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An Embarrassing Business Story I’ve Never Shared

By: Ryan Healy


Back when I was 18 years old, I got into Amway.

My parents had first gotten into Amway when I was around 12 years old. I still remember thumbing through their Profiles of Success books and reading about all the ordinary people who’d become “Diamonds” in the business. Those success stories made a big impression on me. So big, in fact, that at age 12 I decided I was going to join Amway when I was old enough.
So when I finally turned 18, I signed up. And I started calling my friends and family, going to all the events, and “drawing circles” whenever I could get an appointment with a prospect (which wasn’t that often, by the way).
I did that for a couple years, never really having much success as an Amway sales rep. But I kept trying.
At age 20 I got married and for the first year of my married life I continued to pursue the dream of building an Amway business. My wife and I even did a couple road trips to get to some of the big national Amway events.
One of those big events was down in Dallas, Texas. We lived in south Denver at the time. So we loaded up our luggage and began the drive down to Dallas.
“Always Be Prospecting”
Back in 2000, one of the things Amway reps were taught was to “always be prospecting.” In other words, they wanted you to always be looking for people to bring into the Amway business. So if you were at a restaurant or filling up your gas tank or grocery shopping, they wanted you talking to people and trying to give them information or book an appointment with them.
Quite honestly, it was a stressful way to live. When everybody is a prospect, then nobody is ever just a friend or just a waitress or just a [fill in the blank]. Everybody you meet, anytime and anywhere, is a prospect who might be looking for a business opportunity like Amway. This mindset creates pressure to always be thinking about selling people on the idea of an Amway business. I didn’t like it, but I tried as best as I could to “follow the system.”
So back to the Dallas trip…
We’re on the road, getting close to Dallas, and I had finally worked up the nerve to approach somebody—anybody—about Amway. Some of the details are fuzzy now, but I ended up prospecting this guy who was working the front desk of a motel. Not a big fancy hotel… a dingy little motel.
He seemed genuinely interested in my “business opportunity.” He even gave me his number and agreed to a meeting at his house. We set the date for about a week out.
Now remember… I lived in south Denver and I had just set an appointment with a very low quality prospect… in Texas!
I don’t know what I was thinking. One thing I know for sure: I had dollar signs in my eyes and I was blocking out all information that might cause doubt or derail me from achieving my dream of financial success.
So here I was, all excited that I’d set an appointment with a perfect stranger. I was building my business. I was doing it!
The Long Journey Begins…
A week later, I was back in south Denver, still riding the emotional high of the Dallas conference. And I was getting ready to drive back to Texas for my appointment with Mr. Prospect.
We’d set the time a week ago. I had his address. And I had his phone number. What could possibly go wrong? I wondered.
Did I call Mr. Prospect to remind him of our appointment? No… why would I need to do that?
The morning we left, my wife and I woke up super early… before 5 a.m. We then “dressed for success”—she in her light blue business skirt/suit, me in my brown suit and fancy leather shoes—and began the drive down through southern Colorado, through the northern corner of New Mexico (where we had breakfast at McDonald’s), down into the Texas panhandle, through Amarillo, and beyond.
I remember the more I drove, the uneasier I became. Would Mr. Prospect be there? Somewhere around Childress, Texas (see picture above) I finally pulled over to call him and verify our appointment. This was before cell phones were widely available, so I had to find a pay phone. When I finally got ahold of him, he was noncommittal. “Oh, yeah, sorry but I don’t think that’s going to work out today. Maybe another time.” Click.
Angry and Disillusioned in Texas
I had just driven seven hours for nothing. Seven hours! And I had seven more to go to get back home.
Oh, man, my wife was not happy. Neither was I.
I still remember the feeling of absolute foolishness… anger… regret… all these emotions washing over me. We got back into the car, didn’t say a word to each other. Just put my old 1985 Saab 900 Turbo into gear and started the long and painful drive back to Denver.
That experience pained me deeply. It was simply too embarrassing to think about… or even talk about for a long time.
I had driven to Texas for a no-show.
A Few of the Lessons I Learned…
I learned a few things from that experience.
  1. Everybody is NOT your prospect.
  2. Never try to sell an unqualified prospect.
  3. Qualify prospects before you take the time to meet with them (in person or by phone).
  4. Always confirm in-person appointments 24 hours before the meeting time. And if you’re investing a lot of time to meet a prospect (or you suspect he might no-show), call him again right before you leave your house. I’ve done this many times… “Hey Bob, I’m just leaving my house and wanted to make sure we’re still meeting at Starbucks in an hour.”
Probably the biggest lesson for me was that the Amway business model was not all it was cracked up to be. I began to have doubts about the whole thing. A few months later I wrote two pages of reasons why I was no longer going to be involved with Amway. And at age 21, I closed that chapter of my life and moved on.
Today, I’m quite a bit older and hopefully a little bit wiser. I still make mistakes. But I like to think I make fewer of them. And I do my best to minimize the damage when I do make them.
What can you learn from this story? Well, one thing is that mistakes—even big embarrassing mistakes—are a natural part of the entrepreneur’s life. Almost nobody finds success without a few major lapses in judgment along the way.
More importantly, those mistakes don’t define you. They’re in the past. They’re not who you are. Let them go. Tomorrow is a new day and success might be waiting for you just around the corner.
The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and make better decisions next time. As Thomas Edison is often quoted as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
This article was originally published by Ryan Healy
Published: March 9, 2015

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Ryan Healy

Ryan Healy is a direct response copywriter. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including BoostCTR, Alex Mandossian, Terry Dean, and Pulte Homes. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and is a regular contributor to WordStream.com, BoostCTR.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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