The Social Age

by Andrea Tortora

Click here to order the January 2016 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

The Social Age is here. If you’re not taking full advantage of the tools and technologies that social platforms have to offer, you and your company are likely to be left behind as the competition leaps ahead. Now well into its infancy, the Social Age is and will be making a tremendous impact on the sales industry, especially within the world of direct selling. The changes already cannot be ignored.

Technology drives everything—recruitment, retention and revenue—for most companies. Those businesses that realize what they can achieve when all of their internal, back office, social media, field tools and software systems work together are equipped to innovate and leverage essential data that will let them thrive in the future.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram are potent tools that companies and consultants are learning to use as they build connections with customers and grow sales. Other apps such as Periscope and Google Hangout are gaining traction, too. Yet many executives and companies are slow to embrace these advances. A study from and Domo finds that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence. Among the 30 percent who do, they only use one social channel. Here LinkedIn was the chosen platform.

In contrast to that study, it does appear that C-level executives within direct selling are more plugged in to the benefits of these engagement tools. A recent study conducted among members by the U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA), titled The 2015 Managing Your Company’s Web Presence and Technology Systems Survey, indicates that nearly six in 10 companies surveyed report that one or more of their chief-level executives have company-associated social media accounts that they actively engage in
(57 percent).

Additionally, over half of those also indicate that the chief executives create the content for those accounts. At Scentsy, the Idaho-based wickless candle company, it’s common for an executive to personally respond to field achievements or post in conversations on Facebook, the social media platform most used by Scentsy Consultants.

Rick Stambaugh, Chief Information Officer at Utah-based company USANA, refers to the focus of today as “Digital Humanism.” He says, “The consumer-driven Internet of things has many components, but the most prominent one is social.”

As direct sellers work toward more fully embracing the Social Age and everything that comes with it, a few things are clear…

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


4Life Research: Hope to See beyond Tomorrow

by Karyn Reagan

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

Foundation 4Life

Company Profile

  • Founded: 1998
  • Headquarters: Salt Lake City
  • Founders: David and Bianca Lisonbee
  • Products: immune support, general wellness

Foundation 4Life service projects focus on equipping disadvantaged individuals around the world with the tools they need to move beyond bare survival.

David Lisonbee was searching for answers to health issues that were not responding to anything he tried when he stumbled across a scientific finding from 1949. New York University professor Dr. H. Sherwood Lawrence, an immunology pioneer, wrote about how immune system experiences from one mammal could be transferred through factors in the body to another mammal. The receiving mammal’s immune system could be educated by those factors, now known as transfer factors. Lisonbee gave his own immune system the boost it needed using clues from the research, and the results were convincing.

According to Calvin Jolley, Vice President of Communications at 4Life Research, when Lisonbee shared the success with his wife, Bianca, she felt that this discovery should be made available to the world. He agreed, and in 1998 they launched the company with a signature product dubbed Transfer Factor Classic.

4Life has grown every year since its formation and now has a presence in over 23 countries around the world.

Lisonbee’s experience in direct selling and publishing in the health and wellness sector supported his decision to use direct selling as the marketing vehicle. 4Life has grown every year since its formation and now has a presence in over 23 countries around the world. And the original signature offering has been joined by a full line of Transfer Factor products that support various body systems.

In addition to the results of the products, 4Life’s growth is due in part to the extensive training offered to its distributors as well as its use of technology. “We are heavily involved in social media, including photos, action items, company news and product updates,” Jolley says. “Our e-news, which has received recognition by the DSA, is sent around the world via email providing current updates and information. We also utilize text messaging, Facebook (with over 70,000 likes on our page), Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube to communicate with our distributors regarding company news, product updates and action items for business building. Every medium carries consistent weekly messages.” There is even a mobile app that distributors can utilize to access account information, company news and training materials wherever they have an Internet connection. 4Life also hosts corporate sponsored conference calls, inviting corporate and field leaders in the company as guest speakers to inspire and motivate attendees.

