The September 2016 issue of Direct Selling News is available!

Cover Story

Keys to Success part 1: Customer Acquisition

by Andrea Tortora

Of all the misinformation about direct selling, perhaps the most often repeated—even by those who work most closely in the field—is the description of direct selling as an industry. Read more…

Celebrating success is a hallmark of direct selling, and we have two opportunities for you to recognize the great work being done by your corporate teams. Read more…

Like the pink Cadillacs it awards to top sellers, today’s Mary Kay retains a classic feel while embracing innovative thinking and design. Read more…

When husband and wife team Mark and Tracy Jarvis set out to launch their own company, they had listened to numerous suggestions for the name until “zurvita” was proposed and immediately touched and won them over. Read more…

In the year 1855, Reverend J.R. Graves started a mail order company selling books, religious tracts and Bibles. Read more…

It’s another year and you’re gearing up for your convention. Read more…

Over the past decade, rapid developments in technology have fundamentally changed how direct selling organizations operate. Read more…

The speculation started immediately. As soon as the news—Herbalife Settles with FTC—began popping up on mobile alerts and news outlets early Friday morning, July 15, observers inside and outside the direct selling channel began scrambling to understand the bigger picture. Read more…

The U.S. Direct Selling Association held its Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 5 to 7, bringing together direct selling company executives, academics, suppliers and global direct selling leaders for collaboration and conversation about the trends shaping the channel. Read more…

The direct selling industry is at a critical juncture in its long history. Read more…

The role of the U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA) has never been more clear: to serve as a “listening post,” a place to collect, analyze and address the aspirations and concerns of the direct selling channel. Read more…

For more great stories, please click on our subscription button and subscribe to DSN


Supply Chain Basics: Managing Third Party Logistics and Embracing Technology

by Noel Datko

Defining Today’s 3PL Relationship

Meeting the demands of an ever-changing global marketplace is a challenge for many of today’s businesses. Changes in the transportation landscape, advancements in technology and globalization are pressing business leaders to analyze their operations and achieve new efficiencies to minimize risk. As a result, top companies around the globe are increasingly leaning on third party logistics companies to manage their supply chains.

According to an Armstrong & Associates report, 86 percent of domestic Fortune 500 companies use 3PLs for logistics and supply chain functions. Initially, companies outsourced these functions in order to increase in-house efficiencies and reduce their overall logistics spend. Next was the need to expand to foreign markets, reduce waste and answer to a growing number of impatient customers. Today, technology plays a much larger role in the operations of successful 3PLs, and is integral to the success of their clients.

What does this modern-day third party relationship look like for your business? Here are a few things to consider when selecting a provider.

Global Partnerships

Going global is complex and presents many hurdles for businesses. Unfamiliar sources of supply, transportation and economic regulations, advanced security processes and international compliance issues are all considerations when doing business internationally. Successful 3PLs are able to leverage global partnerships to provide the resources, expertise and infrastructure necessary for expanding your global reach.

Investments in Technology

Companies looking for a 3PL to help expand their market should look for providers with advanced technical capabilities and solutions. The diversity of technology required to track products from manufacturer to consumer, particularly with international supply chains, is costly and prohibitive for many businesses. A truly global 3PL makes regular investments in technology to support the unique supply chain strategies posed by different regions of the world.

Strategic Relationships

A modern day 3PL should be committed to providing value to the customer and looking out for their best interests.

Partnerships in today’s environment are becoming more consumer-centric. A modern-day 3PL should be committed to providing value to the customer and looking out for their best interests. This requires an emphasis on building long-term relationships and offering ways to transform and collaborate. By communicating on a regular basis to talk about the client’s business and how it’s being impacted by changing market conditions, both parties will achieve greater success, and the partnership grows.

Important Skills for Your 3PL

Your 3PL partner is crucial to your success in the industry; evaluation of potential partners needs to go far beyond basic cost, to look at what skills and knowledge your 3PL can truly offer.

Consider these five skills when you’re evaluating potential new partners.

  1. Adaptation and Evolution. Your 3PL must demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement right out of the gate. Look at things like how many continuous improvement projects your potential partner has in the works, how many they initiate and how many they complete. Consider also whether they invest in formal training programs, how many Six Sigma Black Belts they have on staff, and any industry awards they’ve received for their continuous improvement projects and innovations. If your potential 3PL doesn’t have the ability, and the drive, to not only keep up with industry standards but exceed them, your relationship is set up for failure.
  2. Visibility. One of your biggest challenges is gaining and controlling supply chain visibility—especially as supply chains go global and processes become even more complex. You need insight into every stage of the supply chain, including lead times, landed costs, inventory carrying costs, and obsolescence costs, as well as the quality of your 3PL’s customer service. Can they give you that kind of visibility? Do they have the technology and skills in place to provide real collaboration, or are you likely to be left groping in the dark while they try to get their act together when you need information?
  3. IT Innovation. Why do companies complain about the length of time it takes their 3PL to make or enable process changes? Over and over it’s the fact that their 3PL uses an old, outdated, slowly dying IT infrastructure. The 3PL you choose should show that they are up-to-date with their software, and that their staff, both in the server room and on the floor, is familiar with technology innovations and can keep pace as they continue to evolve.
  4. Smart Hiring and Smart Retention. There’s a shortage of supply chain and logistics talent. Is your potential 3PL facing that issue? Or do they invest in hiring smart and fostering talent internally? Do they focus on developing their employees’ communication and relationship management skills? Do they understand the importance of having skilled and knowledgeable people at every level of the organization, who understand your industry thoroughly?
  5. Business Intelligence and Insights. Your 3PL needs to offer more than just access to business intelligence dashboards. Every piece of software nowadays offers that. What you need from your 3PL is insight. They should be staying on top of leading industry practices and trends, plus be able to offer networking and knowledge-exchange possibilities with other shippers. They should have the ability to conduct extensive market research and both share and implement their findings. If your 3PL has a dashboard but no idea how to leverage it, in the end you’re gaining very little from that relationship.

Just as the world is constantly evolving and changing, so are your logistics needs. A modern-day 3PL will rise to the challenge and apply their supply chain expertise and resources to enhance your business operations. If you are ready to expand your market or make investments in new technology, reach out to an expert who can reduce costs, improve service and achieve better visibility of the components that drive a global supply chain.

Working Smart

Technology Continues to Transform Today’s Supply Chain

Today’s business leaders are faced with the task of creating more efficient processes while keeping costs down. In order to stay competitive in a digital age, they need to stay aggressive in transforming their supply chains, and budget remains a barrier for many. Even during economic slumps, however, companies continue to invest in technology with the goal of improving business processes and increased profitability when times improve.

A recent Gartner’s user survey reveals supply chain managers are fighting for … Click here to read the full article on Direct Selling News.



