Doug DeVos, current Chairman of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations as well as President of Amway, sat down with DSN to talk about global direct selling and his vision for the organization’s future. His WFDSA term runs through October 2017.
What are your top three global objectives as Chairman of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA)?
A: There are three key things we need to accomplish, working together as an industry, and they’re all closely related:
1. Together, we need to advocate for better legal definitions for direct selling and we need to enforce our code of ethics, setting high standards of excellence. The great majority of the people in our business approach their work with integrity, honesty, ethics and sincerity. But the actions of a disreputable few can overshadow the reality of our industry.
These actions only counteract our collective efforts and perpetuate negative misperceptions. I am anxious to see us establish more commonly accepted definitions for direct selling so consumers all over the world will be better prepared to distinguish between legitimate direct sellers and those who are pretending to be legitimate.
The WFDSA is not content to tolerate even one misdeed. While we know that we can never eliminate all bad behavior in our industry, we are still committed to doing everything in our power to minimize it, especially for the benefit of all those who want to play by the rules.
2. Our companies must do an even better job of partnering with government, consumer organizations, academics and others to educate all consumers on the difference between legitimate direct selling and frauds—no matter what they call themselves. So even when the frauds try to operate outside the law, consumers won’t be deceived and exploited.
We need to build a larger foundation of academic knowledge about responsible direct selling so that regulators, consumer groups and others fully understand the industry and support it. We need to do a much better job of educating media on how direct selling works and how it plays a positive role in economies and societies.
3. We need to work together on these issues as partners, not as adversaries, with a long-term view shaped by patience, factual information, objectivity and transparency. And most of all, no matter what our role is, we all exist to serve the consumer and we must never lose sight of that.
Do you expect direct selling to gain market share in the distribution of goods and services globally?
A: Absolutely. Direct selling is well poised for future growth. Direct selling companies bring forth new products and competition and the many benefits of both to the consumer. The opportunities that our industry offers are more appealing than ever due to the increasingly positive attitude toward entrepreneurship combined with less security and stability from traditional employment. And direct selling is truly more relevant than ever in today’s Internet-driven economy. E-commerce and mobile applications enable our distributors to serve their customers very effectively and to build their businesses on the go, however they fit into their lifestyle. Also, the personalized customer service that direct selling reps provide is a key advantage of our model compared to traditional retail.
Which emerging markets should be on every direct selling executive’s radar?
A: There’s opportunity in both emerging and mature markets around the world. Direct selling is available to most of the world’s population so I think our real opportunities lie in better honing our offerings to line up with what entrepreneurs and customers are seeking—no matter where they’re located. Innovative products, lifestyle brands, better training and support—those are the things that will drive growth.
How is WFDSA changing to adapt to the evolution of direct selling today?
A: We recognize how the world is changing around us and how well suited we are to capitalize on where the world is going. For our industry, I think it’s mostly about seizing the opportunities that are in front of us, like the interest in entrepreneurship and the growth of mobile technologies. These are trends that fit our industry, and we have to be sure we draw those connections for people by better demonstrating who we are and how what we offer can benefit their lives.
What can be done to strengthen direct selling’s image around the world?
A: We need to be more open and transparent about our industry and how our opportunities work—the products we offer, how people make money, the level of effort involved. There are so many incredible aspects of this industry, we simply need to be more aggressive in owning and telling our stories. There are misperceptions and myths out there about direct selling, and it’s our responsibility to work together as individual member companies and as an industry to clear them up. We have our work cut out for us, but the opportunity is great. Working together as a united industry, I have no doubt we’ll accomplish great things.