10 Things to Ask Your Potential Sponsor Before Joining an MLM

I am a pharmacist and former hospital CEO who delved into the MLM industry a little over a year ago.  When I was growing up, I watched as my parents, neighbors, family, and friends joined, and failed, at several companies. They lost money and ruined trust and relationships in the process. I saw one person who was quasi-successful, but I now know it’s because she also owned another storefront where she could funnel customers- not the norm for most people. I vowed to never be a part of ‘one of those MLMs’ ever. 

Fast forward 20 years and here I am. In an MLM and actually proud to be. Proud because not only am I earning a really nice income and helping others do the same, but more so because my company doesn’t at all fit the stereotype of many others. I don’t exploit or take advantage of people. I offer them legitimate tools and an opportunity. It’s up to them to decide to run with it or not. Despite all the negativity and ‘anti-MLM movement’ out there, I know the stereotypes and generalities don’t apply to me or my business. 

While growing my business, I’ve also spent some time researching network marketing and the MLM industry in general. Here is what I found out- they are NOT all the same. There ARE some that are scams but MOST of them are not. Just because something is not a scam doesn’t mean its a sound business opportunity.  Not everyone loses money, but a lot of people do. Why? Because they approach it all the wrong way! People see something shiny or a product they like and jump in. They never give thought or consideration to what actually makes a business profitable in the long run. 

Here are 10 questions that everyone should ask their potential sponsor before enrolling in any MLM. These apply to people considering MLM as a legitimate business opportunity and are above and beyond the basics that (I hope) are obvious. Most of this will not apply to individuals who choose to join MLMs in order to gain discounts off goods they already plan to buy. I’m speaking to the people who are looking to make a real income.

Make sure you are asking your potential sponsor to answer each of these, and any other questions you have. Make sure the answers are to your satisfaction. It would be rare for a company to hit a home-run on every point, so also be listening for the sponsor to be honest where their company may fall short. It may still be a good opportunity, and you will know you are joining a morally intact organization. 

1.Is this a ground-floor opportunity?

Ground floor companies are best for long-term success. While it may be tempting to join the largest or even the oldest MLMs, presumably because they have sustaining power, it’s probably not a good idea. Why? Saturation.

Think of some of the big MLMs- NuSkin, Rodan + Fields, Amway, Mary Kay, to name a few. Yes, most have some great products. They also have a lot of people in their sales force. That means competition for customers and downline recruits. Right now, I could find 15 R+F consultants in a snap to place an order. I could do the same across dozens of other companies. Do you want to have only a 1/15 chance when someone needs your product? Or do you want to be one of the very few?

2. Does the company offer a truly exceptional product or service that has minimal or no competition that customers actually want or need? 

Network marketing is a genius logistical problem solver and the absolute quickest way for companies to get products in the hands of their end-user en masse. For that same reason, the distribution method is often used, or even exploited, for financial gain. How many shake companies do we actually need? How are the new ones really any different? That said, don’t dismiss the entire industry due to some bad companies. It’s still a great model, when used and implemented in a fair and honest way.

Treat your MLM planning as you would any other business. You wouldn’t open up a burger restaurant right next to another restaurant that has burgers as their main food, would you? If you would, you need to revisit Business 101. 

For the rest of you that agreed, no, that would be a bad idea, you are right. Don’t join a company that offers a product or service that customers can easily get anywhere else. There are a few exceptions, such as legitimately better quality or price, but in general, steer clear. You will not have long-term success.

Also, make sure the product is something many people actually need or want. Key there, MANY- not just something YOU need or want. My parents made this mistake. They found a company with products that were wonderful- for THEM. But they were also very expensive, not needed by most people, and therefore they struggled to find customers.

3. Is the compensation plan transparent & do you have a placement suite for team builders?  

Pay transparency is huge- your potential sponsor should be able to explain what commissions look like and when/how you get paid. This doesn’t mean the compensation plan may not appear confusing- there is a difference here. Comp plans in the industry often have grids and a lot of acronyms. If you aren’t used to this, you may be confused. That’s not the same as a lack of transparency.  A transparency issue is if the sponsor cannot explain it to you, has a vague answer, or cannot show it to you on a company developed template. 

For instance “I make around 40% of my sales and I’m not always sure what day I get paid but I don’t think I’ve missed a paycheck yet” is not the best answer (sadly, I’ve heard it before).  Even worse if they cannot show it to you on a company letter-head.

However, an acceptable answer might be, “I earn 4-30% commissions off sales in my organization depending on where and by whom the order was generated. I can collect 5 levels down based on my current promotion with the company, as a director. Let me show you what that looks like for each promotion level on this comp plan attachment.” 

You should also be able to make decent money through sales ALONE! If you can only achieve real success through recruitment, stay away! That’s why many MLMs get dubbed pyramid schemes. It’s ok if you can earn more money through a downline than without one, but there should be an opportunity for a single salesperson to make decent commissions off their own sales.

