The Keys to Success

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What makes for a great startup MLM company? For answers, you can do no better than to consult the Sheffield Group. Over the past 30 years, Sheffield has built a reputation as the direct selling industry’s leading consultancy for new MLM companies. The unrivalled expertise of the Sheffield Group has been proven in its work launching or guiding over 1,000 companies.

There are five key areas every startup MLM must address:

  1. Product
  2. Marketing
  3. Distributors
  4. Operations
  5. Finance

You’ll notice immediately that most of these categories are familiar to every business. What distinguishes direct selling is the requirement to build a sales organization of independent distributors. These people are quite different from employees, because they are volunteers who can come and go as they please. You get to guide and influence your distributors, but you can’t direct them as you would employees.  


In key respects a great MLM product is like any other great product: it meets an important need with a large potential market at a price that consumers can afford. However, you need to bear in mind the specific competitive conditions of directly selling. A startup MLM should realistically assess its product line with these criteria in mind:

  1. Does our product have a story that needs to be told?
  2. Is our product consumable, bringing recurring income opportunities for distributors?
  3. How unique is our product? Do we own the intellectual property? Is there a patent?
  4. Are we trying to compete on price (a poor strategy for direct selling) or do we hold a quality advantage?
  5. Do our margins allow enough to fund a generous and effective compensation strategy?

 These criteria are more important than the particular product category you are in. Almost any type of product — or service — can be successful in direct selling if it meets most (ideally all) of these criteria. 

The Sheffield Group specializes in advising startup MLM companies on the selection, manufacture, pricing and positioning of their product line. If you’re not sure if your product or service is right for the industry, or you haven’t yet settled on what to sell, this is an area where Sheffield will provide invaluable guidance.


For a startup MLM, the essentials of marketing are the same as for any other business:

  1. A strong brand effectively presented.
  2. Clear messaging that addresses precisely what the target market most wants.
  3. Attractive product positioning, packaging, pricing and bundling.
  4. Well written and designed marketing tools, including website, videos and mobile app.

 What makes direct selling different is that your marketing is not primarily direct-to-consumer, although much of it will be visible to the public online. Its main purpose is to equip your distributors with the tools they need to sell your product and recruit other distributors. Remember that your volunteer army of distributors are not trained salespeople. Think of them more as lead generators. Your task as a company is to close the sale for them with powerfully effective marketing tools. 

This is an area where The Sheffield Group offers you unrivalled know-how. You will benefit from our successful experience guiding literally hundreds of other startup MLMs.


Your success as a new direct selling company depends ultimately on your independent distributors. It’s therefore essential that you understand the characteristic mindset, motivations and behaviors of your growing distributor organization. 

Compensation that attracts and retains distributors is fundamental. As a startup MLM you should avoid thinking of compensation as the same as wages in a conventional business. In direct selling the function of the compensation plan is  to motivate the behaviors that drive growth. These behaviors are not uniform throughout the organization. New distributors should focus primarily on selling your products. Gradually they will expand their goals to recruiting other distributors, while continuing to make a priority of product sales. As they advance, distributors should focus increasingly on leadership: now their task is to train and guide the people who have been recruited into their personal organization. This means that your compensation strategy must be complex enough to incentivize each appropriate activity at different levels of advancement.

Not all distributors will be equally committed. 80% will make one or two initial sales and then slip out of view. It’s important to realize that these lapsed distributors may remain loyal customers. As for the rest, only 18% of your distributors are likely to remain consistently active in selling product and recruitment. Just 2% will reach the high level of leadership that drives the majority of sales. When you understand this diversity of engagement, you can plan your business, and your compensation strategy, to match the needs of every distributor. 

It’s essential that you develop a simple and repeatable sales process that can be taught to all distributors. Your director of sales should lead the implementation of this process while also focusing on attracting a strong frontline of experienced distributors. 

As a startup MLM, always be aware that distributors are motivated by more than money. Your company’s mission, purpose, story and culture have an equally important part to play. People will join you and remain long term because they find meaning as well as financial reward in your opportunity.

The Sheffield Group has a deep understanding of distributor dynamics and will gladly guide you in this most important area of your new business. We can also guide you to the best team for finding and recruiting your director of sales.


Once again, much of the operational side of a startup MLM is like any other business. However there are some unique factors you should bear in mind:

  • Exponential growth is a real possibility in direct selling and is one of the reasons to choose this channel. This means you must ensure that you can meet the demands of supply, finance and organization to handle rapid growth.
  • Your compensation plan will be implemented through specialist software. Everything depends on the smooth and reliable functioning of this software: delays in payout will rapidly diminish your distributor population and cripple your business. Your selection of software provider is therefore critically important.
  • There are particular laws and regulations that specifically apply to the direct selling industry. A general business attorney, no matter how competent, is not equipped to serve you in this area. You must hire an experienced MLM law firm. 

Sheffield can guide you in managing these special operational issues and will introduce you to the specialist external resources that can be relied on to meet your needs.


For every startup MLM, the cost of launch is a critical question. The budget needed will depend on the kind of product you are marketing, the status of your product development and manufacture,  the know-how of your executive team, and many other factors. However, you can confidently expect to budget for these costs among others:

  • Consulting services from direct selling experts
  • An MLM attorney
  • Specialist MLM software
  • A director of sales and other early hires
  • Product inventory
  • Brand strategy, marketing, writing, and graphic design

Dependable financial modeling will make it possible for you to predict cash flows and manage expenditures as you grow.  There are unique challenges when it comes to financial modeling for a startup MLM. Exponential growth, seasonal fluctuations and the special dynamics of distributor behavior all need to be accounted for. The Sheffield Group is expert in this field and has built a pro forma financial modeling tool that is unrivalled in the support it can give to your executive decision-making.

How Sheffield Can Help

The Sheffield Group is uniquely positioned in helping you launch a successful startup MLM. Our team has launched or advised over 1,000 direct selling companies in the past 30+ years. There is virtually no problem facing new direct selling companies that Sheffield has not seen and helped solve. Sheffield will provide the guidance you need and introduce the best resources, addressing all the key aspects of your launch: product, marketing, distributors, operations, and finance.

CALL US: 480-968-6199

How Sheffield Can Help You Start Your MLM Company

Founder Mike Sheffield is renowned worldwide as an industry leader. He and his team have decades of experience helping startup MLM companies get from “zero to hero” in the shortest possible time, and at the lowest realistic cost.

Importantly, the Sheffield Group is equipped to address every aspect of your future success — either with our in-house consulting team, or with the support of our world-class network of specialist experts.


  • Concept and Product Review
  • Compensation Strategy
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Sales Pathways
  • Product Positioning
  • Distributor Recruitment Strategies
  • Financial Modeling
  • Culture Development


  • MLM Software
  • Branding and Design
  • Website and App Development
  • Online Positioning and Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Executive Recruitment
  • MLM Law

Starting an MLM Company: Your Next Step

Looking for the best possible help as a startup MLM?  Contact the Sheffield Group for a free initial consultation. To make an appointment, simply call us, or click the Message link below.

Let’s Talk About Your Business