90 Days of Direct Selling – Day 68


Primerica Inc.

2012 Net Sales: $1.27 billion

Country: USA

Primerica assists clients in meeting their needs for term life insurance, which they underwrite, and mutual funds, annuities and other financial products which they distribute primarily on behalf of third parties. Primerica insured more than 4 million lives and maintained approximately 2 million investment accounts on behalf of clients at Dec. 31, 2013.


2012 Rank: 11
2012 Net Sales: $1.2 billion
Sales Method: Person-to-person
Compensation Structure: Multi-level
Products: Financial services
Markets: 2
Salespeople: 95,600
Employees: 1,995
Headquarters: Duluth, Georgia
Executives: John Addison and Rick Williams
Year Founded: 1977
Stock Symbol: PRI—NYSE
Website: www.primerica.com

More Public Companies Report Q3 2014 Results

The following is a round-up of the latest publicly held companies to announce third quarter results:

At Nu Skin (NUS—NYSE), third quarter revenue was $638.8 million, down 30 percent over the prior-year period. The revenue dip partially reflects a limited-time introduction of Nu Skin’s ageLOC® TR90® weight management system in Q3 2013. The personal-care company reported earnings of $1.12 per share, ahead of Nu Skin’s 90 cents to 95 cents guidance for the quarter. The company expects fourth quarter revenue of $590 million to $610 million, with earnings per share of 72 cents to 77 cents.

“Our sales results are heavily impacted by our product launch schedule. Last year’s second-half launch, which generated approximately $550 million in sales, provides a difficult year-over-year comparison,” Nu Skin President and CEO Truman Hunt shared in the company’s report. “However, excluding product launch sales, the core business has stabilized and is trending positively sequentially.”

Primerica Inc. (PRI—NYSE) reported third quarter revenue of $339.2 million, up 9 percent year over year. Net income was down 3.7 percent to $41.6 million, or 75 cents per diluted share, impacted by accelerated equity compensation expenses related to retirement plan modifications and higher claims incurred in the quarter. The financial services provider lagged 8.43 percent behind the Zacks Consensus Estimate, but investors reacted positively to Primerica’s results. The company’s stock price gained 0.38 percent on the news to close Wednesday at $52.16.

Nature’s Sunshine Products Inc. (NATR—NASDAQ) reported increased revenue for the third quarter on Wednesday, with $94.9 million, up 2.6 percent from $92.5 million in the third quarter of 2013. Results showed lower earnings though, with 6 cents per diluted common share or net income of $1 million, compared to 29 cents, or $4.9 million in the third quarter of 2013. It was the fifth consecutive quarter of record sales for the health and wellness company’s Synergy WorldWide business, driven by South Korea, Japan and a return to growth in Europe.

“Sales in NSP North America have begun to improve with NSP United States and NSP Canada posting net sales growth for the first time since the second quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2012, respectively,” said Chairman and CEO Gregory L. Probert. “We remain cautiously optimistic about the future of this core market as our new products and sales programs continue to gain traction.”

Medifast Inc. (MED—NYSE) third quarter results came in ahead of expectations on Wednesday with net income of $4.9 million, or 39 cents per share. Excluding non-recurring costs, adjusted earnings came to 47 cents per share, or $5.9 million net income. The weight-loss company posted net revenue of $74 million. This was a decrease of 14 percent from net revenue of $86.5 million in the third quarter of 2013. Revenue in the direct sales channel, Take Shape For Life, decreased 11 percent to $49.9 million in the third quarter of 2014, compared to $56.2 million in the same period last year.

Guidance for Q4 revenue and EPS is below consensus, with net revenue to be in the range of approximately $69 million to $73 million and EPS in the range of 31 cents to 34 cents. For fiscal year 2014, the company now expects revenue to be in the range of $310 million to $314 million and EPS in the range of $1.59 to $1.62. As trading closed on Wednesday, shares hit $30.09, an increase of 23 percent in the last 12 months.

A.M. Best Affirms Primerica’s Strong Credit Ratings

Photo above: Outside Primerica’s global headquarters in Duluth, Georgia. (photo: Primerica)

Primerica Life Insurance Co. has received another round of superior ratings from global credit rating agency A.M. Best. The agency affirmed its A+ financial strength rating and aa- issuer credit rating (ICR) of Primerica Life and its affiliates in New York and Canada.

Declaring a stable outlook for all ratings, A.M. Best also affirmed the strong a- ICR of holding company Primerica Inc. and positive ratings of the company’s debt and preferred stock. Primerica met earnings expectations for 2013 with annual GAAP net income of $163 million.

On the Canadian side of the business, Primerica recently expressed opposition to the government’s proposed overhaul of the country’s life insurance licensing program. Canada represents approximately 10 percent of Primerica’s total life-licensed representatives.

The implementation, which would take place in early 2016, would “create unnecessary barriers” and “negatively affect access to life insurance products by middle income Canadians,” Primerica told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Read more on the methodology behind Primerica’s latest ratings.

Primerica Sponsors World’s Largest Relay for Life

Financial services firm Primerica recently sponsored the world’s largest Relay for Life event in its home state of Georgia. With the theme of “Sowing Seeds of Hope and Cultivating a Cure,” the company raised more than $80,000 to help fight cancer and support survivors of the disease.

Relay for Life is an American Cancer Society initiative that brings communities together in an overnight fundraiser walk. Because “cancer never sleeps,” team members take turns walking throughout the night. Each year the event raises more than $400 million in support of cancer research and services.

Primerica served as a Presenting Sponsor of the 2014 Relay for Life of Gwinnett County, home of the company’s international headquarters. Employees from Primerica’s corporate office formed 15 teams and coordinated a variety of fundraisers leading up to the event.

