Direct Selling Legend: Larry Thompson

Larry Thompson was once called “The Architect of Wealth Building” by The Wall Street Journal. With more than 50 years of experience in direct selling, Thompson, along with Mark Hughes, the founder of Herbalife, laid the foundation for what has become one of the largest brands in direct selling.

Thompson is also known to be a mentor and coach to Rolf Sorg, founder of PM-International, which achieved over $1.7 billion in sales last year. Nicknamed the “Mentor to the Millionaires,” Thompson continues to coach many of the industry’s leading companies and top network marketing professionals from around the world with the still-timely and relevant training concepts he developed more than four decades ago.

What inspired you to get involved in a direct selling business?

I didn’t know what a business model was. I was a long-haired hippie construction worker with no education and no self-confidence or self-esteem. I came to a meeting because it was held at the Hyatt, and I always thought it would be cool to drive in there and have them open your doors. I’d never been to a hotel in my life. When I got there, I could identify with the products; they were clean and organic and pure and kind of fit with the environment I was in as a hippie. I started doing the demonstrations and getting so excited about it. That’s what got me moving.

When did you decide direct selling was the right choice for you?

I knew right away. I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to buy these products. I had no sales experience, but I did know this: I thought everybody should have these products. That night Jim Rohn and I joined at the same meeting Bobby Depew was leading. Jim is now known as a philosopher, and Bobby is the original network marketing strategist. That’s where I learned all of my stuff. They inspired me to be able to think I could do more and believe in myself.

What are a few of your most memorable moments?

That very first meeting where I met Bobby and Jim. They saw that extra desire in me, that extra willingness to work. They saw it because they had it in themselves. The second is working with Mark Hughes. Mark really influenced me because he saw things slightly differently than I saw them. If it had not been for blending the naivety and simplicity he had with the experience I had, Herbalife would not have been what it is today. Meeting those three people and working with them the way I was able to work with them and create what we’ve been able to create—in business, that’s it.

What is your outlook for the business model?

We had such a banner year last year. Just like in 1980 when everything changed with audience language behavior, it’s changed again, and we have to adapt. How can we be so naïve as to think that we don’t have to change as dramatically as other businesses have? Network marketing is competing in this gig environment, where there are 60 plus million people out there looking for the same thing I was looking for 50 years ago.

What advice would you like to share with our audience?

Your past does not determine your future. With technology, a day is now a week, and a week is now a month, and a month is now a quarter. Speed is of the essence. Make a decision. Do it now and get ahead of the curve. That’s what we did in Herbalife; that’s what PM-International did.