Letter from John Fleming, September 2014

Click here to order the September 2014 issue in which this article appeared.

It’s Fourth Quarter!

Conventions and annual meetings have served to inspire. A few hundred thousand lives have been personally touched by the many corporate events of the past few months. Last month, in this column, we provided an optimistic outlook on 2014 direct selling industry performance based on our collective observations and views.

John Fleming On July 28 the research team supporting the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations posted their worldwide results for 2013. Total global retail sales were $178.5 billion for 2013, up 8.1 percent from 2012’s total of $165.2 billion. The number of independent contractors globally rose as well, up 7 percent to 96.2 million. (To see the full global statistics go to www.wfdsa.org) This data also confirmed our outlook—direct selling is growing as a channel of distribution around the world! We should really expect no less. Any channel of distribution that can serve to engage people from basically all walks of life has to be considered for its relevancy during times of growing interest in entrepreneurship. The strengths of this most unique channel of distribution are many, and over the past year much more attention has been directed toward the industry. Therefore, as we now move through the final quarter of the year, projections for year-end results will begin to set the stage for reflections on what we have learned from 2014 in particular. We certainly believe the number of media impressions about direct selling is probably up over prior year. There is always a mix of opinions, and there is no way to quantify the balance between positive and negative press—there is always some of both. Local and niche media have actually done an excellent job on many occasions of publishing some very impressive and positive stories. And, I might add, DSN published an excellent insert that was distributed in The Wall Street Journal (reprints are still available).

As we (DSN) reflect on this past year, in particular, the following thoughts appear to be noteworthy:

    1. Journalists covering direct selling need to be encouraged to keep an appropriate balance between the stories that are a reflection of the best of the industry and those that show concern about the direct selling business model and how it is being utilized and promoted. This is an industry that self-regulates probably better than any other and one that has available a very strong code of ethics developed by the Direct Selling Association. We must simply find more ways to advocate the best of what the industry stands for. Better balance is essential, and each player has the opportunity to influence what gets reflected in the media. Ultimately, better balance will negate the perception that the media only desires to cover the negative.


    1. Every company using the direct selling model in any of its many variations, regardless of the label being used, is an actor/actress on the big stage. The big stage is the global marketplace where the audience tends to recognize the direct selling industry as “ONE,” regardless of the label being used. ONE was actually the theme of this year’s Direct Selling Association’s Annual Meeting, a very appropriate theme for an industry that is searching for its redefinition of who we are and what we do. Regardless of how we are defining ourselves individually, the audience tends to see ONE; therefore, it behooves us to realize even more so that the audience is always there. The audience is often learning, enjoying the play, and marveling at its uniqueness, it’s symphony of talent, its mix of ingredients and the results of the production. Some in the audience are simply there to report, and what they report can often be what they see, not what they understand—meaning all characters in the play are quite important. Therefore, it’s our duty to pay attention to all characters.


  1. Industry growth means a lot of things are going well and a lot of people are finding success! Growth should support an ever increasing positive perception of what the industry does and how it accomplishes so much through a channel of distribution based on engaging people from all backgrounds. As the cast continues to develop—the many companies who are utilizing and growing through use of the direct selling model—the cast will find itself performing before a larger and ever growing audience that is informed and often equipped to share their observations and experiences quickly and effectively. Each of us can ensure that the play is one of the finest productions ever brought to stage by simply playing our unique roles well and with authenticity! And as we do, we will capture the imagination of the audience and deliver on the promise of a better future! No need to overpromise… this industry provides opportunity like no other!

One of the ways we can leverage the cast is to celebrate what we have accomplished and what we will accomplish as we now work toward the close of 2014. There are fewer and fewer days left in this year. On the next pages, Lauren Lawley Head will unveil DSN’s 90 Days of Direct Selling, and how we plan to celebrate our great industry!

Enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief

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