Forces Under 40 2017

by DSN Staff

Click here to order the March 2017 issue in which this article appeared.

DSN is thrilled to showcase the most outstanding young professionals working in direct selling companies today. These honorees represent all aspects of the business—from technology and marketing to finance and field services—and represent the fine talent of tomorrow. We know it is imperative to nurture and encourage the young leaders in our channel in order to secure the brightest future possible for all.

These dynamic young leaders are broadening the scope of the companies they work for as well as our entire channel of distribution. Based upon the enthusiastic nominations of the honorees presented here, the future is bright indeed. The program was open to all full-time professionals working in active direct selling companies who turned 40 years old on or after Jan. 1, 2017. The honorees are presented in alphabetical order with each profile including the thoughts and words of the honoree’s respective company.

We also want to thank our generous sponsors, Avalara and Fossil.


…. Continue to the Honoree’s profiles.




Direct Selling Companies Donate Millions in Gifts to TODAY Toy Drive

This holiday season direct selling companies have donated more than $15.4 million in cash and products to the TODAY Show Holiday Toy and Gift Drive, which supplies gifts to underprivileged children across the U.S.

The partnership with TODAY has been an initiative of the Direct Selling Assocation (DSA) for more than a decade. On Dec. 22, DSA Senior Vice President Melissa Brunton will appear on the show to thank the companies that participated and acknowledge the work direct selling entrepreneurs do for their communities throughout the year.

This month a handful of company executives have visited the TODAY set to present donations on behalf of their employees and salespeople. On Dec. 1, Thirty-One Gifts President and CEO Cindy Monroe delivered an assortment of products worth $5.5 million—one of the largest donations in this year’s toy drive. To date, the seller of functional bags, home organization products and accessories has contributed more than $36.4 million in products to the program.

“We are excited and honored to be part of the DSA’s toy drive support,” Monroe said in a statement. “Our charitable mission, through our philanthropic outreach Thirty-One Gives, is to assist organizations that empower girls and women, and strengthen families. The TODAY show makes it easy for us to enable our many sales consultants across the country to be involved with the donation too by selecting local charities where they can deliver the products.”

The following direct selling companies donated cash or products in this year’s toy drive:

•    Amway
•    Arbonne
•    Good Will Publishers
•    Initials Inc.
•    Jordan Essentials
•    Living Fresh Collection
•    Lulu Avenue
•    Mary Kay
•    Origami Owl
•    PartyLite
•    Shaklee
•    SpenserNation
•    Stampin’ Up!
•    Stella & Dot
•    Thirty-One Gifts
•    USANA Health Sciences
•    Vantel Pearls

Sales of Organic Personal-Care Products to Hit $16 Billion by 2020

The organic personal-care products market, which accounts for 35 percent of all category sales, is expected to reach $16 billion by 2020, according to a new report by market intelligence firm Zion Research.

Direct selling brands Amway, Arbonne International and Natura Cosmeticos SA are key players in the market, alongside traditional retail brands such as The Body Shop, Burt’s Bees and Aveda Corp.

In 2014, sales of organic moisturizers, shampoos and other products topped $9.2 billion, putting the expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at 9.5 percent through 2020. Currently, organic skincare is the most popular segment, accounting for 32 percent of market sales in 2014.

North America dominates global sales of organic personal-care products, trailed by Europe and Asia Pacific; however, demand for organic products is increasing in emerging markets such as China and India.

As a growing number of consumers eschew synthetic products in favor of organic offerings, manufacturers face a new set of challenges in bringing their products to market, the research found. Among them are the short shelf life and higher prices associated with organic products, which consist of natural ingredients obtained from plants.

The Future of Direct Selling in the U.S.

by Andrea Tortora

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

Direct selling in the United States is undergoing a transformation fueled by innovative approaches rooted in classic business practices. The power generators leading the way for direct selling as a channel of distribution can be found in what Direct Selling News has identified as the upper middle market: those companies with annual sales roughly between $300 million and $1 billion.

