Introduction to Southwestern MLM Compensation Plan
College was never my thing. I know I have talked about it here on Notebook Crazy before. If you have read all my posts, you will know a lot of the details. While introducing my reviews of multilevel marketing (MLM) business opportunities, I have regaled you with stories of my three ill-fated semesters of college study, followed by my lifelong quest to become a knowledgeable and financially successful college dropout.
It is safe to say that I have been pretty successful at both of those things. As for the knowledgeable part, I challenge any of you to name an MLM review site that goes into as much detail about the history of the casino town of Baden-Baden, Germany, as this one does, or for that matter, one that names as many species of reptiles. As for the financially secure part, my journey began with low wage jobs and living below my means, and my business career has had some ups and downs (the less said about the fungus coffee debacle, the better), but it eventually paid off. My business partner the other Brad and I have several business projects going, including this blog, and I am officially debt free. My house and car are paid off, and, in true Midwestern fashion, I still live below my means.
I have told you a few anecdotes about my time in college, but most of them had to do with the disappointing social scene. I am sure I mentioned how, compared to high school Halloween, college Halloween was nothing short of anticlimactic. The one that consisted of me eating Autumn Mix by myself on the back porch of the frat house was actually the better of the two Halloweens I spent in college, because at least there was Autumn Mix. I told you about how a lot of the kids in my dorm took Adderall in order to write term papers, which sounds like it could be the beginning of an interesting story, but it isn’t. Stimulants did not make the denizens of my dorm more creative in the way that, say, they made the great British rock bands of the 60s more creative in the years leading up to their first record deals. I told you about my humorless girlfriend and her Portobello mushroom burgers, but I don’t really want to talk about that now, because thinking about fungus ruins my mood, and this Southwestern Advantage review isn’t about fungus, anyway.
But all of those things are just minor annoyances; none of them are the real reason I dropped out of college. Simply avoiding college is not a surefire way to find fun, friendship, and love. Besides, I am not so thin-skinned that merely having to spend time with other people sends me running for the hills. I did actually get along better with my co-workers at the jobs I had when I dropped out than I did with my classmates and neighbors in college. At least my co-workers in my post-college jobs were always quick with a funny story or a dare, whether or not there was alcohol involved. Well, some of them were. And then there was my fried Trevor, my co-worker at a fast food restaurant, who was the kind of person whose intellect would go completely unappreciated at most universities.
No, the real reason I dropped out of college is that it became clear to me that there are so many other ways to pay less money to earn more. The ratio of bureaucratic red tape to actual learning was just too much. For me, the ideal biology college course would consist of a reading list emailed to you a few months before the big event, which would be a weeklong face-to-face session in which the professor strides into the auditorium on the first day with a monitor lizard on his shoulder and then leads the students on excursions to see the species and ecosystems they have been reading about. A course on the history of 18th century Europe might consist of a professor and a small group of students gathered around a TV monitor, going frame by frame and pointing out historical inaccuracies in the movie Barry Lyndon. (There aren’t very many inaccuracies in Barry Lyndon. It would just be the warm-up. The class would then move onto other movies, like, perhaps, Amadeus.) There were too many fees, too many uninteresting classes with busywork assignments, and did I mention too many fees?
Although I really like to read, textbooks annoyed me when I was in college, and now that I know more about the textbook industry, they annoy me even more. It seems like they are deliberately overpriced and deliberately uninformative. And then there are the other industries that have grown up around the fact that students aren’t learning in college, and these are an even more deliberate cash grab, all the unofficial study guides and test prep materials. Then there is this idea in society (I do not claim to know when it started or who is responsible for it) that simply paying more money for college and its official and unofficial extras gets you a better education. If your goal is to be a knowledgeable person, you are better off borrow books from the public library free or buying books about subjects you want to learn about, online or from bookstores, for a fraction of the price of a college textbook, to say nothing of the fact that, while there is a lot of truly stupid web content out there, if you are patient enough, you can find some informative and well-written websites.
I am also firmly of the belief that going to college doesn’t make you rich. It is true that most jobs that require a bachelor’s degree have a higher starting salary than those that don’t, but if you have to borrow five-digit sums of money to get a college degree and then pay interest on those loans, it takes many years to break even. Most people don’t get superstar jobs with big paychecks and lots of perks right after college; the ones that do were already rich at freshman orientation. Thus, I stand by my belief that, if you want to be knowledgeable and financially secure, you should read a lot and live within your means.
