Southwestern Advantage Sales & Leadership Program Expectations
We believe in the importance of giving proper expectations to each and every participant, including their parents, before they begin our sales and leadership program. Both before and during their formal training, participants discuss each challenge and expectation on this list with their coaches and student leaders. Participants are not permitted to begin visiting families until they understand and acknowledge the challenges and expectations given below.
This list is an overview of the top 25 most important details, common issues, and unique situations that students encounter. It is impossible to cover every single nuanced point of the Southwestern Advantage internship experience, but below we have outlined the major ones.
PARTICIPATION It takes ALL summer to have a great summer. You do not pass or fail a course by your scores in the first days, weeks, or month of the course. It takes ALL semester to do well in a course; it takes ALL summer to have a great summer. You are free to end your participation at any time. However, choosing to participate in only part of the selling season vs. the full selling season may have significant effects on your overall profitability.
HEALTH, SAFETY, AND WELL-BEING Your health, safety and well-being is our top priority. In our 150+ years of serving communities, we have identified which ones to work in and which ones to avoid. Visiting with families is an exceptionally safe use of time. Additionally, we will train and expect you to establish relationships with law enforcement in your sales area, carry your credentials, speak daily with a coach, and communicate as frequently as needed with your family. If you do choose to work after dark, we suggest that it be by appointment. Your roommates should be of the same gender, and a host family you trust is strongly encouraged. Females should only demonstrate the products in-home when a mother is visibly present; outdoor demonstrations are very common for both males and females. Immediately end a sales call if ever made to feel uncomfortable. You are encouraged to share your sales tablet location with your coaches and sales support associates while you’re working.
ACCOUNTABILITY Peer accountability is the responsibility of every team member, not just the team leader. One of your critically important roles on the team will be to hold your roommates and other team members accountable to treating people ethically and working with integrity. We believe that accountability does not damage relationships but instead strengthens them.
SCHEDULE It is crucial to keep a good schedule during your summer selling season. This is a program for individuals with an entrepreneurial-mentality. It is not for everyone. Most students sell six days a week, as Saturday may often be your best day to make sales. On Sunday there will be team meetings for you to attend to learn how to improve each week of your summer. Most participants find these meetings informative, motivational and inspirational. Before or after the meetings there will be relaxing and/or cultural events for you to see and learn more about the area of the country you are in. A schedule like this is not for everyone. If you do not view yourself as an independent young person choosing to invest a lot of time, energy, and focus into your summer, then we would suggest you choose a different program that would match better with what you are looking for.
HABITS You might exceed your goals early on, or you might find that the goals you set were beyond your reach. Realize that it takes weeks to form the right habits needed to be successful in growing a small business. The most successful students begin visiting younger families in the morning where the children are up, take a quick break for lunch and catch a number of families in the afternoon. In the evening, what might be referred to as their bonus time period, they go back and catch all of the families that were not home during the day. We suggest no more than 30 minutes per family visit, and you will want to move with a sense of urgency between homes. It’s normal to be told “No” 90% of the time, sometimes more – but as long as you keep moving forward, you will find families that will love the products and want to place an order. 150 years has shown that as long as you simply show the products to enough families you will be successful. There are always experienced leaders in the program willing to work with you and show you how to improve.
TRAINING & SUPPLIES All participants receive all initial sales supplies (a bookbag, book samples, marketing materials, etc.) for free. Our sales training is also free to participants. We have no quotas, no participation fees, and no inventory requirements (see our business model). All students pay for their own gas/travel and lodging on the way to sales school. Southwestern Advantage pays the full hotel lodging at sales school for first-time participants (experienced participants pay $125-150 for the week, SWA covers the rest). On average, between food, lodging, and gas spent driving to sales school, dealers incur expenses of about $300. We strongly recommend that you bring at least $500 for the week of sales school to offset any unforeseen expenses (flat tire, etc). J1 visa holders will want to go over these expenses with their leaders as they will differ by country.
