Video Vision at Talk Fusion

by Barbara Seale

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

Company Profile

  • Founded: 2007
  • Headquarters: Brandon, Fla.
  • Top Executive: Founder and CEO Bob Reina
  • Products: Web-based video communications services

It has been said that the most successful companies fill a need in the marketplace. Maybe that’s why 7-year-old Talk Fusion has grown so rapidly. Talk Fusion Founder and CEO Bob Reina got a personal glimpse of the market’s needs while he was on vacation in North Carolina in 2004. He toured a vacation home and considered purchasing it. He took a video of the home and tried to email it to friends. No go. The 10-second video file was too large for AOL to carry.

Bob Reina

Bob Reina

Reina began to think of how many other people had probably been faced with the same frustrating experience. And as he did, his inner entrepreneur kicked into high gear. He realized that he was looking squarely at a business opportunity that could have massive appeal. When he returned home, he talked with a friend he calls “an IT genius.” The friend figured out how to create video email, and Reina figured out how to turn the idea into a business—not just any business, but a direct selling business. In his mind, there was barely any choice. For years he had supplemented his income from his day job as a deputy in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office with a substantial secondary income as a distributor in several direct selling companies. Reina had fallen in love with the industry, and he had learned to build large organizations. He knew direct selling’s power and potential, and he saw a match between the excitement of cutting-edge video technology and the reach of thousands of enthusiastic, hard-working distributors. In 2007, he launched Talk Fusion, offering its initial product to both individuals and businesses.

Since that launch, Reina’s vision for the future of video has proven correct. Just check out these numbers:

    • 92 percent of mobile video viewers currently share videos with others.
    • Online video now accounts for 50 percent of all mobile traffic and up to 69 percent of traffic on certain networks.

Auto Responder

  • People now watch about 6 billion hours of YouTube videos per month.
  • Video communication is poised to make up 90 percent of all online traffic by 2015.
  • Online video users are expected to double to 1.5 billion in 2016.

In just seven short years, Talk Fusion has become a leader in video emails and video newsletters, and it is the eighth-largest online video content provider in the world—surpassing respected industry giants such as Yahoo, AOL, Viacom, CBS and MegaVideo, Reina says proudly. But it also offers social media tools, video auto-responders, mobile applications, video conferencing and more.

“Six or eight years ago, people laughed at this idea,” he recalls. “They said video would never catch on, that it was a short-lived trend. But now the whole world is continuing to move more and more toward video, and we’re continuing to develop cutting-edge video technology for today’s marketplace—both personal and business.”

Mass Appeal Made Easy

Video has become widely used today, and Talk Fusion is part of the movement. That’s partly because it continues to develop new video technology applications, but it’s also because it abides by the direct selling mantra: Keep it simple. Talk Fusion makes its products easy to demonstrate and use. The combination makes Talk Fusion’s products attractive to customers and creates a magnetic opportunity for the company’s army of independent associates.

Even though millennials love video, Talk Fusion seems to appeal to every segment of the population. Reina believes video was an inevitable part of the evolution of communication mediation, beginning with the spoken word on radio, then moving pictures on television, then email carrying the written word—and now email, smartphones and tablets that carry video. He believes that nothing helps people or businesses communicate better than video.


Video Newsletters


In just seven short years, Talk Fusion has become a leader in video emails and video newsletters, and it is the eighth-largest online video content provider in the world.


“One of the challenges when I started the company was what vertical market to target,” Reina says. “The answer was: none. Any business or any person can be considered a prospect—both product-wise and opportunity-wise.”

Talk Fusion has made it easy for individuals and businesses to get started. Every product is web-based. Customers register online, instantly get an ID and password, log on to the video communications center and start using their product of choice immediately. Product tutorials are available in more than a dozen languages, and the products themselves are translated for the market where they’re sold.

Associates and customers quickly become experts and find new reasons to use the services. Families who traditionally sent their holiday newsletter as a story typed into an email message may morph it into a video newsletter. Proud parents may mark their child’s special birthday or graduation with a video documenting everything from birth to the big day. Realtors can promote new listings through video email or send a quick home tour to their clients’ smartphones. A broad range of large companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Applebee’s Restaurants, DHL and CIGNA Insurance Co. all use Talk Fusion products to reach and connect with online customers using the power of Talk Fusion’s email marketing. So does West Point Military Academy and numerous police departments and charities.

The range of uses and applications is one of the key attractions for Talk Fusion prospects. “The irony is that our associates are not necessarily into technology,” Reina notes. “Our products are fun and easy to use. They appeal to people of all ages, from very young to older, so the marketplace for our associates is vast. We’re proud that every product is designed to be simple so that the average person can use it.”