Noel Datko is Marketing Director at IntegraCore LLC, a company that offers outsource turnkey fulfillment center and distribution warehousing services.

Do You Have Enough Gen Xers in Your Succession Plan?

by Judy Stubbs

Click here to order the November 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

When it comes to the U.S. working population, all age groups are not created equal. There are significant differences in the fundamental values and predominant work styles of different generations. That raises a wide range of talent-related issues for direct selling organizations, including how to attract, develop and retain executives at different stages of their careers. However, there is one overarching challenge today: finding and hiring executives in their mid-30s and 40s with the potential to become tomorrow’s CEOs, CFOs and other C-suite executives to lead direct selling organizations into the future.

Three Generations in the Workforce

Today, the U.S. talent pool is substantially larger at the top and the bottom of the working-age demographic groups than in the middle, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center, Generation X: America’s Neglected ‘Middle Child.’ The Pew report outlines the clear differences between the three generations now in the workforce.

By 2015, over one-third of our work force will be retiring.

At the top are the 77 million members of the baby boom generation, who are now in their 50s and 60s. In most organizations, the senior leadership team consists largely of boomers who have accumulated decades of on-the-job knowledge and experience, but are steadily leaving their careers behind. In fact, more than 10,000 baby boomers retire every single day. By 2015, over one-third of our work force will be retiring, according to a 2013 Social Security Administration report.

An even larger demographic group is now entering the nation’s workforce: the approximately 83 million millennials, including a large percentage now in their 20s and early 30s. Because these millennials are beginning their careers, few of them have developed the experience necessary for the responsibilities that come with a position in the C-suite.

In between these two generations are the 65 million Gen Xers, who range in age from 34 to 49. Gen X executives are in mid-career, developing skills and experience that can be groomed to prepare them to ascend to the C-suite. However, based on demographics, direct selling organizations will face a shortfall in talent in the next decade unless they make succession planning a top priority.

Fresh Perspective in the C-suite

Even as the relative scarcity of Gen Xers creates talent gaps, it also creates new opportunities for farsighted organizations to remain close to their customers as consumer habits evolve. For example, giving Gen Xers a significant presence in the C-suite can spur the development of new sales and marketing strategies, including innovative tactics based on the growing confluence of digital, mobile and social media. It can also provide organizations with fresh ideas and perspectives on changing customer values, attitudes and behaviors.

Direct selling organizations are not the only entities facing a transition in demographics—virtually all consumer and B2B markets are undergoing similar changes. Companies whose succession plans are aimed at moving Gen Xers into leadership roles are likely to have an edge on their competitors in serving their steadily evolving markets.

Understanding Gen X

The different perspectives, viewpoints and motivators of each generation can often result in misunderstandings and missed opportunities—especially in the workplace—and can be a recipe for disaster. Yet for all the media focus on the differences between the work styles of boomers and millennials, Gen Xers have received far less attention. Direct selling organizations need to take into account the values, motivations and drivers for mid-career executives in this age band, because there are some distinct generational differences in their work styles and motivators.

As the Pew report observed, “In most of the ways we take stock of generations, Gen Xers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths. From everything we know about them, Xers are savvy, skeptical and self-reliant; they’re not into preening or pampering.”

There are some common factors to consider in recruiting, hiring, developing and retaining these mid-career executives. In many cases, Gen Xers value freedom and autonomy to a greater extent than either the boomers or millennials. Like the boomers, they are hard workers while still valuing family and personal time, and like the millennials, they appreciate an enjoyable workplace along with flexible work hours and location. All three generations share the value of trust and respect.

Also common among Gen Xers is a desire for self-sufficiency. Having grown up during a time of corporate downsizing and economic and political instability, they can be less attached to their employers—particularly companies that fail to engage them on a personal level. That makes it imperative for recruiters to highlight the company’s highest values and point out opportunities for senior executives to become involved in community, charitable and other causes that can make a positive difference in the world. Once onboard, these Xers need to continue to feel personally engaged and enriched in order to feel satisfied in their career.

Fortunately, most direct selling organizations have a readily available source of information about what drives Gen Xers today—their internal talent pool of managers and sales professionals in their late 30s and 40s. Online surveys, focus groups and individual interviews—as well as participation in various organizational activities—can provide invaluable insight into Gen Xers’ attitudes and behaviors and play a key role in developing an effective succession planning program.


Strategies for Succession Planning

One of the first steps in succession planning for direct selling organizations is … Click here to read the full article at Direct Selling News.


Judy StubbsJudy Stubbs is Vice President and a retained executive search consultant with Pearson Partners International. With previous experience as the chief human resources officer of Mary Kay Cosmetics, she has been helping her direct selling industry clients build strategic leadership teams for more than 25 years.

3 Keys to a Powerful Event Experience

by John Killacky

Click here to order the September 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Another year, another convention. How will this year’s event be different? What can you do to bring fresh excitement and new energy? It’s not as daunting as it may seem. Take a deep breath. You got this.

When you focus on three important elements of your event, you can provide your guests (and even those who can’t come) an impactful, meaningful—and fun—event experience. Let’s start by identifying your event’s stakeholders and what’s important to each of them.

The Players

Your guests: Each consultant who registers for, travels to, and attends your event comes in search of something. Information, celebration, fun—whatever it is, they’ll take it back home with them, and it will affect their business. So it’d better be good.

Your organization: You have important messaging to deliver. That means what’s said, how it’s said, how it looks and how it feels to the audience.

Your boss: C-suite execs want to see that the number of attendees is robust, their enjoyment is obvious, the event is polished and effective, and the budget remains intact. No pressure.

Can all those objectives be met? Absolutely, when you focus on three simple elements: pre-event prep, fabulous recognition and social media.

Plan Ahead

The importance of thorough pre-event preparation can’t be overstated. Once you’ve determined the “skeleton” of your event—who, what, when, where—you can begin talking with production companies. You know what’s most important to your company and this specific event; ask the questions that matter most, and listen carefully when they talk about their experience. Have they worked with companies in your industry? What do they bring to the table that others don’t? What kind of people are they; what’s their corporate culture? How do they handle changes in direction, and onsite challenges?

Ask for samples of their work and references from other clients—and then take a few minutes to call those clients. And, do a gut-check: Would you enjoy working with them? This is a big decision; you’re entrusting the success of your event in large part to this company. Again, no pressure.

The importance of thorough pre-event preparation can’t be overstated.

Let’s assume now that you’ve chosen an event partner that fits. Congratulations! Now, make full use of the partnership—that’s why you have them. Give them full access to your team and execs; being fully invested in the partnership will make your event even stronger. Ensure that they know your company, your mission and your execs (and what’s important to each of them). Collaborate with your production partner to create meaningful content. In your event “skeleton,” you’ve determined the direction, the tone and the look you want. Work with your event team to bring those concepts to life in onstage content, video and graphic support. Push them to make it everything you’ve envisioned. That’s their job.

