An Unlimited Number of Mary Kay “Executives”?

This was an awesome comment on an older post about the lies they tell about sales director income. I thought it needed to be a post of its own.

Written by Mountaineer95

Companies do not promise unlimited numbers of executive positions will be available, no matter how well you perform. They can only have so many Sales Managers, Sales Directors, etc. So to achieve one of these limited positions, you must perform to the standards set, and on top of that must perform over others vying for the same position.

MLM doesn’t have that last requirement.

In MLM, anybody who achieves a certain level of parameters will be “promoted” to Whatever Executive Name. There’s no limit, just sell/recruit to the requirements and poof, you’re an executive! So why is this a bad thing?

MLMs (yes, MK included) tout the possibility of unlimited income (or, maybe just “executive” income). I don’t mean that the companies themselves PROCLAIM that anyone can achieve executive income; most know better than to do that as it might bring legal heat to their businesses. But even if they don’t tout it, their compensation structure clearly shows that anyone can essentially reach the highest level in the (pyramid) structure, if only he or she achieves certain criteria. For example in the MK compensation structure, nowhere does it specify that there can only be x number of NSDs active at any time, right? That alone shows us that technically ANYONE can be an NSD for MK, as long as they meet the criteria.

An unlimited number of executive positions available? How can any normal company permit this?

If the possibility existed for ALL employees to be able to obtain a senior level (per MK, NSD-level) position with NO caps on how many people could achieve it, then that company would NEVER have to push its existing employees to recruit new ones; the company wouldn’t have to pursue any hiring at all…

Word would already be out, for a company of forty years or so, that this executive income is available to anyone. (Albeit, not without very hard work and dedication, as that is for senior executives in any company…the difference being that in every other company there are only a few openings available for those who meet these requirements, but MK is able to offer UNLIMITED positions such as these).

With this opportunity of UNLIMITED executive positions in MK available, not a single person should have to actively or aggressively “recruit” or “share the opportunity”. The opportunity would already be known far and wide, and recruiting shouldn’t be difficult; rather, you’d be fending them off or at least being selective about who you sign up…stars only!

…Especially when the company has better brand recognition than Coca Cola.

…Jokes aside, If this recognizable, established company has unlimited executive positions available that are achievable and pay six figure incomes, then candidates (that’s what we call prospective employees in the real world) would flock in droves to pursue it. Existing representatives would be fielding calls, emails, tweets, and tags non stop. They sure wouldn’t be placing fishbowls for fake drawings in their local Chinese takeout joints.

But that’s not the case. People are not tripping over themselves to sign up as IBCs. Essentially every current MK person is actively (and sometimes aggressively) seeking new customers and/or recruits. Why? It doesn’t make sense when weighed against the “opportunity” that’s presented.

NSD is the highest level attainable. And, it’s not a promotion that’s granted or designated by MKC. It is achieved by meeting specific criteria. There is no cap on how many NSDs can exist in MK. It’s not a CEO position (almost every company has one, and that’s already occupied in MK); it’s not a C-Suite position at all. Nor is it a corporate executive sales position (such as Sean Key’s role).

NSD is NOT an executive position in MK Corp. it’s a designation for the highest producing members of the independent contractors’ population. This fact means that reaching NSD should be much, much easier than becoming an actual CEO in any company. MK already has its Corp CEO. But MK allows for, and wants, as many NSDs as can reach the requirements necessary,

So since there is NO cap on how many NSDs are permitted in MK, there should be no really good reason why 8,997 out of 9,000 directors can’t achieve it. Sure, we can take out the bad apples, the lazy losers, the ones who dropped out because family/illness/zombies/whatever. But that still leaves THOUSANDS of directors who DO want to get to NSD, and who are told that nothing can prevent them from getting there, if they only try and believe and work and focus and (am I leaving anything out?)

Statistics don’t lie (and I suck at them but an old friend with a Doctorate in statistics who now works for a three-letter agency confirmed to me once that they do in fact not lie); if nearly 9,000 people are all offered the same upper-level sales management job within the same company, with no restrictions on who or how many can get there other than by performing to the standards and requirements needed for that level as laid out by the employer, and only two or three of that 9,000 can achieve it, then the “opportunity” that any and all of them could achieve it MUST be a lie or a crock or otherwise not as it’s presented.