Instant Service, Instant Pay

And since people usually join direct selling companies to earn extra money, the Instant Pay feature of the company’s compensation plan gets their attention. The company deposits compensation into its associates’ Talk Fusion-branded Visa cards or electronic bank accounts. When an associate makes a sale, the customer can begin using their product immediately, and the associate’s commission is loaded to their account within three minutes. Binary, matching bonuses and almost every other element of compensation is paid instantly. And because each service has a monthly subscription rate, commissions are recurring, providing associates with a regular, reliable monthly income.

“We developed Instant Pay because what gets rewarded gets repeated,” Reina explains. “It gives people money for pressing needs. We’ve been doing this for about two years. It validates the business, speaks to the financial strength of the company and also creates an excitement factor that people are attracted to when they consider becoming a Talk Fusion associate.”

e-Sub-Forms

“We developed Instant Pay because what gets rewarded gets repeated.” —Bob Reina, Founder and CEO


The lure of Instant Pay is also tempered with practicality. In Talk Fusion’s recruiting materials Reina makes a point to set realistic expectations for any prospective independent associate. He is upfront, saying that direct selling is only an opportunity. Hard work, diligence, leadership and the willingness to learn and then teach others are all required. Even then, he says, a new associate should expect to work their business consistently for 7–10 hours a week for at least a year before they can realistically evaluate their prospects for long-term success. That straight talk gives Talk Fusion street cred, and the company works hard to maintain that trust.

“In our culture we’re very transparent,” Reina says. “Because I was in the field so long, I know what it takes to become successful. I don’t want anybody to become disappointed. If people put hard work into it, they have an opportunity to become successful. But if someone isn’t willing to work hard, I tell them please don’t join.” He adds, “That advice doesn’t eliminate the get-rich-quick idea, but they know where we stand on the matter. I think it’s important for Talk Fusion and for the reputation of the industry as a whole.”

Fast Forward to the Future

That hard-working culture has produced a fast-growing company, and Reina is bullish on its future. Talk Fusion already does business in more than 140 countries and, though Reina didn’t share revenue numbers, he says the company grew in 2012 by 42 percent over the prior year. While the domestic market continues to expand, growth is gaining momentum in international markets, especially Mexico, Brazil and other Latin American markets. Reina laughs that translations are one of his largest budget line items. The company’s global reach gives associates a virtually unlimited marketplace in which to build their business.

The company is poised to introduce a series of new products and technology in the immediate future. Talk Fusion CONNECT, a powerful three-in-one live broadcasting, video conferencing and desktop share product, was launched late last year. Its users: primarily businesses. Reina describes it as the first of its kind and predicts that it will become the company’s flagship product.

His goal for Talk Fusion is to keep changing as many lives as he can and to continue developing cutting-edge products. That means staying ahead of the fast-moving technology curve—not an easy task. But the company keeps tabs on industry, consumer and business trends, and it already has technology development offices in two states.

“We’re growing as a technology company, and we own and develop our own products,” Reina says. “We’re debt-free, and we’re growing in revenue and in marketplaces. This is the most exciting time ever for us.”

A Culture of Generosity

Talk Fusion’s Founder and CEO Bob Reina believes in sharing the fruits of his labor, and he encourages the company’s independent associates to follow his example.

“With great success comes greater responsibility,” he says.

Talk Fusion’s success—it has expanded to operate in 140 countries over its seven years and grew more than 40 percent last year—has allowed Reina and his company to support a variety of causes in its home state and beyond.

Bob Reina presents a $45,000 check to SPCA Florida to support animal welfare.


Reina is an animal lover who shares his home with several pets and on most days also shares his office with at least one. Many of his philanthropic efforts support animal welfare, including his quest to help build the Humane Society of Tampa Bay Animal Health Center sponsored by Talk Fusion, which has become a reality. Reina and Talk Fusion made a $1 million donation, followed a few months later by a $100,000 donation that represented $1,000 for each of the Humane Society’s 100 years of saving animal lives. Those donations inspired additional contributions from Talk Fusion associates from more than 30 countries. Other animal organizations, such as the SPCA Florida and no-kill shelter Critter Adoption and Rescue Effort (C.A.R.E.), are also beneficiaries of Talk Fusion’s support.

Humans benefit from Talk Fusion’s generosity, too. The company has supported programs that help at-risk youth and athletic programs for young people in nearby communities, and has helped individuals in crisis. In addition to its financial support, Talk Fusion lends its video capabilities to nonprofit organizations to help them with marketing and fundraising efforts.