Rock-Star Treatment

One of the most important parts of an annual convention or an incentive trip is recognition—the sweet sound of applause (and their own name) as honorees take their walk of fame. What could be better?

Doing recognition right is so important! It’s exciting for the individuals being recognized, it’s aspirational for the guests watching the awards ceremony, and it’s a chance for your company to truly thank and honor those individuals who make you shine. Your top achievers are the face of your company to their customers; you want those faces to be smiling and happy.

Your production company should know how important recognition is to your audience and honorees, and make it a priority in pre-event planning. Creating a memorable experience start-to-finish for each honoree is important. It can—and should—be awesome from backstage to onstage. There are very real and very important reasons that they’re onstage. They’ve racked up incredible sales or sponsoring numbers. They’ve met goals, they’ve made new commitments or they’ve partnered with your organization’s charitable efforts to change the world. Whatever it is, they’ve excelled. And their moment in the spotlight should be all excitement, and zero stress.

Make sure your event partner takes care with each honoree so that they’re comfortable and know what’s going to happen. Where they’ll wait backstage, how they’ll know it’s time to walk out, who will escort them, where they should stand. The more they know, the more they can relax and enjoy the experience. And the harder they’ll work to get back onstage next year!

Also there’s this: Check, double-check, and triple-check that names are spelled and pronounced correctly. Amazingly, this doesn’t always get checked, and it’s a real downer for the honoree when that happens. Do whatever it takes to make them feel like the rock stars they are!

Pin, Post, Tweet, Share

Social media: It’s not just for breakfast anymore. You’ve used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your company’s website to drive attendance to your event. Now you’re done, right? Actually, you’re just getting started.

Social media can be a living, evolving, exciting part of your event, throughout the entire event experience. It seems appropriate to use a statistic now, so here it is: Nearly 75 percent of all Americans are actively engaged in social media, including your guests. Don’t tell them to turn off their phones—engage them!

There are many different social media platforms, and you should know those that your consultants use the most. Just think: Each platform is a new way to directly reach consumers, consultants and event attendees. You’re nodding your head. Yes, that makes sense. But few organizations use social media to its maximum advantage at their events.

Just about everything you do for event guests can also be accessed and enjoyed by those who couldn’t come. They’ll stay connected to the event and to your organization, and—fingers crossed—they’ll make sure they attend the event next year.

Post (and tag!) photos of new products, displays, field presenters and crowd excitement on Facebook. Keep your YouTube channel up-to-the-minute current with videos of the CEO’s speech, an amazing recognition segment, new product reveals and all of the excitement in the convention center hallways. You may want to consider creating an app specific to your event—for instance, the event agenda. It’s hip, happenin’ and green. All the cool kids are doing it.

Create a fun, interactive digital scavenger hunt in which attendees earn points throughout the event by “checking in” at different displays or sessions, or taking a selfie with a sales field leader, or scanning a product display. Draw for prizes on Twitter rather than on the stage. Have the CEO or other execs answer questions via live tweets throughout the event. Create an event-specific hashtag.

Sometimes social media is considered “anti-social” because we’re all looking down at our phones, clicking and scrolling. Done the right way, it can actually create a more communal experience at your event—and well beyond.

Nearly 75 percent of all Americans are actively engaged in social media, including your guests. Don’t tell them to turn off their phones—engage them!

It’s a Wrap

So there you go. The three ways you can ensure a great event experience for your guests and a solid return on the investment you’ve made.

  • Solid pre-event prep
  • Rock-star recognition
  • Effective use of social media

Do your homework, trust your event partner and enjoy building an event that’ll leave them more excited—and more productive—than ever.

Jeff Turney

John Killacky is Managing Director, National Sales & Marketing at Bartha. Bartha is a leading provider of high-quality events, production and staging for the direct selling industry.

Today’s Shifting Direct Selling Landscape

by Michelle Larter

Click here to order the July 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Increasingly, brands are using mobile and social as channels to interact and engage with customers and prospects. In the direct selling industry, consultants and brands continue to embrace the opportunities each provides to better run their businesses and drive leads. But just how much have these two impacted the way direct selling organizations do business—and what further changes can we expect to see this year?

Three shifts we are already seeing can be found in the use of social media, mobile devices and analytics.

Social Media Shift: From Facebook to More Private Channels

Social media today has become one of the primary ways that messages are getting out now. Any brand lacking a social media strategy today is at risk of becoming obsolete, as consumers increasingly discover and interact with brands through these channels. However, the social media landscape is changing, and what has worked in the past couple of years is no longer a guaranteed approach.

Consider Facebook. The popular social media site’s saturation has caused 20- to 30-somethings to increasingly utilize more “private” channels, including Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest, to connect with peers. In fact, according to Nate Elliott, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., consumers interact with brand posts on Instagram at a rate that far surpasses the interaction rates produced on Facebook and Twitter. This could mean that while Facebook has helped direct selling organizations and their consultants drive customer acquisition and sales with 20- to 30-somethings in recent years, it may not continue to generate the same level of results—and establishing or growing a presence on other social media platforms will be more effective.

The key for maintaining a successful social media presence is to understand where your customers are most active and provide them with valuable and relevant messages tailored to each social media outlet in order to cultivate those relationships. Instagram, for instance, provides an opportunity for a jewelry consultant to provide images of each piece being worn in order to showcase the versatility and real-life appearance of the jewelry for sale. On Pinterest, the same consultant can not only create boards showcasing all of the jewelry looks, but can also show her individual style suggestions. This enables her to show her creative side and projects an image to her customers that she can be a resource for accessorizing.

The key for maintaining a successful social media presence is to understand where your customers are most active and provide them with valuable and relevant messages in order to cultivate those relationships.

The content-sharing opportunities made possible through social media are compelling, and direct selling organizations and consultants who use them strategically can find that they truly engage with customers and prospects in new and fun ways, even as their social media preferences change.

Mobility Shift: Consumers—and Consultants—Are Always On

Mobile devices are increasingly an integral part of everyday life. And while mobile devices serve many purposes, both personal and professional, one of their most common uses is to access email anytime, anywhere. This can be an important point for the direct selling industry. The key is providing relevant and engaging content to keep them interested and informed.

But it’s not just consumers who are impacted by the increasingly mobile landscape. Consultants are using iPads and tablets to run their businesses—conducting presentations on them at parties and using them for order management. We are starting to see a shift where printed materials—catalogs, order forms, invoices—are increasingly becoming electronic.

