INTERVIEW

Helen Bee, CEO/Founder, Clean Living International

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Introduced to me by fellow interviewee Lars Tewes, Helen epitomizes the values of the organization she is currently building – enthusiastic, responsive, clear, and service-minded.

Helen is strong CEO for a relatively new network marketing company that I’m convinced will make waves in the industry, and help dispel any negative biases against network marketing as a legitimate force in the UK (and global) economy. The some she references below is also excellent!

You can read Helen’s full biography here

 

Jamie: Helen, in your career thus far, what have you found most fulfilling?
Helen: I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to align myself with some companies that have really strong values at their core, and notice the worth of people as much as profits. In contrast, I have been with some companies that lack in both areas and learned to recognize the warning signs quite early on.

I have cherry-picked from a lot of my experiences to make sure that we were creating Clean Living as a real force for change. Embedding core, solid values from the very outset was really important to the rest of our leadership team and me.

 

Being able to learn from some fantastic companies that have been ethically trading for decades and also identifying people who are not doing it so well has shaped me personally and professionally. So the most fulfilling part of my career has been creating Clean Living, because we solve a lot of problems that are facing people on a personal, economic, and social level. The benefits of our household cleaning products, and the problems they solve, all link in with real-time topical problems today; such as the need for improved hygiene, the need to have a back-up financial plan, and the need to address the increasing threat of climate change.

 

Jamie: So you said you now know how to recognize the signs of a good or bad culture? What sort of things are you looking for from the outside in?
Helen: I think it can be very, very clear from a company’s marketing strategy and the experience you get with them as a consumer. It’s simple things such as the care and attention put into the packaging of your order. It can even be in how they make your coffee and the conversation you have with the barista in the process. Taking note of these things is a great sense check to see who is really putting people at the core of what they do and who really cares about giving the best consumer experience to meet their needs. Even in interview stages, the type of environment that they have prepared, the welcome that you will get from walking through the door to the interview itself –

There are some real tell-tale signs about who takes the time to really get to know you, make you feel at ease, make you feel relaxed, tries to understand your interest is in the company, and what you are trying to get out of the role or purchase.

Key things have jumped out to me even before you get the employee handbook or the marketing brochure. A bit of observation and mystery shopping will give you a raw and honest feel for what a company are all about to understand their true intent.

 

Jamie: What is the best thing about being in Network Marketing?
Helen: The best thing, undoubtedly, is that it is the most inclusive, exciting, diverse and supportive industry you could ever come across. If you take supermarkets, for example, and I use this example a lot, you would never get the big-name players sat in one room sharing best practice. Imagine them at a conference together, stood on stage, sharing how they improved customer experience or their average basket value. It would be very uncommon to hear a conversation such as, “If your Head of Marketing would like to come and spend some time in our head office, my team will show them how we did it. Just drop me an email, and we will set it up.” And yet this isn’t uncommon in our sector. Network Marketing is an industry that is all about understanding that if we collaborate and we work together and avoid ‘cloak and dagger’ tactics, then everyone is going to benefit ultimately.

The other thing that I love about it so much is that it is really diverse and it does not discriminate in any way. It does not hold prejudge against what your previous experience is, your religion, your gender, your age or your postcode; nothing like that. It really is an opportunity where anybody can succeed. If you are struggling or unsure what direction to go, there is a raft of support in the community, in terms of tools, and training, and advice; someone to talk to. You’re never short of people to cheer you or celebrate with when you have a big win to celebrate. That, to me, is something that no other industry can match.

 

Jamie: What is the worst thing about Network Marketing?
Helen: The worst and the most unfair element is the stigma attached to it. It never ceases to amaze me that many people have a real ignorance and refuse to understand how we function. They seem almost determined to not give it a chance or listen to you and your experience. Instead, they are quick to shut you down and say, “It is a pyramid scheme. It is a scam.” When, in truth, they do not really know what a pyramid scheme is. Their opinion is formed on a bit of hearsay they have heard from somebody else. But

it can really open people’s eyes when they learn how big of a contributor Network Marketing is to the UK economy. For example, it generates two billion pounds every year, and a sale is made every 9 seconds. One in four people now have a way of making an extra side income around their day job. So, it is not an uncommon thing to be part of Network Marketing. In fact, it is the biggest sector providing part-time work in the UK.