Commitments That Lead to Change

The Lisonbees built 4Life on a three-tiered foundation of Science, Success and Service. “The science of the products has brought the success of the company and its distributors, who are then encouraged to serve those in need,” Jolley says. In 2006, the charitable work that the company had always engaged in was formalized into a nonprofit entity called Foundation 4Life.

“We look for projects where we can enter into a long-term relationship and build a new legacy of hope for otherwise hopeless situations.” —Tracie Kay, Director of 4Life Service

Tracie Kay is the Director of 4Life Service, which includes Foundation 4Life and the 4Life Fortify nutrition program. She explains that the focus of the foundation is to lead a community in need to a place of self-sustainability. “We look for projects where we can enter into a long-term relationship and build a new legacy of hope for otherwise hopeless situations,” she says. “Our focus is to provide the essential needs of children—nutrition, shelter, and education—but the cycle of poverty is most heavily influenced through education on several different levels for both the children and the parents.” The foundation partners with entities already working in the community and commits to getting them to a level where the individuals they are helping can stand on their own feet. “We teach educational skills to kids and parents as well as basic survival skills such as gardening, baking and even managing chicken farms. It depends on the culture,” Kay says. “For example, if a family can grow and manage their own food, we have started them on a path of newfound hope. It’s definitely a long-term commitment.”

Currently, there are philanthropic projects taking place in over 30 countries where 4Life distributors are active. “We encourage distributors to become involved in the projects,” she says. “Some are even drawn to the business by first being involved in what we are doing in their community.”

5-year-old Juanita attends kindergarten in a Honduras community where Foundation 4Life has committed to help families and children. 5-year-old Juanita attends kindergarten in a Honduras community where Foundation 4Life has committed to help families and children. Aneurys Perez, a recipient of Foundation 4Life’s giving in the Dominican Republic, returns the blessing to his aging grandparents.Aneurys Perez, a recipient of Foundation 4Life’s giving in the Dominican Republic, returns the blessing to his aging grandparents.

A Glimpse at the Global Impact

The first country Foundation 4Life reached into with assistance was the Dominican Republic, specifically through La Casa Rosada, an orphanage for children with HIV. “We launched the Foundation in 2006 with a major donation to expand the facility operated by the Catholic Church,” Kay says. “Once there was sufficient shelter for the orphans we went to work on providing educational opportunities.” There was a need for some of the 3- to 5-year-old children to be better prepared for school on a social level. “They had a tendency to act up and get kicked out of regular schools,” she says. “The sisters running the orphanage recommended a Montessori-style preschool. We acted on their suggestion and have seen great results with the social and academic preparedness of the children for mainstream schools, and they are able to learn like their peers.” Montessori teaching is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical and social development. The on-site preschool teachers also work with individuals with special needs. 4Life Fortify and other 4Life Transfer Factor products are also donated to the orphanage to provide better nutrition for all who live and work there.

Aneurys Perez is one of the first two residents at La Casa Rosada to graduate from high school. His mother died of HIV when he was young, and because his grandparents were unable to support him and his younger brother the orphanage became their home. “Foundation 4Life was able to provide Aneurys with a full scholarship, including room and board, to a local Santo Domingo university,” Kay says. “He was also given his first job by a local 4Life distributor who needed administrative support running his 4Life business.” Aneurys later applied to work at the local airport, was hired as an immigration officer and has since received promotions as he continues to work on his bachelor’s degree in marketing.

Through education and hands-on experience, Foundation 4Life hopes to train as many families as possible how to sustain themselves and their community.

Aneurys has learned the power of giving and now returns the blessing to his aging grandparents. He has paid for them to install running water in their modest home, pays their monthly water bill and purchased a washing machine and refrigerator for them. He is also funding extra-curricular classes for his younger brother in preparation for high school graduation this year. “It feels great to have been a part of changing a life and a legacy for Aneurys and his family,” Kay says.