SUCCESS Partners Hosts Industry Execs at ‘The Growth Conference’

Above photo: SUCCESS Partners Founder & CEO Stuart Johnson welcomes SPU attendees.

“Growth” was the focus of this year’s SUCCESS Partners University (SPU), an annual ideas conference that brings together top direct selling executives from across the globe. On April 23-24, 400-plus attendees gathered in Dallas for the opportunity to collect cutting-edge insights and solutions from their peers within the industry.

Dubbed “The Growth Conference,” the event highlighted companies that are accomplishing extraordinary things through a culture of focus, authenticity and simplicity. More than 25 speakers took the stage in quick succession to share the strategies that have taken their organizations, as CEO Mark Pentecost and the It Works! team say, “to a whole notha level.” Bestselling author and SUCCESS magazine Publisher Darren Hardy served as master of ceremonies for the event.

The speakers represented companies of all sizes, marketing a range of products and services. CEO Jeff Olson shared how Nerium has achieved record growth—reporting $219 million in total revenue in its second year—by focusing on customer acquisition and promoting purpose and meaning over compensation plan and product. Tarl Robinson, CEO of Plexus Worldwide, endorsed a deliberate focus on fundamentals that has helped his company manage quadrupled growth. Zurvita Founder Mark Jarvis emphasized the importance of having “a simple message everyone can understand.” Zurvita saw exponential growth after streamlining its conglomeration of products and services to a single wellness product line. The line-up also included John Parker, Chief Sales Officer of Amway; Meredith Berkich, President of Viridian Energy; John Addison, Co-CEO of Primerica; Jeff Olson, CEO of Nerium and many more.

Entrepreneur, author and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk took the stage to talk about leveraging emerging technologies to execute a marketing strategy “for the world we live in today.” The amplification of word-of-mouth through social media presents a unique challenge to direct selling companies, which operate through millions of representatives worldwide. “Today, every single person in the world is a media company,” said Vaynerchuk, calling upon the leaders in the room to think of their brand as a media company first, and as a retailer second.

In conjunction with SPU, attendees had the opportunity to attend the DSN Global 100 Celebration. The event unveiled the results of research conducted to identify the top 100 companies in the industry globally. The DSN Global 100 list, which will appear in the June 2014 issue of Direct Selling News, profiles these companies and their impact on lives around the world.

Photo Gallery

2014 DSN Global 100 List

DSN 100

Since 2004 Direct Selling News has been dedicated to telling stories focused on relating the opportunities direct sellers provide to millions of independent business owners around the globe. So it seemed only fitting for DSN to further recognize the industry by compiling a comprehensive list, starting in 2010, of the top direct selling companies in the world.

The DSN Global 100 list offers a unique perspective on the global impact of the industry on economic and social realms. It provides a range of mutual learning not only for industry members but also for researchers, investors and—most important—those seeking opportunities within the industry. In an effort to support transparency and verify authenticity, DSN implemented a new standard for the 2011 ranking, which we have continued each year since: the Revenue Certification Form (RCF). In addition to an updated profile, each company is asked to submit an RCF signed by the CEO and CFO or designated agent. Some privately-held companies choose not to participate in the Global 100 process, and therefore do not appear on this list. We encourage all companies to submit the required forms. We thank all the companies that willingly participated in our survey as well as our dedicated team of researchers who helped us present to you the remarkable achievements of direct sellers around the globe. The following contains the ranking for the 2014 DSN Global 100 (based on 2013 revenues), our annual list of the top revenue-generating direct selling companies in the world. The list is published in the June issue of Direct Selling News.

Click here to celebrate your company’s achievement with customized recognition prints.

2014 Rank

Company Name

2013 Revenue

1 Amway $11.80B
2 Avon $9.95B
3 Herbalife $4.80B
4 Vorwerk $3.70B
5 Mary Kay $3.60B
6 Natura $3.20B
7 Nu Skin $3.18B
8 Tupperware $2.67B
9 Belcorp $1.96B
10 Oriflame $1.95B
11 Primerica $1.27B
12 Ambit Energy $1.20B
13 Telecom Plus $1.10B
14 Stream Energy $867M
15 Yanbal $848M
16 Miki $783M
17 Thirty-One $763M
18 Blyth (PartyLite and ViSalus) $750M
19 USANA $718M
20 ACN $700M
21 New Era $678M
22 Market America $547M
23 Amore Pacific $520M
24 Forbes Lux $489M
25 Scentsy $485M
26 AdvoCare $460M
27 It Works! Global $456M
28 Noevir Holdings $455M
29 Isagenix $448M
30 COSWAY $440M
31 YoFoto $428M
32 Arbonne $413M
33 Better Way $407M
34 Nature’s Sunshine $378M
35 For Days $376M
36 Apollo $340M
37 Team National $332M
39 Team Beachbody $328M
40 LR Health & Beauty Systems $323M
41 4Life $300M
42 Longrich $292M
43 PM-International $284M
44 Neways $280M
45 Viridian Energy $267M
46 Jeunesse $257M
47 North American Power $256M
48 MENARD $255M
49 Southwestern Advantage $253M
50 Elken $233M
50 Origami Owl $233M
52 Take Shape For Life $229M
53 Vemma $221M
54 Nerium $219M
55 LG Household & Health Care $215M
55 Organo Gold $215M
57 Naris Cosmetics $214M
58 Charle $208M
58 LifeVantage $208M
60 Pro-Health $204M
61 CUTCO $200M
61 HEIM & HAUS $200M
63 Naturally Plus $199M
64 Rodan + Fields $196M
65 WorldVentures $195M
66 Family Heritage Life $192M
68 Huis Clos $184M
69 GNLD $178M
70 Mannatech $177M
71 Giffarine $176M
72 Enagic $170M
73 Diana $166M
73 BearCere’Ju $166M
75 Hy Cite $164M
76 Plexus $160M
77 Princess House $154M
78 Gano Excel $150M
79 Zija $144M
80 KOYO-SHA $141M
81 Zhulian Marketing $127M
82 Univera $118M
83 Nikken $115M
84 5LINX $112M
85 Vision International People Group $96M
85 Arsoa Honsha $96M
87 New Image $95M
88 Nefful $94M
89 Youngevity $86M
90 Akasuka $83M
91 Tastefully Simple $79M
92 Kleeneze $76M
94 Chandeal $72M
95 Momentis $71M
95 Seacret $71M
97 Ion Cosmetics $70M
98 Reliv $68M
99 CVSL $65M
100 Zurvita $63M

