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ViSalus MLM Compensation Plan Review 2.0

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Introduction to ViSalus MLM Compensation Plan

Welcome to Notebook Crazy, everyone.  My name is Brad, and I live in the Midwest.  Even though the weather in the Midwest is pretty nice this time of year (today feels like a perfect day for fly fishing, for example), I am staying inside in order to continue my quest, which I started right around New Year’s.  I am on a quest to review every multilevel marketing (MLM) business opportunity about which I can find enough information to write a review.  This is my ViSalus review, and before I begin, I have to give credit to the Lazy Man, author of the personal finance blog Lazy Man and Money, for his well-researched ViSalus review in which he tested out various aspects of the ViSalus business opportunity and described them in detail.  It was a great help to me in writing this ViSalus review.

ViSalus: The Company and Its Products

ViSalus

ViSalus sciences has some of its main offices in Troy, Michigan, which is not too far from here.  According to Wikipedia, Blake Mallen and Nick Sarnicola, the founders of the ViSalus business opportunity, were high ranking distributors for a telecommunications MLM in Michigan before they founded the ViSalus business opportunity.  Aside from the fact that the section describing the big ViSalus lawsuit is longer than the part dedicated to ViSalus products, the Wikipedia article about ViSalus is not too interesting.  As for the Wikipedia article about Troy, Michigan, it demonstrates one of the more amusing consequences of the fact that anyone can edit Wikipedia and that the people who add new information to Wikipedia articles do not always reread the article as a whole to see how it flows once the new edits have been incorporated.  Case in point, an early paragraph in the Wikipedia article on Troy, Michigan, describes Troy as the safest city in Michigan, yet two of the Troy residents in the “Notable People” section are famous only for committing murders.

ViSalus products are, for the most part, nutraceuticals geared toward weight loss.  Many of them are meal replacement shakes.  The Lazy Man in his ViSalus review undertook the decidedly un-lazy task of finding out the ingredients in ViSalus meal replacement shakes and determining how much it would cost to make a similar shake if you bought all of the ingredients at a discount club supermarket like Costco and at a regular retail supermarket like Meijer.  He came to the conclusion that ViSalus products are overpriced, costing more than twice as much as they would cost if you paid retail price for them at a supermarket.

My issue with ViSalus products, and indeed with meal replacement shakes in general, runs deeper than that, and it is an issue on which the other Brad, the co-founder of Notebook Crazy, disagrees with me.  The other Brad and I have differing views on a lot of things, and we can almost always find common ground, but not when it comes to meal replacement shakes.  When it comes to business, our differing views complement each other, and over the years each of us has given the other an appreciation for types of music we would not otherwise have appreciated, meal replacement shakes remain a sticking point.  The other Brad has been a serious athlete for most of his life, and he drinks meal replacement shakes because he needs to get calories into his body faster than the human jaw can chew.  As I have previously mentioned on Notebook Crazy, the other Brad has not ingested a complex carbohydrate (with the exception of beer) since 1998, so for him, meal replacement shakes, with their mix of whey protein and artificial flavors, do not taste all that different from what he eats when he actually does eat food.  In my opinion, however, shakes are enjoyable because you drink them as part of a meal, not instead of one.  When was the last time you went to Steak and Shake and saw someone just drinking a shake without eating food?  Even vegetarians at Steak and Shake will order fries and a shake.

Another problem with ViSalus products is the issue of actively marketing them.  In order to promote ViSalus products, you have to assume that the person to whom you are marketing them wants to lose weight.  All except the perennially skinniest among us have felt hurt when a family member criticized us about our weight.  (I would be lying if I said that my brother’s mother-in-law never harrumphed about my garlic knot belly.)  Imagine proposing to a stranger that he trade in the burger he paid for by the work of his own hands for a meal replacement shake.  It takes unsolicited sales pitches to a whole new level.

It is nothing out of the ordinary to find out that an MLM company, especially one that deals in nutritional supplements, to find itself as a defendant in a lawsuit, either related to false advertising about the effectiveness of its products or about its business practices.  The ViSalus lawsuit described on Wikipedia, however, is a bit different.  The prosecution alleges that Mallen and Sarnicola hired Nathan Moser and Peter Siragusa as private investigators to hack into the files of a rival nutraceutical company called Ocean Avenue.  To further complicate matters, the reason that Mallen and Sarnicola were so keen to see the private files of Ocean Avenue is that Ken Dunn and Fred Ninow, who had previously worked as ViSalus distributors, had moved to Ocean Avenue.  MLM distributors moving from one MLM company to another is a very common practice in the MLM world; it often causes hard feelings and sometimes lawsuits, as well, but this is the first time I have heard of private investigators playing such a central role in an MLM lawsuit.  Moser and Siragusa, the private investigators, pled guilty to the charges in 2015, but the case is still pending against some of the high ranking officials at ViSalus.