In Honduras, parents send their children into the streets to sell a variety of items or do odd jobs in order to add a dollar or two to the meager family income. Kay says that often education is not a priority; survival is. “In response to the desperation of the people of Jardines del Norte, Honduras, we have made a six-year commitment to reach out through programs at a community center for which we sponsored the construction,” she says. “We are working hard to create a paradigm shift, changing a mindset adopted through years of poverty.”

Through education and hands-on experience, Foundation 4Life hopes to train as many families as possible how to sustain themselves and their community. “Many mothers join their children at the center and are offered classes specifically designed for them,” Kay says. “Lessons in good hygiene and nutrition are at the top of the list. We also teach jewelry-making skills, providing the mothers a way to contribute to the household income.” And there is a huge garden on the property to teach families how to plant and harvest their own food to consume and sell. “The people of this community shop for one meal at a time because that is all they can afford. There is a sense of desperation and day-to-day survival,” she says. “We work to offer them hope to see beyond tomorrow.”

Closer to Home

Through Foundation 4Life’s support, Juanita is able to receive a healthy meal and school materials.Through Foundation 4Life’s support, Juanita is able to receive a healthy meal and school materials.

In the United States, Foundation 4Life implemented a program in 2009 to help less fortunate children at the Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City. “Every year we provide school supplies to those who cannot afford them, and two years ago we began sponsoring the early childhood education program at the school. Additionally, Foundation 4Life was a major contributor for the construction of their new school that is currently on track to open this fall,” Kay says. “Last fall we extended our educational initiatives to three additional cities in the country.” Local 4Life distributors rallied to help in Barberton, Ohio; Miami, Fla.; and Downey, Calif., distributing backpacks and hygiene supplies, depending upon the needs of the students.

“During the holiday season Foundation 4Life also gave follow-up donations to high-risk students in each school,” she says. “For instance, over 200 uniforms were provided to the school in Miami. Two hundred sweatshirts were given to students in Downey to help them through the cooler winter months, and three families were treated to a substitute for Santa by local distributors.” Children at the school in Utah received additional school supplies, and 4Life supported a Christmas store where parents could procure gifts for their children. “When we heard from mothers of the kids who received the gifts, they were overwhelmed by the support of total strangers,” Kay says. “And although some of the projects are small, these four schools know they can count on us to lighten their financial burdens two to three times each year for an indefinite period of time.”

Foundation 4Life is funded by the generous donations of its distributors. The methods of giving include:

  • a one-time donation added to any product order
  • a recurring donation from bonus checks
  • purchasing an autoship pack of products that includes a built-in donation


Another way to give to the charitable arm of the company is by participating in the 4Life Fortify program. “We implemented this program in 2010 as a way for distributors to participate in providing essential nutrition directly to children in need,” Kay says. “4Life Fortify is a separate for-profit arm of the company that focuses specifically on fighting childhood malnutrition. Our Fortify product is made up of a great-tasting blend of red beans, lentils, and long grain white rice, plus a complex of the vitamins and minerals that growing kids’ bodies desperately need.” At any time, distributors may purchase Fortify, which is then sent to a hungry child by the company. She says distributors do earn commission volume for the purchase, providing a great opportunity for them to build their 4Life business while helping service the nutritional needs of children around the world.

At the Top of Their Game

Through the power of networking, some 4Life distributors have shared their nutritional supplements with athletes who have experienced noticeable results. The athletes include world hall-of-famers, a discus thrower in Germany, Denver Broncos team member Manny Ramirez and 2010 World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. “Once they become customers, the distributors let us know and we engage in a public relations initiative with the athlete and provide them with products at no charge,” Jolley says. “We do not pay them, but they are invited to join Team 4Life and endorse our products. Once they have joined the Team, we look for ways to incentivize the relationship through opportunities such as speaking at district and national 4Life events.”

