Meet JJ Birden
How to Pivot your Career? From NFL Player to Direct Seller.
Network marketing tips from former NFL player JJ Birden
Read JJ Birden’s story to learn his secret for success.
Former NFL player, JJ Birden, knew he needed to pivot careers after nine successful years playing in the NFL. He started his own business and threw all his energy into making it a success but after several years he was ‘overworked, underpaid and stressed out.’ He knew he needed to find another way to support his family and create the life he wanted for them.
JJ Birden, thank you so much for talking to me today, you’ve achieved so much outside of network marketing, but today we want to hear all about the business you’ve been building for the last seven years. So, how did you first find Isagenix and start growing your network marketing business?
I was in the NFL for nine years and what lots of people don’t realize is that most professional athletes need a Plan B. You need to have a transition plan because a small percentage of athletes are financially secure for life.
I was ready and primed to start my own business and over several years I ran various successful organizations. And, don’t get me wrong, I loved working with the people, but I was overworked, underpaid and stressed out.
I knew I needed something different.
And that was network marketing?
In 2007, I finally joined network marketing. I followed a buddy of mine and saw instant success. My wife, Raina, and I worked hard to build up our business and together we were able to support our family of ten (eight children, three biological and five adopted).
But, we didn’t do a lot of research into the company at the time and so eventually for one reason or another, we resigned.
So in 2013, six years later you started your business with Isagenix?
Yes, I had learnt a lot about what I wanted from a company and so I sat down and wrote a list of 11 bullet points.
I spent two weeks researching the top 50 network marketing companies and comparing them to my list of 11 bullet points.
Two of the key things I was after was a legacy company and the other was a company selling a product that I cared about and aligned with my passions.
Isagenix was the only company that checked off all 11 bullet points. And, as luck would have it, it’s based in Arizona, so I visited the facility, met the owners, toured the premises and I saw what Isagenix had built and knew that Raina and I would enjoy creating our own Isagenix business.
It sounds like it’s a perfect fit! When you first started, did you have a mentor guiding you?
I’m a firm believer in coaches and mentors. As an athlete, you always rely on your coach and the coaches I admired the most or learnt the most from were the ones who were ex-NFL because they really got it. I like to learn from other people’s success and their failures.
I’ll admit though, I started in the industry with a bit of an ego. Laughs (that’s not me anymore) I had run my own businesses, I thought how difficult could this be? The first two years I saw no growth, no duplication. I brought on quite a few customers, but my business wasn’t going anywhere. 17 months in I said to my mentor that I was thinking of quitting. We talked it out and my mentor said to me that if I did stay, if I wanted to see better results, I had to be more coachable.
And I thought, what me? He said yes, you! “I say left and you go right.” Laughs.
That’s when I started listening, falling back on my training as an athlete and listening to my coach, the person who knew what they were talking about because they had the experience and were already a success. From that point on, I rapidly saw success myself.
After over a decade in the world of direct sales, what’s your advice for someone starting out?
Do your homework.
Homework and due diligence. I did a lot of research about the industry before I joined my first network marketing company. You hear good things about the industry and bad things. But, I wanted to know enough that I could make my own informed opinion. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t have that knowledge to back up my confidence in this business decision.
Then, if you’ve decided network marketing is for you do your homework on what company you join.
My advice, look for a legacy company. One that has a long term vision with a long term commitment. One that’s gone through the learning curve and is ready to support its consultants.
You’re very organized and clearly do a lot of research. How do you make sure your team is on track?
From the NFL I learnt that you need a coach who is leading from the front.
I set this example for my team, I’m going to the top so I set the pace for everyone else. I am running fast, but if you want to run faster, I’ll be right there with you.
People need to understand this is a business. One of my football coaches used to love saying, ‘Blah, blah, blah — Do the Work.’ Because no matter your excuses you still got to do the work to see the results.
Set the expectation, no one is going to give it to you, you have to work. It’s called netWORK marketing — this industry isn’t a quick fix.
As an athlete, I had to consistently work hard to prove myself and get better at the game, it’s the same with network marketing.
You’ve accomplished so much outside of network marketing, but what have you been proud about achieving within this industry?
That’s a good question, you know, a lot of people think it’s easy for me in this industry. They assume that because I’m an ex-pro athlete that people flock to join my team.
But, it’s not true! People may want to talk to me and hear about my time playing with Joe Montana, but that doesn’t mean they want to sign up as a customer and certainly not as a regular customer or a member of my business.
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and that I was open to this opportunity. Because I have committed to this industry, I didn’t give up, I work and I build. You better believe I’m in the trenches every day doing the work.
Have there ever been any obstacles in network marketing for you?
Lots! But, the biggest challenge was when my wife and I left our previous company, we had built up an incredibly successful business and I knew that with Isagenix it was going to be different.
We started again completely from scratch, not bringing over our huge team of our clients because we didn’t want to step on any toes. We just wanted a clean break.
It was a big mindset shift, that the second time was going to be different. It was an endurance race and we knew it would take longer to reach out goals this second time around. That’s important because it’s easy to think about your prior success and how fast you got to the top and compare how this build is taking longer. We understood that coming in and it’s one of the reasons we wanted to be part of Isagenix. We knew they were going to do their job, so we need to just stay the course.