My final point is about placement suites. You may think it has little to do with the comp plan, but it’s actually a huge-deal! Placement suites may go by other names, but essentially it is a way that individuals can move their enrollees within their own organization. It helps them build balance but also can help enrollees to promote and earn more money. I can’t think of a reason I would ever want to be in an organization without a placement suite. It’s been crucial to my success and that of my team.

4. What are the startup and ongoing costs? 

There is no right answer to this necessarily, other than it needs to align with what you are ok with. Also, you are looking for honesty and transparency. 

Some very general rules-

  1. Startup costs should be reasonable and realistic- This may vary based on the average customer sales and that could be a good gauge in many cases. For instance, if the average customer purchase is $20 and it’s not auto-ship, startup costs of $1000 would be crazy. However, if the average customer spends $100 on auto-ship, $500 or even $1000 startup is quite reasonable.
  2. Monthly website fees and/or annual fees are not a bad thing. Again, they should be reasonable.
  3. Many companies have zero startup or ongoing fees. Let that sink in….What’s easy to do is easy not to do. These companies have a constant need for endless recruitment. Very few people will actually commit to the business because they have nothing invested in it. Be cautious.
  4. Remember, this is a BUSINESS you are starting, not a JOB. If you are not willing to invest reasonably into a business then you are going down the wrong path considering MLMs. That said, MLMs can offer the best of everything for starting your own business. You are essentially getting a website, logistical plan, product, customer service, etc tied up with a nice bow and for a price much less (assuming its not a scam- they do exist, beware) than you would pay to start the same business on your own.

5.Are the products or services sold in need of frequent replenishment? 

This one is huge! DO NOT- I repeat DO NOT join a company hoping to make long-term income selling a product that is a one-time buy or needed less than every 30-60 days. 

What falls into this category? So many MLMs- kitchen supplies, makeup (for most people, especially since the pandemic), clothing, that one “romantic” company, jewelry, etc. You will be constantly searching for new customers and competition is fierce because your own teammates are doing the same. It will wear you down.

Not only should the product be consumable and need replacement at frequent intervals, but the company should have auto-shipments with customer incentives to use it. This will help you to ‘snowball’ your customer base. If you can create just 3-5 new customers each month on an auto-shipment, in a few months you will have plenty of customers. This is one of the ways to build passive income.

6. Are there any quotas or minimum personal purchases required, and if so, what happens if it’s missed? 

It’s not necessarily bad if a company requires one or the other, but be cautious if they require both ongoing. Also, missing quotas or minimum purchases should not cause you to lose your spot in the organization. 

Quotas are often set and require a minimum number of customers or sales dollars in a certain time-frame to remain active. This is not bad if it’s reasonable. In fact, it’s great if you are truly attempting to build a team and want dedicated people. It can be bad if the quotas frequently go up or are not realistic. Also, to be clear, I’m not talking about target quotas for promotions or bonuses, I’m talking about baseline ones for everyone.

Required personal purchases is something I personally dislike. I will not join a company that requires it as I feel it can take an MLM into the realm of a potential pyramid scheme, something I will avoid at all costs. Optional personal purchases, in lieu of quotas or otherwise, may be ok depending on the plan.

Also, if there are certain requirements in place, failure to meet should not force you down in the organization. It’s one thing to have your commissions for that month affected. It’s entirely another to lose a team you recruited. I currently have a prospect who once lost his entire downline after a 2-month break while he went through a divorce. He came back to NO TEAM, they were moved to his upline. How awful! 

7. Does the company require or strongly suggest you do parties?

Oh the parties, I despise them. I feel so terrible for some of my friends. I have dozens of friends in MLMs, especially on social media. They are required to do parties either by quota or as a necessity to earn money. The problem is the companies are saturated, people like me are being invited to 5-7 every week, many times with the same company. I have personally reached a point where I decline all invites. I feel so bad about it, but I don’t have time or money for all the parties.  Neither does my network!

The other bad thing about parties- having to constantly find someone to host it for you. It’s like recruiting, but somehow worse. You wind up using your network up quickly and can easily get stuck. 

Find a company whose sales overwhelmingly come through methods other than parties. Caveat- a ‘launch party’ is perfectly acceptable. This is when you announce to your network your new business and what you’re doing. The problem with parties arises when they are frequent and necessary.

8. You said this was not an MLM, but it sounds like one?

OK, so this question might seem weird but I had to add it. Why? Because I DAILY see people in organizations that I personally know are MLMs posting on social media and claiming they ARE NOT an MLM! Yes! This is not only wrong, it’s flat out illegal! I see the majority of these posts coming from the same “shopping club”, where I have actually purchased products before and liked them. But I never will again due to the lying taking place on social media. I see many others skirting the question and not being forthright with it. If it hasn’t come out in the first wave of exchanges between you and the potential sponsor, they are not being transparent.

