The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Order reprints of Joani Nielson’s profile here.

Tastefully Simple Products

Joani Nielson 
Founding Partner and Chief Operating Officer, Tastefully Simple

Over time, Joani Nielson has learned to trust her intuition because it is derived from her personal passions and strengths. She is a woman who strives to live a life in which she gives more than she takes, allowing others to shine and be successful as a result of her leadership.

Serving as a model, Nielson says, is a key component to leadership, and every challenge faced is an opportunity for the leader to grow personally and professionally. For her, no person defines leadership better than Mother Teresa. “She was a woman of enormous power and influence, yet exemplified total humility; leading by example,” Nielson says. “I believe that we were all created equal, and although as leaders we need to make many decisions, the voices of others are equally important. To succeed, you must have a team around you that is supportive and trusts you.”

“Our primary goal,” she says, “is to focus on our leaders. We have strong, passionate consultant leaders, and we need to ensure we are supporting them even better.”

Last year, Nielson took on a greater company-wide leadership role, allowing CEO Jill Blashack Strahan to spend more time with consultants. “In taking on a closer day-to-day role with team members here at HQ, it’s been valuable to me to seek input and feedback from across the company,” Nielson says. She is excited about the intensive strategic work the corporate team has been doing to identify priorities, opportunities and goals. “As an organization, we’re focusing on innovation and simplification of our brand and processes, which will benefit our consultants, HQ team and clients,” she says.

Joani Nielson, Founding Partner and Chief Operating Officer, Tastefully SimpleThe field in direct selling, especially among home party companies, tends to be predominately female, something Nielson is mindful of when interviewing candidates for positions in Tastefully Simple’s corporate office. “While we always choose the candidate best qualified for the position, regardless of gender, I’m pleased that Tastefully Simple has been able to fill several key organizational roles with women,” she says.

What Tastefully Simple wants above all else is to supply simplicity “for our clients, who are looking for simple and delicious foods; for our consultants, who want clear direction and support for their businesses; and for our team members, to enhance their satisfaction and productivity.” After all, Nielson says, “The word ‘simple’ is part of our name.”

Joani Nielson on success…

“I believe many in my generation have challenged themselves to redefine what it means to be successful—as executives, parents and human beings. My own definition of success, which helps balance the professional and personal areas of my life, is to live and model a faith-filled life.”

Joani Nielson on personal development…

“At the end of the day I always ask myself, ‘What did I learn today that can make me a better person tomorrow?’ In the past few years I have worked with a life coach, served as a director on the DSA Board, and been involved in our local legislative committee and a Vistage group (executive coaching). I learn from my team and my children. We learn so much by our interactions with others we admire.”

Tastefully Simple

Tastefully Simple, an easy-to-prepare foods direct seller based in Alexandria, Minn., refreshed their brand this year with a new logo, product packaging and a “Simple. Delicious. Fun.™” tagline, while still maintaining their mission to help people spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the rest of their lives.

The company offers a wide range of goods and products from assorted beverages to breads, soups, sides, desserts, dip mixes, spices, oils, and dressings with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. In 2013, Tastefully Simple launched a gluten-free line, which will expand in 2014.

All of Tastefully Simple’s foods and gifts are available through nearly 24,000 independent consultants online or at home tasting parties that encourage “trying before buying.”

Tastefully Simple proudly partners with Share Our Strength®, a national non-profit working to end child hunger in America, and has donated over $1 million to their No Kid Hungry program. The company’s national corporate team has raised over $1 million since 2009 for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Tastefully Simple ranked 90th in Direct Selling News’ 2013 Global 100 and reported company sales of $96 million in 2012.

Order reprints of Joani Nielson’s profile here.


Strategic Presence: The Power that Fuels Leadership!

by Tony Jeary

leadershipThe goal of leadership is to produce superior results on purpose, making leadership a results contest. The challenge of leadership is to persuade and motivate those being led to produce the leader’s desired results. When people voluntarily and enthusiastically do what their leaders ask them to do, achieving the desired results, leaders are considered effective and successful! The question is, How do leaders really get others to voluntarily and enthusiastically produce the desired results? There are many parts to this puzzle, but there is none greater than a condition I describe as strategic presence.

Here is a great story that illustrates strategic presence and illuminates its effect. A student from a foreign country was enrolled in a new school during the middle of the school year. During the first day of class, the other kids in the class were doing what kids do. There was a lot of giggling and staring and posturing for the new arrival. The new student was dressed in a way that did not meet the expectations of a few of the children, and eventually one of them (the class clown) began to make jokes about the new student’s appearance.

As the scene was progressing toward chaos, the teacher was about to intervene when a girl stood up and told everyone to stop picking on the new classmate. The girl reminded them that it was scary to be new in a school and that they needed to be kind to the student and make them feel welcome. She reminded them they should treat this new person as they would want to be treated if they were in a new country and a new school. After class, the teacher called the girl aside and said, “That was a very brave thing you did. Why did you do that?” The girl replied, “Because that is what my mom and dad would expect me to do.”

This story powerfully illustrates the essence and the effect of strategic presence. The girl had merely done what she knew her parents would want her to do. Her parents had succeeded in creating a positive presence in her mind, giving her the willingness and courage to do what she did. Most important, the presence of her parents was so authentic that they did not have to be physically present to inspire their daughter’s good behavior.

Leaders create impressions that exist in the mind of every person they lead. It is a presence that defines the perceptions people have of their leaders and what they believe about them. It is this overall persona that I am referring to when I use the term strategic presence, and there are two types: positive and negative. Leaders are constantly creating and presenting images of influence that produce both types of results.

The most important fact about strategic presence is that it evokes two possible reactions in others, either voluntary cooperation or various forms of resistance. If leaders generate a positive strategic presence, people will be more likely to support what they want most of the time. However, if perceptions of leadership are negative, people will substitute resistance for cooperation. The possibilities of how people will respond to strategic presence are limited to cooperation or resistance. There is not much middle ground between them. As someone once said, “You are either for us or against us!” It is easy to see why creating an authentic, positive strategic presence is critical for the execution of a vision.

Creating positive strategic presence is not a strategy of manipulation. The positive strategic presence leaders project must be authentic. Failing the test of authenticity means that the very image leadership hopes to establish will be perceived as deceptive and disingenuous—or worse. People are very perceptive and will see through efforts to project a phony persona simply for the purpose of manipulating their behavior. So why shouldn’t a leader’s strategic presence just be allowed to be what it is? That is a great question, and the answer is simple. Many leaders are misunderstood and create perceptions that really don’t match their intent. Understanding how strategic presence is created will minimize the possibility of being misunderstood.

So, how is strategic presence created? What are the things about leadership that speak the loudest about it? What creates the perceptions that combine to produce strategic presence? There are two components that contribute to strategic presence: values and behavior.

Our values are established by what we believe to be right, wrong, true, false, acceptable, unacceptable, appropriate and inappropriate. Let’s face it: We have all developed deep, strong opinions about many things as we live our lives. Opinions spring forth from your values, and your values influence what you do.

Our values and beliefs impact five categories that drive our behavior, and it is our behavior that creates strategic presence. The five categories are:

  1. Work ethic
  2. Integrity
  3. Judgment
  4. Courage
  5. Willingness to help others

So, if you want to be a great leader, you need to have great values, which must be demonstrated in the actions you take. This is the essence of strategic presence, and it is truly the power that fuels leadership.


Tony Jeary—“Coach to the World’s Top CEOs”—is a prolific author, presentation strategist and executive coach known for helping others create better and faster results. Reach him at