To gain perspective and understanding about what’s around the corner for 2021, it seemed prudent to profile some 2020 direct selling outliers. Here, eight executives reflect on a year that sometimes delivered unexpected and rapid increases in sales and growth for their companies, despite less-than-optimal pandemic conditions that caused pain and recession-like contractions for so many other businesses.
Beyond having in common the ability to adapt and be nimble, these companies are all driven by products in demand by consumers and readily accessible via robust e-commerce platforms. And these companies, much like direct selling legacy company Tupperware Brands—who experienced a resurgence thanks to more people needing to store leftovers during the pandemic, marked quadrupled profits of $34.4 million in the most recent quarter and saw stock prices soar from $1 in March to $28.80 per share in late October—want to ride this wave of sales through 2021.
Here, they lay out how they intend to do that using the insight of hindsight. They detail what worked this year, what challenged them, and how they coped with the unpredictability 2020 consistently threw. They share what sustained them in strife and offer up advice to those feeling the strain today. And lastly, they look forward through a pragmatic and transformative lens on a 2021 that will ultimately be what direct selling companies make it.
FOUNDED / 1980
HEADQUARTERS / Irvine, California
TOP EXECUTIVE / Jean-David Schwartz, CEO
PRODUCTS / Personal Care and Wellness
Arbonne credits its growth during this tumultuous year to their incredibly passionate community of Independent Consultants, who represent the company’s line of botanically-based skincare, nutrition, cosmetics, hair care and baby products in the U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K., Poland and New Zealand.
The company ranked #19 on the DSN Global 100 in April with retail sales of $672 million, and CEO Jean-David Schwartz says Arbonne’s sales field has exceeded forecasts for growth and product sales in 2020.
“We are fortunate to have very tenured leaders in the business who are committed to selling product to their Preferred Clients and Clients and helping to guide the growth of their teams as well as mentor their peers,” Schwartz says.
What worked for your company? Were you somehow better prepared? Were there standout successes? Were you more adaptive and flexible?
Jean-David Schwartz: Our field has embraced a virtual model for sharing Arbonne and has shown that they can leverage this to consistently drive sales results. They had been doing this successfully for quite some time, as many millennials chose to start an Arbonne business, and they have taught others how to maximize this communication channel. We also have an experienced, agile home office team behind the scenes who were able to transition our plans from an in-person global training conference to a virtual event with only a month’s notice. When you have passion along with a belief in your brand from your Independent Consultants and loyal clients, combined with highly engaged employees, you have a foundation on which you can build results.
What obstacles or concerns did you face in 2020?
Jean-David Schwartz: Supply chain disruptions—along with strong sales growth—caused challenges in maintaining our inventory levels. Once again, we were fortunate to have the support from our Operations Team as well as the collaborative partnership from our parent company, Groupe Rocher, to help us identify and implement solutions. We worked hard not only to get the items back in stock but also to keep our field community fully informed so that they knew what to expect and could communicate that information to their clients.
How did your company cope with the unpredictable nature of doing business in 2020?
Jean-David Schwartz: Communication, in my opinion, is key. We transparently communicated with our Independent Consultants, Clients and Employees to ensure that they consistently knew what our plans were and what they could expect throughout the year. We have a strong belief that we do not want to only be the best company in the world, we also want to be the best company FOR the world, and our team works to live those values every day. When people know that you care about them and their families as individuals, this is where high levels of engagement begin. From there, proving that you can be trustworthy through your actions is what helps to maintain their loyalty.
What is your plan to sustain the new business in 2021?
Jean-David Schwartz: We are always striving to improve and evolve our processes so 2021 will be no different. We are hard at work developing new products to launch that we believe will delight our consumers, as well as create new activation offers as well as training for our community of Independent Consultants. We have also been hard at work preparing to launch the first phase of an entirely new e-commerce platform that will empower our Independent Consultants to more seamlessly sell the products and share the business opportunity with more and more people. We believe in supporting an individual’s holistic well-being and creating an environment in which they can flourish. Our products and our business opportunity offer this to our entire community.
What sustains you and your company during times of strife? What advice would you offer to others?
Jean-David Schwartz: Our community and our values are what will always sustain us. We are very proud that we were able to announce that we had received B-Corp Certification this past January because this validates who we are as a company as well as our ethics. When you have a shared belief, you can all work together to support each other as well as to reach your goals.
Any insights for 2021?
Jean-David Schwartz: We hope that 2021 will continue to be another year of growth where we can leverage the learnings of the past few years, launch some new projects that will further inspire our community, and also continue to do good for the world. We will continue to transparently share the steps that we are taking to further our growth and to contribute back to our community. We believe the possibilities are limitless, and together with our incredible community we know that we can achieve almost anything.