No, I don’t advertise ‘GREAT MLM OPPORTUNTY RIGHT HERE’ but I also don’t hide behind it. I’ve certainly never said ‘Great CBD opportunity, Not an MLM, PM me now!’

If your organization allows or encourages you to recruit more sales people “under you” from which you earn some money at any point, you are in an MLM. Stop lying and saying you are not. If you still don’t think you are, let’s talk. You have been lied to by YOUR upline sponsor.

If you responded to one of these posts, and it sounds like an MLM, just do a quick google search. If it is, tell the individual never to contact you again. They are not someone you should do business with based on their lies alone. 

9. What is the company culture like? 

This is huge! Do you see reps from this company posting vague cick-bait posts and potentially illegal claims? Or do you see positive, honest posts? Were you approached by a ‘hunbot’, or by a professional business person? Meaning, did it start out with ‘hey hun…’ or ‘Hi Lisa! I wanted to reach out to you about…’ I personally am put off by the hunbots, hey babes, and the like. It sounds unprofessional to me and I don’t want to be affiliated with it. Call me crazy, but it’s not my style. If it’s ok with you, that’s your choice, I’m just citing my own example of the type of culture I would not want to be a part of. And no, I’m not talking about if someone reaches out to a friend, I’m referring to individuals who lower themselves by acting ‘sugary’ and insincere towards people they don’t know. 

As far as culture, if it’s unclear after a conversation with your potential sponsor, there’s a few other ways to find out. Ask to see recorded videos of training, opportunity calls (or attend a live one), or speak to another company rep. A 3-way call with their upline sponsor is a good tell too. Don’t dismiss this if offered, you may learn a lot. A legitimate professional will be able to offer any or all of these options. 

10. What’s the worst part about your business? 

This can be the biggest eye opener. If the answer is “there’s nothing bad about this company or working here, I love it” then that should be a deal breaker. Even the best companies have opportunities for improvement. If someone tells you there is nothing, they are either lying or lack experience. Steer clear.

On the other hand, be open and non-judgmental if someone offers you an honest answer. The best part of this isn’t their answer, because assuming you can handle whatever ‘the worst thing’ is, you’ve just found yourself a really great person. Deciding to link-arms will ultimately depend on all these other answers, but at least you know you have someone honest if you do decide to move forward. 

So there you have it! The top ten questions I suggest everyone ask before joining an MLM. There are certainly other things you may wish to see or know- but these will help you a lot in your research. 

One thing I will add- even if the company gives you the ‘right answer’ to all, if its not a fit for you, it’s not a fit. Likewise, if there are a few answers you don’t like but they aren’t deal breakers for you, it may still be ok to proceed. My deal breaker list and yours may look different. Here are my dealbreakers- no placement suite, not ground-floor, required personal purchases, unrealistic start up costs, unfair commissions (or commissions that are so high I would be ripping off my customers), poor culture, or if I caught them in a lie.

Best of luck!

For those wondering– here is how I answer all these questions for my company and opportunity. If you would like to learn more, send me an email to myorganiccbd@gmail.com

  1. Yes, this is ground floor. In network marketing, 22k-25k active in the salesforce is the max to be considered ground floor. At the time of this writing, we have about 14k advocates and about half of them are active. Due to the nature of our products, many people join for the kit and discounts but not to grow a business.
  2. Yes! Our products are exceptional. We sell NC grown organic farm-to-family CBD. It’s true, you can get CBD a lot of places now, even gas stations. Ours is different because its USDA certified organic, not just the CBD/hemp or farms, but everything in the bottle. This is important because most CBD on the market is grown overseas and used for its ability to clean pollution from air, soil and water. That same pollution is present in most CBD on the market. We also differ because we own our farms, are vertically integrated and don’t outsource anything, aside from 3rd party lab validation. This is crucial to quality control. We offer the ONLY USDA-certified organic water-soluble nano-CBD product on the market. We also have skincare, topicals, and more.
  3. The plan is transparent and my example answer in the article is what I earned at a former rank. However, we rolled out a new plan March 1st, 2021 and it’s even better. We can now earn 4-38% depending on where it’s sold and how far down is related to your current promotion level. They’ve made promotions easier to achieve and dropped minimum sales requirements, which have been $150/month OR $100 personal auto-ship. These no longer apply as of 3/1/21. They’ve also added product credit on top of all that plus extra level bonuses. It’s really a great plan! Yes, there are some CBD companies offering 50% commissions but let me ask you this- how would you feel if a customer asked you how much you’re making off the sale? If you would feel bad answering, or felt the need to apologize for it, something is wrong with the quality or the price.
  4. You can start with my company at one of three entry points depending on if and how much product you want- $49, $299, or $499. Its 9.99/month website fees and $29/year annual fee beginning 1 year after enrolling. That’s it! Less than the business licenses where I live. All tax write-offs.
  5. Yes! Most of my customers, I would say 99%, order on autoship. They don’t all maintain it, but most do. The same holds true for most of the sales on my team. 
  6. No quotas or minimum purchases here beginning 3/1/21. 
  7. No parties, unless you just enjoy them. We do encourage everyone to do a launch party or some sort of announcement, but it’s totally up to you.
  8. Not really applicable to this because I would NEVER tell someone we are not an MLM. We are an MLM, and I believe we are the best one!
  9. Amazing! We have people from all walks of life. Moms, dads, retirees, young singles, couples, you name it! We have people with former MLM experience, and people like me with zero. Most people start this as a side-hustle, but not everyone does. What I will say is that everyone who works hard and remains consistent meets with success! We are laid back and easy-going, but we will not settle when it comes to our quality control or open ourselves up to regulatory issues. I can share examples of this to anyone who asks.
  10. Haha! So seriously, the worst part about my company is the website! There, I said it! We have grown so fast our website/servers sometimes can’t keep up! During the holidays and certain flash sales, we even locked it up a few times. It’s totally functional, and I’ve only lost one sale from this (during said flash sale) but sometimes it irks me. The way I see it, if this is as bad as it gets, I can handle anything else.

