The dawn of a new year is always a good opportunity to evaluate and refresh business operations and processes within a company, and it’s no different for a trade association like the Direct Selling Association (DSA). The DSA Board of Directors has approved a strategic plan that will guide the association through the next five years. Special thanks to Jim Northrop for his leadership as Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee during the development of this plan.
Over the past several years, the members of the Strategic Planning Committee engaged in a series of discussions and analyses that provide the foundation for “Plan 2015.” The process was to first identify the key issues and opportunities that confront direct selling as a business model, collapse and prioritize these issues, then establish an appropriate mission and objectives within the context of these. We did so. The result is a plan designed to provide a cogent and concise framework for both overall direction of activities, plus the allocation of resources for the Association’s activities during the next five-year period.
For the past 100 years, the Association has existed to be the advocate and provide a voice for the direct selling business model and to impact a variety of constituencies, including regulators and legislators, consumers, the financial community, the general public and direct selling companies and salesforces. The Association has served to provide self-governance of business and ethical standards for companies and provide them with an endorsement that they comply with the standards of the Association. The Association has additionally provided a forum for cross-company education regarding effective business practices.
Recently, the Association initiated efforts to improve the image of direct sales via a concerted education and public relations program. In this way, the Association has served to provide an environment in which companies that participate in direct selling as a business model have been able to launch, grow and prosper.
As a result of these efforts, as well as the economic viability of the model, direct selling has consistently grown throughout its history both as a result of large companies’ continuing growth, but, to an even greater extent, as a result of launching many new companies. Many of these have grown into significant enterprises in the nurturing environment that the Association helps to provide.
After evaluating the current social and economic climate in which direct sellers operate, six key areas of issue and opportunity for direct sellers have been identified:
- Deal with the drastically changing environment.
The economic struggles being faced domestically and globally have resulted in a new landscape in which the business model and Association must operate, impacting legislative activity, disposable income levels, unemployment, finances and social attitudes.
- Enhance the perceptions of our business model, its legitimacy, integrity and relevance.
The integrity of our business model has been constantly challenged, and the changing environment will likely increase these challenges. How can the companies and the Association act to convey our legitimacy, our strong ethical standards and our relevance to the economy?
- The need to “refresh” the business model
Opportunities and issues, including changing interaction and communication, particularly among the young, and channel convergence and changing socio-economic profiles, require the business model to adapt to ensure that we capitalize on these changes rather than be victimized by them.
- Globalization of the business model
The impact of both domestic and foreign regulation on international markets and the increased visibility of business actions and activities across borders require a consciously international Association posture in representing direct selling as we seek to achieve consistency in regulation, self-regulation, codification and education in existing and emerging markets.
- Capitalize on the scale of our field.
The most powerful tool and weapon we have in creating a constructive and positive environment for the direct selling business model is to leverage the millions of salespeople, representing 5 percent of the U.S. population, who engage in direct selling. Hence, the Association must identify ways to deploy this constituency and provide them with legitimate information regarding direct sales.
Ensure the financial health and appropriate governance of the Association.
Ensure that our planning prioritizes and identifies means of generating adequate resources to fund the critical efforts of the Association, and ensure that these resources are appropriately allocated against priorities.
These six areas will guide the work of DSA’s committees, councils, task forces, staff and the Board of Directors. Some 800 executives from our member companies will be involved. It is important to keep in mind that the strategic plan is a living document that will be reviewed each year and adapted as necessary. A representative cross-section of industry leaders participated in the development of the plan, but it will be the combined work of everyone involved to make sure the objectives are realized.
Neil H. Offen is President of the Direct Selling Association.