“The commitment [of founders David and Bianca Lisonbee] to making life better for as many less-fortunate people as possible is the reason that 100 percent of every dollar donated actually goes to fund one of our projects.” —Tracie Kay

A beautiful picture of giving back can be found in the generosity demonstrated by the athletes on Team 4Life as they are involved in community and youth leagues. “Edgar Renteria has actually opened a baseball academy in Colombia,” Jolley says. “He takes kids off the streets, puts them in a stadium in a baseball uniform, and teaches them teamwork and leadership while they play the game.” His commitment to helping these kids has encouraged other Major League Baseball players to join Team 4Life. The foundation recognizes that Renteria’s mission is in perfect alignment with theirs and donates a sizeable annual contribution to the baseball academy. “He doesn’t want pay,” Jolley says. “But he gladly welcomes financial support as he works to save the lives of as many young people as he can in Colombia.”

With so many needs in the world, choosing which ones to address can be a unique challenge. Kay says, “The strategy implemented by our 4Life Service programs is to look in markets where there is strong 4Life distributor leadership and presence. We also have an outside board of reviews that officially signs off on all projects and spending.”

But both Jolley and Kay desire to make it clear that the generosity that gives life to every 4Life Service program was etched into the culture of the company from the moment it was established by David and Bianca Lisonbee. “Their commitment to making life better for as many less-fortunate people as possible is the reason that 100 percent of every dollar donated actually goes to fund one of our projects. All operating costs incurred by our programs are paid by 4Life,” Kay says. “And as the company continues to grow, so will our service to the needs of the world.”

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.”


“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,

Jamie Oliver At Home: Celebrity-Led Mission

by Barbara Seale

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: Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver demonstrates how to prepare one of his recipes.

Company Profile

  • Founded: 2013
  • Headquarters: Pawtucket, R.I.
  • Top Executive: Founder and CEO Tim Brown
  • Products: Jme Collection food prep, cooking and baking, and serveware
  • Website:

A man on a mission. That’s celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, namesake and inspiration for one of the U.K.’s fastest-growing direct selling companies, Jamie at Home.

In England and Ireland, Oliver is so well known that his company needed to use only his first name to gain attention. Consultants sell the company’s Jme Collection of unique cooking and serving pieces at home parties. At the same time, they become champions for Oliver’s mission of improving the world’s health by encouraging people to prepare delicious, nutritious food at home. Oh, and they make money while doing it. So a U.S.-based company supporting his mission made perfect sense. Enter, Jamie Oliver At Home (JOAH).

Oliver is something of a wunderkind. In his 30s, he already has 16 companies that spread his food philosophy in many ways: television shows; social media, including his Food Tube cooking channel on YouTube; his popular website; 14 cookbooks; restaurants; his own magazine; public speaking; three charitable foundations; as well as direct selling companies. He was awarded the prestigious TED Prize as a result of his work in West Virginia, which was featured on the Emmy Award-winning network television reality show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolutionin 2010.

Consultants become champions for Jamie Oliver’s mission of improving the world’s health by encouraging people to prepare delicious, nutritious food at home.

Jamie at Home launched in the U.K. in 2009. In the first three years of business, the company went from $0 to $20 million (USD) in sales. They currently have 2,500 consultants in the U.K. and Ireland. According to executives, Oliver chose direct selling in the first place because he loves the direct connection with customers. His whole vision of sharing how better food leads to a better life, as well as wanting to demonstrate the products, fits with the home party atmosphere.

Tim BrownTim Brown

As Oliver became more well-known, he developed new fans, including direct selling industry veteran Tim Brown and his wife, Amelia. Both have been enthusiastic home cooks and healthy-living proponents for many years. One Saturday morning, Tim was working out at his health club and clicking through the television channels, when he came across one of Oliver’s cooking shows.

“Here was this cool young dude, cooking over an open flame in his backyard,” Tim recalls. “I thought, ‘Who is this Jamie Oliver guy?’ I told Amelia about him, and she bought me one of his cookbooks. Then he disappeared from the channel. My Saturday morning Jamie fix was gone.”

Jamie at Home launched in the U.K. in 2009. In the first three years of business, the company went from $0 to $20 million (USD) in sales.