 

Without it, many people would be in a lot difficulty and would struggle to either make ends meet or find something flexible enough to be at home for children whilst contributing to the household income. It is such a shame we have this ignorance around the sector because some wonderful elements are associated with the industry. If people would just sit back and let you explain them, they could make their own independent decision afterwards.

 

Jamie: How do you help your promoters to overcome that stigma, both personally and then with their support network?
Helen: The first thing is to condition them by letting let them know that rejection and objection is something quite normal in the sales world. We all face it from time to time. People often join the industry full of optimism and with a clear understanding of how it works. But sadly, their excitement can be trampled on, or someone else changes their mind because of their own bias beliefs about the industry. I just tell them, “Have confidence in what you have done. You are your own person; you had a reason for joining, and you felt like this was the answer to whatever you were looking for. So have faith that you have made the right decision for you.”

I think that applies in many ways actually. Some might have an opinion about the type of car that you have purchased, or the colour of lipstick you are wearing, or the person that you are in a relationship with – in those situations, people usually stick to their guns. But in this scenario, they can wobble a bit.

Then I kind would share with them tips that I have used over the years that have really helped to break down barriers. So, one example is, I mentioned a lot of people will just very quickly go, “Oh, it is a pyramid scheme,” and in many conversations, I have said, “Do you know what a pyramid scheme is? What do you define as a pyramid scheme?” A lot of them just cannot answer. When we do explain the differences of how, if a service is involved or there is a transaction of a product, Network Marketing is very different to a pyramid scheme, they kind of go, “Oh, okay,”. Then the next thing I will do is take time to unpick and understand where did their opinion come from? Is this from past experience or someone else’s feedback? It’s like any objection handling, really; listening to the person, you are talking to, understanding what their fears and concerns are, and just trying to allay them rather than getting into a defensive conversation. People are genuinely really interested and pleasantly surprised when you have that type of approach with them. Plus, they go away fully with any misconceptions rectified, which is important.

 

Jamie: Can you talk about a little bit about the trajectory of Network Marketing? You mentioned how big it is now – can you talk a little bit about how quickly it is growing and how it is professionalizing?
Helen: Yes, there are now about half a million people involved in the industry in the UK. We have got our own associative body as well, the Direct Selling Association, of which there are currently fifty-six member companies. Honestly, there really is such a wide variety of businesses – some are selling cosmetics, some sell legal packages, some health & wellbeing, home fragrance. There are even companies that do clothing or kitchen appliances. It really is broad, and there is very much something for everybody in there.

Actually, 2020 has brought some unprecedented growth for many reasons. A lot of people are coming into Network Marketing, or seriously considering it, in the hope of creating a secondary income without the need for experience or a large financial outlay. It is not like setting up your own business and having all the overheads and associated start-up costs. So, people have really started to switch and change their thinking, which is fantastic! I also think that people have started to get used to working from home and the flexibility it brings.

I’m confident that more people are going to be exploring Network Marketing in the coming months. It is a bit of a best-kept secret, but that will almost certainly change with the looming unemployment from the back end of this year into the next five years.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that a lot of people started part-time – can you talk about that dynamic between doing it as a part-time and having another full-time career versus doing it as a full-time job?
Helen: There are people in the industry –  I have met them, I am friends with them – who have these high six-figure incomes. It is not smoke and mirrors. It is possible, but they represent about 1% of the entire industry population. Building that kind of income isn’t easy, and so not everybody is willing to apply themselves to do it. Those people have dedicated and applied themselves to achieving that growth by seizing the full potential of the opportunity. But the truth is that most people come into this for a part-time or additional income; hence, why it is the UK’s largest provider of part-time work.

Typically, people come to us looking for about two to four hundred pounds a month extra, which can make all the difference to them. It could be somebody saying, “I need some help paying my bills. I have some debt to pay off. I want to be able to pay for my children’s hobbies or save for our annual holiday.” The majority of people actually have got a full-time job doing something else and commit about eight hours a week to their Network Marketing business to generate that part-time income.