Because most direct selling companies are privately held and many decline to disclose their financial results, it is difficult to create a definitive list. Our research honed in on a group of more than 30 U.S.-based companies, most of which are experiencing significant growth. Some of them are on the cusp of reaching $300 million, and some likely have recently passed the $1 billion mark. But together they are critical to direct selling’s competitiveness and future. They tend to be among the fastest growing when it comes to revenue, and they account for a large slice of the job creation pie.

An in-depth analysis of this group reveals a high level of consistency when it comes to executing on key common strengths. The ability of these companies to focus in on products, customers, serving their salesforce and creating a culture that reinforces a sense of family put them on track to shape the future of direct selling in the U.S.

Companies emphasize each area in different ways, but in general these leaders:

  • Harness data. The upper middle market knows how to mine the data it has to gain insights that lead to more and better sales. Executives train leaders and consultants to use data to open doors that might otherwise remain closed.
  • Stay true to classic business practices. Technology and social media do not replace person-to-person interactions, they complement them. Upper mid-market firms build relationships with customers that maintain the consultant-client affiliation but also allow the customer to have a connection with the company itself.
  • Use compensation plans that span all levels of engagement. To cultivate trust and long-term relationships, comp plans are created to appeal to new customers, product enthusiasts, fierce advocates and influencers—all the way up to the entrepreneur who is all in. Payments also follow a more modern schedule.
  • Foster an entrepreneurial spirit. Consultants are allowed and encouraged to go far with personal marketing (think YouTube videos) while maintaining brand identity. Companies deliver superior and frequent training and messaging to make this happen.
  • Maintain a laser-focus on selling. The sale of a product, a group experience or an opportunity all lead to more sales, which generate positive results.

No matter the specific approach, one thing all upper middle market companies excel at is …

Click here to read the full article at Direct Selling News.



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.

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

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, 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

90 Days of Direct Selling – Day 9


Arbonne International LLC


2013 Net Sales: $413 million

Country: USA


At Arbonne, beauty begins with premium botanical ingredients, an integrative approach to beauty and an unwavering commitment to pure, safe and beneficial products. Arbonne creates personal-care and wellness products that preserve and enhance the skin, body and mind.


2012 Rank: 33
2012 Net Sales: $377 million
Sales Method: Person-to-person
Compensation Structure: Multi-level
Products: Cosmetics, personal care, wellness
Markets: 4
Salespeople: 240,000
Employees: 592
Headquarters: Irvine, California
Executive: Kay Napier
Year Founded: 1980

Marketing an Ever-Evolving Strategy

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Click here to download this issue to your mobile device.

Once the playground for little-understood creatives who whipped up sales collateral and spent the money sales teams earned, marketing departments grow more strategic and sophisticated by the day. In fact, the demand to understand and engage customers is driving an evolution in marketing and moving its role within the company straight into the executive suite—Chief Marketing Officer.

“Today, marketing plays a critical role in strategic planning and brand positioning, overall messaging and, perhaps most importantly for the direct selling industry, creating the lasting relationships every company, every brand and every direct seller desires,” says USANA CMO Doug Braun.

The gamut of responsibilities under the CMO umbrella is ever-expanding. Candace Matthews, Amway’s CMO, says her role, “encompasses all of the branding, positioning, and everything that goes along with establishing those brands at a global level—communications, PR, corporate social responsibilities, Amway’s brand and reputational work, as well as the digital side and market research.” Sheryl Adkins-Green, CMO at Mary Kay Inc., adds, “My goal is to anticipate what women want, and then convert those insights into irresistible beauty products that women love. I’m responsible for leading the development of a product portfolio strategy that generates a sustainable stream of innovative skin care, color and fragrance products.” There’s a lot of work to go around and much to keep track of. Divvying responsibilities differs from company to company. USANA, for instance, separates communications, PR and social media. But one thing is consistent: The marketing group and the individuals who lead the charge, whether they are CMOs or heads of departments, simply can’t be what they were a decade ago and expect to succeed. CMOs today must be a new, eclectic species, able to execute the demands of traditional marketing while stretching into roles of sophisticated strategists, sector specialists, innovative champions, digital experts and business leaders, according to Advertising Age. This isn’t, however, unique to the direct selling industry nor to the U.S. corporate world. In fact, The Guardian in the U.K. declared the traditional CMO role dead last February. Why the epitaph? Companies must drive deeper to develop customer intimacy and lasting consumer engagement. That, they say, is where true growth lies.