Think about the advantages: If you are hosting a party, you can easily look up information and show additional products that may not be showcased in the catalogs or as part of the live demonstration. Even if they are, it’s likely that online you can show multiple product images, giving the potential customer a clearer picture of the product. Order management is easier for both parties and processing is quicker, as well.

Outside of parties, consultants are more likely to be prepared for anytime sales, since most won’t leave home without their mobile devices (but may leave home without their product portfolio and paper order forms). The ability to immediately show customers what you are selling, even in moments when you least expect a potential sale, is changing the direct selling game!

Analytics Shift: Tracking ROI and Driving Leads

Consultants who are serious about marketing are increasingly using tools to help track ROI and drive leads. Along with managing their own social sites, consultants are increasingly tracking ROI on Google Analytics to see what’s working and what’s not by examining where their site visitors are coming from, how long they are staying on their site and how many are converting to leads. They’re using Facebook Graph Search as a new way to find new prospects and drive leads. This service helps users find more of the people, places and things they’re looking for and discover new connections based on what others have shared with them. They’re measuring the success of each of their email newsletters by examining open and click-through rates. All of this data is more readily available to consultants, who are increasingly empowered to track their successes and determine the most effective strategies for driving leads and sales. As more and more data analytics tools become available, the direct selling industry will continue to be impacted by the insight they provide.

As direct selling continues to evolve, the same overarching lessons remain true: Staying in front of the customer, delivering relevance and engaging with them via their preferred channels will be the key for driving direct selling success. While technology shifts can impact the communication channels, the same best practices ring true.

Michele LarterMichelle Larter is the Worldwide Director, Direct Selling, at IMN Inc. Larter has more than 20 years of experience in sales, including more than 10 years specifically with direct sales. She is a contributing writer to direct selling and technology publications and a frequent speaker at industry events. IMN Inc. was awarded the prestigious 2013 DSA Ethos Award for Partnership.

An Integrated Onboarding Experience: Business Launch at Hyper Speed!

by Greg Fink

Click here to order the May 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Many companies are beginning to experience incredible results as they enrich, engage and simplify how independent contractors are running their businesses through the use of technology. Aligning cross-generational buying habits with effective sales and marketing strategies offers multiple experiences that specifically cater to individuals by personalizing those interactions.

At Next Wave, we continue to see incredible growth in mobile and social strategies and how they are impacting our industry. We’ve also become keenly aware of the importance of the “user experience” and how design and usability now start with the smallest common denominator—a finger—and regardless of device the experience must be optimized.

Aligning cross-generational buying habits with effective sales and marketing strategies offers multiple experiences that specifically cater to individuals by personalizing those interactions.

A recent article in Forbes highlights the various types of online experiences based on three of the most well-respected companies—Amazon, Google and Apple—showcasing the differing approaches they have taken in how they have grown their businesses. Amazon’s approach offers the ability to react to a customer’s engagement with personalized attention to increase overall satisfaction; in other words, buy a product/service during the month of May and you will get free shipping. Google’s approach offers the ability to draw customers in through the power of a positive experience; in other words, they offer multiple views, images, videos and pictures when using their search engine. Apple’s approach offers the ability to turn customers into raging evangelists; in other words, the iPod, iPhone, Apple TV and iTunes have arguably innovated the most flexible, simple-to-use and fluid experiences on personal devices.

One contributing factor to these companies’ success is the extraordinary experience they offer. While somewhat different in nature, direct sellers need to embrace all of these methods in order to compete at the highest level. My goal with this article is not to focus on technology so much as the idea of offering a remarkable experience through software design.

Good software design impacts the daily experiences of visitors, customers, sales reps, hostesses, guests and corporate users. The software design and engineering process should start with assessing the possible growth areas of the business, and the onboarding process for a new recruit is one of those critical areas.

Creating an Integrated Onboarding Process

One of the greatest challenges for any sales rep is recruiting new participants. Companies often assist sales reps with lead-generation tools and ways to effectively recruit and build their businesses. Sales reps work hard to educate and engage new prospects, investing significant time, energy and effort in the process. In almost every case they leave a positive impression, and new recruits are fired up and excited about their new opportunity.

So what happens after someone has made the commitment to participate in the business? Research shows there are some breakdowns in the onboarding process that a sales rep experiences, particularly in getting the digital aspects of their business up and running. Most companies provide excellent training and access to coaching and instill good support programs for their up-line leaders, but the problem is they can be at the mercy of their software, which can create barriers in launching sales reps’ businesses. As a result, these barriers can sometimes leave a negative impression with the new recruit that this business may be more difficult than they initially thought.

Consider some of the following technology tools that can be embedded into the onboarding process to create an integrated, simplified experience so new participants can quickly get their businesses up and running in four easy steps. The entire process below is benchmarked to be completed in 30 minutes or less.


Step 1: Enrollment Made Easy

    • The enrollment process should be device-independent, so whatever the device—a mobile phone, laptop or tablet—using a finger or mouse someone can easily sign up as a sales rep or customer with quick and easy credit card capture.
    • Based on personal interests or characteristics, suggestions for the type of kit or sample product should be automatically recommended. As an example, a skincare company could ask during the enrollment process for the applicant’s skin type: dry, oily, normal, etc., and the samples that get included in the kit are based on this personalization.
    • From start to finish the enrollment process should take less than five minutes, including capturing necessary demographic and personal data.

Step 2: Bringing Personal Marketing Site to Life

    • Once enrolled, it is important to quickly get the new participant’s online marketing site and business hub going. This can be done by streamlining the creation of the online marketing site setup by having scripts, suggestions and access to website templates available for guiding them through the process.
    • Offer some personalization, like uploading a photo, but keep personalization to a minimum so they don’t get sidetracked with too many options. A really convenient feature is one that offers a preview of the online marketing site as the user is creating it, which shows them what it will look like before the site is actually published. That way they can see their layout and design in motion.
    • Each sales rep’s online marketing site should have a personal URL for their individual site, suggesting a site name so they don’t have to figure it out. The personal URL has huge benefits related to posting promotional messages on social sites. If a “friend” clicks on a post from their wall they are automatically driven right back to the sales rep’s online marketing site to purchase, sign up, host an event, or browse and shop. A personal URL makes certain that social networks are directly connected to the sales rep’s online marketing site. The challenge is some systems offer the ability to log into a shared portal without a personal URL, and when a social media post occurs it drives the individual to the company’s corporate site and not the sales rep’s online marketing site. This can cause the sales rep to lose confidence in their ability to utilize their social media outlets to their advantage.
    • The entire online marketing site creation should take only a few minutes.