What a lot of people find is that along the way, their additional income grows beyond what they expected. They are like “Oh, gosh, I am now earning six hundred pounds or eight hundred pounds as my customer base builds”. If they decide to build a team and people join them, the duplication of the model can very quickly mean that in time, the part-time income overshadows their full-time income. If they are enjoying it that much and they like all the other benefits that it brings, some people will decide to leave their day job. But equally, I have met some people who are big retailers, generating a high income from just selling a product, who are not interested in team building, which is absolutely fine. They are still doing their day job and fit their Network Marketing business around it. They JUST have an ever-expanding customer base who keep reordering product.

Ultimately, people define and set what they want out of their business in terms of working hours and income goals. There are obviously minimum requirements for bonuses or incentives that are run. But otherwise, it’s completely down to the individual to work when and how they want to. Nobody comes in and is told, “You must sell X amount a month. You have got to speak to that many people.” You basically choose what you want to earn, when you want to work, and that it is your responsibility then as an independent business owner to make that happen. Nobody is on your back, managing you at all. But what they will do is help you to see the potential of the opportunity.

When people start to apply the learning from best practice that is shared by top earners, they go, “Oh, gosh, this works.” That is when that lightbulb moment normally comes, and people get that injection of belief to transition from working their business part-time into full-time.

 

Jamie: Tell me about that sales training you provide. How is it administered, and how does it compare to a full-time sales job?
Helen: It has been a bit different this year because typically, what we like to do is get people together when people are working in isolation. Building a business can be a lonely task, but you are always part of a wider support network. People can be part of a team that spreads across the UK or dotted all over the globe, so we are familiar with people working remotely. Nevertheless, we also like to get people together whenever we can; something that has become impossible in 2020.

There are a lot of reasons to pull people together for an event, such as a new product launch, specific training, talks to learn from the best in the business. It might be an incentive launch or winners’ event where those that have achieved a certain something come together to celebrate. So, these kinds of things have had to be held or done differently. Outside of that, however, the bulk of our business and training can be picked up from a mobile device. There are dedicated websites with back logins that hold reporting systems, marketing collateral and other downloadable tools that you can then ping very quickly to a customer.

Some companies provide hard copy type of paperback training that people can fill in. But because of our ethics, we are trying to come away from that a little bit. We’re mindful of our carbon footprint so try to do as much as we can digitally, whilst being very sympathetic for your visual or kinaesthetic learning styles. Even our demonstration kits are refillable and designed to be used again and again.

A lot of information is shared on social media as well. Whether it is live training in Facebook groups or inspiring our Ambassadors through our Instagram and YouTube channels. We offer a real mix of everything and the training in our space is much creative than what a typical salesperson would usually receive. They might get some product to demonstrate and a training manual with marketing material, and that’s your lot. Everything that we create is available digitally so that people can tap into it as and when they need to, which makes it sympathetic to the part-time worker.

 

Jamie: My personal perception, fairly or unfairly, is the vast majority of Network Marketers would be female. Is that the case, and if so, what would you say to men considering the sector?
Helen: You know it can be, and you are right to think that. Typically, it has been a very female-dominated space, but there is a shift starting to change that now. I think the industry itself from a UK perspective is about twenty-five percent male. This is because there has been a real change in some of the companies coming into the sector. A legal services company and various sports and fitness type of companies that have joined the DSA, making it more appealing to men. Arguably, there are a lot of females who do personal training or have sports-related interests, yet they are still quite male-dominated

Where our Clean Living opportunity is concerned, really interestingly, over the past fortnight alone we have had three guys contact us directly saying, “I have seen what you are doing. I really like the look of it. I want to get involved.” One said that he is on a mission to challenge the stigma and the perception of men. Another is a stay-at-home dad blogger. Another one is just a very entrepreneurial guy who has worked in the chemical industry for some time, has got his own home-brew gifting business and he has seen what we are doing and really likes the look of it. Cleaning, you could argue without it being a sexist comment, is typically associated with women. So we have been pleasantly surprised that our offering is attracting various genders. It would be nice to develop a varied mix of both male and female ambassadors as we go.

Jamie: What is the biggest difference you see in successful versus unsuccessful Network Marketers?
Helen:

The main thing for me is people who are willing to listen and learn the craft, paired with optimism, drive and vision.