EMOTIONS You will have slow days, sales slumps, missed holidays, sunburned and rain soaked days, possibly a day you return home to find that your roommate decided they were too homesick to stay. You will also have very successful sales days where you feel able to sell anything. Emotions will fluctuate – and this is why most top performers are committed to winning effort-based awards instead of letting uncontrollable situations, circumstances, or emotions determine their success.
TEAM MEETINGS The first three Sunday meetings are designed to help the whole team get off to a good start and focus more on training. There may be only short cultural activities or fun events at these meetings. We are doing everything possible to help you improve and succeed. After week 3, Sunday meetings become much shorter, and there will be many fun local and cultural activities for you to be involved in (visiting historical parks and sites, baseball games, lakes/beaches, host-arranged picnics, etc.) There may be long drives to Sunday Meetings, depending on the location. Because we are a team, we all contribute to the cost of the group’s meeting when it’s held in a rented space. All these expenses are generally tax deductible and typically run $10-$20.
COACHING During the summer, and at Sunday meetings, your student leader, or another student leader, will personally coach you. Some student leaders will have large teams and will need the assistance of other student leaders to help work with and coach each person. Although your student leader will always take notice of your performance, other student leaders may help with the coaching. You will turn in information about your performance each day of the summer, and it will be reviewed by a senior member of our team along with any questions or comments you would like to share. The more accurate information you provide, the more your coaches will be able to help you improve.
HOUSING Southwestern works throughout the year to achieve the goal that every first year student will have a place to stay during the summer. We commonly stay with host families for affordability, for safety, and for credibility in the community. A few important points to consider:
Your roommates will be of the same gender.
Rent is typically $50/wk per student, sometimes less depending on the host family.
You are a guest in your host family’s home; act accordingly. Much of the housing is arranged with past host families, alumni of the program, family of other participants, friends, acquaintances, recommendations from alumni, and/or Southwestern Family of Companies. Many of these families are very interested in helping you during the summer so please do treat them with respect and courtesy. We would want to be able to team up with them again in the future, because everyone had such a good experience.
For the remaining housing, we contact local churches, real estate brokers, chambers of commerce, and use Airbnb to find housing that is suitable for participants.
In the rare event that suitable housing is not available by the end of sales school, Southwestern Advantage will pay any additional cost above $50 per week in an extended-stay hotel until host family housing is secured. You may have to move some time during the summer. This could be due to needing a new sales area, a more supportive roommate, or a better living environment.
PERMITS Most likely, you will be required to get a sales permit for the municipality where you are working. The Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce recognize Southwestern, and we also meet all local ordinances. If you choose to work in a municipality that requires a permit, SWA will refund 50% of the cost of the permits for every dollar you spend over $5.00 as long as you provide the receipt. The remainder of the cost is generally tax deductible. Ordinances exist to protect you, as well as the community.
COLLEGE CREDIT A number of participants earn college credit for their work during the summer. Your college MAY or MAY NOT consider Southwestern Advantage an internship depending on their criteria for internships. This is entirely up to how your university administration has decided to define an internship. Please check with your registrar, career services center, and your major department for their exact definition and if the college credit opportunity is available for you. This college credit is through Trevecca Nazarene University, which offers a 200-level marketing course for first year student dealers and additional course credits for experienced student leaders. This college credit is not free, and if you choose to apply for it, your account will be charged for the class (around $250).
ETHICS You may be stopped by a police officer because a resident called to verify you. If you are abiding by the law and carrying your credentials, you should have nothing to be concerned about. You will be trained on how to establish a professional relationship with local law enforcement. Our PR team will help communicate with local law enforcement as needed, and we expect that you are abiding by local ordinances as trained. If you are ever found to be selling unethically or illegally, our working relationship will come to an immediate end.
DEMONSTRATIONS In order to run a profitable business, we suggest that you show a product sample at every home you visit. Doing this helps people clearly understand the purpose of your visit and gives those who are interested the opportunity to make a purchase. As in life, there are only two things you can control during your summer: Attitude & Effort. All other external situations are yours to either influence or accept.
WORK-SHADOWING We do not recommend work-shadowing another first year participant unless instructed to do so by your sales manager. Work-shadowing is meant to be done with coaches and experienced leaders who have been taught how to train others.