Companies must drive deeper to develop customer intimacy and lasting consumer engagement. That, they say, is where true growth lies.

At the Crossroads of Consumer Engagement

Today, a carefully crafted marketing message isn’t the one-way communication it was decades ago. Instead, it’s really a conversation starter between brand and customer—a conversation to be taken very seriously. “Now consumers and the general public have so much power with the Internet. They can say anything. They can create a following. So you need to have brand advocates and ambassadors within the people. It’s that relationship, that bond, and that common framework and common vision for what we’re doing that’s so important,” Matthews says of marketing at Amway. Marketing leaders stand at a crossroads between consumers who yearn for engagement and companies who strive to meet that consumer need. And it’s the work that happens at this juncture that informs the way forward-thinking, direct selling CMOs see their jobs today.

“There’s not one area that doesn’t have some sort of interaction or dependency on the marketing department. I actually feel that it’s the driving force behind the business.” —Alec Clark, CMO, Plexus Worldwide

“We [marketing] are the keepers of the entire, lifelong Nerium experience,” says Amber Olson Rourke, CMO, Nerium International. “How the customers come to know about the product—how they experience the product, how we treat them. We are also the keepers of the whole Brand Partner experience, whether it’s marketing the trials, their check-out process, their training, events they go to, the partnership they enter into with our charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters. It’s really all-encompassing.” Alec Clark, CMO at Plexus Worldwide, adds, “There’s not one area that doesn’t have some sort of interaction or dependency on the marketing department. I actually feel that it’s the driving force behind the business.” Marketing is nothing short of the “soul of the organization,” according to Braun, and deserves a seat at the strategic planning table. Working hand-in-hand with sales is the only way to successfully meet the promises direct selling companies make to their consumers. “I look at the CMO as the connector, the integrator of products and experiences,” Matthews says. “I don’t see marketing and sales as independent functions. I see us fully integrating and putting our minds together to deliver what is the right thing for our IBOs.” It’s a holistic approach, meshing both the marketing and sales contributions that enable Amway’s IBOs to not only receive the company’s message, but also really get it. “It’s succinct, it is simple, and it’s very beautiful, and they can leverage it right away. That can be digitally or physically. It’s a unified thinking.”

The world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, Gartner, believes CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT by 2017.

There’s Power in Perspective

When Arbonne’s Chief Creative Officer Michael D’Arminio and Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer Heather Chastain sit down to the strategic planning table, each brings a slightly different perspective. “I want to make sure that everything our consultants feel, taste, smell and see embodies the best Arbonne experience,” D’Arminio says. D’Arminio and Chastain come together, challenge each other, learn from each other and ultimately make the right decisions to formulate a three-year strategic outlook, annualized plan and bimonthly plan they call a cycle meeting. “We have both a long-term and short-term plan in place, knowing that we need to be agile in order to take advantage of key opportunities as they arise,” D’Arminio says. Partnering with Chastain’s sales department, D’Arminio and his creative team get the kind of immediate feedback on products, innovations and ideas that can make slight course corrections for effectiveness more timely and successful. This blend of sales field insights paired with market trends and product innovations makes Arbonne’s ability to evaluate strategy, core initiatives, opportunity, return and risk more effective.