If you’d like to learn more about me, my company, or the opportunity, click here or reach out to me, Jennifer, or my sister Amy at- myorganiccbd@gmail.com .

CBD Gummies- Why they aren’t as good as you might think.

I first got started in the CBD industry at the end of 2019. I am a pharmacist and former hospital CEO. I was looking for a side-hustle that would allow me to stay home with my kids. I joined a company with farms in NC that develops the highest quality USDA certified organic CBD available. They were a new company, but growing fast. They started with just a few oils and topicals but gradually expanded the offerings to include skincare and more! One thing we have never had- gummies.

I wondered why we did not supply our customers with one of the most popular CBD products. What I learned blew my mind!

First, gummies are considered a food product and the FDA still has not cleared these legally. Even so, they are widely available and there are no FDA crackdowns. However, my company wants to maintain full and strict regulatory compliance.

Another reason- the absorption of gummies (or any ingested CBD) is very low. Some sources say as little as just 13%! To put that into context- if you eat a 25mg gummie, you actually only absorb as little as 3.25mg! But the absorption can vary person to person or even for the same individual based on what they have in their stomach. This makes it especially difficult to dose children consistently.

Flash forward to February 2021 and my company is releasing the first and only USDA certified organic nano-jelly product! These were created in our labs under strict surveillance by the USDA and under the supervision of an FDA attorney. They are totally legal, compliant, organic, and amazing!

Not only do they utilize nano-particle technology to create a water-soluble CBD product that provides up to 10x the absorption of sublingual CBD oils, but they did it while still maintaining USDA organic certification. No harsh chemicals or processes like with other nano/water-soluble products. This is unprecedented!

The jellies can be cut to achieve desired doses and no doubt will be a game-changer to the market. If you are currently using CBD gummies, consider trying nano-jellies. If you are using CBD oil but would prefer to have jellies instead, or in addition to your oil, check them out. They are available as a broad spectrum product at this time.

Click here to grab some nano-jellies!

Going With the Flo

By: Jennifer Rawley

This past week, many of us have been impacted directly or indirectly by Hurricane Florence. In many professions, including healthcare, this means we must devote extra time and effort to preparation. I work at a specialty hospital in Durham, NC, where forecasts showed we were expected to get substantial rain and winds. Thankfully, the storm is slowly passing by and we seem to have fared well. Grateful as I am, it’s hard not to feel a bit guilty for our luck.  Reports continue to pour in about the immense tragedy that is still unfolding to our south and east. Nonetheless, the preparations and planning that took place, along with the emergency operations implementations, required great effort and teamwork.

In years past, I lived in Florida and have been thru several hurricanes and accompanying emergency operations. I have also managed thru a handful of extreme weather situations since taking my current position, so events like this week are not new for me. However, this is the first time ever that I felt any trepidation and believed there was a real potential for major impact. The eventual path and downgrading has been favorable, but the plans put in motion were the same on the front end.

I first started paying attention to the reports on Friday, September 7th. I didn’t get too excited right away; like I said, it wasn’t my first rodeo. Some of the storms I recall bracing for, helping with disaster relief after, getting hit with, or thanking the heavens I didn’t, include – Floyd, Katrina, Erin, Opal, Bertha, Fran, Irene, Charley, Matthew and Maria. As the details and path of Florence worsened over the weekend, I began mentally preparing. Starting on Monday, the first of several planning calls and meetings began and I left work with my head spinning. I thought about how many times in the past I had been complacent in these situations. As a non-management staff member, I often felt obligated to serve on the “A team” because I wanted to be seen as dependable and helpful. Usually, nothing major resulted weather-wise in our location, and it felt like a let-down of sorts. I was left questioning leadership judgement calls or feeling frustrated that I was required to stay for too long. It’s especially easy to become apathetic when similar scenarios play-out over and over. I’m not proud for feeling this way, but I have to own up to it and recognize others may feel the same.

