January 6, 2014 Leave a comment
by Barbara Seale
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.
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.
- 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.
“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.”
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.