Click here to celebrate your company’s achievement with customized recognition prints.

Primerica Ranks among Georgia’s Top Workplaces

Photo above: Primerica’s corporate headquarters in Duluth, Ga.

Primerica Inc., a financial services company founded in Atlanta in 1977, has been recognized among the best workplaces in Georgia by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Based upon employee feedback, Primerica received the highest ranking of any public company, landing the No. 18 spot just ahead of mobile giant Sprint.

To determine the ranking, the Journal-Constitution and its partner Workplace Dynamics surveyed more than 50,000 employees from 211 companies in the Atlanta metro area. Primerica’s ranking falls under the Top 25 “large companies” category (500+ employees in the region).

Primerica Chief Human Resources Officer Karen Fine says the company’s culture is a unique one, where employees have a track record of staying with Primerica for the long haul. “The average tenure of our employees is 14 years, with 62 percent of employees serving 10 or more years with the company,” Fine said in a statement. “I believe that says everything about Primerica and the kind of work environment we have.”

On the representative side of the business, Primerica recently hosted more than 5,000 attendees at its 14th Annual African American Leadership Council (AALC) Meeting in Orlando. Some of the company’s top African American leaders launched the event as a way to empower other African Americans in Primerica. The three-day conference features a wide range of leadership and business training for representatives.

“Today, middle-income families are faced with tough financial challenges and most are way behind saving for retirement,” said John Lennon, Senior National Sales Director and Co-Chairman of the AALC. “We want our representatives to be better prepared to help these families—meeting face-to-face with them in their homes—to educate them about basic financial principles.”

Tech Trends for 2014: Don’t Get Left Behind

by Marilynn Hood and Teresa Day

Navigating the complexity of current tech evolutions can become quite daunting, making the recent past seem so simple. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the direct selling industry was having an internal debate about High Tech vs. High Touch and the importance of not losing sight of relationships in the business transaction. There was even a time when the argument could be made that there was a choice between fully embracing technological developments or not.

My, my, how times have changed. Consider for a moment these staggering statistics:

  • 91 percent of adults in the U.S. own a cell phone.
  • Since 2009, 40 billion apps have been downloaded, and
  • This number is expected to grow to 70 billion app downloads in 2014 alone.
  • On average, the world spends 20 billion minutes on Facebook per day.

With the start of a new year, various organizations have published their lists of tech trends for 2014 and beyond. Some predicted outcomes seem to materialize straight out of a science fiction novel—intelligent personal assistants that can “learn”; more advisors smarter than Siri; autonomous vehicles; and 3D printing capabilities that can manufacture nearly everything and anything, including car parts, a hand-powered generator, prosthetic limbs and even living tissue, something called “bioprinting.”

And forget about gigabytes and terabytes, those newish terms that describe how much storage space is needed for all the virtual data created and communicated. IT networking company Cisco, in their ongoing initiative called the Visual Networking Index (VNI) which measures the way people utilize the Internet, uses terms like exabyte, zettabyte and even brontobyte!

IT networking company Cisco predicts that in 2017 information equal to every movie ever made will cross the Internet every three minutes!

So many more people will communicate so much more data across the Internet in the next few years that Cisco predicts in 2017 information equal to every movie ever made will cross the Internet every three minutes! Just a few short years from today, this incredible amount of information will be communicated from 19 billion devices connected to the Internet—on average, 2.5 networked devices per person on Earth.

It is quite remarkable to think about every person on Earth owning a cell phone; however, it’s even more remarkable in light of a United Nations report. In 2013, the U.N. found that of these 6 billion people who have mobile phones, only 4.5 billion of them have access to toilets! The Pew Research Center has stated that, by every measure one can think of, the cell phone has been the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world.

Within the retail goods sector, and more specifically within the direct selling industry, what’s important to focus on in this dizzying explosion of technology? More devices, more software, more choices? And we haven’t even mentioned the cloud or Big Data! How can one ever keep up, let alone stay ahead and make the right choices?

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently released a report on “The Rise of the Customer-Led Economy,” based upon its global survey of 1,300 executives representing 90 countries and 19 industries. Their report analyzes the evolving dynamic between large companies and their digitally connected customers. In its summary findings, EIU reported “A large majority of companies are fundamentally rethinking their strategies for engaging individual customers.” The rethinking comes along the lines of shifting focus from traditional push marketing and advertising (website, email) to more emphasis on customer interactions and engagements.

Additional data in the report revealed that most companies (51 percent) are still relying on their website as their main communication tool, followed by email (40 percent). Only 23 percent are using social media, with just 10 percent using mobile apps. That mix will change over the next three years. Companies in the survey say social media will become their No. 1 channel (43 percent) and their use of apps will leap fourfold.