I knew that once again I just needed to keep it simple, stick to the basics and be consistent.
Where are you on your journey at the moment?
We’re always actively building the business. That’s why Penny is so great, she allows me to focus on those daily revenue producing activities.
Because, however long it takes, we’re going to the top, that’s the goal and anyone who joins our team knows that’s where we’re heading. I tell the ones I’m working with this all the time and that I want you to go with me. However, if you’re not ready, that’s ok, we are still going anyway.
How do you use the Penny app to run your business?
The Penny app is the most impressive CRM business system I’ve seen for the network marketing industry.
Inconsistency is the cancer of our profession. Penny eliminates the guesswork from our day to day. When I sit down at my desk to work on my business I open up Penny app and say, “Good morning Penny, what have you got for me today?”
And she doesn’t respond, but I imagine her saying. “Today on your daily, JJ, we have…”
As an athlete I’m in the habit of evaluating my performance. Penny gives me a way to drill down into how I’ve performed so I can ask myself at the end of each day — based on my performance today would I hire me or fire me?
Some of my business partners are working their business part-time and might only have 30 minutes a day to devote to it. Penny helps them so much because they go to Penny app and their daily tells them exactly what to do for those 30 minutes.
It keeps us consistent. It’s just awesome.
I’m so glad you love Penny! You talk a lot about the importance of having a why — what’s your why at the moment?
Early on, the why was to provide for our family. We had eight children, three biological and five adopted. This year, our youngest is about to move out. So now, our why has shifted. We’re college sweethearts and had a honeymoon baby so our married life together has been about our children. Now, it’s about providing a life for the two of us so we can travel, pay off our debt and have quality time together.
And that’s all most of us want, to live a comfortable life where we don’t have to worry. What’s been the biggest learning curve on your network marketing journey?
That there are good days and bad days and you can’t let the bad days derail you. Some days are wall kicking days, others huge wins.
I have bad days. But, I know that I’ve got to stay in the game. Got to keep working, got to keep going. Every day is a new opportunity to impact someone new.
I run my business full-time Monday — Friday, and a few hours on the weekend. The beauty of this industry is that it’s flexible so one day I might work 10 hours, another day, four hours, and some days my wife and I just decide to take the day off!
But, I never totally switch off, because if a member of my team needs me then I will be there for them.
You’re totally committed to your team, I watched some highlights from your power hours and everyone seems so pumped!
For power hour, once a week, we all get together on Zoom and pull up Penny app. Then we have a challenge to see who can complete as many tasks as possible! It was the CEO at Penny who made me want to do this, he said someone, I think it was Amanda… was completing 18 tasks in an hour. So I challenge my team to complete 20 tasks during power hour!
It holds us accountable and my team see me working just as hard as every one of them.
Do you think your athletic background and what you learnt from the NFL has helped you build your business and run your team?
The work ethic and the mental attitude definitely. Discipline, grit, focus, that roll up your sleeves attitude to go after you want and grow.
I think as well, getting to the NFL, let alone playing in the NFL, I faced so many challenges and hurdles that I had to push through and overcome. So now, problems in my network marketing job, they’re speed bumps, not the Great Wall of China. Laughs. It’s helped me put things in perspective.
2020, was certainly a year for putting life into perspective, has it affected your business at all?
In comparison to other industries, we’ve done well. My online wellness business with Isagenix is my full-time job, but on the side I take on around 25 professional, motivational speaking jobs a year and as soon as covid hit every single one of them was cancelled.
So I was so grateful that I had this flourishing business where we’re already using Zoom and social media to connect and work. The only thing that changed was that there was no live interactions or events.
If anything we’ve seen an increase in enrollments from customers who are looking for an alternative way to stay healthy and ensure they’re getting the right nutrients. But also, we’re having people who are burned out and done with their current situation and are looking for a drastic career change. (Like I was when I first found network marketing!)
Lots of people have been more open to the idea of network marketing after assessing what’s actually important to them.
How does it compare, network marketing to running a more traditional business — did you ever think about returning?
I wish I had found network marketing sooner. All professional athletes are burned out and get pushed out at some point. You physically can’t do it forever and I went in one direction, but it didn’t work for me, or at least it didn’t give me the life I wanted.
Network marketing has been a perfect fit. I’ve been doing it for 13 years and I’m with Isagenix for the long haul now.
Thank you so much for speaking with me today and sharing all your insights into the world of network marketing. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you! The one thing I would like to share is the answer to a question so many people ask me — what’s the secret to my success? And all I can say is this:
- Keep it simple
- Stick to the basics
- Be consistent
When you join a network marketing business they give you all the tools to succeed — so when I say keep it simple I mean follow the system that is being taught by your business partner or sponsor.
The basics are, well they’re basic. Talk to people, make connections, followup with them. Master the basics, get really good at them, they’re what’s going to grow your business and they never change.
And finally, be consistent. It’s not enough to do this just once a month or even once a week. This is a business and you’re only going to see results if you keep on going and don’t give up.
JJ Birden pivoted his career not once, but twice, until he found the industry that would give him exactly what he was looking for from life.
If you’re running your own business and find that it’s suddenly taking over your free time — check out Penny, the AI-powered virtual assistant that helps you build and run a successful business through repeatable, scaleable, customer-centric sales processes.
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