Letter from John Fleming, September 2013

Click here to order the September 2013 issue in which this article appeared.

This fall publication is a reminder of how rapidly the year is moving to closure. We started the year with much collective optimism for the direct selling industry, and overall we have not been disappointed. Both revenue and the number of participants at the independent contractor level appear to remain in growth mode. Some companies have hit bumps, some have overcome the most severe of challenges and others are racing into the final quarter of the year in high gear.

Our greatest concern during the year related to how the overall industry would fare against the attacks on a few of our publicly held companies. Those attacks may have been new, but the accusations were not. In fact, Amway had successfully helped to educate both regulatory agencies and external industry observers in its successful defense of the direct selling business model in 1979. In this month’s issue, we summarize a longer article written by Jeffrey Babener, an attorney with over 25 years of dedicated focus on the direct selling industry. Mr. Babener’s article is a reminder to us of battles fought and won, which have become a part of our history. As time moves on, newer entrants and external observers may not get this type of information, which is so significant to the foundation and evolution of the direct selling business model. They may miss the research that is so important to charting our future. We were pleased to be able to publish this article and the insight shared within it.

John FlemingIn this issue, you will notice that we bring to you “Billion Dollar Markets,” one of our major stories each year. We typically slot it in March but have now moved it to September in order to take advantage of the great work being done by the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations’ Research Committee. Their information is now released in the summer, which gives us adequate time to bring the story to you in the September issue.

Our Top Desk article is always contributed by a company leader who is usually the CEO or a C-level executive. In this month’s issue, Univera’s CEO Randy Bancino, an avid sailor, brings us one of the most unique perspectives we have received over the years relative to leadership and what’s critical to being successful in that role. Randy makes many strong points in his article, and they are all analogous to sailing. Respecting the wind is something no sailor can ignore. Randy shares this principle and many more in his article, as well as how they apply to direct selling.

AdvoCare grabs the Company Spotlight in this issue. This year AdvoCare ranked No. 4 in the DSN Global 100 category of Greatest Growth Percentage over prior year with a growth rate of 84.8 percent. They are one of a few direct selling companies that have chosen to incorporate a strong sports marketing focus. If you are a NASCAR fan, you are also getting to know AdvoCare and the famous No. 3 car.

We also found this month’s Working Smart article to be of great importance to the entire industry. Technology is paving the way for so many customer-focused improvements that allow direct sellers to compete and beat practically any traditional retailer at the point of sale (POS) experience. Direct sellers have always been able to provide the relationship, information and education that a traditional retailer cannot compete with, but the customer service proposition has often been a bit cumbersome. In past years, placing the order through an independent contractor included the time it would take to complete the order, submit the order, process the order and deliver the order. Being able to accept customer credit cards has become a great enabler, but it still behooves companies to continuously look at how independent contractors handle their customers’ credit cards and most importantly, the personal information. New technologies have bred new point of sale systems that actually link to the independent contractor’s back office. There he or she can safely transmit the order into the company’s order processing system immediately allowing for quicker delivery and greater customer satisfaction. Perhaps one of the most important benefits to be gained from these new POS systems would be their PCI Compliance conformance. PCI compliance codes and laws are expected to become more stringent and enforced as credit card fraud continues to be a major challenge across all industries and in all markets.

As we closed the folder labeled September, we realized that we are entering the most exciting quarter of the year for direct selling. Nine months have passed in 2013, and since we are still in the baseball season, I will use the baseball analogy of what it means to go into the bottom-half of the ninth inning knowing that you need one more run to not only win the game, but also win the season! 2013 will be a season that direct selling wins based on everything that has been observed over the first nine months of the game—or in this case, the year. Regardless of what may be going on in our country and the world, what you do and what you provide through your companies is about as refreshing as it gets—being positive, optimistic, hopeful and aspiring to make a difference in the lives of those who represent your brands and those who benefit from what you offer!

Until next month… enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief

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