All this data can help pinpoint a starting place for company executives wondering what to do next. There is a stark contrast between the number of consumers engaging in social media and utilizing apps, and the underwhelming number of businesses that are doing likewise. Investment and expansion in the areas of social media engagement and app development seem to have the best potential to support companies, distributors and customers, and ultimately bring more success to all. In order to make that happen, companies may have to invest in technological advancement and even consider thinking differently about the roles of their marketing and tech professionals, which are starting to overlap.

“[Consumers] expect full functionality and are not thrilled to find a company’s ‘lite’ version when using their phone.” —Doug Braun, Chief Marketing Officer, USANA

Social Sharing

Back in September 2011, in our cover story “The Social Media Phenomenon,” we wrote that Facebook boasted more than 750 million active users and the average user had 130 friends. Twitter had 200 million users generating 350 million tweets per day. YouTube received more than 3 billion views per day, and LinkedIn had more than 100 million registered users. Google+ had just debuted and accrued 20 million users very quickly.

Today, at the beginning of 2014, the numbers have grown dramatically. (See chart below)

From the beginning of humanity, people have been social creatures who share things with other people. Facebook just makes it easy! In fact, so easy that companies are missing a huge opportunity if they are still resisting the need to develop a Facebook page and engage their distributors and customers.

Social media guru and author Gary Vaynerchuck believes that every company can benefit in both the long-term and the short-term by engaging its customers on social media platforms. In his book The Thank-You Economy, he writes, “Embarking on one-to-one customer engagement offers significant long-term rewards, but the company will also experience immediate benefits—greater brand awareness, stronger brand loyalty, increased word of mouth, improved understanding of customer needs, and better, faster consumer feedback—and suffer very few drawbacks.”

Vaynerchuck also has a warning for companies who haven’t yet adopted a strong social media presence, writing, “Meanwhile the drawback to resisting social media engagement is clear: The longer you wait, the further the competition can pull ahead.”

Social media has proven to be a wonderful tool in so many ways, particularly in helping distributors build their businesses and keeping every level within a company connected. Most importantly, it fosters that sense of community and furthers the one-on-one engagement for which the direct selling industry is known.

Many companies, including Mary Kay, Stella & Dot and USANA, have very robust Facebook pages where they not only post company information and products, but also have pictures of their salesforce enjoying life and utilizing their products. These pages include company information, links to training, and other pertinent information for the salesforce, but also create a personality for the company that can then be shared with others.

Rod Larsen, President and CEO of Zija International, attributes much of his company’s rapid growth to social media. As he explains, “It only made sense to dive right in and leverage this phenomenon that has completely changed communication as we know it!” Zija’s Facebook page not only includes product information and links to training information, but it also functions as a recognition vehicle for distributors who win contests and prizes. Additionally, the company posts before-and-after pictures and success stories from distributors and their customers, providing a very personal level of engagement.

Connecting with people is foundational to the direct selling industry. By easily crossing international borders and time zones, social media has helped people around the world connect in ways that simply were not possible before. USANA has created Facebook pages specific to its international markets, truly building many smaller “local” communities while maintaining the overarching “parent” identity as well. For example, the USANA Australia/New Zealand Facebook page mirrors the primary corporate page in messaging and in branding, but it posts messages and information specific to that market.

Many companies do a great job of engagement, or what Vaynerchuck calls “heart and soul.” He says, “If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond. They will connect. They will like you. They will talk. They will buy.”

“If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond. They will connect. They will like you. They will talk. They will buy.” —Gary Vaynerchuck, social media guru and author of The Thank-You Economy

Primerica illustrates this principle in the friendly content that it also posts on Facebook, which has nothing to do with its products. An infographic with “10 Holiday Shopping Strategies” and other basic consumer tips make the page feel comfortable and homey. The company doesn’t feel the need to make every post a call to action, which generates more trust for the overall brand among its visitors.

According to an article by Mikal Belicove, published on Entrepreneur.com, creating and maintaining a good Facebook presence can benefit your business in at least the following ways:

  • Drives traffic to your website
  • Allows you to engage with your community easily and more freely
  • Strengthens customer relations
  • Provides a platform for your brand evangelists (perfect for direct sellers!)

Each of the above is reason enough to devote time and energy to social media engagement. And where would social media be without mobile devices?

Mobile Opportunities

Direct selling has always been a mobile industry in the traditional sense, with the top leaders in any organization during any decade going out to the people to sell products, recruit and train others, and build relationships. Over the last several years, numerous companies have pursued mobile device technologies to empower their salesforce, and this has helped leverage the opportunity that already existed, and in a very powerful way.

Progress brings more innovation, and the types and kinds of devices will certainly continue to grow. How independent representatives and even customers access a company’s website—whether by smartphone, tablet or PC—is beyond anyone’s control, now more than ever, and who knows what could be next? Questions of type of device (remember “PC or Mac” commercials?) are a thing of the past.

So what is important? First of all, mobile is here to stay, no matter what device is used. Again citing Cisco’s VNI report, globally in 2017, smartphones will account for over 27 percent of all device connections, and for over 67 percent of total traffic on the Internet. To look at that from the other side, within four years only about 30 percent of all worldwide Internet traffic will come from a desktop or laptop computer!

So if not the device, what should a company focus on? Flexibility, responsiveness, nimbleness and adaptability—these intangibles become increasingly important. And the creation of apps for use by the consultant and the customer can satisfy some, if not all, of these intangibles.

A simple but often overlooked area to begin with is the company website. With such increased usage of the Internet from mobile devices, companies face additional challenges in how they present their websites. Doug Braun, Chief Marketing Officer at USANA, points out that consumers now expect to be able to access the same information, whether it’s from their computer or handheld device. “They expect full functionality and are not thrilled to find a company’s ‘lite’ version when using their phone.”