I knew I couldn’t let my team fall into this type of thinking- I had to do something different. As reports of shortages of food, water, and gas in the area became first-hand experiences, a twinge of anxiety set in. I realized that at best, outcomes of human behavior and panic could make this week a challenge. You can’t put into words what it is like to pass by a dozen gas stations in a major city in this country and not be able to buy gas at any of them until you are faced with it. It doesn’t even seem real, especially when the storm is 5+ days away and you are nowhere near the coast. I started to worry what I would do if people ran out of gas and couldn’t get back and forth to work. Most of us do not live in Durham, we commute in from neighboring cities. (For the record, all our gas and food was replenished by Wednesday and has not been an issue since that I am aware of.) I was up late Monday thinking of how I might get the team engaged. I came up with something – it was super cheesy, but fun, and I hoped it would work.

I grabbed a dry-erase map out of my four-year-old son’s room on my way to the hospital on Tuesday. I printed off a low-quality replica of the Indominus Rex from Jurassic World and cut it out. I taped it to the map and used dry-erase markers to indicate the path towards the NC coast. Down one side I wrote in topics for our emergency operations kickoff meeting- food, supplies, communication, sleeping, etc. Down the other, I created two columns for the A and B teams respectively. The A team stays for the duration of the event and leaves once it is safe. In severe cases, it can be for days on end. The B team stays home during the event, and comes in to relieve A team once it’s safe to do so. Everyone in acute healthcare knows you have to be on a team, it just goes with the job. In my past experience, most people don’t want A team, probably because I’ve worked thru so many hurricanes that end up being uneventful to my hospitals. As such, I was expecting the same from my team.

Under the columns, I dubbed A team the “Stormtroopers” and B team the “Cleanup Crew”. I thought up silly unique code-names for each member of my leadership team and created individual tags to tape on the map. To maintain ultimate suspense, I hid them behind a piece of paper. I also loosely scripted a monologue for the meeting. At the start of leadership meetings, I am usually very nonchalant and conversational. This time was different. The team was silent at first as I rolled out the map and posted it on a corkboard. Everyone laughed when they saw the dinosaur in the middle of the Atlantic with a hurricane symbol across its midsection. With great effort to keep a straight face, and as much dramatic effect as I could muster, I started on my script:

“This is phase one real world, we need to bring everyone in. Operation Flo-Rex is now live. As you can all see from this technologically advanced diagram, the Indominus Flo-Rex is making her way towards us; determined to wreak havoc and leave destruction in her path. As of our most recent reports, she will make landfall around 2am Friday morning near Morehead City and we will likely experience strong winds by Thursday morning. This is a slowdown from yesterday, so she must have had a nap, but could pick up speed again. Our mission is to establish plans to operate this hospital safely regardless of what is to come…”

…”Everyone will now be divided into one of two teams, you are either a stormtrooper or on the cleanup crew. Choose- but choose wisely, as there are pros and cons associated with each. Stormtroopers- here is your showcase: A fantastic adventure awaits you should you choose to bid on team A. For one, you get to be off, or work a short shift, on Wednesday. Then you get to come back to the hospital on Thursday and stay here, potentially for days on end, there’s just no telling. Fortunately, we have lots of goodies to keep you happy; such as the most eclectic selection of edible indulgences ever seen in this office before.  I personally hand picked each item out of shipping containers and boxes this morning at Target, with a few hundred other people…..” and I continued on making it sound enticing, with sarcastic details about hanging out with work friends and sleeping on air mattresses.

“Cleanup crew, here is your showcase: A super boring stretch of days awaits you as you get to work like normal this week, but extra hard, to prepare the hospital and set the stormtroopers up for success. As soon as emergency ops are fully deployed, you get to go home. Hopefully, you loaded up on all the yummy food and drinks like we did here, to get you thru the coming days. Charge your phones before leaving, because you just might lose all your electricity, water, wifi, and other fine things. It will be boring, and in your boredom you can think of your fellow team members having hurricane fun together at work with fully functional generators and running water….” and I went on to ensure it sounded like the lesser fun of the two ‘showcases’.

“Everyone has code names for this operation. If you do not like your code name, or find that you don’t identify with it, you may request a new one.”  More laughter, so I kept going.

I pointed to the two columns and asked who wanted to go first. They had giggled thru my script, but got quiet again. I pointed to my CNO since I knew he would be Team A no matter what, but also because he was supposed to be on vacation starting Saturday. I reached under the paper and pulled out a name and taped it under the first column, “Tango”. Everyone burst out in laughter and he shook his head and said, “touche”, because it’s an inside joke. Hands went up as we ran thru the names and stormtroopers were- Tango, Blue-Pill, Mobilizer, Aggelicious, Chaos-Muffin and Terminator. Cleanup Crew included Socialite, Special-K, Roach, Dar the Great, Puff-Daddy, Terminator and Chaos Muffin. All the names were either self-proclaimed or based on personalities or jobs. Blue-Pill is my pharmacy director whose last name is Blue. Puff-daddy is my respiratory manager- as in “take 2 puffs…” on an inhaler, etc. One of our interim leaders, who travels from Pennsylvania each week didn’t get assigned a team, but she got the name ‘Bug-Out.” Her rental for weeks now has been a cherry-red VW beetle convertible, and she is leaving, so I thought it made sense. I’m not at liberty to explain Tango, and I think Terminator origins would blow my cover, but you get the idea.

