When I think about what differentiates direct selling from other methods of business, one principle comes to mind: service. As corporate representatives, we exist to serve our business builders and our customers. Leaders grow their businesses by serving the needs of their organizations. Home-based businesses thrive when their owners actively address the needs of their communities.
Although there is a strong international cohesion of the 4Life® brand, we also pride ourselves on the myriad of ways our brand is reflected by the diverse communities that give it life. It isn’t merely that with others we are stronger, but that without partnerships 4Life ceases to exist.
Expressions of service make us attractive to partners who bring with them many personal strengths. Together, with a commitment to helping others, we grow—or, as we say at 4Life: Together, Building People®.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Professionals in the retail sector refer to the benefits of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as intangible. As a direct seller, I see the benefits of CSR manifest themselves in many identifiable ways, including but not limited to:
- Brand appeal for purposes of prospecting
- Customer loyalty for purposes of retention
- Corporate respectability for purposes of public relations
When we engage in a model built upon person-to-person relationships, countless opportunities exist for us to positively impact the lives of those with whom we conduct business. Still, without a structured approach to service, it’s difficult to discuss how, exactly, employees should engage the field as ambassadors of a service-oriented brand.
A Programmatic Approach to Service
Of course, any field communication presents an opportunity for employees to personify a company’s mission, but this leaves much to the imagination. 4Life’s management team is well aware of the fact that no matter our individual titles or day-to-day responsibilities, our primary collective goal is to serve the needs of our leaders in the field.
As an executive management team, we remain vigilant in leading by example. At the same time, experience has shown me that service flourishes when organizations themselves are structured in ways that support the types of behavior our brand professes to embrace.
At 4Life, we oversee two major initiatives engineered to amplify our message of service, engage distributors with acts of service, and provide learning opportunities for employees and the field alike. The first is our nonprofit Foundation 4Life® organization. The second is our for-profit 4Life Fortify® program.
In 2006, we formalized our commitment to service by launching a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Foundation 4Life. The charity is field-driven in order to address community concerns wherever independent distributors conduct business, with a particular focus on children. To date, Foundation 4Life has completed philanthropic projects in more than 20 countries.
Although these projects vary in size—our expansion of La Casa Rosada orphanage in the Dominican Republic; the construction of a community feeding center in Jardines del Norte, Honduras; our sponsorship of the Children’s Village in Hyderabad, India; support of children’s orphanage programs in Malaysia, and our work with victims of natural disasters around the world—each project includes a variety of components that reflect the foundation’s mission of Building a Legacy of Service.
- Programs include the direction of in-country field leadership.
- Projects are funded by proceeds from distributors, employees and corporate contributions.
- Opportunities that allow for hands-on participation and long-lasting relationships, as opposed to one-off monetary gifts, are the primary focus.
With offices in 22 countries to serve independent distributors on five continents, we regularly encounter a need for better nutrition. This issue is pervasive. It affects communities here in the United States and less developed nations around the world.
In 2010, we launched the 4Life Fortify program to engage distributors with a business opportunity to serve. 4Life Fortify is a high-quality meal of rice, lentils and beans, along with a nutritional complex of vitamins, minerals and our exclusive 4Life Transfer Factor® immune system support. Each bag contains 12 adult servings or 24 children’s servings. 4Life distributors purchase the product, for which they receive commissions. 4Life then distributes the product, either on its own or through Feed The Children, our third-party partner.
At our international convention last month in Philadelphia, we announced that since the program’s inception, more than 2 million 4Life Fortify meals have been provided to hungry children and families around the world, including the United States, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Peru and Colombia.
In Bogotá, Colombia, we enjoyed the unique opportunity to partner with the first lady of Colombia, María Clemencia de Santos. The project spanned a month’s time, beginning with our shipment of 8,500 bags of 4Life Fortify from Norfolk, Va., aboard the Sun Round cargo vessel. A 40-foot container carried 19 pallets of 440 bags apiece.
After joining the first lady’s military convoy in Bogotá, 4Life representatives completed the journey via helicopter to Puerto Libertador. There, on behalf of the Colombian government and 4Life distributors around the world, they distributed 2,200 bags of 4Life Fortify to 400 local families. The local Red Cross received the remainder of the shipment.
Commitment to Serve
By committing ourselves to acts of genuine service, we strengthen existing partnerships and open doors to new ones. Our commitment to service as a way of building business is one hallmark that distinguishes our channel of distribution from any other.
From left to right are 4Life Director of Spanish Field Development Deborah Dixon, Chief Operations Officer Danny Lee, first lady of Colombia María Clemencia de Santos and General Manager of Colombia Oscar Villabona.
In addition to 4Life corporate programs, we look for positive alliances in the marketplace. The Direct Selling Education Foundation’s mission is to engage and educate the public about how direct selling empowers people, supports communities and strengthens economies worldwide.
4Life began supporting the DSEF after joining the Direct Selling Association years ago. Because the work done benefits direct selling companies and distributors alike, it’s an important and worthwhile association for all direct sellers.
Steve Tew is President of 4Life.