To ensure optimal viewing and function on all devices, designers are increasingly using responsive web design (RWD) techniques. The idea is to create a basic site for the phone first and then provide enhancements for viewing with a tablet or computer, rather than designing the site for the computer’s larger screen and then trying to degrade the images and resize the text for the phone.

However, what if a company has already developed an app? If that’s the case, it seems that making the main website mobile-friendly wouldn’t be necessary. As Michael Kopp, a technology strategist at Compuware APM Center of Excellence, points out, that would be a mistake. Although consumers tend to prefer using an app, depending on the situation they may also use the website on their mobile device, sometimes switching between the two.

The importance of developing websites for optimal viewing on various devices and creating robust shopping apps has certainly grabbed the attention of several big retailers. According to a recent Associated Press article, the likes of Target, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, American Eagle and home-shopping network QVC have all opened technology test labs in the San Francisco area in order to stay competitive. By hiring top tech talent, these giant retailers seek to replicate the creativity and nimbleness of startups.

Mobile commerce is now mainstream commerce, and it cannot be ignored by any company.

More Apps, Better Apps!

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone to the world and fundamentally changed the cell phone from a talking device with a camera into a multi-function pocket computer. Once Apple equipped its new device with an operating system that supported third-party applications and threw the door wide open to creative minds, the simultaneous explosive growth of the “app” began. Primarily recognized by the square icon that appears on the device screen after download, an app is a small piece of self-contained software that has been designed to function in a very specific manner on a mobile device.

First used for such things as playing games, reading The New York Times, placing a bid on eBay or checking the weather, the app development world soon started churning out mini-software programs of great value. Direct selling companies often led the way.

The point of sale, or POS, innovations have been enthusiastically embraced by distributors from many companies. An app, along with a card-reading device that attaches to a tablet or a smartphone, can transform any party, meeting or one-on-one into a storefront opportunity. A distributor can sell a product and take immediate payment anywhere.

The app integrates payment processing with order management and the distributor’s virtual back office. Distributors can avoid “card not present” fees and eliminate the headaches of bad cards and transposed numbers written hurriedly on sales receipts. Many companies support their salesforce with this sort of technology, allowing their distributors to conduct business wherever they are.

It is critical to note that when something becomes second nature or common practice for consumers, the expectation spreads to all companies and all products and services in their world. In other words, your average consumer will come to expect his or her experience with your company to mirror or at least compete with their expectations of other retailers, even if they are not direct sellers. Mobile commerce is now mainstream commerce, and it cannot be ignored by any company.

With the amazing variety of apps that have been developed, many companies have actually changed the way they conduct their business. Instead of being stuck in an office filling out paperwork, people can complete business transactions with apps on their phone and spend much more time out in the field interacting with potential customers. Primerica has been developing leading-edge apps from the beginning, eliminating mountains of paperwork and taking their sales field mobile.

For so many direct selling companies, apps have become powerful tools, allowing them to do business, in many cases, 24/7. Also, customers are afforded more options in how they access information and make purchases. For distributors, apps enhance the personal service for which the direct selling industry is known and free up more time for them to build their business. Health and wellness companies such as Nu Skin, USANA and Vemma have used apps to bring personal trainers directly to the customer’s home and provide a daily coach that can track calories and exercise and even offer motivational advice.

Many direct selling companies have developed apps that allow their distributors to complete basic business functions on the go, such as new distributor enrollment, access to back office functions, coordinating messages to prospects, and even ordering samples at the touch of a button. Zija International’s new app for distributors includes all of the above, as well as a GPS-based exercise tracker and a built-in social wall for networking with other Zija distributors.

The specialized app that custom clothier J.Hilburn designed allows its stylists to carry an entire store as well as a showroom in their iPad. The style board portion of the app allows them to create a high-end shopping experience for a customer in his own home or office, similar to what he would experience at the more exclusive stores. In the same way that salespeople would have pulled various clothing items and had them ready when the customer arrived for his appointment, the stylist preselects items based on the customer’s taste and exhibits them on her style board. The app, coupled with real fabric swatches and the expertise of the stylist, allows men to avoid going to a store and enduring the protracted selection process, which many may find tedious.

With the rise of mobile apps, the push for social media, and a company’s marketing messaging becoming more and more intertwined with technological expertise, a wholesale change for IT departments seems to be coming.

So how have these tech tools worked for J.Hilburn? Veeral Rathod, Co-Founder and President, reports that their sales volume is about 30 percent higher when stylists use their iPads than when they use traditional methods. Men tend to be more visually oriented, and they usually respond well when tech devices are employed. As an added bonus, the iPad helps their stylists cross-sell and up-sell. They can show the customer how the shirt he just ordered would look in other colors or fabrics, or when paired with a blazer or suit. This visual gives the customer the confidence to go ahead and order more shirts or other garments.

The Tech Investment Imperative

Technological investment has been critical to growing companies for decades, as witnessed by the change in title and importance of the person in charge of the equipment—from Facilities Director to IT Director to the current C-level Chief Technology Officer. The reasons for larger investments and elevated titles have varied, though until recently most have had to do with scalability, supply chain improvement, development of efficient business processes and networking throughout the enterprise.

With the rise of mobile apps, the push for social media, and a company’s marketing messaging becoming more and more intertwined with technological expertise, a wholesale change for IT departments seems to be coming.

Apparently, this crossing over of priorities and marketing’s need to drive IT functions has caused some friction between CIOs and CMOs that didn’t exist before. In a 2014 report, titled “Top Technology Trends for 2014 and Beyond,” Forrester suggests that in this scuffle for driving strategy and taking control of business intelligence, collaboration between traditionally distinct roles will have to occur.

USANA is ready for the challenge. Braun says, “One of the most exciting and important trends that is developing is the blurring of lines between the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer. I see the two of them becoming a team where before they were separate departments in an organization.”

