SPU 2020 Growing Forward

More than 1,000 direct selling executives tuned in to SUCCESS Partners University’s first all-virtual event.

For two decades, SUCCESS Partners University (SPU) has been leading and hosting some of the most influential and important conversations within the direct selling industry. What began as an intimate gathering with less than a dozen people in the room in 2000 turned into an annual two-day event hosted in Plano, Texas, where more than 500 direct selling executives flew in from around the globe to share their growth strategies and Stuart Johnson, Founder and CEO of SUCCESS Partners, served as host.

As the event evolved over the years to meet the needs of its attendees and the changing landscape of the economy and workforce, the gathering’s founding purpose remained the same.

“The driving mission of SUCCESS Partners University is to provide direct selling company executives with relevant insights, learnings, and best practices for growth and success in today’s channel,” says SUCCESS Partners Senior Vice President of Marketing and Publications Shelley Rojas.

And in a time when much of the industry has moved to virtual platforms for its events due to the pandemic and shifting protocols for safe meeting practices, it is fitting that SPU 2020 would continue its evolution to follow suit, replacing its large in-person conference with a virtual format, featuring 40 industry experts and thought leaders. Although the information was presented in a contemporary way, the event’s traditional principles continue unchanged.

“The spirit and purpose are the same,” Rojas says. “Only, now we can reach and involve so many more executives to gain from their deeper and broader perspectives, stories and experiences.”

All-Virtual Format

Switching to an all-virtual platform for the first time was not planned for the event’s 20th anniversary celebration, but the pivot to this unanticipated milestone has unlocked new options and benefits that were previously inaccessible.

“Going virtual has allowed us to curate more speakers, more insights, more inspiration and more takeaways than ever before!” Rojas says.

In addition, the usual information-packed two-day event was transformed into a multi-day experience distributed in shorter time blocks, to accommodate the busy schedules of executives who were still on location, manning operations and the day-to-day demands of their businesses.

“The caliber and volume of content have increased in step with the length of the event,” Rojas says. “We broadcasted two hours per day over the span of five days to make it as convenient as possible for the executives attending.”

This new virtual format also opened the door to an abundance of speakers whose schedules had previously prevented them from participating. “It is more convenient for speakers to participate virtually as well, rather than in-person so this year was our most impressive content yet,” Rojas says.

Record-Setting Potential

In a year when companies have been defined by how flexible and innovative they can become in the face of unprecedented challenges, SPU 2020 sought to shine a light on ways the industry has triumphed, and new pathways to continue that success.

“The theme of SPU 2020 is Growing Forward,” Johnson says. “So many industries have endured huge financial setbacks and massive sales losses during the pandemic, and yet many companies in our channel have enjoyed strong, sustained growth. It’s incredible what is possible when change isn’t an option.”

The possibility of growth in the face of powerful obstacles and setbacks is a topic many of the event’s speakers–a group of 30 direct selling executives who represent a combined $30 billion in annual revenue, more than 50 million microentrepreneurs, and, collectively, are projected to exceed $3 billion in growth in 2020 over the previous year—touched upon, joining renowned thought leaders like Tony Robbins, John Maxwell, Jay Shetty, Kindra Hall, Mel Robbins and Les Brown in encouraging industry leaders.

It may have seemed counterintuitive to focus on growth at the beginning of the pandemic, when the year continued to fill with uncertainty, but as the year comes to a close, the numbers are proving what few industry leaders could have predicted.

“At least ten companies are on track to double their sales this year, some in excess of $400 million,” Johnson says. “In fact, we’re forecasting that 2020 U.S. direct selling revenue will far surpass the $36 billion record achieved in 2016.”

There are so many external factors that industry executives cannot control right now, but for the attendees of SPU 2020, learning how to move and grow forward together in spite of the uncertainty will create the healthiest and most profitable pathway forward for the direct selling channel. That resiliency may continue to lead future SPU events to include virtual components, but Rojas explains that the value of an in-person experience can’t be fully replicated or replaced. “We are already planning the 2021 event to be held in Plano, Texas on May 19-21, 2021,” Rojas says. “We hope to bring that human interaction and networking component back in 2021 while leveraging the power that virtual creates through curating more diverse content and with a larger group of presenters. Virtual does open up so much from a numbers and convenience standpoint, so we’ll aim for a healthy mix of onsite and online experiences, but the sharing and conversations and networking that happen off-stage are invaluable benefits and pillars of the event that simply can’t be replaced.” DSN