Letter from John Fleming, March 2014

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John Fleming

In our cover story for this issue, it is our honor to recognize “The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling.” The feature is focused on the role women play in the industry and the impact of their leadership. Our industry can be proud of the fact that 75 percent of the participants at the independent contractor level are women. These women are often mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters and friends—and also leaders who impact the lives of others around the world. No other industry that actually delivers a product or service can claim as great a participation of women at the level of business transaction. Critics of the direct selling business model might serve themselves better if only they knew who really benefits from what direct sellers do. This is an industry we are proud to write about each month, especially when we have the opportunity to salute those we honor and cherish—the women!

I would also like to share that after Amway announced their 2013 results to the public on Tuesday, Feb. 4, we were eager to spend a few minutes on the phone with DSN’s currently ranked No. 1 company in the world, based on the Global 100 list. We spoke with the Amway communications team, as well as Chairman Steve Van Andel and President Doug DeVos about Amway’s reported revenue of $11.8 billion for 2013, a new record capping seven consecutive years of growth. This is, of course, a new revenue record for any single company in the direct selling industry. The largest direct seller of all time has been built over the past 55 years, from a humble beginning to a global company dedicated to making a free enterprise-based distribution system available to people from all walks of life.

What most may not remember about the Amway story are the battles they fought and won, the challenges they incurred due to negative press, the education they provided about the direct selling business model at a very critical moment in time, and the benefits gained by the entire industry. When we spoke with Steve and Doug about another year of incredible growth in 80 percent of their top 10 markets, we were not surprised with their very first comments—they both immediately spoke with reverence about the Amway Independent Business Owners (IBOs) around the world who build their businesses in pursuit of their own personal objectives, with the support of Amway brands and opportunity. Addressing a privately owned enterprise, we did not expect a conversation about margins, profits, brands (NUTRILITE and Artistry are two of the largest brands in the world), new products and increased market share; however, Amway is accomplishing all of these things while also enhancing the communities in which its people live and work.

The economic footprint that Amway is making on the world is enormous. From original office space in what was a former gasoline station to now 21,000 employees worldwide, 3 million IBOs, 15 manufacturing facilities around the world, 6,400+ acres of certified organic farmland on four farms dedicated to sustainable farming, and 75 R&D/Quality Assurance laboratories worldwide, Amway is changing lives.

In the Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report released last November (www.AmwayEntrepreneurshipReport.com), Amway researchers revealed for all of the direct selling public—and those who look to better understand the direct selling business model—why it works. The research sample included over 26,000 respondents from over 24 countries utilizing the primary research methods of face-to-face and telephone calls to collect the information. Key findings included the great potential for self-employment even though self-employment rates remain very low in most countries. The Amway report also reveals that 70 percent of the respondents (average) and 77 percent of respondents under the age of 30 had a positive attitude toward entrepreneurship. The primary challenges to involvement in entrepreneurship are related to the financial barriers to entry and the “fear of failure.” The report further points out that an interest in entrepreneurship is not all about the money. The desire for independence and “better compatibility of family, leisure time and career” is highly appreciated. The report is available to the public on the Amway website.

Another article of interest to executives in the industry as well as those who seek information about the direct selling business model is written by Ibi Fleming, Herbalife North America Senior Vice President and Managing Director. The article, a response to a question, was recently published in the Los Angeles Daily News. You can find a reference to the article in the Headline News section on the DSN website.

In summary, when you reflect on the positive attitude toward entrepreneurship around the world as well as direct selling’s pathway to entrepreneurship and its ability to eliminate major barriers, it is clear that the direct selling business model is at the forefront of satisfying a growing need around the world.

Until next month… enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief

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