Finding Prosperity in the Pandemic
PM-International’s Staggering Growth Earns Company First Ever DSN International Growth Award
Last August, Direct Selling News shared an update on PM-International, a Luxembourg-based developer of premium products for health, fitness and beauty distributed through its independent sales force of some 55,000 business builders. The company broke the billion-dollar barrier in 2019 which was the same year it opened its Headquarters Americas in Sarasota, Florida. The United States is one of more than 40 countries in which PM-International operates. Despite the myriad operational challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic for companies in every industry, CEO Rolf Sorg was looking ahead to grand openings in Canada and Indonesia and an expansion of the business in Europe. Sorg expressed confidence that, both strategically and economically, PM-International was poised to become one of Europe’s largest network marketing companies—if not the largest—within three years.
How is the company progressing toward that goal? In 2020, PM-International increased its annual sales by 54 percent to $1.71 billion, up $600 million from the previous year. In September alone, the company recorded a sales increase of 88 percent in the Americas region. This remarkable growth earned the company Direct Selling News’ first-ever Bravo International Growth Award, tied with Herbalife Nutrition.
To what, exactly, does the company attribute these spectacular results?
“Overall, consistency and a burning desire,” says Sorg. “Also—and especially in 2020—fast reaction times, quick decisions, and a solution-oriented focus. We adapted our operations to the demand, the ever-changing circumstances and the completely different legal regulations valid for our locations around the world. But, most important, what drives growth in direct sales are the distributors. We’re very thankful for being able to grow and develop in the current situation, and we don’t take any of it for granted. Receiving the Bravo International Growth Award in this particular year is a huge honor that we dedicate to our Team Partners worldwide.”
Sorg adds that even before the pandemic, an ever-growing interest in wellness was emerging as a primary driver of consumer spending. That interest only accelerated as consumers began to consider how to adopt more preventive health measures from the home, if not the doctor’s office. PM- International had the technical infrastructure, agility, culture, and, most importantly, the vision required to turn challenges into opportunities and not only maintain but expand its worldwide presence.
Expansion in the Americas, E.U. and Asia/Pacific
PM-International opened its Canadian subsidiary last year in Toronto, and its fast-growing distributor base registered a 171 percent increase in sales in 2020 compared to the previous year. The company already had active distribution partners and customers in Canada in 2019 as part of a pre-launch phase in which products could be purchased for “Personal Use Only” consumption; the new branch opened once the company reached a designated threshold for sales. Also, in 2020, PM-International entered the Belgian market and opened a new subsidiary responsible for administration and logistics in Belgium and the Netherlands with the aim of supporting further growth in these markets.
This year, PM-International celebrated the next steps of its Indonesian market opening with its Founders Meeting and a Pre-Launch event in April. Throughout 2021, PM-International plans further expansion in Central and South America and will celebrate market openings in Great Britain, Hungary, Portugal, Vietnam and China. “As our expansion continues, this year we plan to open more markets in Latin America,” said Sammy El Ghoul, PM-International’s Chief Sales Officer for the Americas. “In fact, we started offering FitLine products through our ‘For Personal Use Only’ program in Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador, and we launched preparations in Brazil and Peru. Apart from that, we registered close to 100 percent growth in the U.S. last year and are already set up with fully operative subsidiaries in Canada, Chile and Mexico.”
To support all of this growth and expansion, PM-International has big plans to augment its worldwide locations, including its Headquarters Americas in Florida. Last year, the company was granted Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification for its Headquarters Americas, including a new fulfillment center. GMP is a system for ensuring that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards. This year, PM-International is expanding its warehouse by approximately 7,000 square feet and plans a second administration building with an additional 3,500 square feet. Its North American Branch offices in Pittsburgh will move into new facilities this summer, and the company plans to open another office for the West region to support expansion throughout the Americas.
Commitment, Flexibility, Leadership
Given the inherent flexibility of our business model, the direct selling industry was well-positioned to weather the storm presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the concept of selling and team-building from afar wasn’t a foreign one, and pivoting to more of a home-based business wasn’t as potentially disruptive to distributors’ livelihoods as it could have been. What seems to have distinguished the good success stories from the great ones, however, are those companies with a commitment to staying on top of digital trends that preceded the pandemic.
PM-International’s existing digital infrastructure enabled the company to react quickly in the early months of the pandemic and continue to move toward a more virtual business model. In the early days of worldwide lockdown orders, PM-International immediately waived delivery charges for customer orders of $50 or more. In early 2020 the company also launched PM TV, an online platform offering unlimited streaming events, trainings and information to a worldwide independent sales force, available in 12 languages with no viewer limit. Team Partners now are equipped to consult their customers via video conference from home and place online orders, which are managed entirely by PM-International within its Customer Direct program. The PM DirectCash program, also launched last year, provides distributors with direct online retail income instantly for every online customer order.
Although Sorg maintains that virtual sales will never completely replace the personal interaction between distributors and customers, “digitalization makes our business opportunity more accessible, more user-friendly and more cost-efficient for our Team Partners.”
That said, however, hybrid-style events are one change Sorg expects to become a permanent feature at PM-International. Team Partners will have the choice of watching an event live on-site or as part of a public viewing event at their local subsidiary, or as online streaming on PM TV from the comfort of their own homes. Some events, like the company’s Product Academies and corporate trainings, will remain strictly online. “Transforming our events setup was a major step into the online working world,” he says.
Staying Focused on the Bigger Picture
PM-International’s remarkable success has enabled the company to redouble its philanthropic and sustainability commitments in 2020 and 2021. In September at its first Americas Congress Online event, PM-International announced the expansion of its PM We Care program. Currently, the largest corporate sponsor of humanitarian aid organization World Vision, PM-International sponsors 3,000 children in 25 countries; its long- term goal is 10,000 sponsored children. In early 2021 the company took over the sponsorship for a third Area Program centered on nutrition and 500 sponsored children in Zimbabwe. In support of its PM Helps initiative, the company also provided 1 million euros in monetary and in-kind donations to fund coronavirus relief efforts in some of the world’s most severely affected regions.
In January, PM-International announced a sustainability initiative with a goal of developing 100 percent recyclable packaging material for all of its products by the end of this year. The cardboard packaging for its FitLine products currently is made of 100 percent recycled material, and the printing ink on the packaging is mineral oil-free. FitLine Activize cans come with spoons made of 100 percent natural starch, which helps the company save more than 10 tons of plastic per year. All FitLine skin cosmetic products are without microplastics, and their packaging is 100 percent recyclable. PM- International is currently in the final development and testing stages to meet this sustainability target and offer 100 percent recyclable packaging for all of its products by the end of 2021.
Many of the future realities of our post-COVID world remain hazy. Still, it’s clear that companies that have been able to thrive during this extraordinary adversity are those who not only are digitally mature but also anticipate, prepare for and embrace change as a normal consequence of growth and development. In so doing, they lay a foundation of strength that enables them to weather almost any storm.
“2020 paved the way for our future,” says Sorg. “Our goal is to continue a sustainable growth to create worldwide opportunities for future generations by offering a unique opportunity to generate instant extra income with no risk, at any time and from anywhere.”
From the June 2021 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.