Direct Selling News Honors Oriflame Chief with 2016 Bravo Leadership Award

Photo: Magnus Brännström, CEO and President of Oriflame, addresses his direct selling peers at the 2016 DSN Global 100 Celebration. (Jason Kindig)


Direct Selling News on Thursday named Magnus Brännström, CEO and President of Oriflame, the recipient of the 2016 DSN Bravo Leadership Award.

Each year, the award goes to one direct selling executive who embodies exceptional leadership qualities—providing inspirational vision for their company, motivating their teams toward a common goal, serving others by equipping them to do the best job possible, and especially by empowering them to reach new heights.

Lauren Lawley Head, Publisher and Editor in Chief of Direct Selling News, and John Fleming, the publication’s Ambassador, presented the award to Brännström at the 2016 DSN Global 100 Celebration, held Thursday evening in Dallas. Brännström delivered the keynote address at the event, which marked the unveiling of the DSN Global 100, a list of the top revenue-generating direct selling companies in the world, as well as a regional subset of the list known as the North America 50.

This year’s Global 100, led by Ada, Michigan-based Amway, hail from 17 different countries and represent aggregate revenue of $82 billion. Under Brännström’s leadership, Oriflame has perennially ranked among the top companies on the list, and this year is no exception. The Swiss beauty company came in at No. 14 with annual revenue of $1.35 billion.

Brännström began his direct selling career in 1997, serving in executive posts in Russia, the Baltics and Asia as he worked his way up the corporate ladder. He became CEO of Oriflame, a legacy direct selling company, in 2005 and has continued to lead the business through a dynamic period of technological and geopolitical change. Oriflame now operates in 60 countries—Russia being its biggest market—through a network of more than 3 million consultants.

Like all Bravo Leadership honorees, among them Ambit Energy’s Jere Thompson and Amway’s Doug DeVos, Brännström has exhibited a vision for the future that extends beyond any one company. He is a fierce advocate for the direct selling channel as a whole, and former Chairman of the Board for Seldia, the European Direct Selling Association.

Ambit to Expand Energy Services to Ohio This Fall

Ambit Energy will continue its march across the country with the planned rollout of services in Ohio this fall.

In a statement, the Dallas-based company said it will extend its electricity and natural gas offerings to 1.5 million customers in the AEP Ohio area, with services to commence on Oct. 30. Ambit currently operates in 14 states—most recently Virginia and New Hampshire—as well as Washington, D.C.

The company has built a salesforce of about 350,000 and enrolled more than 1.3 million customers across the U.S. Last year, revenue totaled $1.5 billion, earning Ambit the No. 12 rank on the DSN Global 100. The energy seller also appeared at No. 2814 on the this year’s Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America.

Nerium Soars to #12 on Inc. 500|5000 List

Today, Inc. magazine announced its 34th annual Inc. 500|5000 List, and the exclusive ranking once again features several direct selling brands. The Inc. 5000 is a list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, with the Inc. 500 representing a special ranking of companies in the top 10 percent.

Eight direct selling companies are included in this year’s list, and they represent a wide variety of categories: consumer products, health, travel & hospitality and energy. The growth increase spans an even greater range from a very respectable 125 percent (Beachbody) to a whopping 16,617 percent (Nerium). Nerium has only been in business since August 2011, making this percentage growth number even more impressive.

Limited to U.S.-based, privately held companies, the Inc. 5000 measures revenue growth from 2011–2014.

The top 500 companies on the list will be featured in the September issue of Inc.

To view the entire list, please visit www.inc.com/inc5000.

12 Nerium International 16,617% $403M Consumer Products & Services
132 Plexus Worldwide 2,833% $310.4M Health
442  It Works! 1,060% $538M Consumer Products & Services
564 Jeunesse 811% $419.2M Consumer Products & Services
915 WorldVentures 491% $315.5M Travel & Hospitality
2210 Isagnenix 177% $725M Health
2814 Ambit Energy 128% $1.5B Energy
2864 Beachbody 125% $938.9M Health

2015 DSN North America 50 List


The DSN North America 50DSN Announces the 2015 North America 50!

This marks the sixth year for the Global 100 list of top direct selling companies in the world, and we would not be Direct Selling News if we did not continually strive to raise the bar.

That is why we are pleased to share with you a new component of the project this year: The North America 50. As a subset of the Global 100, this list draws attention to the most significant players in one of the world’s largest direct selling markets.

As DSN embarks on the annual research for the Global 100, we continue to refine the process as we identify the largest companies and acknowledge their achievements while bringing attention to the magnitude of the direct selling industry as a whole. Within that context, the impact that North American companies have on the global marketplace as well as on those that buy and sell through this channel cannot be overstated.