Developing a collaborative and integrated approach between IT and marketing is critical simply because a great digital customer experience is no longer an option for any company, even a direct selling company that focuses on relationship building. When consumers move seamlessly between their digital and physical worlds, they expect customer service and the customer experience to be consistent across all their chosen channels. The digital experience for a customer is now a concrete part of a company or product’s brand statement for that customer. The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” surely applies to a company’s digital experience for their customers.

The C-Suite of executives—CEOs, CIOs, CMOs and CSOs—may have to reinvent themselves and their roles in the enterprise in order to stay on track in the rapidly evolving technological world. Rather than a separate department focused on managing software and hardware, IT services could become the empowering force behind a marketing strategy.

While trends, devices and approaches change and will continue to change—probably with more rapidity than we would even dare to predict—the end-game for all of it remains the same: How can I make it easier for my distributors and customers to learn about my company and buy my products more often?

J.Hilburn’s Rathod plans to keep an eye on future customers and how they use the Internet. He asks, “Our current customers may be in the 30–50 age range, but what about our up-and-coming customers in their 20s? How are they using the Web and digital world? What are their shopping habits, and how will we connect with them?”

Good questions! The next wave of distributors and customers will soon enter the primary market range, so prepare to meet them on their terms.

Primerica Receives 2013 DALBAR Service Award

Primerica Financial Services was recently named a recipient of the DALBAR Mutual Fund Service Award, alongside firms such as Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, JPMorgan Funds and Putnam Investments. The award recognizes mutual fund firms that have proven themselves industry leaders in customer service.
DALBAR has established longstanding expertise in the financial community as an independent evaluating, auditing and rating organization. Its yearlong, systematic customer service testing includes measurements of appreciation and respect for the investor, aptitude in facilitating discussion and setting appropriate expectations for the client, and consistently superior delivery.“These award-winning organizations understand that when all things are equal, service is a powerful differentiator and creates loyal customers as well as strong advocates,” said Kathleen Whalen, Managing Director at DALBAR.

Since DALBAR introduced the Mutual Fund Service Award 24 years ago, Primerica has received it 11 times. Read more on Primerica’s standard of excellence and its focus on the future in our recent Company Spotlight,Primerica: In It for the Long Haul.

Read the full announcement from DALBAR.

Personal Development: Fuel for Growth

by J.M. Emmert

Helping people grow. For more than 150 years, direct selling companies have been doing just that—providing countless opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to grow their own businesses and live out their dreams.

DSN November Issue 2013During that same time period, another industry has helped millions grow through a focus on individual improvement: personal development—ever rich with the wisdom and enlightenment of social and business philosophers who have taught generations of Americans how to experience more in life by following simple and practical principles.

So it’s no surprise that these two industries are closely aligned. Both believe in change—that it’s completely possible to alter the conditions of one’s life for the better. Both believe in potential—that no matter a person’s background or education, he or she can successfully tap into that unlimited power within. Both believe in training—that individuals must be armed with the appropriate tools for building the professional and personal skills necessary to enhance the quality of their lives.

But perhaps the greatest commonality between these two industries is their optimism—that unwavering belief instilled by the industries’ visionary leaders that says you can be more, you can have more and you can give more than you ever thought possible.

Today, personal development is an integral component of most direct selling companies; for many, it is the fuel that fires that entrepreneurial spirit. The adoption and application of the basic tenets of personal development have led to increased motivation, decreased attrition and higher profitability for many companies. Direct Selling News has observed many companies and their use of personal development material as a part of their strategic plan; we spoke with a few for this article.

Today, personal development is an integral component of most direct selling companies; for many, it is the fuel that fires that entrepreneurial spirit.

A Brief History

It was not until the late 1800s that America was introduced to the concept of personal development. Orison Swett Marden, a farm boy from New Hampshire, read Scottish reformer Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help and, inspired by it, devoted his career to encouraging others to unlock the potential within them. He became a leader of the New Thought Movement, and “right thinking” and “personal power” became the catchphrases for a generation that believed man had the ability to change the conditions of his life.

Part of that progressive generation was another farm boy from Oswego, N.Y. David Hall McConnell had been a successful book salesman when he came upon perfume samples and recognized a unique opportunity. His California Perfume Co. (later, Avon) was novel when it began in 1886, as it was the first salesforce comprised entirely of women. McConnell knew that women had the inherent skills necessary to succeed in business but were lacking confidence in the business world. He also understood that the key to his company’s success was the commitment and dedication of the women.

And so, while Marden was inspiring through his works—including his eventual bestseller, Pushing to the Front, which offered the quintessential portrait of success—McConnell was developing a corporate philosophy that ensured each woman achieved success through an earning opportunity “in support of [her] well-being and happiness.”

He earnestly believed that the opportunity for women to find self-fulfillment was just as crucial as any financial freedom they found. “Deep down in the heart of every person there lingers a spark of hope—secret longing to be, or to have, something more,” McConnell wrote.

Marden had believed that secret longing—that golden opportunity—was found in oneself, and his work influenced such writers as Elbert Hubbard, James Allen, Wallace Wattles and Oswald Chambers in the early part of the 20th century. But perhaps no personal development book was as influential as the 1936 sensation Think and Grow Rich. Written by Napoleon Hill, the motivational classic provided 13 steps for forming a philosophy of personal achievement. The book’s core message—“What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve”—catapulted Hill into the national spotlight.

