Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Piece of "Atmosphere"

Hello again. I figured that I would write a description of what is commonly known in these types of businesses as "ATMOSPHERE", due to the fact that many of you who have not experienced this cannot truly appreciate the culture behind this. It is largely the "fun" part of the business however that "fun" factor is more of a mind-control tactic than anything else. Atmosphere has the power to put the blinders on people, so they do not think about the negative aspects of the business. To those who can get past the unprofessionalism/craziness of it, it can be very powerful. Atmosphere is the 'essence' of the business, and what separates it from other sales positions.


Atmosphere is what I like to refer to as part of "the show." It is where all negativity about the company and the business is "washed away," or at least in theory this is what all owners hope that it does. In atmosphere there are some basic rules that guide:

1) No negativity should be brought into atmosphere - If someone has something negative to stay or has a "bad attitude," they will either be severely chastized or brought into another room by another leader for a "one-on-one" to either squash these negatives or send the 'negative' person packing.

2) You should always be either teaching or learning - You MUST have a notebook and pen in hands at all times, so as not to miss any 'vital' information that can enhance your 'career.' If you are among the elite, you should be teaching new hires and other leaders how to succeed in the marketing system via "IMPACTS" - which are mini-lessons scrawled out on a dry-erase board, or by "PRACTICE-PITCHING" - where one person acts as the sales rep and the other acts as the customer(s). If you are new you should be trying to learn how to do the marketing system by asking questions of the elite "TOP PRODUCERS" - those who sold alot of stuff the day before, or in general is an excellent seller.

Other rules/occurences during atmoshere:

- Music must be playing loud enough so that everyone must speak up to be heard (part of the reason for this is to discourage people from making negative comments as they then risk being heard and drawing negative attention towards themself)

- Music should be loud and energetic (no country music/depressing ballads, usually is rap/hip-hop/dance/etc)

- If you are a trainer/leader and have a new hire, you should be "attached to their hip" (known as the "belt-loop theory")

- Everyone should be in the 'impact room' (which is where atmosphere occurs) at all times unless they have another duty to attend to, not wandering around the office.

- Everyone should be in a "juice" state of mind. (Join Us In Creating Excitement)

- Leaders should rally new hires together and teach them or keep them separated - you don't want 2 new people getting together and "NEGGING" each other out of the 'business.'

- Everyone should be focused on their goals, and should have 'goal sheets' documenting their progress. For example, if someone knows they need work in their introduction, then that is what they should be practicing. Leaders should be on top of their own goals and their team members' goals as well.

- Atmosphere should be 20% fun and 80% learning; The opposite is true of the field (where people sell).

- My favorite: NOBODY IS PAID for coming in to atmosphere, but one is looked down upon if you are late or don't show up to it. This is due to an implied acceptance of the psychology that everyone should be working towards building their business and becoming an owner. If you treat atmosphere lightly, you are treating your career lightly and are heading towards being a "salesperson" for the remainder of your time here (meaning that you will NEVER make it to management level). This is this ideal which keeps this business going. It is very important to understand this if you want to understand the psychology of the business and what keeps peole roped into companies like this. See below how they make the distinction:

*A Salesperson - Someone who is only thinking of their next paycheck, never of their long-term future. They do not care about building a team, or building anything in life for that matter. This person does not have goals in life and if they maintain this mentality are not 'good employees' as far as this business goes. If one is to self-proclaim that they are just here to sell stuff they are more than likely to be chastized by the boss. Even though this person might be making good money, it looks bad to keep people around like this - they will be under constant pressure to build a team and move forward in the business. This type of person is 'demonified' in the business, much in the way that everyone outside of the business is demonified (as lazy, directionless 9-5 shmos).

This is all done so that everyone will want to become.....

*An Entrepreneur! - This person is goal-oriented, and is always looking to build their team/advance in the business. This type of person is excited about the opportunity, asks lots of questions to get themselves ahead, and puts in extra hours at the office to do so. It is the owner's wishes that as many people as possible adopt this mentality (then they really "get" the business and what it is). They are also coming in early so that they can have "one-on-one" conversations with the boss. -which basically translates into "brown-nosing," because as much as they'll have you believe that once you hit certain goals you move up, it is your owner who has the power to make or break you (only he can promote you into another office).

This is done very deliberately and is necessary to the survival of the business because nobody in their right mind wants to become someone who just sells stuff off of a table (so they cannot 'market' themselves to potential employees as such). In this way the business is romanticized/idealized and the ways of the business become gospel.


In a typical day there is morning and some night atmosphere. This may vary between offices. The schedule below outlines a typical day:

6:45-7:00 am - boss opens office - "one-on-ones" (a.k.a. 'critical conversations') may be offered at this time.

7:00 am - Leaders who have delegated responsibilities (such as writing up consignment sheets and building ports) should be here by this time.

7:30 am - All Leaders should be in atmosphere by this time. Whoever is going to do impacts is usually decided now. A top leader might give the other leaders an impact on leadership topics such as 'how to retain a day of o.'

7:45 am - All Distributors should be in atmosphere by this time.

7:45-8:45 am - Morning Atmosphere ~ Consists of

- Impacts (mini-lessons on dry-erase board)
- Practice Pitching & Pitching Games
- New Hire Introductions
- Morning Meeting & Cutoff time announced (the time everyone should be back at the office after a hard day of selling)
- Rapid-fire & High-Roller speech (top producers mentioned, high-fives around the room)
- Teams Announced
- Short "leaders' meetings" (territories distributed, "who's training today" is decided)
- Load-up (tables, banners, field kits, and ports - bins filled with merchandise are consigned to each sales team as they frantically load everthing into their cars) Whose house? WAREHOUSE!! is the common question-response for when this time comes up.

8:45-9:00 am - Days of O. are distributed amongst 'qualified' leaders; everyone else hits the field.

9:00 am - Anywhere between 5-7pm - Teams go out into the field and sell.
Whatever the cutoff time is is when people should be coming back to the office with all cash, slips, and unsold merchandise. If they "DROPPED PORT," or sold all of their merchandise then they can come back earlier and perhaps even go home early, though typically is it good example to take out another port and keep on selling.

5:00-8:00 pm (depends on day) - Settling-up; Ports checked in; Evening Atmosphere - Distributors are usually dismissed for this unless they have to settle up. Leaders have to stay at least until they are settled up.

Generally 'atmosphere' runs as long as there are people in the office.

Breakdown of Morning Atmosphere:

1) Impacts - As said, these are little lessons that only leaders are priveleged to administer. They always revolve around some aspect of the marketing system such as the 5 steps (Intro, Short-Story, Merchandise Contact, Close and Rehash), the 8-10 steps (be positive, be prepared, work your territory correctly, maintain your attitude, e.t.c.), the FUGI factors (Fear of Loss, sense of Urgency, Greed factor, and Indifference), and other things like saving time in the field (not stopping for coffee/breakfast, pitching people before setting up your table, not smoking cigs or taking breaks in the field, e.t.c).

2) Practice Pitching & Pitching Games - meant to develop people's selling skills. A typical game would be like a "hot-potato" where a ball is passed around and whoever has it when the music stops has to pitch the person in the center of the circle (imagining what items they have to sell). Another example is line pitching, where two lines are formed, they pitch each other and whoever closes the best deal within the allotted time restriction (1-3 minutes) will re-enact their pitch for everyone to see. These games can be quite fun, especially since the other distributors and leaders are typically not as hard to sell to as the real public.

3) New Hire Introductions - Briefly the new hires are introduced to the crowd, and the manager usually says a joke like "this person is looking for the nearest exit," or "she's wondering what we sprinkle on our cheer-e-os."

4) Morning Meetings - The owner will speak in front of everyone, and will usually give some kind of motivational speech, anecdote, or fabricated story in order to get a certain point across (like the person with the positive outlook will succeed, e.t.c). Cutoff time will be announced, meaning the latest anyone should be returning to the office to settle-up. It is here where everyone "Brings it in" - joins hands with the owner's hand on the bottom as he proclaims, "There's no such thing as a bad day with a great Attituuuuude!!" and then everyone repeats. Then the top producer of the day will choose a "word of the day," just like Pee Wee's Playhouse!

5) Rapid-Fire/High Roller speech - Everyone is in a circle. Whoever sold over a certain number of pieces (or sometimes someone who has greatly improved in sales but still sold under this number) is called out, then runs around the circle giving everyone a high-five. Pieces means production units, usually based on 1 piece = $10 of merchandise. The par for run-arounds is usually set between 20 and 30 pieces ($200-$300 in sales). The 'High-Roller' is the person(s) who sold the most pieces the day/night before. They are usually announced separately, after everyone else. Common phrases are "we got a guy...." and owner:"we got a high roller" -- everyone:"we got a high roller!" They then run around and high-five, sometimes twice, and may be prompted to give a brief <20sec speech.

6) Team Announcements - Usually a sales rep (distributor or leader) will go out with someone else as a team. The plus side of this can be that, if the 2 people get along, they have company and can bounce personalities off of each other. The minus can be that sales must then be split between 2 people. This depends on both the team combination and the type of territory they are sent to (high-volume vs. low-volume, affluent area vs. poor area). If an owner wants to test someone's resolve/ability to maintain their attitude, they will send them solo. This can also be done as underhanded punishment (or a way to isolate potential "neg balls" or people negative about the business), by sending them solo on a constant basis (if someone has a bad attitude - this usually doesn't make it better; if someone isn't into the business, this contains their 'bad' influence).