The following contains the North America 50 ranking for the 2015 DSN Global 100 (based on 2014 revenues). Both lists will be published in the June issue of Direct Selling News.


2015 Rank

Company Name

2014 Revenue

1 Amway $10.80B
2 Avon $8.9B
3 Herbalife $5.0B
4 Mary Kay $4.0B
5 Tupperware $2.60B
6 Nu Skin $2.57B
7 Ambit Energy $1.50B
8 Primerica $1.34B
9 Stream Energy $918M
10 Shaklee $844M

Click here to see the rest of the DSN North America 50 List.

2015 DSN Global 100 List

DSN 100

DSN Announces the 2015 Global 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.

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 2015 DSN Global 100 (based on 2014 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.


2015 Rank

Company Name

2014 Revenue

1 Amway $10.80B
2 Avon $8.90B
3 Herbalife $5.00B
4 Mary Kay $4.00B
5 Vorwerk $3.90B
6 Natura $3.20B
7 Infinitus $2.64B
8 Tupperware $2.60B
9 Nu Skin $2.57B
10 JoyMain $2.00B

Click here for the rest of the 2015 DSN Global 100 list.

Don’t Miss our Global 100 Celebration in April!

The annual DSN Global 100 dinner and awards ceremony recognizing the Top 100 Direct Selling Companies in the World is drawing near. On April 8, hundreds of company executives will gather in Dallas, Texas, at the InterContinental Hotel to discover this year’s top companies and celebrate their own achievements during the 2014 year.

If you are a direct selling executive and have not yet registered for this celebratory industry event, please visit our site to purchase your tickets. All executives are invited to the party! Your company does not have to appear on the list for you to enjoy the evening applauding our great industry.

The event will include a spectacular dinner as well as a special opportunity to listen to Jere Thompson, CEO of Ambit Energy, as he delivers the keynote speech of the evening. The deadline for submitting your company information and Revenue Certification Form for consideration to be included in the DSN Global 100 is Friday, March 20.

We hope to see you at this amazing event honoring the Top 100 Direct Selling companies and our entire industry!

Click here to purchase your tickets to the Global 100 celebration.

Taking Care of Your People So They Can Take Care of You

by Jere Thompson Jr.

 Photo above: Ambit Energy co-founders Chris Chambless and Jere Thompson Jr.


Click here to order the February 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


When I was a graduate student at The University of Texas, I spent a month in Washington, D.C., learning about the federal government and how it works. A couple of us in the program were given the incredible opportunity to visit the West Wing of the White House. James Baker, a fellow Texan and President Ronald Reagan’s Chief of Staff at the time, was our tour guide. The highlight, of course, was the Oval Office. While telling stories about President Reagan, Mr. Baker walked over to the President’s desk, opened a crystal jar and offered us some of his famous jelly beans. It was unforgettable, and so was a small brass plaque sitting next to the jar. It read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

To me, President Reagan was emphasizing that success is all about teamwork, about attracting and retaining the best people and giving them the recognition they deserve.

Today, Chris Chambless, my Co-Founder and our CMO; John Burke, our CIO; Laurie Rodriguez, our CFO, and I all have replicas of that brass plaque on our desks. From the very beginning we wanted to build a culture that would enable us to attract and retain the best talent. First, however, we had to decide what we wanted to focus on and what we were willing to say “no” to.  We had to narrowly target our limited startup capital and time. We kept repeating, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

At Ambit, we have three main things: our systems, our people and our standards.

Systems

Our entire executive team came from telecom backgrounds. In that industry, we had seen companies with great back offices and systems thrive and prosper while those with poor systems capsized, sank and disappeared forever when the inevitable data tidal wave hit them. We knew that operationally Ambit would be a data processing company. Everything we would do would involve the receipt, processing, storage, sharing, presentation and mining of data.

At first, John thought we would be able to find a vendor to supply our systems. But what we wanted didn’t exist. He told us that we would have to build our own systems because the cost and the delays of modifying off-the-shelf systems would be prohibitive. Chris and I didn’t know what we didn’t know about coding. We just shrugged and with very little empathy said, “Let’s get started.” John turned pale, but the next morning he was loyally at his desk starting to code. John built our IT organization and systems from scratch. He started alone and today has 130 people in his IT department. Our systems have been patented, and we feel they are a key qualitative difference between Ambit and our competitors.

