On DSN’s 20th anniversary, we asked industry leaders and legends to share how past evolutions and current opportunities are shaping the future of the industry.
In 2004, Stuart Johnson, now CEO of Direct Selling Partners, Direct Selling News (DSN) and NOW Tech, held a clear vision: to create a monthly publication that offered timely and useful information to direct selling executives. Today, that vision has expanded beyond a print publication to include podcasts, workshops, executive forums and informative in-person events featuring the biggest names in the industry. The format and appearance of the magazine has changed throughout the years, but the original foundation of Johnson’s vision remains unchanged.
As we celebrate 20 years of innovations and insights, we take a look back on a few of DSN’s most important milestones. But even before DSN’s debut in 2004, Founder and CEO Stuart Johnson had an illustrious career influencing the channel. He founded VideoDirect in 1987, which ultimately became VideoPlus and then SUCCESS Partners. He launched SUCCESS Partners University, an education conference for direct selling corporate executives in 2002.
DSN, now in its twentieth year of publication, continues to be the go-to resource for well-researched global industry news, expert insights and interviews with the founders and executive leaders behind the channel’s legacy companies and rising stars.
Deborah K. Heisz, now Neora Co-CEO, and John Fleming, a DSN Legend and former Avon executive, were two of the original staff members tasked with assembling the publication’s flagship print issues.
“At the time, there was no real periodical resource for legitimate news and information for people who were leading and operating direct selling companies,” Heisz said. “People were hungry for a trade journal they could rely on, and we received feedback from dozens—if not hundreds—of executives and owners across the industry letting us know we had truly filled a need.”
From a simple eight-page newsletter to the robust, global magazine it is today, DSN remains committed to supporting, informing, connecting and challenging direct selling executives across the US and around the world.
“I planned to stay for two to three years, but I remained Publisher and Editor in Chief for nine,” Fleming said. “We started by building something relevant and, in many ways, it has become far more relevant than we ever envisioned.”
Twenty Years of Industry-Changing Trends
The past two decades have been host to some of the most dramatic shifts in the channel, including the proliferation of the internet; the broad adoption of mobile devices; and pandemic-induced social distancing that forever changed the way shoppers buy products and interact with brands. With each paradigm shift, the direct selling industry learned to evolve and adapt.
We asked these executives: In the last 20 years, what changes have had the greatest impact on the industry?
“The vast majority of companies started in the industry by sharing products at home parties. Now, we’re sharing the opportunity virtually and across the globe without concern for physical barriers. Digital platforms forced all of us to adjust, while opening up a world of opportunity.”—Mark Pentecost / It Works! Founder and Chairman
“The operating landscape has permanently changed. Millennials want their own gig, but the average direct-to-consumer venture lacks the ability to scale up the way a direct selling company can with sales organizations.”—Rick Goings / DSN Legend, Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of Tupperware Brands
“Twenty years ago, signups and applications required a stack of paper. Today, it’s all done digitally. Technology has enabled much more efficient point-of-sale transactions and created the ability to connect and communicate with more people.”—John Addison / Addison Leadership Group; Board Member for Primerica, LegalShield; Senior Advisor to Utility Warehouse
“The digital revolution of the early 2000s felt, at the time, like a once-in-a-lifetime revolution, but it proved to be just the beginning of an avalanche of technology and business models that would profoundly change the world around us. Through all of these changes–the rise of social media, gig platforms and AI, and the challenges of the pandemic—we have demonstrated that, as a channel, we can adapt and evolve quickly.—John Parker / Amway Chief Sales Officer
“Technology has been the biggest gamechanger for us. I believe you have to have a robust strategy in both automation and face-to-face interactions for success in today’s marketplace. It is a delicate balance. Simplicity and speed can be the difference between success and failure.”—Kevin Guest / USANA Executive Chairman
The Next 20 Years
Lessons from the past 20 years have illustrated that change is not only inevitable; it is a critical part of healthy evolution. It was by welcoming social media, ecommerce and a digital-first footprint that the industry was prepared to not only survive but thrive during the pandemic. And as industry leaders look to the horizon, it will be that same bold approach and nimble, open mindset that will prepare the next generation of direct sellers for success.
We asked these executives: What actions should leaders be taking now to prepare for the future?