7) Daily Leader's meetings - Not to be confused with the longer periodic leaders' meetings, these occur briefly every day as the leaders get together and the new hires are left to themselves. The common phrase is "Leaders in the office, everyone else, GET TO LEADERSHIP!" This is one method of manipulating new hires into wanting to become leaders. It doesn't always work though, to the chagrin of some managers some distributors are content at being just distributors (a.k.a. 'salespeople,' they are typically uninvited to atmosphere, so as not to portray this as a desireable image in the office).

8) Load-up - Pretty self-explanatory, each team is given their merchandise and prompted to load up as fast as possible so that the morning rituals can be finished and everyone can enter the field/train/etc. Not only merchandise gets loaded up, but also tables, banners, and field-kits (translucent plastic bin containing credit card machine and various tools of the trade). Sometimes supplies are limited so some teams might have to fend for themselves (i.e. ask the store they are setting up at to borrow a table, use a t-shirt as a makeshift banner, buy a book of credit card slips e.t.c.).

Evening atmosphere - usually not as structured as morning atmosphere. Distributors are not exposed to much of evening atmosphere. A couple of standard occurences here:

1) "Break Down Your Day" - Whether you are a distributor or a leader, you should be doing this. Basically you go to the dry erase board, and a leader will ask you what you did well today(i.e. talked to everybody, rehashed well, dropped port) and what you need to work on tomorrow (i.e. icebreakers, short story). They will never say "what you did bad today" because that would be construed as negativity.

2) 'Rehash' of new hires - If someone didn't make alot of money today, their leader should get with them before they leave and make sure they are not going to quit. Words of encouragement, like "everybody has a day like this once in a while," or "I did the same way when I first started out.." are usually scripted for this purpose.


Eric Wolfram Said it best on his site, regarding atmosphere:

"This is a very important part to the business. Never under estimate it. This is where a person learns about the business, gets rejuvenated about the business and where the manager controls the business. It is the media."

The media. That is what atmosphere is. It is where management controls what gets said, what gets heard, and what information is omitted from the eyes and ears of the public. Examples of this type of "information-flow control"

- As mentioned before, the loud music to discourage negative comments.

- When someone quits or is 'fired,' you will never hear anyone talk about them in atmosphere, it is as if they never existed. If you do hear about them, it will always be the simple conclusion "They couldn't handle it," or something of the like.

- Any negative comment will be attributed to a complaintant's "attitude." For example, if one was setup outside of a store that had maybe 15 customers over the entire day and complained that they made 2 dollars yesterday, they would then be publically chastized and told they need to have a 'positive attitude'.

- A territory can never be bad. Or at least it cannot be said to be bad. The fact is, everyone (especially owners & managers) knows that some territories are great, and some just suck (due to poverty in the area, low foot traffic, e.t.c.). But this can never even be insinuated in atmosphere. They use an expression like "It's not the bum setup, it's the bum in the setup." Basically this absolves the owner and/or event coordinator from any responsibility in the fact that you had a bad event in a crappy location and couldn't make much money that day. It places the blame solely on the sales rep. Often times they will say "If you don't like our events, you can always find your own.." Many people will do this if they don't like the event given to them, they will "5-Step" (solicit) a location, usually something like a 7-11 or other convenience store, but this takes a skill and patience of its own, which many do not possess (as this is often illegal/ against store policies). Another technique used is soliciting people in unsupervised public places, such as laundromats and parking lots. This can also be risky though. And much time can be wasted trying to find another 'event.'

- In "Opportunity Meetings," periodic meetings where the owner will describe some of the numbers of the business and compare these to other businesses, it will not be said that you will have to share an apartment with all of the other people who you start your office with, and live in squalid conditions/poverty until you get the office up on its feet.

The quote below basically sums up atmosphere from the point of view of a distributor:

"The non-leader starts out by seeing everyone having a good time before and after work. But then you become a leader and now you are a thought cop -- always making sure everyone is acting like they should. You go from genuinely being curious and asking a question as a non-leader -- to manipulating your guys to ask how to get a head - to constantly regurgitating the same stories to your guys. You believe it and you hope that if you repeat it enough that your guys will too. You go from wanting to get ahead in life -- to coming down hard on any dissension from what should be said in atmosphere. You see, when you start the business, you want a job and you try and fit in. Atmosphere may seem a bit weird -- but, hey, you need to pay rent. If you last and you become sold on the business -- you have to act in certain ways."

You come into this as curious, and if you stay long enough you become a total conformist, adopting and believing the organization's psychology, ideologies, and rituals. This type of business has been tagged with the nickname "corporate cult," because it takes on many characteristics of a typical 'cult.' Many people are unaware that they are being 'processed' through the system in this way. I didn't realize until I was knee-deep into it. It seems absurd that any business will make you believe certain things, I mean all businesses have mission statements, but employees usually have the freedom to adhere to it on any level or completely overlook it. Here, the ideals are not "shoved down your throat" per-se, however they are slowly and cleverly ingrained into your consciousness, by the apparent subtleties of the seemingly 'innocuous' day-to-day happenings in atmosphere.