Step 3: Integrated CRM Marketing and Communications

    • Once the sales rep’s online marketing site is published, it’s time to communicate to their network of contacts. The challenge is most people have contacts stored with multiple providers, and CRM becomes an arduous process for managing and communicating to those contacts. Well-designed software provides tools that can fully automate this process for importing friends, family and colleagues pulled from multiple providers like Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail and others, eliminating rekeying names, phone numbers and email addresses. The end result creates a centralized contact address book within minutes. These contacts can then be grouped by various categories, like potential recruit, hostess and customer, so online promotional campaigns can be targeted to those individual groups. Effective CRM tools and communications increase relevancy, ensuring better relationships.

Step 4: Digital Marketing Campaign Tools (Game-Changer)

    • The final step in the integrated onboarding process is the impression a new sales rep makes by effectively communicating to their network of contacts (now located in the centralized contact address book), reaching as many potential buyers as possible and maintaining those relationships through effective communications. The challenge is that salesforces are often lacking effective integrated marketing and communications tools. By equipping your salesforce with an online promotion tool, the ability to quickly execute cost-effective communications using corporate-branded content is just a few clicks away.
    • The promotion tool should offer a sales rep the ability to select from a gallery of various types of campaign templates for introducing the company, the product line, a company newsletter, hostess specials and more. After selecting the campaign template, sales reps optionally can create a personal message to their targeted audience. Personalization offers the ability to build deep brand relationships tailored to their contacts and makes online communication relevant to the interests of the targeted audience.
    • Once the contacts are selected from the address book based on the type of campaign, the online promotion is sent. The entire process for creating and sending out the online promotional campaign should take less than a minute. Facebook and other social sites can also be informed of the online promotion based on campaign relevancy.
    • Each individual sales rep can then track the effectiveness of their online promotional campaigns by monitoring who opened it, who forwarded it to a friend, who responded directly to their marketing site and what interested them.

In Summary

Having an excellent onboarding experience for the new sales rep is vitally important to ensuring greater salesforce activation and engagement and reaching higher rates of retention. Attrition is costly and can become a momentum killer for any company. The above steps may seem fairly obvious, but the secret sauce is “packaging” them in a fully integrated system, making it streamlined, efficient and easy. The goal with this entire four-step onboarding process is to keep accelerating and carrying momentum from the excitement gained during the recruiting process and getting sales reps activated through having an extraordinary experience. The end result is ultimately getting a sales rep’s business up and running quickly so they can get focused on sales revenue-generating activities.

Greg FinkGreg Fink is Vice President of Sales at Next Wave Logistics, a provider of web-based software and services for the direct selling industry.

Change Thinking—Change Results

by Tony Jeary

Click here to order the May 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

When leaders, executives, managers or anyone who has the responsibility for achieving results, get results that are less than expected or unsatisfactory, some sort of problem-solving process begins. The quest to produce superior results always begins with attempting to either come up with a better way to do something or to fix something that isn’t working properly. It can involve a minor part or a larger process, or it can engage the very core of a vision that isn’t succeeding. The approach taken for problem solving comes in many forms, but the end goal is always to produce a better result.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a process by which you could accurately identify a core issue that causes poor results? I’m talking about a process that would be common to all problems and could be deployed in every instance to overcome challenges and improve results. Would it shock you to think that all problems and poor results might always begin with the same core cause? Would it surprise you to learn that all problems and solutions are in fact the same thing? Well, I submit that is exactly the case. The purpose of this article is to identify the issue and explain why and how to use it as the basis for an unfailing problem-solving process and to relate it to the change of thinking that needs to happen that first 30, 60 and 90 days of a new person joining your organization. You only have one opportunity to start that person down the right path.

The cause of poor results and the solution for superior results is always the same: Thinking!

The simple explanation for the truth of this is that your thoughts determine your action, and your action produces the results you get. In any endeavor, if you get poor results along the way it’s because someone’s thinking in the action chain was not what it should have been. It may be yours or some else’s who collaborates with you.

There is an old cliché we all know—that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. The real question that must be asked is what causes people to keep doing the same things over and over again, even if their results are not what they need or want? The answer is that they do not change their thinking; therefore they don’t change what they are doing, so they get the same results! If your results are less than you expected, the path to better results begins by examining the thinking that drove the action that produced the results. Thinking is the core issue that causes poor results, so the examination of thinking is always the starting place for changing results.

Why Thinking Drives Change and, therefore, Results

Tony Jeary’s latest book, Business Ground Rules.

Tony Jeary’s latest book, Business Ground Rules.

From the day we are born the process of learning begins. Our subconscious mind, where all new information is processed and stored, is capable of processing 40 million bits of data per second. Most of that data is just filed away to be recalled when needed, but the accumulation of all that information creates what I call a Belief Window. The Belief Window is the way we see the world and interpret its meaning, and it’s the filter by which we make our decisions. Underneath the Belief Window is all the information we believe to be true, false, right, wrong, correct or incorrect, appropriate or inappropriate. All the things we believe combine to create our conscious thoughts and our feelings. The thing to understand about this fact is that we make all of our choices in life based on our thoughts and feelings.

Our choices determine the action we take, and our action drives the results we experience. It is easy to understand that this process is the reason our thinking is the root cause of results. It is the foundation for everything we experience that is within our control. The truth of all this explains why change is so difficult for people. Real change requires us to change some things we believe to be true that are not true. Emotionally we have to accept that our thinking has been incorrect or outdated, and few people want to admit they have been wrong. The most heated discussions involve differences in belief. Think about every argument you have ever had, and you will quickly see that it was caused by two or more different beliefs about something.

How Do We Change Someone’s Thinking?

How do we change the thinking of a new person coming into an organization? The only way people can really change what they believe is to do it voluntarily. Convincing others to change requires compelling reasoning to make them think about things a different way. That requires giving them distinctions and different perspectives that make sense to them individually and that they can use to help others believe and buy in to as well. It requires helping them see Blind Spots—and we all have them. It means getting them to see through the eyes of someone else’s success. If someone I trust is able to sit me down long enough and simply facilitate some basic facts about something, I can “get it.” That revelation can often be life-changing, and I am motivated to take action accordingly. The right thinking attracts momentum and helps ensure execution.

I propose, and I think as a leader in this industry you would agree, one of the most critical touch points that really matters is the starter kit. How’s yours? Is it old, new, fresh, pretty, big, small, etc.? Does it break down potential barriers that inhibit taking action? Or does it facilitate understanding in a way that it becomes a catalyst for success?

Bottom line, the most important questions are: “How well does my starter kit change thinking?” “What tools in my starter kit impact thinking the most?” “What thinking do I want to change?”

As leaders with more than a few years in the business, I’m sure you have dissected your starter kits from all kinds of angles: its cost per tool included, usefulness, size, etc. But have you dissected or assessed each tool regarding the thinking it impacts? Have you determined what thinking you want someone to have as a result of experiencing your kit?