Strategic, Creative Innovators and Brand Stewards

The changing role of CMO is opening the creative floodgates to innovations and solutions for direct selling. The relationship building of the past still takes place at events, but as Clark says, “Masses of people are now contacted with one click. Technology has changed our whole industry and how it works.” In fact, customer engagement is so dependent upon technology that the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, Gartner, believes CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT by 2017. Just spending the dollars, however, is no guarantee of success, and as the role of marketing expands so, too, does the CMO’s responsibility for strategic planning that balances the best use of technology with traditional brand stewardship and customer acquisition activities. “If the CMO of a company has only one responsibility, it is to keep it relevant. I don’t mean trendy, but relevant,” Braun says. “It’s easy for us to get distracted by a shiny new ball, and every once in a while a shiny new ball is needed, and it’s fun. But as a CMO, I think it’s our responsibility to continue to be true to who we are as a brand, what we can be the best at, and remain relevant to the rest of the world.” Matthews agrees, saying, “We are global and operate in over 100 countries and territories, so it’s important that people understand the position of the brand and of the company. Amway is the overarching brand, but how other brands link to it is equally important. To make it globally relevant, we have to stay within a global framework, and it must all align.” Amway’s leaders are more global and less market-specific as access to information via the Internet continually increases, and it has changed the way they perpetuate their brand. “It’s very important that the brand people see is consistent around the world,” she says. Not only consistency of brand, but also of systems and culture played a huge role in Nerium International’s lead up to global expansion to Canada and beyond this year. “What we’re building from an online perspective is a global digital experience where every country uses the same technology and interface from a website standpoint, for the back office and for mobile applications,” Olson Rourke says. “It’s all tied into one universal platform and message. There are a lot of offshoots, but it will be one experience.” This type of platform simplifies the Brand Partner experience of running a Nerium business anywhere in the world and allows the company to convey its corporate message on a global scale. “Making people better is our mission,” she says. “That’s reflected in the company’s relationships with charities like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Live Happy magazine, as well as the company’s focus on personal development. We’re truly focusing so much of our energy around that message of building people first beyond anything else.” Getting an entire direct selling organization to walk the walk, talk the talk, and live the brand is complicated and depends as much on people as it does on technology. At USANA, Braun says the brand experience manager keeps the corporate office on message and everyone moving in the same direction. “They look at everything we’re doing from a different perspective—a brand perspective,” he says. “They have a seat at the table for those conversations, so that our experience doesn’t become different on the web than it is in our call center.” Plexus’ Clark says, “Our content, our delivery, our message truly matter. We love our brand, and we take that very seriously. Hundreds of thousands of lives are affected if we make a bad decision and we start chasing rabbits down holes. So we need to keep our heads, look around and make sure we are doing the right things for the right reasons for all of our Ambassadors.”