Talk Fusion and its associates also take care of each other around the world. During a recent sales convention in Russia, Reina and Vice President of Training and Development Allison Roberts reminded the sold-out crowd of Talk Fusion’s commitment to giving back, telling the story of a Ukrainian associate whose young son suffers from debilitating spina bifida. They announced that Talk Fusion was working with Russian charitable organization RusFond to help raise awareness of the needs of children with spina bifida. Then they donated $40,000 for the child’s much-needed surgery. Talk Fusion associates from around the world immediately followed their example, giving a total of more than $80,000.

The company’s major gatherings routinely include an opportunity to give back. In Indonesia, associates who attended a sales conference were so inspired by the announcement of $100,000 to build a local orphanage that they donated an additional $30,000.

In another instance, when a gold-level associate became seriously ill, Reina, on behalf of Talk Fusion, surprised the associate with a check for $10,000 to help defray her medical expenses. Upon hearing the news, associates everywhere quickly moved to show their support, raising a total of more than $22,000.

“Sometimes worthwhile causes choose me,” Reina observes. “There’s a need that’s brought to my attention, and if I can help, I try to. I also encourage associates, as part of their growth process, to care about others more than themselves. It’s neat to watch what happens to people.”

Philanthropy is so important at Talk Fusion that one of Reina’s goals is to develop a foundation to handle the company’s charitable involvement. It already raises awareness of philanthropic gestures and needs through its dedicated website, TalkFusionGivesBack.com.

Advertisements

The Inseparable Nature of Infrastructure and Infraculture

by Orville Thompson

Click here to order the November 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Photo above: Scentsy’s new headquarters in Meridian, Idaho.


About a year ago I had a conversation with the founder of a new direct selling company. We discussed the treacherous road that must be traveled to establish a successful and enduring company in our channel. We discussed the difference between the companies that have grown and died quickly, grown and then faded away, and those that have grown, contracted and grown again. We observed that just as many companies fail because they lose touch with their salesforce as those that lack necessary business acumen.

How often have we seen promising young companies “professionalize” their people and processes only to lose what made them attractive to their distributors? On the other hand, we witness others go out of business because they can’t find financing, control their supply chain, comply with basic regulation or manage the egos of founders and employees. Inside boardrooms and executive teams, forces that promote measured results, efficiency and strong financials compete with ones that promote engagement, passion and strong culture. Too often one is sacrificed for the other: Engagement, passion and culture are difficult for MBAs to measure, and discussing IRR, ROI and EOQ as they relate to giveaways at a distributor event is enough to send the sales team running. MBAs get infrastructure; direct sellers get infraculture. Great companies bring infrastructure and infraculture together.


Great companies bring infrastructure and infraculture together.


Scentsy aspires to be a great company that brings value to the world. Our story is far from finished—and greatness is still an aspiration—but our journey provides insight into the establishment of infrastructure and infraculture.

In 2004, when we launched our direct selling opportunity in an ocean shipping container (our first home office), we had very little infrastructure. We had no money, no credit and no chance of an investor. We had no catalog, no software and no experience. We did have a great product and a few passionate consultants. Little by little, party after party, we made money and could invest in sales materials, software and facilities, but we held firmly to our humble beginning. It allowed us to co-write the Scentsy story with our growing number of consultants and their customers. Collectively, we created the underpinnings of a cultural sense of place, or infraculture. The values of simplicity, authenticity and generosity started to define not only our products and processes but also our people. It was easy for consultants to invite others to join them in their business because they participated in creating the culture in significant ways.

Heidi and Orville Thompson, Co-Owners of Scentsy Inc.

Heidi and Orville Thompson, Co-Owners of Scentsy Inc.


Early on, Heidi and I did what we could to support them. Rules weren’t very important; fairness wasn’t much of an issue. If someone needed our help, we gave it if we could. If we were traveling, we’d stop in at a team meeting or call people up to go to dinner. We held events and training calls whenever we could. The consultants themselves rallied around each other, supported one another, cooperated wherever possible and tried to live as best they could according to our motto of contribute more than you take. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Recruiting boomed and sales kept pace with recruiting. We had the proverbial tiger by the tail.

But behind the scenes we were struggling to keep up. From the beginning of 2007 through 2012 we hired, on average, one new employee every business day. Our facility needs grew from a 6,000-square-foot, flex-space office/warehouse to nearly 1 million square feet in three states and two countries. Our technology struggled to handle the explosion of data. Our customization requests burdened our vendor’s ability to support other clients. Sales development efforts were met with accusations of favoritism when we couldn’t reach everyone equally.

