Throughout the more than three decades I have been serving the direct selling channel, this has always been the most exciting time of the year for me: the run up to DSA’s Annual Meeting. In just four weeks’ time, the most knowledgeable and energetic leaders from across our industry will convene in Orlando, Florida, to strengthen and form connections and friendships and to discuss and address the limitless potential of direct selling.
I truly believe ours to be the most dynamic of all business models. DSA’s most recent industry overview factsheet, which will be unveiled at Annual Meeting, is set to show impressive numbers yet again of both sales and people involved. But while the work ethic and entrepreneurial prowess of our companies and salespeople has never been in doubt, another force has just as profound an effect on the success of our businesses: that of reputation. And nowhere is this more true than in the corridors of power, where the perception of our business model can influence actions just as easily against us as for us.
As the standard bearer for the direct selling channel, DSA makes continuous and compelling cases to government officials to shape policies that will impact our companies positively. We are tireless in our efforts, for example, to promote consumer protection legislation and preserve the independent contractor status of our salespeople. But Association initiatives achieve greater success with the active participation of members — protecting the direct selling channel over the long term is a team effort. That is why DSA is looking forward to bringing company executives together in Orlando in June: to identify how our successes, positive attributes, and contributions to society can be best leveraged in the eyes of those with the power to affect all our businesses.
I’ve spoken long and vociferously on the need to demonstrate our commitment to ethical business practices and consumer protection, and I will always do so. But just as important to our reputation and the perception policymakers have of our business model are the actions DSA member companies are taking to put a human face on the business model. The clout carried by DSA is in direct proportion to the excellent name of its members — engendered by sound corporate values, the opportunities we offer, the enrichment we provide, the taxes we generate, and the community and charitable contributions we make.
DSA has invited policymakers and government leaders to our Annual Meeting to learn more about us and also to share their thoughts on direct selling and how all parties might more effectively collaborate for the better good of our customers and salespeople. We have also invited Jonah Berger, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Pennsylvania; Amanda Gore, an internationally renowned expert on behavior; and “Zen Master of Marketing” Shama Hyder to discuss brand and image perception as well as change and engagement strategies so that DSA members can leverage their positives to help determine the regulatory framework that will shape our future.
Public Policy is not something that is “done” only during time of crisis, as damage control. Direct sellers must build and maintain a continuous and effective dialogue with their elected representatives and government officials. A changing political and commercial environment presents myriad challenges to direct selling companies; these we must overcome together. DSA’s Annual Meeting in June will be the forum for us to celebrate the contributions we make and to set our collective strategies for conveying the value of direct selling in a way that resonates with policymakers and their constituents. I greatly look forward to seeing you in Orlando. Please visit annualmeeting.dsa.org to learn more.
Click here to order the May 2017 issue in which this article appeared.
Joseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.