Inside the National Investment Institute
A ride with Henry to his promised land.
By Sarah Ferguson. (A shorter version of this story appeared in The Age, December 6, 2003). Published with the kind permission of Ms Ferguson.
Clearly I was naive and unsophisticated in business. This is hard for me to expose yet impossible for me to hide. I hope other people who worked for Henry Kaye or the tens of thousands of people who did his courses will recognise themselves in my story.
I first encountered the National Investment Institute, then known as Investmentsource, in the spring of 2000. My partner and I went to Randwick racecourse to the Unlimited Wealth Event. We sat in a room of about 800 people. For three hours we listened as Henry Kaye espoused his special kind of property investment knowledge. I was mesmerised by his intelligence, his information and his massive self-belief. I found him completely believable.
I wrote copious notes and was keen to try out some of the information. At the end of the evening, when Henry did the sell for the $4000 investment event, my partner said he would go.
He came back from the event very excited. He also learned that positions were available in the company itself. He applied for a job, and was accepted as a “Consultant”. It soon became clear that he would not be “employed”, but have his own company and consulting business. It was a commission only deal.
Many of the consultants had not run their own businesses and were naïve in the ways of business. They were mostly young idealists who believed in the company’s vision of creating change in a society stuck in a poverty mentality.
I joined the company in February 2001, and worked with my partner at its Sydney office until July last year. In October 2001 I was asked to stop helping my partner and become a consultant myself. I think the two of us saw at least 500 people, of whom about 200 signed up for courses.
I joined because I believed I had found an organisation that perfectly matched my own desire to do something that contributed to the lives of ‘ordinary Australians’ like myself. I also believed it would make me rich.
I had no real plan for my future, no real security and no clear purpose. What I did have was a deep desire to do something worthy, something magnificent, with my life. In those early days I built a dream that it was all a win-win-win situation: me, the clients, the company. I accepted nothing but evidence that strengthened that view.
To be a consultant at that time, we had to pay the company about $2400 a week. Commission on an enrolment (when someone signed up for a course) was about $1000, which seemed like a fortune to me. It was not hard for the people in charge to paint a picture of the massive wealth creation possible for both clients and consultants.
At the beginning, the atmosphere was electric. The client leads that came from the first free night kept the consultants busy and excited. Those first few months were some of the most exciting of my life. No consultant minded paying the fees as people were lining up to enrol in the course. There were no dissatisfied clients. Henry’s information hadn’t yet had a chance to be tested, people hadn’t yet found it to be out of their league or moral code. It all seemed to match my dream.
The atmosphere began to change after the early leads dried up and the cheques to pay our commissions began to come late and incorrect. The systems needed to support such a large company weren’t there. People began to leave. The hype of the first few months never returned. The atmosphere became a roller coaster ride of constant change.
My illusion became like an addiction for me. I believed the people in charge completely. I thought that by simply staying there, doing the job and being loyal, I would get to the pot of gold, while helping all those ordinary people like myself to get it as well. Even when I was in dire financial straits, thanks to my own badly managed financial situation and the irregular income, I tried to persuade myself that the administrative problems were glitches. I wanted to believe that the people in charge who continually reinforced my illusion, were trustworthy. All it took was a few carefully delivered lines of reassurance and, like a dazed addict, I would accept their words. I wanted to believe they cared about the clients and us. Like me, most of the consultants were people who had absolute faith and trust in Henry Kaye and the people in charge of our office.
There was no stereotypical client. People from all walks of life came to the free events and the consultations. The more sophisticated business people were able to direct the consultations towards a focus on the information available, rather than allowing a psychologically based consultation to occur. I would not call them ‘ordinary Australians’. The business people who enrolled were more likely to be discerning enough to evaluate the information carefully, accept and utilise what suited them and reject what didn’t. The least sophisticated ‘ordinary Australians’ were not so fortunate. Many of them enrolled in the course with a similar illusion to mine. The focus was on the eventual creation of a passive income that would allow them the freedom to live their lives differently and with certain security.