But a year later, Oliver was back on television with his Food Revolution program, and the Browns were taken by him all over again.

“He caught us with his sincerity, passion, love of people, easy preparation of good food and his love of children,” Tim explains. “Who would have thought we would be partners with him four years later?”

But they would be. Tim learned that the Chairman, President and CEO of Oliver’s business interests, John Jackson, was exploring ways to bring the Jamie at Home direct selling business to the United States. Together he and Jackson considered whether to offer the Jme Collection through an existing direct selling company. But with both of their backgrounds in the industry, they knew without a doubt that the way to bring the products and mission to the U.S. was through launching another Jamie Oliver direct selling company in North America. Tim was all in.

Team Spirit

Amelia and Tim BrownAmelia and Tim Brown

But launching a direct selling company is no one-man job. Tim turned to trusted industry partners to lay the groundwork, first signing contracts with them in early 2013. Working closely with an experienced team enabled them to go to market quickly with an expertly developed compensation plan, marketing materials, back office, website and other essential elements of a direct selling company.

“We’ve had an amazing team come together in so many areas,” Tim notes. “It starts with Jamie’s team. They have been so great to work with and gave us everything we needed to complete our due diligence. They brainstormed with me as we put together a company that would be successful here. I went to the U.K. five times between February and September 2012.”

Jamie Oliver At Home started to coalesce, with Tim as its Founder and CEO. He put together a small home office team, including Creative Marketing Director Michelle Girasole, Vice President of Sales Chat Leonard, and Home Office Director Mary Pat Smith.

Tim set an absolute deadline to be live and open: May 15, 2013. The day was chosen because it was two days before “Food Revolution Day,” the culmination of Oliver’s campaign to get people better connected to their food. Oliver organized more than 1,200 events in 74 countries that day to encourage communities across the world to celebrate the diversity of fresh food, share cooking skills, understand good eating habits and, of course, eat delicious food. It was also the birthday of Tim’s favorite staff member, his wife, Amelia, Jamie Oliver At Home’s first Founding Consultant.

It would be a “soft launch,” giving the company the summer to make any necessary adjustments before the company’s grand opening on Sept. 4. The founding consultants who joined in April were poised to party. One party hostess was so eager to hold the first Jamie Oliver At Home party in North America that she insisted on scheduling it on May 13.

“I was getting a little nervous,” Amelia remembers. “I kept asking whether we’d have catalogs for that first party! They were delivered on Friday afternoon, and the party was on Monday.”

The Jme Collection products were selected to support the types of food made at home here in the U.S.

Jme Collection Terracotta PlateJme Collection Terracotta Plate Jamie OliverJamie Oliver The Antipasti Platter made with American oak.The Antipasti Platter made with American oak.

Inspiring Products

Amelia had been Tim’s supportive spouse and “CEO” of the Brown family, always cheering him on over the years. Yet she never thought that actually being in direct selling herself was really “her thing.” But Jamie Oliver inspired her so much that she took the plunge.

Tim and Amelia Brown join Jamie Oliver as he is honored at the Second Annual Mario Batali Foundation Honors Dinner for his work with children.Tim and Amelia Brown join Jamie Oliver as he is honored at the Second Annual Mario Batali Foundation Honors Dinner for his work with children.

“I think I was afraid to do it for 20 years,” she says. “But I was surprised at how easy it is. I’ll ask everyone, even people I barely know, to have a Jamie Oliver At Home party. Rejection doesn’t bother me. I’ve found that most people will say yes.”

Amelia and others on the staff were intimately involved with selecting the product line. Jamie at Home carries 275 SKUs in the U.K. Tim wanted to start smaller, plus some of the products were perfect for the English cooking lifestyle but were not appropriate here in America. As Amelia says, “As cute as some of the British products were, we just knew that in the U.S. not many people would be making figgy pudding.”