People thought we were crazy to build our own systems. Any time you do something unconventional, you get criticized. The first time I was invited to a telecom industry conference to speak on a panel, I was asked to describe Ambit. I told everyone that we were a data processing company that happened to sell electricity and used direct sales for gathering customers. There were snickers in the room. We heard them and ignored them. We didn’t want to be like them, act like them and have returns like theirs. In fact, we didn’t even want to think like them. We didn’t hire anyone from the utility industry for over four years. Any time we needed to learn about something, we Googled it. This approach had risk, but it succeeded because of talented, curious people.



People

Companies are collections of people. Their cumulative and collective knowledge multiplied by their focus and passion is what distinguishes one company from another. That’s what culture is all about. The question for us was how to begin creating a culture. There is an old saying, “First, we define our space and then our space defines us.” We set our culture in motion by moving into a 100-year-old warehouse space and tearing out all of the offices. Light immediately cascaded through the many windows onto the beautiful polished hardwood floors and red brick walls. We wanted open spaces so that we could more closely connect to the emotions of our business. We wanted to hear the excitement and concerns in voices to know what to applaud or what to address immediately. We wanted to sit in the open so that we could have hundreds of conversations a day without ever leaving our desks.

Actually, our desks are $19 fold-up tables. They, too, were unconventional, and concerns were voiced that everyone would think we had no money and little chance of success. But we explained that we were going to invest all of our capital in great people and outstanding systems, not in fancy offices and elegant furniture. We told everyone that the smart people would understand this and not to worry about anyone else. Eight years later, we are a $1.5 billion company, and our executive team still sits at those same fold-up tables, next to each other and out in the open.

If we started over tomorrow, we would do it exactly the same way. Smart, young people want a space with high energy that promotes speed, creativity and collaboration. They want to be surrounded by other smart people. We knew that only assigning IT the task of figuring out what was needed and how it should be designed, coded and then prioritized would lead to disaster. We were determined to enable companywide collaboration, believing that everyone had to be engaged in this process. Our space and open culture made that work.

Standards

The very first time Chris and I sat down to map out the kind of company we wanted to build, we talked about our reputations and the reputations of consultants who would one day join us. We knew that consultants would be putting their reputations on the line every time they approached someone about becoming an Ambit customer or Ambit consultant, and we wanted to deliver as promised—not some of the time, but all of the time. So we committed to building the finest and most respected retail energy provider in America. Those were pretty bold words for a company with a couple of customers, but we knew the opportunity was enormous. To be the finest, we had to have great systems and outstanding people. To be the most respected, we could never sacrifice integrity for growth.

Over the past few years in almost every speech I have made, I have emphasized that the only way to attract and retain the best people, whether it is inside an organization or in a consultant downline, is by maintaining high standards. We tell our people to be the finest and most respected, to never sacrifice integrity for growth and to never exaggerate. We explain that exaggeration is like quicksand, and once you slip into it, it is almost impossible to get out of. You cannot build a long-term sustainable business with a foundation built on quicksand. Build your foundation on rock. Build it on truth.

Looking back over the past eight years, we have always tried to work our hardest and do our best. We have always tried to deliver as promised. We have always tried to attract and retain the best people. We have communicated our values repeatedly, and have enforced them when necessary. And along the way, we would like to think that we have built up a certain level of trust with our customers, with our consultants and with our people. That is why we have achieved what we have achieved.

President Reagan was right. Success is all about teamwork, about attracting and retaining the best people and giving them their well-deserved credit. Everyone can do that.


Jere Thompson Jr. is Co-Founder and CEO of Ambit Energy.

Are We Winning?

by John Fleming

Click here to order the February 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


It’s hard to keep a scorecard on the direct selling industry! Those who tend to look for a way to criticize can always find something. Those of us who see within the industry and have the opportunity to interact with industry decision makers gain much insight and perspective. And this is a time of year to reflect. The corporate scorecard will be the year-end financial statements that will recap the business of the previous year. Businesses will win or lose depending upon the bottom-line numbers of profit or loss and the top-line number of revenue generated in comparison to the prior measurement period. But the question for those of us affiliated with the direct selling industry might be: What is the industry scorecard? Are we winning or are we losing?

Some scorekeepers like Bill Ackman, the hedge fund manager who has specifically targeted Herbalife with venomous attacks on the company’s method of conducting business (direct sales), completes his scorecard based on a set of very personal criteria that leads to an accusation and attack on, in this case, Herbalife in particular. However, this type of scorecard has implications for the entire industry. Direct selling, as a channel of distribution, is executed in many different ways, from what we often refer to as party plan to network marketing, social entrepreneurship, social selling, and social commerce, or even simply person to person. Today, the actual definition of direct selling is so very broad that direct sellers utilize online methods for delivering messages and transacting business as effectively as any channel of distribution.

