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In some ways, my life is a bit of a contradiction. In less time than I care to admit, my children will be grown and move away from home. And yet, I work for one of the direct selling industry’s largest anti-aging companies—a company focused on helping people to “live young.”
As a father of children who are now well on their journey to adulthood, one thing that I have learned to deal with is the day they start driving. When my oldest daughter was first beginning to drive, I was a bit apprehensive. But as I watched her learn and saw the joy it brought to her, I couldn’t help but think of my first driving experience—of my first car.
It was a 1979 Ford Fiesta, Sport Edition. To me it was the greatest car ever! And while it would never receive rave reviews for acceleration, car ownership meant freedom and fun.
I learned a few things from that first car. I learned to understand and appreciate the vast complexity of everything that must work together flawlessly to make every car run its best—everything that must be perfectly aligned.
I would like to offer up three specific points of alignment that can affect your car and your business, and what my first car—and my subsequent experiences—taught me about each of them.
With my first car I learned to understand and appreciate the vast complexity of everything that must work together flawlessly to make every car run its best—everything that must be perfectly aligned.
Lesson 1: To perform its best, every car needs a great driver.
When it comes to cars, or businesses, it all starts in the driver’s seat. When I first learned to drive, I was downright dangerous—as most 16-year-old drivers are. I was learning how everything worked, and I had to give a lot of thought to things that are now second nature to me. But as I gained experience, I got better and better. I learned to focus on the road and notice the potential hazards around me. I learned how my vehicle responded to my directions and made my decisions accordingly. And although my wife may tell you differently—and at the risk of sounding like Rain Man—I consider myself to be an excellent driver.
In the case of your business, you need an excellent driver. This represents your management team. The most effective management teams work together, providing clear business strategy, a focused message and coordinated timing to build continuous energy. In these efforts, experience and focus are key.
One example of a great driver is Truman Hunt, President and CEO of Nu Skin. I have worked with Truman for several years now as part of his executive team, and I have seen firsthand the influence he has had on the company at every level.
In 2009 he articulated a new goal for Nu Skin—he called it Nu Skin 2.0—to help us achieve our vision of paying more to our distributors than any other direct selling company. There were specific revenue and sales compensation targets that Truman put forward. He then rallied the business behind this vision and has provided clear and unapologetic leadership as we have moved steadily toward our goal.
Similarly, your management team needs to provide clear direction, while giving room for innovative thought to help shape the future. These executives must be aligned in their strategy and ensure that they effectively communicate it throughout the employee organization. An “internal campaign” like this allows all company employees to speak with one voice, stand united with field leaders, measure success and achieve results.
Frequent and consistent communication with key management, your employee force and field leaders ensures that your whole team is driving for a common vision and reaching for common goals. This cannot happen when there are competing agendas or infighting in your management team or employee force.
If there is an issue that needs to be worked out, fix it. Your car will go as does its driver.
Lesson 2: Even a great driver is useless without a powerful engine.
But even the best driver means nothing without a finely tuned engine. I learned quickly that a small car with a less powerful motor was limited in what it could do. As much as I wanted my first car to be a Maserati, it simply wasn’t. It had limitations based on the size and power of its engine. It could only be propelled forward as fast as the engine would allow.
What propels your business? What is the engine of your success?
For Nu Skin, the engine of our success is best represented by our business opportunity and has always been, and always will be, powered by our distributors. This global family of sales leaders is made up of hundreds of thousands of individuals who work as a team to achieve amazing results. They are the pistons of our engine, creating perfectly timed explosions of growth as they capitalize on the opportunities provided by our product launches.
These opportunity renewal cycles, like a well-tuned engine, are timed to provide distributors with opportunities to leverage the fuel of new product launches to power their businesses as they seek out new customers and potential business partners. But keeping an engine running smoothly can be a difficult proposition. Constant adjustment is required.
With each new opportunity renewal cycle we learn new things and see new areas for improvement. Then, working in tandem with our employees and field sales leaders, we tune up the opportunity. We make adjustments to make something great even better. This assures that our sales leaders’ success engine is always ready to provide them with the best possible vehicle for success.
Lesson 3: The best car can only move if its wheels are properly aligned.
Finally, I learned that my car performed best when my wheels were aligned. My fuel economy was better. The handling was better and more responsive. And I felt more secure knowing that my car would respond better to my commands from the driver’s seat.
The wheels are literally where the rubber hits the road and where execution becomes key. The driver and engine are working together, feeding power to the wheels, which in turn provide forward momentum.
In high school I learned about the principle of momentum in physics class with a simple equation: momentum = mass x velocity. This principle works well, whether you’re explaining the momentum of an object or a business. In our case at Nu Skin, we require a critical mass of sales leaders all pulling in the same direction, multiplied by the velocity of our products and opportunity to provide forward momentum to the business.
To this end, we have developed a five-stage alignment cycle that helps us in this process, carrying a consistent message throughout our entire sales organization—from our most influential sales leaders through to the newest distributor.
It begins with strategic meetings with key sales leaders. We plan together and develop messaging that will guide everything else we do regarding any new product launch. We then move in a disciplined way through the entire organization, communicating the same message to everyone. This ensures that each of our distributors is aligned with Nu Skin—and aligned with one another—creating global focus on common initiatives and exponentially moving the business forward.
But this kind of alignment doesn’t just happen. We work hard to ensure that we engage the hearts and minds of our distributors, empowering them with tools to help align, train and motivate their own sales organizations—enabling them to multiply and duplicate their success. Finally, we develop structured communications and sales events to further empower leaders and enhance their ability to mobilize their teams.
When each component comes together perfectly, the results can be tremendous!
In fact, for Nu Skin, the past three product launches have grown significantly—each new launch building on the success of the last. This kind of healthy growth can only be achieved through the power of alignment.
For example, when we introduced our first ageLOC product system—ageLOC Transformation—in 2009, we were excited when our efforts at alignment helped us to achieve a record convention product launch, which more than tripled our previous record. Taking what we learned from that and applying slight modifications for our next ageLOC launch in 2011 generated sales five times greater than what we accomplished in 2009. And with an upcoming launch scheduled for this year, we are looking at what we hope will be another record.
These are the fruits of alignment.
These are the lessons I learned from my first car. These are the lessons that we all must learn if we want to succeed in direct selling—or in any other business. Proper alignment is key. And although the road ahead will have its share of potholes and hazards, I am more confident than ever that our focus on continual alignment will enable us to navigate it successfully.
Dan Chard is President of Sales and Operations at Nu Skin Enterprises.