As far as I can tell, there have been no ViSalus lawsuits related to allegations about the company being a pyramid scheme, but Herb Greenberg of CNBC said that the ViSalus business model looks awfully pointy.  Actually, his exact words were that it exists at “a controversial line between legal direct selling and pyramid scheme.”  Likewise, the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation warned that ViSalus distributors were likely to lose money if they joined the ViSalus business opportunity.

The ViSalus Compensation Plan

Several versions of the ViSalus compensation plan are available for download from the ViSalus website, including the full 17 page ViSalus compensation plan document.  As the Lazy Man put it so eloquently in his ViSalus review, the ViSalus compensation plan includes nine ways to earn money, and eight of these nine ways require you to recruit new ViSalus distributors.  There are several bonus pools, each with stricter eligibility requirements than the last.

The aspect of the ViSalus compensation plan that attracted the greatest amount of ire from the Lazy Man is the BMW bonus.  In his ViSalus review, he says that ViSalus advertises that it gives free BMWs to successful ViSalus distributors who meet the requirements for the bonus, when in fact, it does nothing of the sort.  Rather, ViSalus makes a payment (usually $600) toward monthly installments on a car loan on a BMW, which is in the ViSalus distributor’s name.  If the distributor does not meet a certain sales goal in a certain month, then ViSalus does not pay the BMW bonus.  Meanwhile, the distributor is still responsible for the payment.  Unfortunately, this is usually how car bonuses work in the MLM world.  At least in the ViSalus compensation plan, qualifying ViSalus distributors can choose between the BMW bonus and a smaller cash bonus.  It is a better idea to choose the cash bonus, because you can use it for payments on a car you can actually afford, such as a pre-owned Camry, or to pay cash for a Craigslist jalopy that takes you from point A to point B.

The ViSalus compensation plan has more levels than the average MLM company.  Its levels are Independent Promoter, Promoter, Director, Area Director, Regional Director, National Director, Executive Director, Presidential Director, Ambassador, 1 Star Ambassador, 2 Star Ambassador, 3 Star Ambassador, 4 Star Ambassador, 5 Star Ambassador, Diamond Ambassador, Crown Ambassador, and Global Ambassador.  To achieve these levels of leadership, you have to establish a certain number of “legs” of downline sales team, and there are requirements as far as members of a certain number of legs reaching certain levels of leadership.  That means that, not only do you have to recruit new distributors, but you have to stay on their case, just like the boss you were trying to get away from by getting involved with MLM in the first place.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Many of the ViSalus products are geared toward weight management rather than non-specific, pie in the sky maladies. Why am I counting this among the advantages?  Well, when someone says, “Do you want to lose weight?” you can respond, “No thanks.  My body mass index is 23.5, which is well within the healthy range.”  Meanwhile, if someone says, “Do you want to live longer?” or “Do you want to improve your physical and mental well-being?” it takes virtually superhuman levels of grouchiness to say “no”.
  • The fact that there is an article about ViSalus on Wikipedia means that ViSalus meets Wikipedia’s criteria for notability.

Disadvantages

  • The Lazy Man, author of The Lazy Man and Money, did a pretty good job of explaining what is wrong with ViSalus products and the ViSalus compensation plan in his ViSalus review. Unfortunately, overpriced products and compensation plans that make you spend a lot of your own money for opportunities to earn minuscule amounts (to say nothing of the potentially ruinous car bonus) are very common in the world of MLM.  I am so used to these features that, when I see them in the compensation plan document of an MLM, I will devote most of my review to giving shout outs to cinematic swine, making alphabetical lists of salty foods, snarking about the comparatively harmless practice of extreme couponing, or daydreaming about owning a pet sugar glider (to name just a few examples) rather than to outrage about the exploitative compensation plan.  I am reminded of just how outrageous MLM compensation plans like the ViSalus compensation plan are when I see that people like Herb Greenberg of CNBC and the Lazy Man of the Lazy Man and Money are genuinely appalled.
  • It is easy to find the ViSalus compensation plan on the ViSalus website.
  • The fonts used in the ViSalus compensation plan document are quite readable.
  • It is possible to market ViSalus products online, which saves you some of the awkwardness of trying to sell people weight management products face to face.
  • Why is Executive Director a higher level of leadership than National Director?
  • The diagram of the leadership levels in the ViSalus compensation plan document is shaped like a pyramid, or at least like a ziggurat.

Conclusion

Lazy Man, I salute you.  If everyone who got approached to join the ViSalus business opportunity were as un-lazy as you are, the MLM industry and all its overpriced nutritional supplements would have gone the way of the dodo, the moa, and the passenger pigeon (to name just a few examples) a long time ago.  To everyone else, avoid the ViSalus business opportunity.  If you really want meal replacement shakes, there are plenty of them in your local Meijer or Kroger (or wherever people who do not live in the Midwest buy groceries), and if you are as enterprising as the Lazy Man, you can even make your own.  There is a recipe for them on the Lazy Man’s ViSalus review.  Even better, it is a refreshingly shtick-free recipe, which, in my opinion, is exactly how recipes should be.

Whatever your views on meal replacement shakes, I would love to talk to you about Internet marketing strategies.  Schedule a call with me.

 

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