  • Confidence (self, company, industry)
  • Support (belief in product)
  • Being a pioneer
  • Time (how long, how much)
  • Personal development
  • Winning

These are six good ones for sure, and I know you can certainly add more—and should—based on your research, input from your field, and even the trust of your own intuition. I encourage you to invest a bit of time, select a few colleagues and field leaders, and determine the thinking that’s most important for your new people in order for them to take action and to really win as a part of your business. Then decide on what tool or tools best align with converting this kind of thinking.

To sum it up, life is fast, and thinking is hard—most people don’t do enough of it. With the age of technology we are currently experiencing, things change so quickly that continually assessing and changing your thinking is what will keep you competitive in today’s world.

Thinking matters. Are you thinking enough yourself? Do you have a balance between thinking strategically and tactically or are you being overly tactical?

To reinforce a change in thinking, here are my recommended takeaways for you.

  1. Thinking matters. Period!
  2. Guiding thinking as a strategic process for positively impacting a new person is an advantage—and we all want advantages.
  3. It is a good practice to assess everything often, including your starter kit.
  4. When you think about what you want to happen in the minds of your prospects, recognize that the toolbox or your starter kit plays a big role in their initial thinking and success.
  5. The tools—in your starter kit—you use will either support your growth and future or not, so get this right.

Most importantly, let me repeat—change thinking, change results.

Tony JearyTony Jeary, The RESULTS Guy™, is the author of Business Ground Rules, 100 Lessons for Success, his 40th book. Jeary is a strategist and industry expert who helps companies think better and plan better, hence creating the right faster results. For more information about Jeary, visit

Processes over Personality: Build Systems to Achieve and Maintain Growth

by Paul Adams

Click here to order the April 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


A company executive tells me they have a “GREAT rep.” He is killing it—making lots of money and bringing lots of people into the organization. Then, in the next sentence, the exec tells me the company just isn’t growing as they would like or have expected, and they can’t figure out why.

OK, I’m no genius, but something doesn’t seem connected between those two things. Almost always, the reason for slow or no growth when there is a top rep who is “doing great” is that the rep is doing something that is not repeatable. Often, from the outside, the example the GREAT rep is setting makes it look way too difficult, and others cannot “see themselves” doing it.

And the problem continues because the executive in charge of the company is catering to this GREAT rep and not creating tools and systems that more people can utilize. I just don’t understand…

If the exec truly believes that more people should be successful in the company, why won’t he explain to the GREAT rep that in order for more people to succeed, things have to change? The reality is that processes, systems and tools are the things that will support true success, not one rep, even a “great” one who is successful—but not duplicable. Sadly, it’s sometimes difficult for the executive to see this reality. Why? The answer is usually pretty simple. The exec is likely fearful of two things:

No. 1: Losing the revenue they already have, even if it’s not at all what they think it should be.

No. 2: Losing the rep who has gotten them to this point—even if the GREAT rep will never take them to the next level of success.

Here’s a cold hard fact of life: Often, the people who helped get your company here are not the people who will help you get where you want or expect to go. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. It happens in your corporate structure. It happens on sports teams. It happens everywhere. Growth requires the right people in the right spots, and the right systems, tools and processes to help individuals maximize their efforts.

In my opinion, the executive has two choices. Either let the GREAT rep keep doing what he is doing and let the overall success of the company remain in his hands, or build a system and provide the tools that allow others to succeed. And, get the GREAT rep on board and building like everyone else is expected to. One of these options is scalable and puts the executive back in control of the company.

Without a doubt, as a business continues to grow, executives are approached over and over by independent business owners (IBOs) who say they want to join the organization and bring their knowledge and their way of growing a business into the company’s world. They want to help “explode” the business and reach entirely new and, up to now, unreachable levels of success. All the executive has to do is let them bring their systems into the business and watch it grow.


Franchises are perhaps the closest cousin to the direct selling business model. Do you think McDonalds, 7-Eleven, Chick-fil-A, or any one of the dozens of other franchise businesses allow their new business owners to do it “their way”? Of course not!

I am very sure that during the selection/interview process at Chick-fil-A, if the prospective owner starts talking about how they have better ideas and a better way to run the business, they are turned down as an owner. It’s too important to Chick-fil-A—they simply don’t want a single owner to fail. It’s bad for everyone—the business owner, the company and the brand.

The secret to the success of the franchise model is that it relies completely on the ability of the business owner to follow the predetermined system that will lead them to succeed in their own business. After that, the owner needs to be good at a few other critical things—hiring, firing, scheduling, basic accounting, and so on.

Almost every day, I talk to a high-level executive at a direct selling company that is leaving the process of succeeding in the hands of the IBO. To me, that sounds like playing Russian roulette with the business.

Like franchises, I am completely convinced that success in direct selling is process-driven and systematic. Without a system to teach your newest IBO, you are allowing your old IBOs to run the business. You are completely reliant on their system, their knowledge, their charisma. That’s scary!

My advice to all new companies and any company that doesn’t have a system to teach: Get one! Now! Create a system that teaches consistent prospecting and recruiting, along with business practices.

If you have an existing organization, get the buy-in of your current IBOs so everyone agrees that the system is one that everyone will endorse. At first, it may feel threatening to the current field leaders. It won’t take long to realize it is good for everyone if the entire organization is focused on a unified system.

Then, in the new distributor kit, “hold their hand” and teach that new person what to do first. You wouldn’t teach someone geometry if they don’t know how to add and subtract. So, start with the basics. Teach them what they need to know now—on Day One! If done properly, they will quickly become better and will want to know how to be more effective. Then, explain step-by-step what to do on Day Seven, then Day 14, then Day 30. It is the systematic progression that will get them and keep them successful.

Take the first step. Take control of the business by designing and building the systems to achieve and maintain growth. The investment will be well worth it!

Paul AdamsPaul Adams is Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing for VideoPlus, which is celebrating 26 years of partnering with direct selling companies.

Why Supply Chain Transparency Is Key to Your Company’s Success

by Noel Datko

Click here to order the April 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Traditional supply chains, once only intended to be accessible internally, are coming out of the closet. Companies are being called on to offer complete visibility into their labor practices, energy consumption, waste and carbon emissions measurement, and water supply management.

The real, bottom-line benefits of taking your supply chain transparent are simple: It boosts your company’s image, increases customer loyalty, and can put you light-years ahead of your competition. Transparency means offering consumers real insight into your environmental and social initiatives, and your efforts to improve the quality and cost of your products. It gives you a whole new standard of excellence to live up to—and your customers notice.

As I previously mentioned, responsible and ethical supply chain focus, plus transparency around those initiatives, is becoming essential to your company’s public image. And with social media able to directly impact a company’s reputation, public image more and more affects your bottom line.

The real, bottom-line benefits of taking your supply chain transparent are simple: It boosts your company’s image, increases customer loyalty, and can put you light-years ahead of your competition.