People need to remember why they are entering Network Marketing; what they are doing it for and what is their driver. Is it to leave their main job? Is it for those family holidays or the nice to haves that their full-time income can’t stretch to pay for? Is it to give peace of mind or top up a pension fund? Whatever it is, someone who has got a strong vision and keeps that close to their own heart and mind will do well.

People like those that are just honest and sincere. Network Marketing really is all about people, and I think the types who can come in with a bit of a know-it-all attitude or a real forceful, pushy product approach can get seen through quite quickly. It is not a hard sell because our industry is renowned for having a much higher quality of product. As such, they really do sell themselves on many levels. For example, eighty percent of people who try our product either buy it or then go on to join the business. That is just because we encourage active sampling, “Give it a go, try it for a few days and tell us what you think.” We offer people the change to trial the products in their own homes in a very relaxed, very sincere way, and it works! People who come in trying to overlook the importance of understanding the product and the ethics behind them, plus the values of the person interested in buying it will struggle. They are likely to still get the sale. But those that embody our ethics, use the products to gain confidence in them and listen to the best practice we teach about using and selling them will have the edge.

 

Jamie: What is the single biggest piece of advice based on your experience that you would give to an aspiring salesperson?
Helen: I actually have three.

The first one is to choose a company that aligns with your own personal values and beliefs, and not to be afraid to walk away if you find that it is not a good fit.

We all have experience of doing a job that you weren’t particularly a big fan of. In a sales career, it can really hinder your performance. I have been there trying to convince somebody about something that I truly do not believe in, or that I disagree with, or I would not personally use. Making the break away and moving companies was the bets choice I ever made. Why would you stick doing something that you do not enjoy? I read a quite once; ‘If it doesn’t make you happy; change it’ and it has really stuck with me as a bit of a mantra.

A top tip is to have something that acts as your go-to when that self-doubt starts creeping in, or when the naysayers are getting to you, or if you are having a really tough month or day for whatever reason.

It could be a quote or a song. I have a particular song that I used to play before every job interview, to really rev myself up and be like, “Yes, I have got this” to help me envision myself doing the role. I have also used it when I have thought, “things are not going to plan or we are not getting the results we need quickly enough” and each time it has really perked me up. Having something that can instantly drag you up in sales is important.

The final thing is not to dispel Network Marketing as a serious sector within the selling space. It really is, out of all the sales roles I have done, the most fulfilling and the most rewarding; not just in terms of how it physically and mentally makes you feel, but from a financial point of view as well.

The repeat income is not something to be overlooked or snubbed at, and it is quite easy for you to have a day-job sales career then sell something else as part of a Network Marketing space outside of that.

 

Jamie: I have to ask what the song is?
Helen: The song is “I Believe” by Yolanda Adams. So, give it a listen, Jamie, see what you think. It starts off quite moody and serious, and it really builds up. There is some gospel singing in it which I always find powerful. It really gets the blood pumping and nourishes the soul on those days where you just need a bit of a hug or a motivation boost.

 

Jamie: If you had your career to this point again, what would you do differently?
Helen: I would ask more questions very early in my junior roles and study a lot more. I made quite a few mistakes in selling and managerial roles very early on, thinking, “if I have been given this job, I should know what to do.” I went along the roles doing them to best of my ability, doing what I believed was right. That’s not to say that I was doing them wrong at all. But

I could have learned a lot of lessons a lot quicker and been more successful more quickly had I have just really taken time to learn from the best in the space.

It was only from going into Network Marketing that I learned that because, as I say, the sales space is typically very, very private and shielded. Not a lot of people will share best practice freely, which is why what you are doing with this book is really fantastic.

Through Network Marketing, I have experienced events where very successful Network Marketers share how they have built their businesses. I started to follow them. I started to read blogs they were putting out. I would watch them on social media. If there was a coffee break, I would just say, “Do you mind if I pick your brains about something for a moment, please?” Then that further led me on to looking at bigger entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson and Michelle Mone, for example. You can learn a  lot from other people just by asking the right questions and not being afraid that you are going to be judged as not knowing what you are doing. If anything, I think it helps to get yourself noticed and respected because you are showing that willingness to learn. If I could go back to my eighteen-year-old self, starting out on all this again, that is what I would advise her to do.

[END]

 

 

 

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