Purveyors of a New Experience

Providing the right tools to inform, educate and support the direct selling field remains a critical responsibility for marketers, but today they also innovate the entire consumer experience. USANA refreshed its brand from top to bottom a few years ago, and it wasn’t just the look and feel that got an upgrade. “It was really properly positioning USANA as a brand to be relevant and be the brand of choice for a wider audience, not just for today but in the future,” Braun says. USANA shifted corporate habits and internal language to reflect the brand refresh and introduced an online and iPad prospecting app called USANA True Health Assessment, which features a 10–15 minute health questionnaire that generates an overall health report, risk report and product recommendations at the end. Braun says, “It changed the introduction to the company. As an Associate, your methodology of bringing someone into the business or in as a customer isn’t through a meeting, a coffee shop or an event. It’s now through a one-on-one communication about health, and it becomes much more personal. You build the relationship. You build trust, and there’s value for the time spent, whether they do anything with USANA or not.” He adds, “We always had Associates who believed in our product, believed in our science and manufacturing, but they weren’t as engaged in the brand. With this change, they are wearing the brand. They are participating in the brand in new ways. Their use of and how they talk on social media has increased significantly. From an activity base and from an engagement base with the brand, there’s been significant change.” At Mary Kay, Adkins-Green oversees a wide variety of digital tools developed to engage customers and create experiences for them that keep them coming back. Their interactive eCatalog, which has generated over 23 million visits globally, has users spending an average of five minutes browsing, and viewing on average 34 pages per session. Adkins-Green says May Kay’s fan base has increased even more quickly than expected by the team’s creation and promotion of product trend updates, fashion news, and how-to tips across multiple social media channels. She says, “According to industry expert L2 (a subscription-based business intelligence service that benchmarks the digital competence of brands), Mary Kay has one of the highest social media engagment ratings in the beauty industry.” Not all marketing innovations are technology based. One of the boldest customer acquisition strategies recently is a free inventory replenishment program from Nerium International called Nerium Gives Back. Only through a successful customer acquisition model, Olson Rourke says, can a company create sustainability. So when a Brand Partner brings a new customer or a new Brand Partner to the company, Nerium gives them free product back to replenish their stock. “It’s really revolutionary and drives the right behavior. We’re able to have higher retention of Brand Partners because of small inventory costs, and we can continue to have very high customer acquisition because Brand Partners are getting the product out there,” she says. Plexus encourages its Associates by augmenting a tried and true tradition—events. By ramping up branding, the company strives to inspire engagement and also show support of the field’s business-building. “Leaders are born at events,” Clark says. “All those people share best practices. They hop across island to island and know they are not the only ones doing this. There are 8,000 people having the same trials and successes.” But to supercharge the synergy Plexus Associates felt, Clark and his marketing staff looked upon their recent annual convention with fresh eyes and new goals. “Whether it was the first person or the 8,000th person to see it, we wanted them to feel appreciated and important.” So Plexus branded Dallas. Every light post hung the Plexus flag. Every bus wore the logo. They wrapped the hotel and even lit up the Dallas skyline with Plexus lights strung outside the Omni. “The CMO’s role is still to enable the success of our IBOs,” Matthews says. “So everything we do has to be looked at through that lens. That may be to bring more consumers to them, provide programs that will engage them, or to engage others and bring them into the Amway business.” Sometimes that means innovating global compliance solutions, like the advent of Amway’s digital Nutrilite Recommender, which asks appropriate questions and enables IBOs to make vitamin and mineral supplement recommendations based only on the product line available to their market. Still for others it calls on global markets to promote a brand repositioning in some of the most relevant yet creative ways. Upscale and recognizable packaging, differentiated product formulations, a global face and consistent image are the pillars of Amway’s repositioning of its premium skincare brand, Artistry. Through sponsorships of artistic events in global markets, like China’s immensely popular figure skating event, “Artistry on Ice,” and Korea’s Busan International Film Festival, there’s a new level of engagement, which aligns the brand locally to the global position. As with any cost-benefit analysis, there are qualitative and quantitative measurements to the value marketing brings. That value will become increasingly evident as more and more marketers are invited into the executive suite and those CMOs sit down at strategic planning tables to weigh in on a broad range of subjects, such as communications, social awareness, emotional touch points and consumer insights. As the world continues to spin faster and faster, technologies mature and change again, and consumers demand something new, it will be the CMO who stays on the cusp of trends and emerging technologies, keeps tabs on what’s happening globally, and understands the cultures of the world. Stewarding that insight into the company may well be one of the most vital aspects of the CMO’s evolving role in direct selling.

Direct Selling Execs Share Insight in Women’s CEO Panel

Tuesday’s closing general session of the Direct Selling Association Annual Meeting featured an insightful roundtable discussion with four of the industry’s women executives.

While women have always represented the overwhelming majority of direct sellers, their presence in board rooms and executive suites has more closely resembled the makeup of wider corporate America. In 1972, only 4 percent of U.S. businesses were run by women. By 1991, that number had grown to 38 percent. Today, women run 8.3 million businesses nationwide.

To hear firsthand their perspective on challenges and opportunities facing the industry—and its women leaders—Ruth Todd, Nu Skin Vice President of Public Affairs, sat down with Lori Bush, President and CEO of Rodan + Fields; Traci Lynn Burton, Founder and CEO of Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry; Kay Napier, CEO of Arbonne; and Connie Tang, President and CEO of Princess House.

From their vantage point, the women have witnessed many changes for their fellow women in the industry. A current trend, said Napier, is the increasing number of professional women, and men, entering direct selling.

“It’s become more of a legitimate choice to choose this profession and lifestyle, and not just as a side job, a hobby or a social outlet,” Tang agreed. “People see it more in terms of truly providing something meaningful for women and their families.”

The panel also shared some common misperceptions they encounter as women leaders, including the notion that they can’t handle constructive criticism. “By virtue of what position we’re in, people infer we don’t want feedback or to know when we’re wrong,” said Napier. “I’ve worked to surround myself with people who aren’t afraid to tell me when I’m off track.”

One point from Tang struck a chord with her fellow panelists, who enthusiastically agreed. “I think there’s a myth that we’ve figured out how to balance life and work. There is no such thing!” said Tang. “Balance is interpretive and unique to each individual. Work-life balance implies there are equal parts, and that’s a myth.”

When the conversation turned to connecting with salespeople in the field, Burton encouraged leaders to make sure their interactions involve more than just products and business.