Even more, transparency offers a significant competitive advantage: It’s a consumer’s privilege to buy a product blindly, either ignoring or not caring about its supply chain footprint. But transparently offering an ethical, compliant global sourcing strategy becomes a true competitive differentiator.

It’s how companies gain, and keep, customer loyalty, not to mention making themselves an employer of choice. High-quality potential candidates are attracted to companies that demonstrate they understand that business is, and should be, more than just driving straight ahead to make a profit.

Once you’re on board with the reasons you need to offer a transparent supply chain, the next concern is how. Your ability to be transparent is directly proportionate to just how complex your supply chain is. And the way you design, implement and support transparency initiatives is directly related to how your company currently plans, designs, makes and ships products.

What new requirements will you have to implement in your process? How deeply will changes need to go? Where do you need to start? You can look at everything from how and where you source your materials to how and who assembles them. Consider reducing emissions in your shipping practices, implementing a green packaging initiative, and more. Then you need to consider how to make your initiatives visible to the public.

Nike, for example, has put a Nike Responsibility initiative into place. They developed the Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), a database that, over seven years of research, assembled information on 77,000 materials. Its supply chain team is thoroughly trained to make smart, creative choices regarding material choices when designing and sourcing for their new products. This means that accountability becomes a companywide value.

Supply chain transparency is about harnessing the right combination of innovation and environmental, social, quality and cost best practices. When you operate with full visibility, you’re opening your company up to a new standard of excellence, and redefining what success means. It goes beyond big business, bottom lines and ROI—it’s about operating smartly, ethically and in a sustainable way, now and into the future.

Noel Datko is Marketing Director at IntegraCore LLC., a company that offers outsource turnkey fullfillment center and distribution warehousing services.

Women’s History: A Tradition of Breaking through Boundaries

by Barbara Seale

Click here to order the March 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Photo above: Delegates to the first International Congress of Working Women held in Washington, D.C., ca. 1919. (Library of Congress)

The long and winding road of women’s progress in society and the business world has had an amazing number of twists, turns and mountains to climb.

Viewed from today’s world, where Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to Lean In, the trail that women blazed in the not too distant past seems surprisingly bumpy.

On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband, John—who later became our second president—urging him and the other members of the all-male Continental Congress to keep the country’s women in mind as they fought for America’s independence from Great Britain.

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency,” she wrote, “and, by the way, in the new code of laws, which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

Abigail Adams became one of the first in a long line of American women to use any influence they had to allow themselves and other women to develop and use their full talents and abilities.

John and Abigail’s relationship was filled with mutual trust and admiration, and they often discussed public policy. So perhaps John was teasing his wife when he replied that he could not help but laugh at her “saucy” letter. If he had been able to peer into the future, he would have known that his wife had become one of the first in a long line of American women to use any influence they had to allow themselves and other women to develop and use their full talents and abilities. If John Adams had taken his wife’s pleas to heart and convinced his fellow Continental Congressmen to extend the privileges of citizenship to all residents of the new country, including women, the history of this country and even the world might have been very different.

In Women’s History Month, it seems appropriate to reflect on how far women have come in the nearly 238 years since Abigail Adams’ letter. It would be almost two centuries before women began making their mark in direct selling, but when they did, they were as tenacious and innovative as our nation’s second first lady herself.

Educational Barriers

These young female workers were among the first women ever to operate a centerless grinder machine in a Midwest tool factory, 1942. (Library of Congress)

These young female workers were among the first women ever to operate a centerless grinder machine in a Midwest tool factory, 1942. (Library of Congress)

Abigail was fortunate, she was educated at home. But the future first lady never had a formal education—possibly the reason she became a passionate advocate for public schools to offer girls an education that was equal to the ones given to boys. If a young woman was lucky enough to attend a school, her education focused on developing her skills at household duties and chores. In fact, an academically educated woman was unusual and considered not particularly desirable as a wife.

All but a few towns in New England specifically barred girls from town schools until the late 18th century. Even then girls were often taught separately from the boys. In the South during colonial times, the education of slaves was strictly forbidden, and South Carolina even passed a law prohibiting anyone from teaching a slave to read or write, so many female ancestors of today’s accomplished African Americans were likely illiterate. The notable exception: Phyllis Wheatley. Born in West Africa, she was sold into slavery at 7 years old to the Wheatley family of Boston. They taught her to read and write and allowed her to study astronomy and geography. Then when they recognized her talent, they encouraged her poetry. She became the country’s second published African-American poet and first published African-American woman.

Phyllis Wheatley and other American women of that time started their lives before college educations were available for women. In 1831—before the Civil War—Mississippi College became the first coeducational college in the United States to grant a degree to a woman. That year it granted degrees to two women, Alice Robinson and Catherine Hall. But the situation was so rare that one of the key demands of the Women’s Rights Convention, held in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, was for coeducation for women—not the separate and unequal institutions that were available to women at the time. Very slowly, change began in the landscape of education, and through education, women’s lives began a gradual alteration. In 1870, less than 1 percent of the female population went to college. That percentage slowly rose, and by 1900 the rate was 2.8 percent. Twenty years later it was still only 7.6 percent.

Overcoming the Odds

Fay Hubbard, a 19-year-old advocate for women gaining the right to vote, sells suffragette papers on the streets of New York in 1910. (Library of Congress)

Fay Hubbard, a 19-year-old advocate for women gaining the right to vote, sells suffragette papers on the streets of New York in 1910. (Library of Congress)

Women finally gained the right to vote in 1920, signifying the beginning of a new attitude toward a woman’s contribution outside the home, and the number of college-educated women continued to climb decade by decade. In fact, by the 1980s more women than men began attending college. Today’s women have advanced educationally beyond the level that Abigail Adams or Phyllis Wheatley probably ever dreamed. Now, more women than men earn an advanced degree, as well as a bachelor’s degree. While having a degree doesn’t automatically lead to ambition or success, women’s expanded societal roles did follow their advances in education. It also coincided with greater entrepreneurialism—both in traditional and direct selling companies.

It is interesting to note that through the decades, and even centuries, with or without education, women have achieved, led and innovated. As far back as 1809, Mary Kies became the first woman to receive a patent, which was for her method of weaving straw with silk—a process which then-first lady Dolly Madison called a boost to the nation’s hat industry. History is peppered with the forgotten stories of female entrepreneurs—Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who grew and exported indigo in the 1700s; publisher, printer and businesswoman Mary Katherine Goddard, who in 1789 was forced to resign after 14 years as Baltimore’s postmaster because of her gender; Bridget “Biddy” Mason, who was born into slavery in 1818, sued her owners for her freedom, and eventually became a real estate mogul and philanthropist; Elizabeth Arden and Estee Lauder, savvy businesswomen who built empires based on beauty in the 20th century; and Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post and the top executive of the Washington Post Company, who became one of the most powerful women in business.