In late 2009 our weak infrastructure caught up to us. A software deployment went bad, our call center broke down as consultants tried to get answers their websites weren’t providing, and the lack of good data from previous years contributed to shortages of product and massive backorders. Just as our consultants’ hard work was paying off for them, we let them down. Instead of celebrating a successful selling season, we were answering questions about when orders would ship and spending all our efforts supporting home office employees who were working around the clock to make things right. In short, our lack of infrastructure was undermining our hard-won infraculture.

Beginning in 2010 the forces inside our executive team advocating for capacity, efficiency and financial stability began to dominate. We poured massive energy into infrastructure, technology, facilities, systems and programs that expanded the opportunities for our consultants. We launched new countries, new brands and new programs. New facilities were opened on a regular basis, and we were performing as a well-run business. Shipping worked like clockwork, system uptime was extremely high, backorders were virtually nonexistent and call-center metrics were enviable. Orders were up, recruiting was up, costs were down, and all was good.

But somewhere along the way the old stories seemed to lose their luster. The infraculture that held together our early leaders seemed distant to the Facebook generation of direct sellers that were filling our ranks. Cooperation that came easily when everyone was on a personal basis turned to competition as consultants turned each other in for policy violations and leaders tried to outdo each other with bigger team meetings, recognition awards or monthly team incentives. Our story, once told in person in informal situations, was now told by tens of thousands of people we hadn’t yet met. The mechanism of sending an announcement to more than 100,000 consultants in different countries speaking different languages slowed the process and squeezed out the fun and informality we were known for.


Scentsy wickless candle warmerScentsy wickless candle warmer Velata fondueVelata fondue Scentsy Layers bath and body careScentsy Layers bath and body care

We started to realize that infraculture and infrastructure were a lot like software and hardware. I remember the days when Intel would come out with a new processor that held so much promise. Microsoft would follow with upgrades to Windows and Office. Then graphic and gaming software would soon push the limits of the new hardware. Software waited on better hardware. Better hardware inspired new software. This process repeated itself over and over in the ’90s and 2000s. Underlying it all is the fact that the best software in the world will not work on bad hardware, and powerful hardware is worthless without good software. Both are inextricably linked. The same can be said for the infrastructure and infraculture of a business.

Grace Adele fashion bags

Grace Adele fashion bags


Infraculture is the underpinnings of a cultural sense of place.

At Scentsy, success took away the luxury of being a small company with an invincible infraculture. At the same time, investments in infrastructure have allowed us to better confront the forces that undermine our infraculture. Better workspace enhances cooperation, better technology improves training, recognition and incentives, and better research and development improves product offerings. A company’s infraculture may be strong, but if it lacks the infrastructure to spread that infraculture, it will not grow. Underlying the enthusiasm of every consultant of a sizable company is the question, “How long will this last?” When the taglines Exclusive Product, Ground-Floor Opportunity, and Fastest-Growing no longer apply, only businesses with a strong infrastructure can compete.

This month we are moving into our newest, and hopefully last, home office. The six-story office tower is the centerpiece of our 80-acre campus, Scentsy Commons. Construction has been a labor of love for Heidi and me. We met weekly with architects and contractors, deciding everything from what pavers to use on the sidewalk to where departments would sit, to what color of tile we should put in the bathroom. In the design and layout we incorporated the values of simplicity, authenticity, and generosity. We worked hard to physically represent the ethos of the Scentsy Family.

We often wondered if this was the best use of our time and money. Before moving in, we used the building to host our SuperStar Director Summit—the annual meeting of our top sales leaders. We heard over and over that they felt like they were coming home. This was their place. Scentsy Commons and the infrastructure it represents is the physical sense of place to match the Scentsy Family cultural sense of place they helped establish. It is a physical representation of our commitment to the aspirations and values that have driven our company since the days of the ocean container. For us, it is the bringing together of infrastructure and infraculture.

A company’s infrastructure allows it to execute functional plans, drive efficiency and measure productivity. A company’s infraculture allows it to inspire greatness, drive passion and enhance satisfaction. Just as hardware and software compete for resources and develop around the weakness of the other—yet are interdependent—infrastructure and infraculture are inseparable. Companies that aspire to be great must develop both.


Orville ThompsonOrville Thompson is CEO and Co-Owner of Scentsy Inc. Its family of brands includes Scentsy Fragrance, Velata fondue and Grace Adele fashion accessories. He is also Chairman of the U.S. DSA Board of Directors.