All in all- task accomplished in record time. No whining, no excuses, everyone on a team and happy to do it in under ten minutes- total success. After this, we pushed on to the serious conversations around the topics of staffing, shelter, food, drugs, supplies, dialysis, communication, providers, fuel, and others. Over the next four days we planned and executed a textbook emergency operations plan, with laughter and fun, but always with safety as our top priority.

It’s now Saturday, September 15th around 9pm. I am at home, as are most members of my leadership team. We are very lucky- but Flo-Rex continues to downpour on many areas close to us. We have had rain and wind, but for the most part nothing terrible. The A team stuck it out, and just when I asked if a hurricane could possibly move any slower, it dropped from 5 to 3 and then a 2 mph crawl! We were getting very tired, our endurance was up, and not much was happening beyond any other thunderstorm we might experience in a non-tropical fashion. In the end, I consulted with my colleagues at some other area hospitals and based on their input, the weather reports, and the fact that the hospital was running quite smoothly, I made the decision to send the A team home.

I hope they don’t think I made them stay too long, or not long enough. I hope they know I had everyone’s safety in mind- theirs, the other staff, the patients and everyone’s families. I hope that next time- and I know there will be a next time- they rise to the occasion to do what they do best- take care of our patients and each other.

I cannot express enough how proud I am of my team and the effort they have put forth with positive attitudes. I’m also very grateful to be part of a wonderful organization that allows me to be the type of leader my team needs and that supports me every step of the way.

I’m home now, safe and dry, while many of my fellow colleagues are still serving time on their A teams because their B teams can’t get in safely yet. My eight year old daughter, Addysen, is patiently waiting for me to finish typing this. She painted an oil canvas earlier today she titled “The Calm Before the Storm.” She used another painting she found as inspiration because it reminded her of some scenes from the news this week of a calm beach with just a single person on it. Admiring her piece, I realized when we don’t have control over situations, like a storm, we can still stay calm and go with the flo. Even in the areas hardest hit, hospitals are taking care of patients thanks to staff remaining calm and being prepared. It’s what we do, it’s what we will always do.

God bless all those who have or will be impacted by this disaster, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Originally published on 9/16/2018 on LinkedIN see it here
After my initial post on LinkedIN things took a sudden turn. Monday September 17th we awoke to a tornado warning in Durham county and within an hour a second one. Thankfully we were all fine here but it was an unexpected jolt. At the risk of sounding cliche, the hurricane week was a breeze compared to the week after, but that’s life.  Thanks to everyone who pulled together to take care of patients and each other during this time.

Simplest Way to Improve Your Life

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

 “What’s The Simplest Way To Improve Your Life?

John: The simplest way to improve your life is to change your perspective and do something different. That’s it. You need to have a willingness to walk away from anything that does not suit you or your terms. That sounds selfish, but it is part defense mechanism, and partly because I don’t ever want to devalue myself. I am old enough where I should work with the best people and roll with the best people, in both my professional and personal life. If you are not the best to me, then you can roll with someone else. People are like seasons. Sometimes they leave and that’s okay – they leave room for something better to come. Sometimes they come back and your relationship is even better than before. That’s fantastic. I see myself as the driver of my own fun bus. If you want to jump on, great, you can ride with me. if not, that’s great too. If I can’t give you love, then I need to move it along. Either way, I still win. This is the absolute simplest way I know to make my life better.

Jen:  For me, improving my life simply was not always simple because I didn’t believe it possible. I had to first learn and implement some fundamental principles and then the floodgates opened for me. Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily and serving others is life changing for me. Doing these two things results in immediate fulfillment like nothing else.  Whenever I feel down or upset about something, I seek out opportunities to find someone to thank, give a compliment, or ask if i can help them with something. Sometimes, when larger scale service opportunities are presented I am inclined to excuse myself as being “too busy”, and sometimes I do turn them down. However, I can honestly say each and every time that I have participated in a service venture, I leave wondering how I could ever have considered not going. I have energy, enthusiasm, and feel genuinely good about myself and the recipients.

“Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily

and serving others is life changing …”

Some of my best memories and life-changing moments happened while providing service. My favorite was after Hurricane Katrina, while I was a pharmacy student in Atlanta, there was an opportunity to serve the thousands of displaced families from the areas hit. I worked with a team to temporarily set up a disaster clinic in a shopping center parking lot. We put hundreds of fold out tables and thousands of chairs all over and provided immediate medical screenings and prescriptions. Not only was it fascinating to see the work of many produce life changing (and even potentially life-saving) help, I was able to practice pharmacy in a way I haven’t since. Declaration of disaster laws allowed pharmacists and other medical professionals to practice at the height of our skill-set and beyond what our licensure typically allows. I learned so much in those few days. I went back and forth from doing patient screenings and prescriptions to running into the Kroger pharmacy and filling them. We provided all the services for free and several businesses, including Kroger who was my employer at the time, helped pay the bill. I also recall Chick-fil-a providing meals for everyone. That’s the great thing about service and thankfulness, they are endless as each prompts the other and can cause a domino effect. My few hours working as a pharmacist intern allowed me to serve others, better learn my craft, receive kindness from others such as the food, and thanks from those I helped. There is no feeling in the world like when I handed a mother of a small child anti-seizure medications they had left without, seeing the relief in her eyes and hearing her tearful heartfelt thanks. It made me feel like I changed her world, and it changed mine. If this isn’t life changing at its best and most simple, I don’t know what is.

Molly:  I love the topic “simplest way to improve your life” (as if it was ever that simple.) We all have responsibilities and basic needs that need to be satisfied for survival. With that in mind, my recommendation to improve your life is to surround yourself with positive people and minimize toxicity. For me, that means working with people that share my passion and support me as a colleague and friend. One of the core values in my company is locking arms to achieve goals together. I love that we are there for each other, even if we’ve never met. Just hearing the heart-filled stories about co-workers showing up for each other in times of need can give me the boost I didn’t know I needed. I look forward to our company newsletters to read and see pictures of my co-workers locking arms with each other and the community over and over again. When you work full time, work culture is everything. To improve your life, do a double check to make sure your work environment is the right fit for you and a positive one.

Trish:    I have an ongoing war with my brain trying to figure out just how to improve my life. I’ve been convinced…for a good while now…that if I can simplify my life, it will be a grand show of blissful happiness. My epiphany occurred several years ago when I was working on writing a thank you note and I trashed several versions because I was trying too hard to convey just the right message. I know we’ve all trashed a few thank you note versions, but I take my gorgeous must-be-monogrammed-stationary seriously and messing up even one piece ticks me off! Okay, so, back to the epiphany. My significant other was watching yet another one of my complicate-all-things-in-life-scenarios and he said, “Trish! Just write something simple-stupid!” With that, I knocked out a simple and effective thank you message and didn’t waste one more piece of my precious stationary! I remembered that “simple-stupid” came from a mentor of my significant other. The mentor said that leaders should approach every easy and difficult situation with simplicity in mind. He called the technique “simple-stupid” to remind himself that it is stupid to approach any situation without simplicity first.

As “simple-stupid” as this sounds, I find it hard to remind myself to approach daily life with simplicity. Instead of working hard to remind myself, I made a metallic gold sign that says, “Keep Life Simple” and hung it in my kitchen. I look at this sign daily and it helps remind me that I am not alone in my quest to improve my life and we all struggle with over complicating things. From writing thank you notes, having discussions with poor-performing subordinates, making sure the kids have everything they need for school, to finding time in your own schedule to just breathe for a moment, we must find ways to remind ourselves daily to simplify. Hmmm. Maybe I should ditch the fancy monogrammed stationary for a cute pack of dollar store thank you notes. It’s the simple and meaningful message that counts, right?


Tears of Joy

Originally published on LinkedIN on 7/12/18 see it here

By John R. Nocero and Jennifer Rawley

John; At a meeting yesterday, Jen and I were talking about dealing with drama. As managers, we both are besieged with it, be it in the form of scope creep or missed deadlines. Maybe the most significant though is hurt feelings.

Not ours, although they could be. No, we are talking about managing the hurt feelings of our direct reports. These come in a variety of forms, often, in the form of tears. We discussed strategies of dealing with tears. Jen had witnessed it most recently so our discussion turned to some of her experiences which she describes below.

Jen: As my leadership responsibilities have grown, so too have the frequency and extent of tense conversations. While this is not unexpected, I am still surprised by the number of incidences. Most events take on a similar pattern, but periodically a display of borderline histrionics ensues. When these occasions arise, my goal first and foremost is always to do everything in my power to not exacerbate the situation. Even if the event is brought on by disciplinary action, I will typically halt that conversation. Personally, I have never had success messaging feedback or discipline once the team member has lost control of their emotions.

In my experience, most of these tearful events fall into one of the below categories and I take a slightly different approach with each;

1.      True/Legitimate Crises: Thankfully, these are the rarest, but also the most difficult on both my end and the employee’s. This is a situation when something unforeseen or beyond anyone’s control has occurred and tears shed are from true sorrow. It can be due to loss of a loved one, serious diagnoses including the employee’s own physical or mental health,  genuine mistakes or medical errors,and other situations of similar gravity. Most people have personally been affected by this, including me.

