a one-time sale.
Whatever it may be, knowing what you don’t want to do can you help find what you do want to do.
12. Don’t Feel Rushed to Make the Decision.
Obviously, I shared a lot of thoughts on how to think through this process the right way. Which takes some time. So make sure you actually take it!
It can be so tempting to jump quickly to another company, hoping everyone else follows you and you can take advantage of what that means long term. I’m in no way against this sort of thing. It’s one thing to do something quickly; it’s something else to rush into something.
This decision is too big; don’t rush it.
What did I miss? What do you not agree with? Have you gone through this process yourself? What tips would you have for someone facing this situation?
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