“What I would suggest is that you give them a value add—something that has nothing to do with the product. If you want to develop that relationship, you have to have the value add of personal development,” Burton said.

Bush shared a piece of life wisdom she often tells her own salespeople at Rodan + Fields: “Embrace the journey. You might not find that success makes you happy; there’s a higher possibility that happiness will make you successful.”

Letter from John Fleming, May 2014

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

The DSN Global 100 ranking of companies for 2013 has now been published on our website for the world to see. On April 23 of this past month we had the honor of once again hosting industry executives at our DSN Global 100 Celebration Dinner. We always look forward to rolling out the red carpet and hosting an evening of celebration inclusive of the DSN Global 100 recognition. We honor 100 companies, but the evening is always about celebrating all who make the direct selling industry possible. We are going to press with this column prior to the actual banquet, so you can look forward to a complete recap in our June issue.

John FlemingThere is much optimism regarding the outlook for the direct selling industry. During our banquet we always provide insights as to what the ranking of the top 100 companies actually means. From a growth perspective, the top 10 DSN Global 100 companies grew by approximately $3.5 billion, led by Nu Skin with dollar growth over prior year of $977 million (DSN 2014 Global 100 Growth Honoree). When looking at percentage of growth over prior year, the team at Origami Owl (DSN 2014 Global 100 Growth Honoree) has posted results like we have never seen before, at least from our perspective and knowledge. The company revealed revenues of $24 million for 2012—their first year in business—and 2013 revenues were reported to be $233 million! This is our newest example of how possibilities are unlocked when the direct selling channel is utilized effectively. For any reader not familiar with the company, Origami Owl was the vision of a 14-year-old. There’s more information to come in our June issue.

Some of the negative publicity and activities that challenged the industry during the latter part of 2012 and carried over into 2013 may very well have ignited a positive wave of interest in direct selling opportunities. When companies and the direct selling business model are challenged, lives and livelihoods are challenged as well. Therefore the stories we share throughout the industry become of critical importance to those who seek to understand a very unique form of enterprise.

Here at Direct Selling News, we know we have a responsibility to bring you the greatest value possible through the information we share and the stories we write about. As we came into 2014, we reviewed the challenges, examined our present, and explored our future to determine where we go from here and how we more effectively serve the industry. Three primary directions emerged, which we have now implemented. No. 1: We realized that we have to participate more in the research the industry so desperately needs; No. 2: We realized that we have to look beyond our borders, as the most significant growth in the industry is coming from global expansion to fill the need of entrepreneurship in every country that supports choices for how people can participate in free enterprise opportunities; and No. 3: It became obvious that we have to expand our staff and invest in the future.

In order to support the research needed, we knew we did not need to duplicate any efforts presently going on within the U.S. Direct Selling Association or the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations. Therefore, we developed objectives that DSN could feasibly execute to enhance credibility. We went to the best in the business for conducting surveys and supporting research: Harris Poll. We envision a long-term relationship enabling us to provide third-party information relevant to an understanding of the direct selling channel of distribution. We will have more to report on this effort over the next few weeks.

As we are also committed to focus more on the global scene, we knew we had to expand our staff. After months of searching, we found the experience and skill we were looking for in Lauren Lawley Head. Lauren brings the experience of business journalism and strong academic credentials from one of the great schools of journalism in the country, along with 16 years of experience, most recently as the Editor of the Dallas Business Journal. Lauren will fill the new role of General Manager here at DSN and lead the expansion of the brand and all efforts to increase our digital presence. Most importantly, Lauren brings a passion for the work of journalism and the role she can play in supporting an industry that is focused on making the lives of people better. I know you will enjoy meeting Lauren on the following page.

Our cover story this month focuses on a most important component of the direct selling business, the Starter Kit. I know you will also gain from the great information shared by Arbonne executives on the transformation they have been going through. It’s a great story! We also explore Scentsy’s extensive philanthropic efforts in our Industry with Heart segment and put the spotlight on Seacret and the interesting story of the company’s founding and their strong sense of community.

In closing, be sure to read Orville Thompson’s important message about our opportunity to inform Congress about our business model.

Until next month… enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief