Jim Dornan, arguably the most successful networker in history, passed away at 2 PM yesterday. He had been battling cancer for months.
For more than twenty years Dornan built and ran the largest, most cohesive network of its kind in the world. He attracted crowds of 100,000 filling soccer stadiums and auditoriums in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. As an Amway distributor, product sales topped a billion dollars in multiple markets. But it was his own “educational system” that created hundreds, if not thousands, of millionaires worldwide.
In the late 1980’s, as Amway began to go international, other networking leaders, principally, Dexter Yager and Bill Britt, shunned foreign markets, even, for a time, teaching leaders that there was no money in them. Since most income was then made off of the sale of tapes and the running of functions, the American leaders had less leverage and control in markets where their conservative, Evangelical culture was not understood and where they could not even speak the language.
Ken Pittman, a North Carolina former American serviceman was one of the first to step into this vacuum, building a large organization in Germany in the 1970’s. Tim Foli was even more successful, building large groups in Latin America a decade later. But what Dornan did towered over any other entrepreneur or network marketing company.
Network 21, originally founded as an alliance of 21 Dornan “Diamonds” and soon named after the coming century, was founded in 1991. The core of the group was formed out of an Amway organization that Dornan purchased from John and Gil Nuyten of Sydney, Australia. The Nuyten’s were one of the fastest qualifying diamonds in Amway history. They sold their group to Dornan and left as Christian missionaries to Israel.
I was immediately hired to speak and train for Dornan and sent to Australia to get things rolling. I would be a speaker on the Network 21 circuit throughout the world for two decades.
More than any other figure of our generation, Jim Dornan, transformed the networking business.
1.) In an industry that was misogynist, where women were trophies, he made his wife an equal business partner. Nancy Dornan became an outstanding spokesperson for their business. Onstage she often stole the show from her husband. And Jim, his ego secure in his own talents, was openly delighted by it.
The result was that women networkers were empowered worldwide and soon built legendary businesses of their own. Beginning with Glenda Leonard and Angie Ross in Australia and then Enika Farkas of Hungary and Natasha Yena of the Ukraine. Yena now leads one of the largest such organizations in the world.
2.) Dornan, who was trained as an engineer, recognized the need of an equitable compensation plan in his system, rather than the favoritism based on relationships that marked most other arrangements. While he was unable to make it work in all markets and with all groups within N21, it became the goal and is now the ideal for all new systems.
3.) Dornan finally hit upon a method to take networking worldwide. He recognized that only people with the same language and culture could find a way to relate to others of their own ethnicity. And Dornan learned that it would take at least three couples, working together for a year, not two couples and not one. It was a formula born out of time and error and it worked. He saw Network 21 spread around the globe.
First it began in the ethnic communities of Sydney. James Vaghy emerged and joined two others in taking the business to Hungary. Robert Angkassa, Paul and Linda Argus, S. R. Kristiawan have built huge groups in Indonesia.
When people insisted that networking educational systems would not work in Sweden, a modern socialist state, Dornan patiently subsidized the operation for two years and soon had leaders such as Matt Holmberg, speaking to audiences of 10,000.
Dornan’s European groups grew after a merger with Hans and Eva Nusshold of Vienna, Austria. The Nusshold’s were longtime networkers who had worked with Max Schwarz. They provided early leadership and direction.
Mitch and Deidre Sala emerged as two of the greatest Networkers in the world.
4.) Dornan, more than any other modern networker, made it socially acceptable to build such a business. In a culture that was at times openly anti-educational and proud of it Jim Dornan was a college graduate who offered cogent analysis on how and why networks grew or failed. In a culture of unbuttoned shirts and garrulous gold neck chains Jim Dornan was a country club member, comfortable in a Brioni suit. In a culture of greed, he was a major donor to charities.
Jim and Nancy Dornan’s business was inspired by a baby born with spina bifada. The Dornan’s were educated, Purdue University graduates, with successful incomes. But here was a crisis that only money, big money could solve. They knew the challenges and struggles of network marketing but it had one feature that Jim’s lucrative engineering career could not match. It had no ceiling on the income they could generate. If they were to give their baby a chance at life, they would need more than insurance or even a lucrative engineering income could supply.
Jim Dornan has many achievements. He co-authored a book on leadership with John Maxwell. He was a great philanthropist. Network 21 is the largest corporate donor to World Vision and other charities. When we hosted a Charity Awards event, the Dornans were always front and center. When I worked in the White House I brought Jim Dornan into the Oval Office to meet with the president.
But in the final analysis, his greatest achievement may have been that as a husband and a father. He and his wife, Nancy, have three children, Eric, Heather and David. Jim and Nancy built the world’s largest network, inspired by their love of a baby, born with a handicap, but fighting for its life. That was long ago. And from that love came hundreds of new millionaires and thousands of dreams come true. That little baby survived its early battles for life and grew into manhood, helping others with his same handicap find hope for themselves and their futures. He will be there to mourn his father, the networking legend, when he is lowered into the earth this week.
(Note: For some corrections and added details please read the comments of David Steadman below.)