When these occur, I remain supportive and adjust what this support ultimately looks like to each individual person. Some want to sit quietly and collect themselves, others want to cry on my shoulder or verbalize all their anguish. I let these situations take a natural course and offer any and every resource available to help. Prioritizing the employee’s personal needs above work is key as is messaging it to them in a way that they trust and believe me. I often have to be the voice of reason and insist its ok for them to take bereavement, a personal leave, or adjust their work schedule.

2.      Consequence of Poor Choices: These are usually my younger and less mature staff. Occasionally it’s a tenured employee who has managed to squeak by for too long. Situations that come to mind include those who push the limits of rules or policies and wind up terminated or have patterns of behavior that do not reflect our organization’s core values.

In the past, I terminated a young employee who was in many ways a stellar team member who worked as a registrar. However, she lacked the maturity and/or willingness to comply with the attendance policy. This resulted in an initial disciplinary warning to be issued during her new hire probation. Shortly thereafter, she had a rude exchange in the presence of a patient. The attendance issue early in her employment placed her in a final warning situation and she was terminated for the behavioral incident. During the term meeting, as the finality of the situation hit her, she broke down in my office and cried for almost an hour.

In these cases, I offer support to a point. For instance, in the above situation I offered some contacts of local staffing agencies that she could reach out to for expedited employment while she looked for another full time position. I retrieved a bottle of water and some Kleenex. I offered her to stay in my office until she felt comfortable to leave. No matter the reason, I always believe terminated employees deserve to be treated with compassion. I allow them time to calm down and any visible signs of crying to subside. I frequently offer to gather their personal belongings if they prefer to leave directly from my office rather than return to their work area in front of coworkers.

3.      Drama Royals: Queens, kings, princesses, jesters- call them whatever you like, they love drama. And I can always tell who is going to fall into this crowd because the first time we meet, they will tell me in their elevator pitch how much they abhor drama.  These are the individuals who either blatantly wreak havoc, or who I call “spoons” since they stir the pot amongst the team. They are often good at theatrics and can get away with nonsense for a while. Upon confrontation, they either lie, or when presented with undeniable evidence, may have a crying meltdown to gain sympathy. My tolerance level for this is slightly above 0.01% and the human in me wants to debate with them and play my own role – something like “Judge Judy” would fit for most scenarios. Nonetheless, I hold to my plan and try not to make the situation any worse. This is sometimes the hardest part of my job

The only way I know to deal with these is to maintain calmness and avoid provoking them. Once they misstep (which they all eventually do) enough to warrant serious repercussions then I take further action.  When these incidents are at a level that is more trivial, I employ a firmer stance. I will provide constructive feedback and “tough love” in the hopes that the employee will step up and do the right thing moving forward. If not, many of them come to realize they need to pursue a different career trajectory. Occasionally, if the scene continues beyond a reasonable time frame I will stand up and begin physically gathering my things for “my next meeting that I am late for.” This is a time management strategy I learned from a book years ago that has served me well in a variety of situations where I need to end conversations happening in my own office.

On a personal level, my only real meltdown at work was following a significant medication error. As a clinical pharmacist, I profiled a methylprednisolone infusion for a COPD patient who required a preservative-free brand. This forced me to use a different NDC and manual entry from a 500mg vial for a 60mg dose. Ultimately, the computer system auto-populated the dose to 500mg and I failed to notice and change it back to 60mg. The patient received three infusions, eight hours apart each, before a nurse noticed the mistake. Aside from minor hyperglycemia, the patient was unharmed and – surprise surprise- breathing quite well. I was a newly graduated pharmacist and the gravity of the situation hit me hard. I went into a bathroom and tearfully shook for several minutes. After calming down, I realized how blessed I (and especially the patient) was that if I had to pick one drug to dose a patient over 10x the ordered dose, I would have picked this drug.

It didn’t happen in the presence of my supervisor, but I imagine if he had been there it easily could have. I would have needed him to listen to me and remind me everything was alright. To live and learn and move forward. I am sure that’s exactly how he would have handled it. Unfortunately, I have had other supervisors over the years that would have taken the opportunity to belittle and lecture me on my lack of attention to detail and patient safety. Such an event could have been a game-changer in my professional path. Instead of learning from my mistake and becoming a better pharmacist and healthcare leader, I might have lost my sense of self-confidence, and who knows what I would be doing today.

No matter what type of scenario and tears shed, as leaders and colleagues we have an opportunity to raise others up and support them. A wise CEO once told me to live by the rule “do the right thing.” Even when others aren’t – such as drama royals – we still have an opportunity to do the right thing and react with thoughtfulness.

John: The joy comes when you are able to implement advice this this immediately. All of us have feelings, and whether we admit it or not, we can be ruled by them if not dealt with appropriately. Treat employees like people. Our organizations and patients, depend on it.