Today, more than ever, entrepreneurs are discovering direct selling. Hard-working people are attracted to the opportunity to start a business, set goals and pursue a better quality of life. As a result, the direct selling industry is growing, with more than 15 million distributors and nearly $30 billion in sales in the United States.
As we continue to grow, our industry takes a higher profile, too. That’s a tremendous benefit to our distributors, who leverage the name recognition, product quality and personal nature of direct selling that is so unique to our business.
That’s why, like any high-profile brand, it’s critical that we build and maintain a positive brand for direct selling. As we look to share our businesses with even more people around the world, the first impression is always the most important and most lasting.
Our industry has long fought to integrate professional ethics at every level. This commitment can be seen in the DSA’s Code of Ethics, which clearly identifies what both consumers and distributors can and should expect when conducting business. And any company that wants to become a DSA member must pledge to abide by these standards. But we can do more.
Rooted in this Code of Ethics are values and principles that underscore the importance we place as an industry on ethical business practices. The expectation is that distributors can rely on leaders in their organizations to uphold the highest levels of honesty, integrity, responsibility and accountability. And they can count on these values to be placed front and center when it comes to ensuring products are safe, individuals are reliable, compensation is fair, training is effective, and support and guidance are readily available. At the same time, consumers should be able to trust that people in this industry possess strong principles, moral character and sound judgment.
As members and leaders in DSA and its global counterparts, we must continue to bring these values and principles to the work we do each and every day. Using them to guide decisions and strategies is what will help sustain direct selling businesses regardless of the climate in the marketplace. And it is these ideas that will help us continue to strengthen our businesses, improve our products and brands, and deliver exceptional distributor and customer experiences.
But there are more fundamental reasons. When people throughout an organization adhere to a common set of values, there is a trickle-down effect. When others see that working in this manner is not just expected, but reinforced through decisions and actions by their leaders, it inspires them to think and behave the same way. For direct selling, the result is an increase in morale, a more motivated salesforce and stronger, more successful businesses. That’s how we earn trust and respect from our customers.
Fortunately, we see these values put into practice all the time. As a member of the CEO Council for the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, I am proud to say that each one of us strives to serve as a role model to demonstrate these values. All of us understand the unique opportunity we have to set the example for the industry as well as the individual businesses we represent.
Direct selling was founded on helping others, and those values continue to be brought to life through countless charitable and philanthropic activities that our companies and direct sellers participate in each year. For instance, last year, USDSA companies donated a total of more than $16.5 million in products and cash to the TODAY Show’s Annual Holiday Toy Drive. And a very personal example is when USDSA company executives mentored the next generation of entrepreneurs during our June annual meeting, thanks to DSEF partnering with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
I know many direct sellers use a strong set of values to take care of more than just their business, employees and customers. As an industry, we show we care about the communities we live in, because we understand that once success is reached at a certain level, not only do we have the resources to turn our attention toward others in our communities, but we have an obligation. And when communities see firsthand the commitment direct sellers have toward making other people’s lives better, it helps improve how we are thought of as well.
That’s why first impressions are important. Many of us are the first introduction people have to our industry. So our role in shaping their perceptions is critical. A reputation is something that’s earned. And it takes time and effort to be perceived a certain way. So when we lead with values and act in ethical ways, our reputation grows. And the more favorably we are looked upon, the more people will want to be a part of our industry. So as you work to enrich lives by offering more people an opportunity for success, we encourage you to continue to focus on helping others be better achievers with discipline, integrity and honesty.
As direct selling quickly becomes the path of choice for many entrepreneurs, we must preserve the work that has built a strong foundation of goodwill. Great strides have been made in showing the world, the millions of independent business owners and countless other budding entrepreneurs that this industry is filled with people who believe that values are just as important as the bottom line. We have seen where abiding by strict ethical standards can take us, but there is potential to go so much further. We must. And with your help, we will—in every decision we make, every encounter we have and every person we meet.
Doug DeVos is President of Amway.