SAVINGS Keep good records and low expenses. You are running your own business this summer. It’s in your best interest to fill out your Business Activity Reports each and every night. How much money you have in your account is NOT how much you have made. It is possible to make a significant amount of money, yet walk away with very little saved because it was spent and/or was not kept track of. The amount you save is a function of how much you made minus how much you spend. Average incomes for participants can be found here.
REMITTANCES It is a best practice to remit weekly, regardless of how much or how little you sold during the week. Remitting means paying wholesale for the product orders using the deposits you were given by consumers. You will want to always remit at least enough of what customers gave you to cover the wholesale cost of the products. Remember, you do not have to use any of your own money to purchase products. They are paid for by your customers.
FINANCES It is not a recommended practice to lend money to any other program participants. It is not your responsibility to be a financial lender in any way. If you have any money questions or financial requests, share them with your Student Leader, organizational leader, or DSL. They can help. Credit cards charge a small service charge on all credit card sales. This charge is not from SWA. Usually the amount is less than 3%. Some customers will cancel their orders, and a few checks will be returned “Insufficient Funds” or “Stop Payment”.
AUTOMOBILES USA students are encouraged to bring an automobile if possible; the tax advantages can be significant. If delivering products at the end of summer, understand that deliveries are crucial to your business. If you are a walker, finding a delivery car may be a challenge. During deliveries some people might not be home or decline delivery. You will be taught how to work with every situation, and the company guarantees delivery to every consumer who pays in full for their order. J1 visa holders do not need to worry about deliveries – their orders are drop-shipped from the company directly to their customers.
RECONCILIATION Fill out your reports accurately and honestly. We cannot give you the proper coaching unless you’re honest and open with your team leaders about your situation. The end-of-summer account reconciliation process takes a few hours but may take up to 2 days if you have not kept good records. It takes time to thoroughly balance and audit a business. There is money held on your account at the end of the summer (usually $300) to process any late-stage customer orders or refunds. It will only be used if needed, and will be given to you after any pending transactions have cleared. If you have undelivered inventory on-hand at the end of summer, you may return it to the company as long as it is in good condition. We will help you get products shipped or delivered to your customers as needed.
RECEPTION Sometimes there will be people who are rude to you at the door. Most often, people will be neutral or positive. Some people will not answer the door at all. Somebody will tell you to come back later so they can place an order with their spouse, and then they will not be interested when you return. All of this is uncontrollable. How you choose to respond to it is completely within your control. You will find that the overwhelming majority of families you visit will show you kindness and respect, especially when you show it first.
SUPPORT You will miss your boyfriend/girlfriend/friends/parents. You may get texts and phone calls from them letting you know about all the fun you’re allegedly missing out on. Your friends and family may encourage you to succeed throughout the summer, or encourage you to come home and not work so hard. We suggest that you ask them to show you support and encouragement.
DEVICES Your tablet and cell phone can be used as a business tool or as an emotional crutch. You can build a strong foundation for your summer by being disciplined with your devices. The most successful participants choose to not make calls, text, or browse social/web during business hours – they focus on the task at hand. If you want to make professional income, you’ll need to think and act like a professional.
SALES AREA Wherever you end up working, students have worked there before and found ways to succeed. There will be neighborhoods where most people are older (grandparents can be great prospects). The kids in your area might all go to private schools. The economy in your area might be down. Someone may have worked in your area recently, and some families will already have the products. None of these are reasons that you cannot succeed. For over 150 years, students have succeeded through it all – including the exact area you’ll be working in. Again, wherever you end up working, students before you have found ways to succeed there. You can too.
OWNERSHIP You will be on a team, you will be part of an organization, and you will have a company support staff. However, you and you alone are ultimately responsible for your success in the program – not your student leader, not your sales manager, not your roommates, not your sales locality or customers. Everything will be earned, and you will get out of the program exactly what you put into it based directly on your attitude and effort. No more, no less. This is the most challenging and most rewarding program in the world for young people. Take extreme ownership and have an amazing summer.