In the end, they chose a smaller selection of products for the initial line—some best sellers from the U.K. and others they knew would do best in North America. Jme Collection products are selected to support the types of food people make at home here. They’re also created by renowned designers to be unique, beautiful, functional and inspiring.

“One of our top sellers is the Really Good Rice Pot, which can be used in the microwave or conventional oven,” notes Creative Marketing Director Michelle Girasole. “Amelia had a guest who had purchased one and told her, ‘My 4-year-old wants rice all the time now, and my other son makes oatmeal in it.’ Our products inspire that kind of response from families. Mission accomplished!”

The parties also inspire. Consultants or hosts easily generate electronic invitations through their back office and email them to guests or invite them in person. At the 90-minute party, guests socialize for a while, and then Oliver joins them via DVD. The hosts get to pick which of 12 recipes he will demonstrate, and they give guests a copy of the recipe. As Oliver banters in his relaxed style, he fills the conversation with fun, digestible facts about the value and ease of preparing food at home. Guests see him use Jme Collection products—items he uses in his own home—to prepare and serve a recipe. Even more recipes are available online. Guests also hear stories about each designer that creates pieces for the company’s core line of food prep, cooking and baking, and entertaining pieces.

“There are so many places to get kitchen products, but Jamie has worked with world-renowned designers to produce the Jme Collection,” Tim notes. “They use wonderful materials, such as American oak, ceramics and terracotta. Beautiful! The pictures you see of them don’t do them justice.”

Fresh Perspective

Food Philanthropy

For the founding management team of Jamie Oliver At Home, partnering with an established company had many benefits. One of the most appealing was a built-in philanthropy that matched its mission.

The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation is focused on educating people of all ages about food so that they can make better food choices for life. The U.S. charity, established in 2010, works to bring food education to schools and youth groups, businesses and communities by raising awareness and offering hands-on training. It’s Jamie Oliver’s passion project, and it dovetails with Jamie Oliver At Home’s mission: Better Food, Better Life.

“I was in the background of the direct selling industry for 20 years,” explains Amelia Brown, the company’s Founding Consultant and wife of Founder and CEO Tim Brown. “I had no desire to do this business until Jamie Oliver. I fell in love with his passion and message of ‘Better Food for a Better Life,’ especially where it concerned children. We have an alarming rate of childhood obesity. That’s why he wants us to spread the message of cooking with real food. It’s a powerful message, and I loved the way we are connected with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.”

She notes that the Food Foundation supports organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs and Let’s Move, first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to solve the problem of obesity within a generation. Oliver used the proceeds from his TED Talk award to start the philanthropy here in the U.S. Even though it’s still in its infancy, Jamie Oliver At Home helps support it with a “Round Up” program in which customers can donate by rounding up the amount of their purchase. Additionally, home parties provide an all-important platform to discuss the importance of preparing nutritious meals at home.

“We have the ability to engage people in the conversation,” Tim points out. “Obesity is a huge problem in this country. We can change that by getting people talking about the issues and buying and cooking good local food that’s not filled with junk. Jamie’s recipes make it simple and fun, and we have the ability to have Jamie hold our hand throughout it all.”

During the soft launch, consultants were the company’s partners, helping them identify what worked best, or pointing out problems. Amelia was on the front lines, holding parties herself and keeping an eye out for opportunities to improve.

“She has been involved from the beginning, helping us develop the party format and training,” Tim says. “Because of her love for the mission, she is constantly reaching out to teach consultants about Jamie and the Food Foundation. Between May and September, when we were building the back end of our systems, she was the first one testing and entering orders. When customer questions arose, she got the call. It has been so valuable to have her as part of this.”

Though informally training new consultants all the time, Amelia has also been involved in developing the more formal training processes for recruits. Some of the training is tried and true, such as equipping the field leaders to provide the front line of support for their new consultants. This includes teaching them how to host and launch parties and comfortably include Oliver’s DVD presentation. Other training tools include online tutorials, videos and podcasts, as well as training manuals and conference calls. Amelia says, “People like to learn in different ways, and we fuel their needs with a variety of approaches.”

