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Like every industry, direct selling companies must compete for business, making product development, marketing and sales a highly competitive proposition, particularly at organizations that have business lines in common. This competition is healthy because it drives innovations that ultimately improve the experience of our customers and increase the likelihood they’ll come back to us.
Yet, in spite of the routine competitive pressures associated with operating a business at a high level, our industry is defined by a strong culture of collaboration that I would suggest is unique and adds significant value. As Mary Kay’s Michael Lunceford, Chairman of the Direct Selling Association’s (DSA) Government Relations Committee, likes to remind others in direct selling, we are fundamentally in the people business—certainly to a much greater extent than online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
The face-to-face engagement that characterizes direct selling invites knowledge sharing among companies, even among the fiercest of competitors. At every DSA conference, I am continually inspired by how generously executives from different—and sometimes even competing—companies work together to lend perspective on challenges and opportunities. Many view such collaborations as a way to pay it forward, grateful for critical information they received along the way. Learning from successes and failures of others helps all of us build a stronger direct selling industry together.
At DSA, we live this culture of collaboration every day and harness its power to live up to our mission of promoting, protecting and policing the direct selling industry. Our efforts to bring companies together and facilitate collaboration and conversation are on clear display during each of our conferences, but that is just the beginning. Through our committee and council structure, we create forums for companies of every size, marketing model, and product line to discuss pressing challenges and opportunities and, most importantly, implement solutions that benefit all of our member companies and the direct selling channel.
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss some of the ways in which DSA membership and our strong culture of collaboration can add tangible business value to your direct selling company this year—and for years to come:
- Government Relations. Each year, state legislatures meet to consider thousands of bills. Year after year, the Association’s collaboration with DSA member companies in this important area has prevented unnecessary or costly mandates from becoming law. We also pursue legislation proactively, including independent contractor measures in various states that protect the direct selling business model. The committee engages similarly with federal policymakers from our headquarters here in Washington, D.C.
- Ethics and Law. Direct selling companies cannot join us without undergoing a year-long, rigorous review process to ensure compliance with standards set by DSA’s Code of Ethics. Once on board, members on the Ethics Committee help us chart the future of our Code, identifying areas that further strengthen consumer and salesforce protections. Membership in DSA helps differentiate our companies from bad actors within the industry.
- Industry Research. DSA’s Industry Research Committee implements a program that helps our members stay abreast of and understand industry trends to make more informed business decisions. Our members receive timely access to market sizing, benchmarking and best practice reports.
- Executive Education. Each year, DSA’s Education Committee develops a wide-ranging calendar of networking opportunities, issue-oriented summits, and executive-level dialogue and learning experiences to provide members with the knowledge they need to succeed.
- Communications. Making sure that key external stakeholders, such as policymakers, understand the business model and appreciate the entrepreneurial opportunity associated with direct selling is important. Our Communications Committee guides efforts in this area and is pursuing a number of new activities this year.
To every direct selling company that has already renewed membership with DSA or is about to, please accept my sincere thanks. Our industry is stronger when as many companies as possible are represented at our table.
For those of you who are new to the direct selling space or are wondering how you can increase your exposure to industry experts and help us chart the future of the industry, I would be honored to welcome you to DSA. For more information, contact Nancy Burke, DSA’s Vice President of Membership, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association.