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 / 2003
HEADQUARTERS / Fair Haven, Michigan
TOP EXECUTIVES / Jack Fallon, CVO; John Licari, COO
PRODUCTS / Health and Wellness
Total Life Changes is a product-driven company focused on wellness solutions that encompass vitamins, weight loss supplements, coffees, detox teas, essential oils, skincare and more. They stay on top of nutritional news and trends, always looking for opportunities to bring new products to market after plenty of pre-testing and trials with employees, customers and focus groups. TLC wants to understand what is working for consumers and what is selling.
When January 2020 rolled around, TLC was six months in to a customer acquisition program called The G5 Challenge. COO John Licari and CCO Scott Bania toured the country touting the power of duplication and educating TLC leaders. A straight line can be drawn between those 2019 efforts and TLC’s growth in 2020. However, credit also goes to a robust sampling program that distributed hundreds of thousands of samples to customers each month, as well as the popularity of TLC’s hemp-infused detox teas.
“The cumulative result was a tremendous surge of brand-new preferred customers and business partners called Life Changers that were leveraging e-commerce and the work-from-home model that direct selling offers. Total Life Changes was blessed to capture record sales in May 2020, topping the second quarter of 2019’s revenue in a single month,” Bania says.
What worked for your company?
Scott Bania: Jack Fallon and John Licari established a daily Facebook Live Broadcast in March of 2019. This platform allowed them to communicate with existing customers and Life Changers, while also allowing others unaffiliated with the company to get a firsthand look into the company’s culture and family community. The show discusses one of seven TLC core values on a daily basis, recognizes customer transformations, provides giveaways, and overall allows TLC’s company executives to address the pandemic’s effects on customer support and shipping delays.
Were you somehow better prepared?
Scott Bania: I think we were better prepared mentally and spiritually. I think most companies faced challenges caused by the pandemic and restrictions from the CDC, which impacted the number of products available and shipping logistics. But we were ready and able to fill 24-hour shifts for product fulfillment.
While the pandemic impacted thousands of small to mid-sized businesses in Michigan, Total Life Changes was deemed essential, and we knew we had to take every step possible to keep our employees safe. We invested in several air scrubbers that would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also implemented a “surface wipe down” with disinfectant every 30 minutes. Once a protocol was established, we reached out to Legacy Service Solutions. They provided sterilization of all surfaces using technology that creates a molecular bond with the surface for at least three months even when continued normal cleaning takes place.
The executive team worked alongside new hires within every department. It was vital to partner experienced employees with new employees to help train and offer help when needed. This assisted with keeping up with orders, whether receiving or preparing them for shipment.
Were there standout successes?
Scott Bania: Positions to work in our fulfillment center went viral on Snapchat and Instagram due to the fun atmosphere filled with music and laughter. We quickly hired and on-boarded dozens of college and high school students that were excited to work with their friends building shipping boxes, packing, scanning, and taping boxes ready for shipment.
Were you more adaptive and flexible?
Scott Bania: We were most definitely flexible for well over five months. We purchased laptops for all of our employees. Our customer service agents were working remotely. Our team leaders and CS managers found unique ways to communicate with our customers and our employees effectively.
What obstacles did you face in 2020?
Scott Bania: Call volume and emails were at an all-time high. Our agents were often in excess of 15,000 emails behind and call wait times of up to eight hours. Our CS managers and team leaders developed strategies to filter the emails for our agents to answer more efficiently. We upgraded our telephone service provider and partnered with Salesforce.
We continued to hire more CS agents and on-boarded many virtually. Others were on-boarded at our world headquarters following CDC guidelines in our auditorium. The call volume never slowed. The frequency of emails never stopped. The attitude and leadership of our executive team and department heads were unwavering. We just continued to find ways to work smarter, not harder. The fulfillment center was restructured to allow for more employees and assembly lines. Storage racks were moved, the entire infrastructure and process for order fulfillment improved sending up to 35,000 orders a day.
How did your company cope with the unpredictable nature of doing business in 2020?
Scott Bania: Every department head and executive staff member continued to promote the company’s seven core values: We love each other. So, we did not Do What was Easy—We did What was Right. Because Grateful is our Mindset. And Having Fun, We Get More Work Done. Our Standard is Giving More than What is Expected because Passion is our Fuel. We were prepared to cope with the nature of doing business in 2020 because We are Always Hungry for More.
How do your plans for 2021 reflect what you’ve learned?
Scott Bania: TLC has been blessed to have sustained our business after numerous challenges that impacted every department. We weathered the storm, and we have been aggressively hiring and attracting new talented individuals that are in alignment with our seven core values. Our workforce at our World Headquarters has grown by 400 percent in the past 16 months to over 450 total full and part-time employees.
What is your plan to sustain the new business in 2021?
Scott Bania: Our business plan is to remain aggressive in attracting and hiring subject matter experts in information technology, user experience, and logistics. Total Life Changes is currently entertaining several technology proposals that will strengthen our internal and external processes, while offering our Life Changers access to the latest technological advances including AI. TLC will be announcing an entirely new product line in 2021 to attract a larger demographic of all-natural, homeopathic lifestyles.
What sustains you and your company during times of strife? What advice would you offer to others?
Scott Bania: Lead with personal development. Visitors are regularly exposed to executive team members practicing what they preach, from meditation to offering impactful quotes of the day to every department, working out together with a full-time fitness coach, and introducing new live broadcasts on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube; there is no secret sauce. We remain transparent. We wear our core values on our sleeves. We keep our employees engaged in professional development.
Any insights for 2021?
Scott Bania: Focus on the core of your business—customer acquisition. Keep things simple. Develop a simple program or initiative that anyone can duplicate, regardless of their background or experience in direct sales. Make sure your business plan allows for continual reinvention. This may include unique acquisition programs, new business tools that leverage technology (AI)—and find a way to have fun. This business model is intended to be exhilarating and purposeful. If you lead with honesty and integrity, you will attract the right people to your products and business model—and you will attract them to the company’s culture.