Then came Sept. 4. Oliver himself announced the grand opening of the new U.S. company on his website and social media feeds, shifting the fledgling company into high gear. Oliver’s social media success made millions instantly aware of the new company. He has 3.5 million Twitter followers, 1.7 million Facebook “likes,” 1.5 million Instagram followers, and in May he had 5.7 million visitors to Jamie Oliver At Home has access to all that content.

Social media has continued to play an important role in the company’s growth and culture. Members of the JOAH Crew—the company’s affectionate nickname for its consultants—regularly post snaps of the meals they make using Jme Collection products, and they take part in “Twitter parties” with themes such as “Halloween Unjunked.”

Broad Appeal

Consultants and their guests have a broad demographic so far, mostly reflecting the demographics of Oliver’s fans: 55 percent women, 45 percent men. Military spouses who fell in love with Jamie at Home in the U.K. are now able to start a business in the U.S. with this new company. Others knew about Oliver through television or cookbooks. Some simply love to cook and share their recipes. Jamie Oliver At Home provides a venue for all of them to share their food passion.

“One of the things that make our parties unique is how many men come to them,” Amelia notes. “I’ll have a party one night that’s all women, and the next one will be couples. I have two coming up that are all men. We never know who will be at the party—young people, older people. Jamie connects with everyone.”

“We never know who will be at the party—young people, older people. Jamie connects with everyone.”
—Amelia Brown, Founding Consultant

Amelia says that quite a few guests say they don’t cook. Her answer: “We have wonderful products for entertaining. Then they come to the party, and they buy products that go with the recipe he cooked,” she says. “Jamie makes it so easy.”

“We say, ‘Join us because we need more people engaged in conversation about good, real food and how to have fun making it so we can eat better—not processed—food.’ ”
—Tim Brown, Founder and CEO

When Tim talks about Jamie Oliver At Home’s future and how it will grow, he emphasizes that they want  to touch as many people as possible in the U.S. and Canada—where the company plans to expand in late 2014—but company growth is really about expanding awareness of the mission. That mission includes continuing the conversation about real food and teaching children about its value, as opposed to processed foods. Reaching out to more people means bringing on more consultants, which also means more parties going on in more homes and more families cooking together—and the mission becoming more realized.

“Our vision is all about health and financial well-being,” Tim says. “We say, ‘Join us because we need more people engaged in conversation about good, real food and how to have fun making it so we can eat better—not processed—food.’ Financials are important, but they’re not the only thing that drives us. We see tens of thousands of people involved with our mission to spread the word about Better Food, Better Life. We lead with health but care deeply about financial well-being, too.”

Tupperware’s Rick Goings on Mad Money


Tupperware Brands CEO Rick Goings recently appeared on NBC’s Mad Money with host Jim Cramer. The segment, covering Tupperware’s latest financial report and its sustainability efforts, aired during the network’s Green Week. Justmeans—a platform for learning about entities shaping the world of CSR, sustainability and social enterprise—features the segment on its YouTube page.

Giving a mile-a-minute rundown of Tupperware’s first quarter earnings, Cramer addresses a slight reduction in the company’s four-year earnings guidance, as well as the $1.1 billion cushion left in Tupperware’s buyback authorization program, equivalent to a quarter of the company’s market capitalization. Goings then discusses Tupperware’s sustainability practices, emphasizing that the business grew out of an idea to eliminate waste by producing viable commercial products from slag produced by the refining industry. Currently, the company is promoting its lifetime-guaranteed water bottles to decrease the more than 471 million disposable bottles added to landfills annually.

View the entire Mad Money clip here.

The Magic of the First 90 Days: Strategies for Serving Newcomers of Any Age

by Beth Douglass Silcox

Click here to order the Direct Selling News issue in which this article appeared.

DSN May 2013

There’s a magic window in direct selling—a tricky space between distributor signup and the first glimmers of success. Here, newcomers—green to the concept of owning businesses and working for themselves—vacillate between unbridled excitement and all-out fear.