In response to a scorekeeper like Bill Ackman and his staff, we remind such scorekeepers of the fact that the industry has a formal code of ethics as well as an informal code of ethics. The industry code and the more stringent company codes of ethics serve to govern the manner in which those who utilize the direct selling channel engage both employees of the company and the independent brand partners representing the company’s products, services and business opportunity. Independent contractors are also consumers as it simply makes sense to be your own best customer.


Today, the actual definition of direct selling is so very broad that direct sellers utilize online methods for delivering messages and transacting business as effectively as any channel of distribution.


The formal Code of Ethics is provided by the U.S. Direct Selling Association, and this code is public information. Members of the U.S. DSA pledge to abide by the U.S. DSA Code of Ethics. Many non-members of the U.S. DSA (direct selling companies) have created their own company codes and often use the DSA Code of Ethics as their benchmark. In either case, the direct selling industry overall has done a good job of policing itself and has grown as a channel of distribution to over $30 billion in U.S. revenue and $150 billion in worldwide revenue, generated by approximately 16 million U.S. independent contractors and 90 million worldwide independent contractors.

Every organization and every business has some type of scorecard for reflection on previous-year results and the planning of the new year. It is part of our nature to desire a scorecard to determine if we are winning or losing. Each winter, the NFL hosts the ultimate scorecard in professional football, the Super Bowl, where thousands will witness the final score that determines the best football team of the year. The same process holds true for all professional sports teams and leagues wherever they are located in the world. Hundreds of millions watch these events on television.

Direct Selling News created a scorecard for the direct selling industry when we first published the Direct Selling News Global 100 listing in 2009. Each year, this enormous research project serves to identify the top 100 direct selling companies in the world who certify their revenue performance by submitting the DSN Revenue Certification Form and complete a profile of their company. This process results in the publishing of perhaps the most important scorecard on the industry issued by anyone.

However, there is more to score on a company-by-company basis, and we offer on this page a potential scorecard profile that we believe tells even more of the story about an industry that shows such diversity in its representation of people from all walks of life. Direct selling as a method of distribution provides people with hope and with training to learn the basic knowledge and skills to be able to build a business. This could be a small part-time effort or a more serious effort that not only develops customers but also provides the opportunity to recruit and train others to do this, resulting in a much larger business opportunity. Because a scorecard is so important, we encourage each direct selling company to submit your Global 100 information and profile, as in so doing you participate in a valid process for scoring an incredible industry.

In going through the scoring process, we remain optimistic that we will have experienced another year of overall growth with respect to the first two categories on the scorecard pictured. Within the growth, there will always be those companies that did not grow, and the reasons for that are many, some of which are mentioned below and are also being researched by Direct Selling News.

Continue to Direct Selling News to see the scorecard and find out if we are winning or not.

 

 

Who Will Summit Next?: Reaching $1 Billion

by J.M. Emmert

“Life’s a bit like mountaineering,” said Sir Edmund Hillary. “Never look down.”

It’s what direct sellers do, too—never look down. The direct selling industry is an industry comprising people who seek to achieve things never thought possible, scaling new heights, whether reaching inside oneself to achieve personal goals or driving a company toward what is considered the Mount Everest in direct selling, the $1 billion summit.

But like Hillary, only a few direct selling companies have managed to reach that elite status. In the 159-year history of direct selling in the United States, Avon was the first to achieve the feat in 1972. Amway followed in 1980. In 1996, Mary Kay Inc. and Tupperware both reached $1 billion. In 2004, Nu Skin and Herbalife joined the group. But another nine years passed before the next company, Ambit Energy, reached $1 billion in sales. Many companies are turned back in their efforts to reach that summit. But why? What makes it so difficult?

The simple answer is that growing a company to such an extraordinary level brings with it new challenges, and, like experienced climbers, extraordinary companies know to stop when the footing gets treacherous, even if the summit is close. Because it is an industry focused on people, direct selling companies understand that the welfare of the entire team is more important than putting up numbers. One tragic misstep and the whole team could come tumbling down.

Orville Thompson, CEO of Scentsy and a former chairman of the U.S. Direct Selling Association, once analogized direct selling and the quest to reach $1 billion to scaling Borah Peak in Idaho. At 12,668 feet, Borah Peak, or Mount Borah, is the highest mountain in the state and among the 100 highest summits in the Rocky Mountains. The most popular route to the top of Borah Peak follows the southwest ridge, ascending 5,262 vertical feet from the trailhead in a little more than 3.5 miles. Just prior to reaching the top, climbers encounter Chicken Out Ridge, a thin ridge of rock with steep slopes so intimidating that many abort their summit attempt.