Southwestern Advantage: The Company and Its Products
It would be unfair to say that the Southwestern Advantage business opportunity grew out of the dystopian world I just described; rather, it ended up there over time. The story of the Southwestern company begins in Tennessee in 1855, and its name is a reference to the time when Tennessee was considered the southwestern part of the United States. (Tennessee became a state in 1796, and by 1855, plenty of other states farther west had joined the Union. Before Tennessee became a state, it was part of the Southwest Territory, so I guess by 1855, there were still people around who remembered a time when Tennessee was the Southwest.) Its original name was Southwestern Publishing House, and it originally published a Southern Baptist newspaper, as well as religious pamphlets that were sold by mail. During the Civil War, the Southwestern Publishing House began printing Bibles, and Bibles accounted for a large part of its sales for many decades afterwards. After the Civil War, Southwestern began to employ door to door salesmen instead of selling Southwestern products by mail. In those days, it was a wholesome endeavor. It made sense to buy products being sold door to door. The founder of the company, a Baptist minister named James Robinson Graves, was still in charge of the company, and the books being sold were mostly Bibles and educational books. Most of the Southwestern distributors who sold the books door to door were young men who hoped to study at one of the nation’s newly founded land grant colleges, the ancestor of state Universities. (The opening of land grant colleges, beginning in the 1860s, made it possible for more Americans than ever before to continue their formal education beyond secondary school.)
Fast Forward 150 years, and the Southwestern Advantage business opportunity seems to have lost as much innocence as the university system in the United States, to which Southwestern has always been indirectly connected in one way or another. In an age when you can either click to read or click to order almost any book you want, Southwestern still employs university students to go door to door, selling educational books, educational DVDs, and such. Its direct sales branch, Southwestern Advantage, typically hires college students to work during summer vacation. Southwestern Advantage products are not necessarily college textbooks; rather, they are things like educational books and subscriptions to educational websites, usually marketed to school-aged children. According to the Wikipedia article about Southwestern Advantage, some famous people who worked as Southwestern distributors when they were young students include former governors of several states and even Ken Starr, the federal judge who conducted an investigation that was related, in some way or another, to virtually every political scandal that plagued the Clinton administration.
This is not to say, however, that being a Southwestern distributor is a one-way ticket to an illustrious career in public service. The new generation of Southwestern distributors tends to describe the Southwestern Advantage business opportunity as one of the worst summer jobs a college student can have. According to one former Southwestern distributor, you are expected to work 12-hour days, six days per week, giving over 30 sales pitches per day. Another former Southwestern distributor describes working for Southwestern Advantage as being like an unpaid college internship, except, instead of getting a taste of a professional field to which you aspire, you get to spend the summer interrupting people at home and trying to get them to buy things they don’t need. Worst of all, Southwestern distributors are paid exclusively based on their sales. They do not get a salary. (There have been some recent moves to change this.) The company has gotten such a bad reputation for its treatment of its sellers that some colleges have forbidden it to recruit from their campuses.
The Southwestern Advantage Compensation Plan
If there is one thing I can say in favor of Southwestern Advantage, it is that there is no multi-page Southwestern Advantage compensation plan document full of diagrams of how your multi-legged downline sales team might be structured or stock photos of luxury cars. Thus, the Southwestern Advantage compensation plan, while it is definitely direct sales, and while Wikipedia describes it as network marketing, contains few of the features of a true MLM compensation plan.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- Southwestern products are not nutraceuticals. No one is claiming that they cure cancer or prevent autism.
- The Southwestern Advantage compensation plan is only an MLM compensation plan in the loosest sense of the word. As far as I can tell, there is no requirement, and probably not even a financial incentive for Southwestern distributors to recruit other Southwestern distributors.
- The jobs I worked in my early 20s were certainly not cushy, but walking around door to door in rural areas and remote suburbs, trying to get people to buy educational DVDs, sounds pretty unpleasant.
- I haven’t had much occasion to think about it while researching and writing for this blog, but it is definitely possible for selling education to get almost as sleazy as selling health.
The fact that it is only marginally an MLM serves to recommend the Southwestern Advantage business opportunity, but you are not going to get rich any faster by selling Southwestern products than you are by selling the latest superfood pills or meal replacement shakes, and the work is not any less exhausting. You know there are better ways to get an education, and so does your target audience.
Hey, Notebook Crazy readers! What was the one book from which you learned more than from any other book, and how much did you pay to read it? Schedule a call with me, so we can compare answers.