In the direct selling industry, women were initially buyers of products from the early companies such as The Southwestern Company (now Southwestern Advantage), Fuller Brush and Avon. Since many products were directed to women, they also became distributors. Fuller Brush was the first direct selling home for many of the women who moved from distributorships to the corporate ranks. Some of them were pioneers who helped shape the industry. In 1931 Catherine O’Brien, an associate with the Fuller Brush Company, teamed up with Stanley Beveridge, a VP at Fuller Brush, to launch a new direct selling company, Stanley Home Products. Initially the company sold its high-quality household cleaners, brushes and mops door-to-door, but it soon began encouraging homemakers to invite small groups of friends to their homes for a product demonstration and light refreshments. This allowed the hostess to receive a gift of choice from the Stanley dealer, who took orders from attendees.

Mary Kay Ash, Mary Crowley, Brownie Wise and JAFRA founders Jan and Frank Day were all Stanley Home Products Dealers. On the long road to success, each of them stepped on the accelerator. Wise became a Tupperware representative and was so successful selling at her home parties that Earl Tupper himself recruited her to become a corporate executive in 1951. At the time, Tupperware was sold at retail stores, but home sales soon topped retail sales and Wise’s “party plan” method took over. She also innovated many practices that today are standards at every direct selling company—rewards, recognition, sales conventions and incentives such as extravagant trips. Her success in implementing marketing styles and recognition systems that appealed to women led her to become the first woman featured on the cover of Business Week magazine in 1954.

Jan Day and her husband, Frank, combined their first names to create the moniker for their company, JAFRA, which they founded in 1956. They wanted to offer women an excellent skincare program along with an appealing business opportunity. Within a year they invented the signature product that would be the foundation of the company for years to come: Royal Jelly Milk Balm Moisture Lotion. Its formula remained unchanged for more than 50 years. Gillette bought the successful company in 1973, and then international direct selling giant Vorwerk acquired it in 2004. Today it offers its product through some 573,000 independent consultants worldwide.

Mary Crowley also put her Stanley Home Products experience to good use when she established Home Interiors and Gifts in 1957. She had moved from Stanley to a new company, World Gift, and proved her sales and leadership skills by developing a 500-person organization in the company. Its response: The owner limited the amount of commission the female sales staff could earn. That apparently didn’t sit well with Crowley, who quit to start her own home décor company. By the 1990s Home Interiors and Gifts had surpassed $850 million in sales.

Today 10 companies on the 2013Direct Selling News Global 100 list were founded or co-founded by women entrepreneurs.

Mary Kay Ash followed her friend Mary Crowley’s example, launching Mary Kay Cosmetics in 1963 after a man she had trained was promoted over her and paid twice her salary. She created a salesforce of women—unusual in the 1960s—and fueled them with pink Cadillacs, compensation plans that paid consultants for building teams and, of course, her famous phrases of wisdom and encouragement that 13 years after her death still make her one of the industry’s most quotable icons. Her formula was wildly successful. Last year Mary Kay Cosmetics had net sales of more than $3 billion worldwide.

So many female business founders have helped make direct selling the thriving, innovative industry it is today, and many more are joining the ranks. Today 10 companies on the 2013 Direct Selling News Global 100 list were founded or co-founded by women entrepreneurs.

Impressive and Puzzling

According to the National Women’s History Museum, women’s ventures have come to comprise about a third of all U.S. businesses —and growing.

According to the National Women’s History Museum, women’s ventures have come to comprise about a third of all U.S. businesses—and growing. If you shrug when you read that, remember that less than a century ago American women couldn’t even vote. But once women had role models, they seemed to be increasingly drawn to entrepreneurship.

In 1972 women owned just 4 percent of all American businesses; by 1991, that figure had climbed to 38 percent. Additionally, since 1997 the growth in the number and economic contributions of firms owned by women of color is nothing short of remarkable. Comprising just 17 percent of women-owned firms 16 years ago, firms owned by women of color now account for one in three women-owned firms in the U.S. The total number of women-owned businesses has risen by 200,000 over the past year alone, which is equivalent to just under 550 new women-owned firms created each day. There are now 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States. Those businesses generate revenues of $1.3 trillion—more than the combined market cap of Apple, Microsoft, General Electric, Google and Sony. Plus, revenue has grown more than twice the amount of U.S. population growth during the same period of time.

Yet executive positions have eluded most women. As far as women have come, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) still reported last year that women make up only 16 percent of directors at Fortune 500 companies, 4 percent of chief executives at Standard & Poor’s 500 companies and 10 percent of chief financial officers at S&P 500 companies. Even below the executive levels, salaries for women lag behind those for men. According to WSJ, women earned 76.5 cents for every dollar that men did in 2012, moving no closer to narrowing a gender pay gap that has barely budged in almost a decade. The numbers are puzzling when research also shows that companies with high gender diversity simply make more money.

Organizations with the lowest rates of gender diversity had average sales revenues of $45.2 million, compared with averages of $644.3 million for businesses with the most gender diversity.

Miriam Muléy, CEO of strategic marketing consultancy and research company The 85% Niche LLC and former General Manager at Avon Products Inc., points to a study by sociologist Cedric Herring that was published in the American Sociological Review. Herring found that gender diversity accounted for a difference of $599.1 million in average sales revenue. Put that in perspective: A company with net sales of $600 million would have been No. 22 on last year’s Direct Selling News Global 100 list. Organizations with the lowest rates of gender diversity had average sales revenues of $45.2 million, compared with averages of $644.3 million for businesses with the most gender diversity.

Given the heavy doors women have historically pushed open and their documented growth in starting businesses, it’s surprising that the direct selling industry isn’t buzzing with stories of concentrated efforts to create greater gender diversity, mentoring programs and executive development tracks for women in its corporate offices. Considering the industry’s pride and experience in its personal development programs for distributors, direct selling is uniquely equipped to fuel the power of its female corporate employees and executives.

Will your company be the industry-leading organization that supercharges its growth by unlocking the untapped talents and abilities of women? Which company will lead the caravan that’s sure to follow? We can’t wait to see.

The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling – 2014

Cover Story | Women’s History | Sheryl Adkins-Green | Claire Bancino | Meredith Berkich | Lori Bush | Dr. Oi-Lin Chen | Doris Christopher | Angela Loehr Chrysler | Kathy Coover | Shelli Gardner | Jessica Herrin | Wendy Lewis | Candace Matthews | Sheri McCoy | Cindy Monroe | Kay Napier | Joani Nielson | Meg Sheetz | Pam Sowder | Jill Blashack Strahan | Connie Tang | Heidi Thompson