The stories of successful leaders have always been important in direct selling. They show others how “real” this business is and also they inspire and motivate many people. I have never been on the field, but I have been on the corporate side from the beginning. From this perspective, only you can decide whether my story is inspiring or not. I just wanted to tell about how network marketing started in Turkey and what had happened during the early stages, from my point of view. My story will be in a series of articles with other subjects to be published in between not to bore you too much.
I have a marketing background. My working life started as a product manager at a fast moving goods company. I got married. When the local shareholders of Colgate-Palmolive Turkey decided to bring in an incompetent marketing manager, my decision was to leave after two years.
Then, I worked for Yapi Kredi, a major bank in Turkey. I learned a lot during my two years there. That bank had organized its marketing department according to product management principles and this was an invaluable experience for me. The story repeated itself there with me facing another less-than-competent supervisor who was hired to replace the lead of our department.
In November 1991, while I was actively looking for another job, one day I saw an ad placed by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Turkey. It was on behalf of a Swedish direct selling company by the name of Oriflame. They were looking for a Country Manager to start Oriflame’s operations in Turkey. I applied. Not because I found myself suitable, but only to be able to find a way out from my position at the bank.
I was invited to an interview. First, I was interviewed by a lady from the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, and then, by two managers from Oriflame, namely Sven Mattsson and Fredrik Ragmark. Sven Mattsson was in charge of company’s expansion to Eastern Europe from the operational aspects, and Fredrik Ragmark from the legal aspects.
Two days later, Fredrik Ragmark called me to have a lunch together. “Things were getting serious,” I thought. We had a lunch at Swissotel in Istanbul. He asked me more questions, and I asked him less.
After few days, I was invited to Brussels, Belgium to meet one of the owners, Jonas af Jochnick. This made me more confident about getting the job.
I flew to Brussels and met with Jonas af Jochnick the next morning. The small office from
where the expansion was being coordinated was on Avenue Louise. It wasn’t a long conversation. I remember I was very impressed with how humble Jonas af Jochnick was. Then, I went to Sven Mattsson’s office to negotiate my package. Yes, I was about to make a big jump in my career! When I went back to my hotel later in the afternoon, I called my wife back in Turkey. She was in a meeting. I told her department secretary, “Please tell my wife that I got the General Manager position!”
The following morning, I flew back to Istanbul. It was December 1991 and I was the General Manager of Turkey’s first network marketing company. Apart from the compensation plan document that I had received during my first interview and the few things that I had learned during the course, I didn’t have a clue about the dynamics of network marketing. But I was sure of one thing that this concept was tailor-made for the Turkish people who were born networkers.
Next part: Foundations