Why? Hey, all y’all are welcome to become NSDs, just do XYZ! Why can’t y’all do it? Well, that’s where we dive back into the statistics pool (I’m gonna hang out here by the ladder with my floaties on). No company that sells anything can promise a staff of thousands that every single one of them can advance in level and pay (and not that every one of them has the opportunity to meet the requirements for promotion, but that every single one of them WILL advance IF meet the requirements for promotion.).

Simply said, if I have a staff of 100 managers, and I have three Executive Manager positions available to be filled from the pool of the 100 current managers, then I’ll have minimum criteria established for what I need the candidate to achieve to be qualified for the higher position, and out of the group that meet the requirements, I’ll narrow down to the three who will be promoted.

Sounds good, right? This is hiring 101. And also, promoting 101. You have a specific number of positions available based on current business climates, and you only hire for what business climate and needs recommend. This point is crucial in differentiating MLMs from “normal” companies. Normal companies incur costs for every employee they hire, like training etc, while MLMs put ALL of the onboarding costs on their reps (starter kit, anyone?).

So while normal companies will only hire a certain number of employees due to costs of hiring and onboarding, MLM will “hire” anyone willing to sign the form and pay for the kit. The cost of the kit is carefully chosen so that the MLM doesn’t lose much, if any, money on it, and some probably make a profit on it.

I apologize for my tangent and appreciate your patience, and I leave you with this:


*if only you work hard enough


  1. Kristen

    From my personal experience:

    To play devil’s advocate, I didn’t get the impression (as a consultant anyway) that there were unlimited NSD positions available. But the social proof of all these women around me succeeding made me believe that it was possible for WAY more women than is reality. I had to clap until my hands were sore at the frigging seminar for God’s sake. I did not realize they were lying about their success. Yes, if one analyzes the MLM model, the idea is that anyone can get there. But I don’t think they highlight this as part of the brainwashing, at least not at the consultant level. Doing so would raise red flags. Maybe the idea is to push it as a consultant becomes a director?

    For me, it was general naïveté. I couldn’t zoom out and see the whole picture. I had no business knowledge. I had this vague understanding floating in the pink fog that competition existed in MK. MK just leaves the number open to allow for the dream buy-in.

    Why do people, especially Americans, want so badly to believe that you can achieve absolutely anything? No parameters. Personality fit, skills, weaknesses, bah! Not important. Also, don’t fail at Mary Kay or you are a lazy loser, failure at life. There’s no, “this isn’t a good fit.”

    Hidden Message is:
    Not everyone can make it, but you can.
    You are more special than all the other failures.
    You can figure out what millions of others can’t. Failures gave up or weren’t as smart as you.

    MKs goal is to detract you from the innumerable failure of others and get you to focus on your own dreams. Of course, they hope you don’t get an epiphany and realize, “wait, they’re saying this to everyone!” Even though it’s all around you.

  2. AnonyMouse

    “Sounds good, right? This is hiring 101. And also, promoting 101. You have a specific number of positions available based on current business climates, and you only hire for what business climate and needs recommend. This point is crucial in differentiating MLMs from “normal” companies. Normal companies incur costs for every employee they hire, like training etc, while MLMs put ALL of the onboarding costs on their reps (starter kit, anyone?).

    So while normal companies will only hire a certain number of employees due to costs of hiring and onboarding, MLM will “hire” anyone willing to sign the form and pay for the kit. The cost of the kit is carefully chosen so that the MLM doesn’t lose much, if any, money on it, and some probably make a profit on it.”

    This. This is what really solidified my departure from any positive thinking towards MLMs. This is what makes me think Mary Kay Ash is not some saint-like figure providing avenues for women to have their own careers. What if that image is wrong? What if, through her own career in sales, she realized the position she REALLY wanted for herself was as the OWNER of the company, because that’s where REAL money is at? What if when she “sat down and ended up designing the perfect business” she was actually designing a system that would keep the reps on the hamster wheel and her sitting pretty at the top of the company enjoying their adulation? What if she knew that building her company this way would be the cheapest, fastest, most convenient way to make a profit because she could spin it as a “business opportunity” instead of fronting the costs of employees and storefronts and negotiating deals with other retailers to carry her product? WHAT IF the origin story of Mary Kay Inc. is much more sinister than we’ve been led to believe? WHAT IF Mary Kay Ash knew exactly what she was doing, and chose to spin the story in a way that would make her a hero and convince thousands of women to worship her and obey every word she said?