“We need to remember what got us here. We have always been an industry that focuses on building people, and then those people go on to build our business. We can ensure our future success by remembering that the most valuable asset any direct selling company has is our loyal, hardworking distributor field!—Rudy Revak / DSN Legend, Founder of Symmetry and Xyngular
“As technology continues to create opportunities and disruptions, I believe the future of direct selling will have to be centered around community and the social dynamic in our businesses. Great products, compelling income opportunities, competitive customer and representative experiences will continue to be basic requirements, but the community and social experiences we offer can be real differentiators.—John Parker / Amway Chief Sales Officer
“We empower women and others to work a meaningful business in pockets of their day. That’s the best part of direct selling. That’s how we win. We must continue to create and emphasize this opportunity—the side hustle is always in style.—Sarah Shadonix / Scout & Cellar Founder and CEO
“Leaders in the channel should plan for growth. Those who stay current by investing in the technologies of today and tomorrow—including new ways to purchase, improve speed to customer and product value—will thrive.—Joni Rogers-Kante / SeneGence Founder and CEO
“Direct selling will continue to thrive where the exchange of value is ongoing and supportive—like in following a nutrition or fitness plan—because of the importance of accountability to achieve success, but we need to acknowledge that affiliate marketing will replace network marketing where the relationship is purely transactional.—Carl Daikeler / BODi CEO
“Personalization and integration of AI in customer service are trends that we find exciting and that we are integrating into our strategy. Direct selling is also very unique; we never work solely online or offline. The future is hybrid, and we are relying on hybrid solutions in our strategy and development to be active pioneers in our industry.—Rolf Sorg / PM-International Founder and CEO
Creating a Lasting Impact
DSN has always strived to stay on the cutting edge of direct selling trends, news and thought leadership through its educational initiatives and events. We asked these executives: How has DSN’s coverage and perspective impacted your businesses over the past two decades?
“DSN has challenged the way I think about our business and the future of our channel. It helps me sift through the hype and understand the real innovations and opportunities that will shape our future. I am so grateful for the connections and insights that DSN has brought to me and our industry.”—John Parker / Amway Chief Sales Officer
“What DSN provides is something critical for the industry: a collegial way to share best practices with one another. One of the great things about the direct selling industry is people’s willingness to share both their successes and failures. DSN gives executives a way to learn and grow their businesses.—John Addison / Addison Leadership Group CEO; Board Member for Primerica, LegalShield; Senior Advisor to Utility Warehouse
“DSN is a powerful source of knowledge, allowing companies to learn from each other and grow. DSN has always offered great insights and innovative ideas. When there can be criticism of our industry, it’s important to have a platform like DSN to speak of the positive impact we’re having around the world.—Mark Pentecost / It Works! Founder and Chairman
“DSN is an important forum for keeping abreast to fast changing forces and how others are approaching and adapting to remain vital and resilient.—Rick Goings / DSN Legend, Chairman Emeritus and former CEO of Tupperware Brands
“The DSN articles and DSU events have been an amazing asset to the corporate leaders of this channel. They both create opportunities to gain valuable information, ideas and strategies, and they give guidance during changing and challenging times.—Rudy Revak / DSN Legend, Founder of Symmetry and Xyngular
“DSN continues to be an important voice and resource for steering the direction of this method of sales and marketing. It’s easy for institutions and regulators to lose sight of the individuals who legitimately use direct selling as their livelihood. DSN helps us all remember who is most important in this industry, and it’s not the company—it’s the distributors and customers.—Carl Daikeler / BODi CEO
“When DSN started, I remember thinking: ‘Finally! One place to get timely, reliable and insightful information on other direct sellers.’ Before DSN, people had to constantly scan multiple sources. It was very easy to miss company announcements and releases because so many direct sellers were private or just starting out.—David Holl / Mary Kay Chairman and former CEO
“DSN is my ‘go-to manual’ when I have questions; seek insight; look for surveys; or simply look for inspiration when I need it. I never throw away a publication, as I know I’ll need to refer to it one way or another. It helps me stay informed and current with what is going on in our channel.”—Joni Rogers-Kante / SeneGence Founder and CEO
“The community gains so much strength when we all work together, and DSN makes that happen. They are invaluable to the ongoing growth and professionalism of this industry, and I am so grateful for their work.”—Michele Gay / LimeLife by Alcone
Co-Founder & Chairwoman
“The coverage of the direct selling landscape in DSN is like no other, providing a clear and nuanced view into an industry that thrives on personal connections and innovative strategies. The articles are a testament to the precise research and commitment to detail that the team embodies, making Direct Selling News an invaluable resource for anyone involved in or interested in the dynamic world of direct sales. It’s journalism that not only informs but enriches and compliments the conversation around this unique sector of commerce.—Rolf Sorg / PM-International Founder & CEO
Building a Legacy Meant to Last
Reflecting on the past 20 years, the DSN team continues to build and plan for an even brighter future with more events, global coverage, expanding platforms and an unflinching grasp of Johnson’s original vision. The next 20 years will expand on that relevancy and commitment, providing more insights, developing broader resources and presenting more opportunities to support the executives working diligently to strengthen and scale the one-of-a-kind entrepreneurial possibilities found within the direct selling channel.
From the January/February 2024 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.