Were you in Dallas at the DSA Annual Meeting?
I came away from the meeting convinced more than ever that direct selling has a tremendous potential to touch and transform people’s lives, confirming some of the things we have found out as we tested our industry’s image through our New ERA pilot program earlier this year. As we explored how we might enhance the awareness of direct selling it became clear that who we are, what we do and how we do it have tremendous appeal to people, even if there is sometimes confusion about our terminology. Whether we are party plan, door-to-door, or one-on-one, and regardless of the compensation model we use, the statement of purpose that ties us all together—our salesforce, our customers, and the communities we serve—and resonates most with the public is “We Create Better Lives.”
Seeing the enthusiasm and energy of our fellow executives in Dallas, I wonder how the wider world could have missed us. Maybe we are victims of our own success. We are an industry reluctant to advertise. In a culture where brand awareness and marketplace demand—and implied legitimacy—is bought with billions of dollars worth of advertising, we choose instead to spend those resources to improve the lives of our salesforce. We create demand and awareness of our products and opportunities through personal interaction. That’s who we are. We’re not mass retailers, or significant advertisers, or direct marketers. We are direct sellers.
Direct selling is a potent and lasting force for good in the world. We spread opportunity far from our shores, and give people who might otherwise know only deprivation and desperation a chance to escape the disadvantaged circumstances of their birth. Some have doubted us, but we know better. We provide opportunity for millions, products for millions more. We’ve created better lives, and we’re proud of it.
The world is a better place than it was a hundred years ago. But it can be made much better still. It is a world where too many people are trapped in the hopelessness their families have endured for generations; where too many suffer; where too many dreams give way to despair; where a billion people go to bed hungry.
Somewhere in the world … there is a mother wondering how she will feed her child.
Somewhere … there is an unemployed father hoping his next job interview goes better than his last one.
Somewhere … there is a 16-year-old girl who dreams of starting her own business, of building a better life for herself and her family. She dreams she might become a godsend to her people, using her success to help her community thrive.
Those dreams are universal. They are not exclusive to a class or a country. They can be found on the plains of Texas, the cobblestone streets of Europe, in the slums of Kuala Lumpur. They are resilient. They persist amid poverty, violence, injustice.
Those who doubt or underestimate us are not just wrong, they are blind. Blind to the power of dreams. Blind to the resilience of the human heart. Blind to the creativity of entrepreneurs wherever they live, whatever their background. And they are blind to opportunities that have existed for decades, and to the business that creates them.
The business that has been a part of the American landscape for so long and is so ingrained in our culture that it has escaped their notice. The business that believes in the power of dreams.
The business that knows a person’s destiny is determined by character and determination, not by where you were born or who your parents are.
The business you have devoted your careers to. The business of creating better lives that we celebrated so forcefully and happily in Dallas—Direct Selling.
Joseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association.