Jim Rohn, a contemporary of Zig Ziglar and Paul Harvey, was another giant thinker. His soft voice and extraordinary insights on the fundamental principles of human behavior inspired the likes of Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins and current SUCCESS magazine Publisher Darren Hardy. Rohn had actually been a distributor with Nutri-Bio in the late 1950s—building one of the largest organizations in the company—and had been mentored by company Founder and “Millionaire Maker” Earl Shoaff. When Nutri-Bio closed in the early 1960s, Rohn began his speaking career. He spent the next 40 years teaching millions of people how to move beyond their self-imposed limits by sharing the simple disciplines needed to achieve success.

These teachings on personal development inspired countless individuals, including a woman who would found one of the most successful companies in direct selling: Mary Kay Cosmetics.

“Deep down in the heart of every person there lingers a spark of hope—secret longing to be, or to have, something more.” —David Hall McConnell, Founder, California Perfume Co. (later, Avon)


Key Leaders Embrace PD

The Skills Gap

Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offered its latest findings on the skills of American workers—and it was not good news. The OECD report found that the skill level of the American workforce has fallen dangerously behind that of its peers around the world. In assessments of literacy, math and problem-solving skills, American workers ranked in the middle in literacy skills and near the bottom of the other two categories.

Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the findings show “our education has not done enough to help Americans compete in a global economy that demands increasingly higher skills.”

The skills needed for the modern workplace has long been a debate. There is a high unemployment rate among recent college graduates, yet there are an estimated 3 million jobs available. The problem? These graduates just don’t have the skills to fill the positions.

Mike Rowe, best known as the host of the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs, has taken it upon himself to help return those trade skills that have diminished over time back to the forefront of American workers. His MikeRoweWorks Foundation offers scholarships for students to attend trade schools where they can obtain the training needed, and his Lessons from the Dirt celebrates the idea that anyone can be a tradesman.

“It’s not just about the skill, it’s about a state of mind,” he says. “Kids are in a transformative state, where what happens now will affect them the rest of their lives. I do not think the skills gap is going to close by accident. But I do think over the next five to 10 years we are going to have a real problem.”

What direct selling offers that no other industry can boast is exactly those skills that are missing in today’s workers—and they are offered either at low cost or entirely free. With the personal development programs set in place by direct sellers, today’s workers have the chance to not only work on their business skills, but their life skills as well.

Mary Kay Ash began her eponymous cosmetics company in 1963. She was a dynamic motivator who urged women not to limit themselves but to “go as far as your mind lets you; what you believe, remember, you can achieve.” Ash also advocated praising people—“There are two things people want more than sex and money: recognition and praise”—and insisted that women keep a balance in their lives between their work and family.

But training the women in her company was of utmost importance, because she believed that her company was not in the cosmetics business but the people business. “Most women coming into our organization don’t have professional training,” says Sean Key, Vice President of Sales Force Motivation at Mary Kay. “Our ability to help women become leaders is the secret to our success.”

Helping women grow and excel as salespeople was also a trademark of Ash’s sister-in-law, Mary Crowley, who had founded Home Interiors & Gifts in 1957. Crowley fervently believed, “If you grow your people, you will grow your business.”

Rich DeVos, Co-Founder of Amway, shared a similar belief to Ash’s in that his company was not about the products. “We are first and foremost a people business,” he said. In 1975, DeVos was one of the first direct selling leaders to publish his own motivational book, Believe!, which shared his personal philosophy for success.

“If you grow your people, you will grow your business.”
—Mary Crowley, Founder, Home Interiors & Gifts

A decade later, Art Williams, Founder of Primerica, inspired millions with his 1985 Pushing Up People, offering insight into the four kinds of failure fears and the power of the “little bit more” principle. What was particularly interesting was that Williams noted a change in the American economic landscape: Businesses were relying on college graduates who tested well rather than those skilled workers who had the desire to succeed. Nearly 30 years later, Williams’ words would still ring true. (See sidebar below.)

Building the Right Skills and Attitude

Many direct sellers have followed suit, incorporating personal development as a core component of their business plans. Why? Because both industries are about growing people into the best they can be. The introduction of a personal program within the training of a direct selling company enhances the chance of people succeeding, not only in operating their new business, but in realizing dreams they never thought possible.

The combination of direct selling training and personal development tools offers the resources to support entrepreneurialism. The tools to succeed in the business world—skills in sales, presentation, recruiting, communication and time management—are complemented by those teachings that help newcomers find financial independence, health and well-being to build lasting and productive relationships.

Back in 1986, Herbalife Founder Mark Hughes, who had a vision of changing people’s lives through his then 5-year-old nutrition company, met Jim Rohn. They took an instant liking to one another. Rohn had spent the last two decades offering his simple yet profound philosophy: “If you will change, everything will change for you.” Hughes knew that was the message his new distributors needed to hear.

The result was a marriage of like minds, and Rohn spent the next 25 years traveling around the world motivating Herbalife distributors and teaching them that “success is what you attract by the person you become.”

The appeal of Rohn lay in the simplicity of his messages: There was nothing complex or mysterious, nothing the average person could not understand. He offered simple messages of hope and optimism that deeply touched people, allowing them to look inside to find life-changing answers to who they were and who they wanted to become.

Angela Loehr Chrysler, President and CEO of Team National, also believes personal development offers this life-changing opportunity. She says it is “essential to great success in your business and personal life. It can help you be a better leader, mom, dad, spouse, friend and family member.”

Team National promotes and utilizes the programs that help new recruits excel in every area of their lives. “Our top leaders also have a suggested reading list that helps people get started,” she says. “We promote personal growth regularly on conference calls, leadership trainings, at corporate events, in our training material, on our website, in our blogs and in our newsletters. We also have monthly personal growth training with our corporate staff along with additional training with our executive team. We discuss it regularly with our staff in our staff meetings, and we share newsletters and videos that will help our staff grow. Often our executive team will review and discuss material and how we can apply it with our sales field and our corporate staff.”