There were regular consultant training sessions conducted by the people in charge – and occasionally Henry himself. The consultants who were performing best at the time were often asked to share their personal consultation style by role-playing.
Many of the tools taught to the consultants were psychologically manipulative. Through role-playing we were shown how to gain the trust of the client by creating rapport and eliciting their personal need. We used flip charts containing pictures of dream cars, homes and other material possessions as well as statistical evidence of Australia as a poverty nation. We asked if they could remember the dreams of their youth and then questioned them as to why they hadn’t accomplished those dreams. We were taught to ‘create pain’ in the clients to enable them to see the reality of their financial situation. We then linked their need to our product and showed them how the application of the information could save them. We were encouraged to clip all positive property articles from the newspapers and use it as extra leverage for proof that property was secure.
A good consultant would take clients on a journey of illumination, delving deep into their psyche, tweaking awake dormant thoughts from childhood, opening and dissecting their lives like cadavers at the morgue, uncovering the disease and showing the clients what they were dying from. The journey then turned to one of possibility, offering the cure for their disease and helping them to experience their resurrection through application of the cure. The cure was “education” and applying that knowledge. For “ordinary Australians” their only hope for a secure future was to enrol into the course and become a property investor. The consultants’ only hope was to have every person enrol, or they would be sending them back out into the world dying.
I would like to say that I left because I realised there many people being enrolled in the courses were getting no benefit, but that was not the case. My wounded ego would not have allowed me to begin to look through the tears that were rapidly shredding my illusory cloak. I left because I could not cope with the continual change and the stress of maintaining my illusion any longer. I had a breakdown.
It was many months after leaving before I was able to see the situation with clarity. I was hurting deeply from what I saw as my own failings. I failed to implement Henry’s information. I failed to create the ‘consultancy’ business. I failed to help the clients. I failed in my personal relationship. I not only failed to become rich, I had no material possessions left and a debt I could not manage. I had continued to support my consultancy by extending the limit on my credit cards and taking out personal loans. My biggest failure was failing to realise the dream I had created and believed in with such passion.
There is no denying the emotional and financial pain that many people are experiencing now as a result of their involvement with the National Investment Institute. Their anger and outrage is totally justified. I feel as if I am at the end of this pain, but many people are still right in the middle. My response was to turn inward. In doing so I lost trust in my worth and myself. And that did nobody any good. So I changed my view and began to look at the situation from a less emotional perspective. I began to see that there had been no room in those consultations for honest appraisal of the product and the abilities and inclinations of the client to pursue property investing as something that suited them. Equally, there was no clear definition of what it meant to be a consultant. The company was not run in an efficient or sustainable fashion and the continual change did not create an environment of security or trust. Accepting this has enabled me to take responsibility without blaming anybody, especially myself.
The message that I want to send to all those people who see themselves as victims of Henry Kaye is not simple. Taking responsibility becomes more difficult when the media keeps saying you were victims of an unscrupulous system. Our world supports vindication through litigation, a mindset that is against the acceptance of responsibility.
Yet accepting responsibility does not mean accepting blame. It means accepting that it was your choice to be sitting in a room listening to information. It was your choice to be on the telephone listening to a consultant, or to be in the consultation. The level to which the consultant was able to raise you was your own choice, too. The illusion that was created was a culmination of all that had occurred in your life. You can accept these choices and be proud that you are person who is willing to make them.
Now, I can see that abundance does not necessarily mean material wealth. It is every person’s right to define abundance for himself or herself. I have discovered that my security is rooted deep within me. There is nothing outside of myself that I need to complete me as a person.
People can be proud to have held such wonderful dreams for themselves and their families. They showed a level of trust in humanity that is both innocent and refreshing. It is “ordinary Australians” who make up the majority of our wonderful country, and it is they who, through their innocence and willingness to trust show a side of Australia that we can all be proud of.
I have found that what at first appears to be a disaster often turns into the greatest of gifts.
The only changes may be brief edits and spelling or grammar corrections.
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