For those chasing after the $1 billion summit in direct selling, the biggest challenge, says Thompson, is simply finding the right path to follow, those “smooth areas worn down by countless others who have blazed trails.” When they reach that direct selling version of Chicken Out Ridge, they must “challenge their skills and test their fears” in the face of new obstacles.

Despite the risks, more companies than ever appear to be chasing the summit. Direct Selling News research has identified 13 U.S. companies with net sales at or approaching the $500 million to $1 billion range and experiencing strong growth. Having as many companies on their way to the $1 billion summit as there are currently at the peak is a testament to the strength of the channel. Here is a closer look at the contenders:

On the Summit Push

ACN
In 2011 ACN posted $550 million in sales, down from the previous year’s $553 million. However, the company came back strong the past two years, achieving $582 million in 2012—a 5.8 percent increase—and $700 million in 2013—a 20.2 percent increase. This June, the telecommunications and essential services company launched in Mexico, the seventh-largest direct selling country and the company’s 24th market.

Stream Energy/Ignite
Stream Energy/Ignite has been camped near the billion-dollar summit for the past four years, breaking the $900 million ceiling in 2010. After two years of down sales, the company came back strong in 2013 with $27 million over the previous year—a 3.2 percent increase—putting it at $867 million. The company has seen continued growth, particularly in Hispanic markets, and has significant expectations for company growth across the board in 2014 and beyond as it diversifies its service offerings, allowing it to sell nationwide.

Thirty-One Gifts
Of the 13 companies, only Thirty-One Gifts uses the party plan method of selling, joining Mary Kay and Tupperware as the only companies in the Top 17 of the Global 100 ranking that employ this sales approach. What makes that especially interesting is that, according to the U.S. Direct Selling Association, the party plan method of selling has decreased 4 percent in each of the past two years, going from a high of 31 percent in 2011 to just 23 percent in 2013. The person-to-person method, on the other hand, accounted for two-thirds of sales in 2013, according to the DSA.

Thirty-One also has made one of the fastest ascents in recent years. The company posted sales of $100 million in 2010 and then climbed to $482 million in 2011, a 382 percent increase. Sales continued to rise in 2012—a 48.9 percent increase to $718 million. In 2013, Thirty-One achieved a 6.2 percent increase, ending the year at $763 million. Its four-year growth rate: 663 percent.

USANA
USANA, which surpassed $100 million in its first six years, has been the steadiest climber in the group over the past few years. It has maintained an average of $67 million in sales growth annually for the past three years—ranging from a 10.6 percent to 12.5 percent increase—to bring it to $718 million. The company reported $182.4 million in sales for the first quarter of 2014, a 7.9 percent increase over the prior year; second quarter results saw a 0.4 percent decrease, with $188.3 million compared to $189.1 million in 2013; and the third quarter saw record sales of $191.9 million, a 10.5 percent increase over the prior-year period of $173.7 million. For the first half of 2014, USANA generated sales and customer growth in nearly every market in which it operates. Strong growth was seen particularly in Mainland China, the Philippines, Singapore and Mexico.

Expectations are that the wellness industry in particular will continue to thrive in the coming years. In a Sept. 29 article on the health and wellness industry’s global performance, Euromonitor International reported that the United States was leading all countries in 2014 with more than $160 billion in sales. The global industry is expected to reach $1 trillion by … Click here to read the rest of the story

Ambit Entrepreneur Writes a Book for ‘The Ambitious Woman’

Esther Spina has spent years as a sales representative and national consultant for Dallas-based Ambit Energy, where she also coaches fellow entrepreneurs through her Ambitious Women network. The author, speaker and businesswoman is now sharing her knowledge through The Ambitious Woman, a new book designed to help women build success in every area of life.

Released through Next Century Publishing, The Ambitious Woman is a look at what true ambition requires, and how it can help women shape fulfilling careers and personal lives—without stepping on others along the way. Spina explores the subject through her own experiences, as well as the lives of women such as Mother Teresa, Dr. Maya Angelou, and American author, journalist and long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad.

Through her network at Ambit, Spina has developed a success and mentoring club that provides strategies, tips and support to women entrepreneurs. The group also gathers for an annual Ambit-ious Women Conference, where attendees can glean insights from business coaches, social media strategists, sales consultants and other women leaders.