But along with the viable tools to hone their skills, newcomers also need a lesson on “right thinking.” Consider this:

Scenario 1:
Job seeker returns home with great news: “I got a job with IBM!”

Response from family:
“Oh, my God! That’s wonderful! Congratulations!”

Scenario 2: 
Job seeker returns home with great news: “I’m starting an opportunity with a direct selling company!”

Response from family: 
“Oh, my God! What were you thinking?”

Sad, isn’t it? Yet true, for it still occurs to this day due to the negative perceptions seeded in the long-ago pyramid schemes of dishonest companies, not to mention the constant, ongoing battles still fought by reputable direct sellers who are targeted by the many naysayers who don’t really understand the business model.

Personal development assists people in overcoming the fears, helping them build the right attitude about what they are doing and arming them with the tools to overcome objections from customers and even their own family members. It provides the resilience needed for when times are tough, and that is extremely important in a business that John Addison, Co-CEO of Primerica, has called a “psychology business.”

“[Personal development is] essential to great success in your business and personal life. It can help you be a better leader, mom, dad, spouse, friend and family member.” —Angela Loehr Chrysler, President and CEO, Team National

Does Positive Psychology Really Work?

“[Personal development is] essential to great success in your business and personal life. It can help you be a better leader, mom, dad, spouse, friend and family member.”
—Angela Loehr Chrysler, President and CEO, Team National

For years it had been a widely held belief that optimism played a key role in how people approached work and life—and whether or not they succeeded. Four years after Norman Vincent Peale offered his practical techniques for energizing one’s life in his book The Power of Positive Thinking, Chicago radio announcer Earl Nightingale recorded “The Strangest Secret,” with its message being that “the secret” to success is one’s thoughts and habits.

These works, along with David Schwartz’ 1959 classic The Magic of Thinking Big, inspired a generation of leaders and entrepreneurs with new ways of approaching their greatest ambitions, including legendary college football coach Lou Holtz, who based his life’s goals on Schwartz’ work.

But there has never been definitive scientific research to support the belief that optimism truly makes a difference. That is, until now.

Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, collected 30 years of research data that quantitatively measured the effects of training programs on productivity. The result? The No. 1 factor in increasing sales productivity was learned optimism.

Seligman, credited as the Father of Positive Psychology, offered two statistics: Sales teams with trained optimism—that is, repeated exposure to positively influencing input—sold 35 percent more than their counterparts who, left to their own devices, were 200 percent more likely to quit by the end of the first year.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, delivered lectures on positive psychology to his classes at Harvard University. In his research on happiness—which is not the belief everything is joyous but that change is possible—he found that a positive mindset results in 23 percent greater energy in the midst of stress, 31 percent higher productivity and 37 percent higher levels of sales.

Clearly, scientific research is now able to provide substantial data on the benefits of optimism: increased motivation and superior achievement in productivity. This bodes well for direct sellers.

Measuring Its Success

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, found in his research that a positive mindset results in 23 percent greater energy in the midst of stress, 31 percent higher productivity and 37 percent higher levels of sales.

But how does a direct selling company measure the return on investment in a personal development program?

Well, that is a little trickier. Personal development is a bit like public relations: difficult to measure and to tie back to a specific return. But the absence of real numbers does not suggest that such a program is not effective, especially in an industry where the focus is on people.

Brian Tracy, author of the best-selling Psychology of Achievement, says that every dollar properly invested has the ability to grow 5-10 percent each year. In looking at the companies in direct selling that have invested in personal development programs as a core foundational aspect of their business, the ROI is quite evident.

An Authentic Community

Personal development books, CDs and DVDs will continue to be a mainstay for many direct sellers in helping their people grow. However, some direct sellers, like energy and essential services provider ACN, are taking advantage of new tools to support their programs, including a leading motivation and inspiration web portal that offers new distributors guided tours through the first 30 days of their careers in direct selling; thousands of articles on personal development; hundreds of interviews, videos and audios; as well as book summaries and daily inspirational quotes. “Personal development is and will always be a crucial building block in our business,” says President and Co-Founder Greg Provenzano.

Video games are also coming onto the scene. In September, Amway China’s training center released a 3-D online gaming platform for training new salespeople.

Called Amway Life: The First 90 Days, the game is designed to be an efficient and fun learning tool for sales representatives starting their direct selling business. The main objective is to develop an online Amway business by discovering and building relationships with prospective customers of various personalities. Key personal development skills are included in training.

However, what will always be the key to cultivating a successful personal development program is the authenticity reflected in a company’s leaders. So many company leaders echoed what we captured in a few words from Chrysler: “Sharing real examples of the difference it has made in your life and others, and to relate to people why it matters,” makes the difference between talking it and walking it. “If personal development has foundational importance to your company, your passion for personal growth is clearly communicated internally and externally through your culture.”

“The organization will always mirror the behavior, habits, attitude, mindset and pace of the leader.”
—Darren Hardy, Publisher, SUCCESS magazine

Mirror Images

Darren Hardy agrees that the most important aspect of developing an authentic community is the role the leader plays in creating, fostering and keeping a culture of personal development. “The organization will always mirror the behavior, habits, attitude, mindset and pace of the leader,” he says. “They will do as you do; they will mirror you. It will always start and end with you.”

“ ‘If you want to have more, you have to become more,’ ” Hardy says, repeating Jim Rohn’s classic insight. “ ‘Let it be said that you developed the gift of not just helping people with their jobs, but with their lives as your greater purpose would have you do. Don’t just teach people how to work, but how to live.’ ”

And that’s what direct selling companies have been helping people do. By making personal development a core component in their businesses, they have been able to achieve greater profitability and, most importantly, leave people better than when they found them—which goes a long way in improving the perception of the direct selling channel.


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