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It's Not Pyramid Selling - It's Network Marketing

25/07/2014 10:39 BST | Updated 23/09/2014 10:59 BST

The schools have broken up, prospective clients are on holiday - what is a former HR manager turned executive coach to do in order to fill these long summer days?

The answer, of course, in the absence of sufficient funds to whisk Sandra away to a Mediterranean tennis boot-camp, is one-to-one meetings with fellow members of my networking breakfast group.

When Saul got in touch following the last breakfast at the Red Lion Inn in St Albans, I was sceptical of the mutual benefit of a meeting. But he insisted. "We have to have a one-to-one," he said on the phone. "Only then can I truly understand your business and give you good quality referrals." As a long standing member of this referral-based networking group, it would be refreshing to get even a poor quality referral as my desk has yet to be troubled by referrals of any kind.

And so Saul, who really is of an age to be looking at retirement and playing with his grandchildren, ended up in my garden telling me at greater length than I could possibly have imagined how his "business" worked. I say "business". Saul is an "authorised marketeer" for an unusual American company whose sole product is a hair conditioner based on the jojoba bean. "It's the closest nature comes to sebum, the natural oil secreted from the human scalp," said Saul. This unique new conditioner is the miraculous cure for all follicular challenges which is why Saul is so thrilled to have caught it at the beginning of the wave. I asked how we got into the jojoba business.

"I spent years trying to make it as a musician," he said. "Never really got beyond the local pub circuit. Then I tried being a driving instructor. That didn't really work out. And then I kind of fell into this." He paused as he reflected for a moment on his career path. "Steve Jobs was so right. You can't connect the dots moving forward."

"No, you can't," I agreed, not altogether clear on what he meant.

I was struggling to offer him any prospective customers as I, my family and all my friends - including Keith - are pretty hirsute in the cranial area. We talked about our shared disappointment in referrals from other members of the group. Like me, Saul had received none but he had given a few, most recently to Greg the plumber when his own boiler stopped working.

"I'm looking for distributors," Saul said suddenly.

"What's a distributor?" I asked realising before the question had left my mouth that I had made a mistake. Saul launched into a 45-slide presentation on his iPad - it seemed being a distributor meant recruiting other people to sell for you and getting a cut of their revenues.

"Isn't that pyramid selling?" I asked.

"No," Saul reassured me. "It's network marketing. If you're looking for an additional revenue stream, I can sign you up today as a distributor and you'll get double commission for all of October. It's a promotion we've got on. We're calling it Jojoba October."

I politely declined.

Saul sniffed, momentarily lost for words. "What about your clients?" he asked hopefully. "Any of them need a second revenue stream?"