    You have to ask yourself these questions. And you have to look at the evidence. The fact that statistics don’t lie. The fact that you, as a consultant, pay for EVERYTHING. Any discounts or sales or prizes or gifts come out of YOUR pocket. The company keeps the entire wholesale cost of your orders, and your 50% that you’re supposed to keep is what pays for all of it. It also pays for your promotional materials, your business cards, your order forms, all the tools you need in order to promote yourself and sell products. Your “training”? You pay for it. If you are working in the IT department of a large corporation and there’s new technology that company wants you and your colleagues to learn, who pays for that training? The company does. They pay for your flight. For your hotel. Your transportation. Your meals. Whatever the actual training costs. When you’re in Mary Kay, who pays for your training? YOU DO. And that’s also supposed to come out of YOUR profit and commissions. There is no way the “50% profit on everything you sell” will cover all of that and leave enough to live on if you are an average consultant who has a life that doesn’t revolve completely around Mary Kay. So what do you have to do? You MUST recruit in order to finance that Mary Kay lifestyle. There is no way around it. Look at the math. The REAL math, not the math printed on the recruitment worksheet. When they say you can make a living off of product sales alone, that is at best deceptive, at worst a deliberate lie. And don’t come at me with “any businessperson knows that you have to re-invest in your business for it to grow.” That’s not what this is. This is Mary Kay Inc. funneling your profits back into themselves and keeping you desperately reaching for the next level, all the while convincing you that the “real money” is just over the next hill, that the hamster wheel slows down when you reach this level or that level. No. It doesn’t. There will always be more, more, more.

    This was long. I’m feeling expressive today. Thank you for reading my book. LOL

  3. Cindylu

    Just looking at all the fake titles is enough to overwhelm or confuse us. Future National NSD etc. Then the initial NSD’s from the 1970’s or 1980’s get the title emeritus. Nice touch an honorary title for the original con artists. The cultish lure of fawning over MK as though she were some kind of saint. We were given the promise of a better tomorrow and we believed it. We got into the Sunk Cost Fallacy which is our tendency to follow through on an endeavor if we have already invested time, effort or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits. How could this possibly fail when we saw women at meetings and seminar bragging of their success. Also MK itself gave out sashes, prizes, trips and public accolades. Is it any wonder it takes a while for critical thinking to set in. Like those fleeing North Korea, we begin to reassess what we’ve been told. It is only after many weeks of investigating, that we shamefully realize we’ve been duped by group think.

    1. BestDecision

      The ship IS sinking. People are leaving and starting side gigs in droves. They’re realizing their final take-home income is NOT what they boast of, nor is it close to what they could be making on the outside.

      And no Career Conference to create a 90-day ordering surge. Time to abandon ship!

  4. Char

    “Executives”. Do consultants really think they are executives in the company?

    While this might not be a perfect analogy because it doesn’t involve recruiting or cash, it still comes to mind for me:

    “The flying force” (I couldn’t help myself). I am, of course, referring to frequent flyers. With United, you can reach 1k Premier Status. You are treated very well for purchasing many flights with them, and it comes with all kinds of perks: boarding first, upgrades, free drinks, lounge access, etc..

    However, 1K members don’t for one minute think they are part of United Airlines Co. – especially not executives in the company. They are merely VIP customers with loads of perks. They are treated special to encourage them to be loyal to the company – as a paying customer!

    United sells their seats direct to this customer. Buy enough of them and get treated like a King/Queen when using your bought ticket, but no stock options, health insurance, guaranteed pay, or retirement. That’s reserved for employees of the corporation.

    Caveat: I know NSDs can get a retirement. There are so few of them, even though it’s open to everyone, that MK can dangle that carrot. If it were easier to attain, I bet they would reconsider and adjust the perks. There are only so many first class seats on the plane.

    There is actually something I don’t like about comparing the MLM pyramid with the corporate pyramid, or my own analogy of frequent flyers. Corporate employees and frequent flyers don’t LIE to climb the ladder. To me, this is an important distinction, and why MLM is a scam. You cannot be successful in MLM unless you lie about the “opportunity”.

    P.S. Being a United 1K member doesn’t mean diddly to anyone outside the airport. But, in that crowded boarding lounge and full plane, it’s great. I sure don’t see an obituary stating our dearly departed was a Premier Status 1K member on United Airlines.

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