It’s understandable. Few come to direct selling with the ability to self-motivate or hold themselves accountable when a boss isn’t lurking down the hall. But newcomers do show up with an indelible ability to learn and effervescent enthusiasm. Problem is, magical windows don’t stay open forever, and with newcomers, timing is everything.

Common industry thought gives direct selling companies 90 days before that window slams shut on the potential success and longevity of a new direct seller. In fact, some argue that technology and the speed at which Gen Y and millennials expect results is compressing time for new distributors to make some proverbial “magic” in direct selling.

Regardless how quick that window inches closed, successful direct selling companies must find methods for newcomers to create habits and behaviors that will enable them to scale and sustain their individual businesses for the long run. In so doing, direct selling companies make good on their promise to new distributors: “You are in business for yourself, not by yourself.”

Industry leaders agree that building on newcomer excitement, eliminating fear and self-doubt, accelerating product and opportunity savvy, and offering newcomers a peek at what’s on the other side of the 90-day window are top priorities.

But strategic differences exist when it comes to direct selling companies serving an increasingly diverse generational pool of new direct sellers, who interact in different ways and expect different things from the world around them.

Some companies, like ViSalus, use a broad brush to express their corporate message. “We’ve created a lifestyle brand that is for the young and young at heart. We have one approach and don’t do anything different, whether they are 18 or 80,” says Blake Mallen, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer.

“Gen Y likes things given to them in RAT form: raw, authentic and transparent. It’s the way they speak to each other and you’ve got to get to where they are.” <br /><br />
—Jeff Olson, Founder and CEO, Nerium International<br /><br />

“Gen Y likes things given to them in RAT form: raw, authentic and transparent. It’s the way they speak to each other and you’ve got to get to where they are.”
—Jeff Olson, Founder and CEO, Nerium International

Nerium International shakes up their messaging to appeal to younger generations. Jeff Olson, Founder and CEO, says, “Gen Y likes things given to them in RAT form: raw, authentic and transparent. They would rather have a YouTube phone video, than something that’s highly produced. It’s the way they speak to each other and you’ve got to get to where they are.”

Then there’s Vemma, who has completely embraced Gen Y and what they are all about. Rebranding their Verve energy drink to attract millennials was a turning point for them. They created YPR—Young People’s Revolution—and basically stayed out of Gen Y’s way.

They watched awestruck as 20-somethings built lucrative businesses and helped remedy their generation’s crises: college debt, unemployment, underemployment and haters bent on bringing them down. In 90 days, these Gen-Y newcomers accomplish what earlier generations took a year to do. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” says BK Boreyko, CEO and Founder. “Once we changed Verve and got this vibe going, we wanted it to be throughout the whole company.”

So, is attracting Gen Y some kind of “holy grail” for direct selling? It depends. Boreyko concedes, “If they had families, wives, kids, houseplants, they couldn’t run as hard and fast as they do to build this business. They have no fear of failure because it’s just them and they are used to sleeping on couches.”

And wedging a product into a Gen-Y demographic where it doesn’t belong makes no sense either. “If we were selling skin care or shakes or vitamins, we wouldn’t have a YPR movement because none of those things resonate with young people like an energy drink does,” Boreyko says.

But clearly Gen Y is here and direct selling companies need to figure out a strategy that resonates with all newcomers—young and old.

Face Time and Hash Tags

Face Time and Hash Tags

When success is based on someone’s ability to form relationships, connect and communicate with others, like it is in direct selling, isolation is the enemy. “There’s something that people who work remotely miss in terms of human connection and if they aren’t getting that from a traditional business environment, oftentimes it can become an impediment,” says Alexia Vernon, author of 90 Days, 90 Ways.

Social media helps, but still photos and posts can only go so far. Face time is important to newcomers, especially Gen Y, so Vernon suggests virtual connections like Skype video or a 15-minute video check-in or weekly meeting where people can go to a virtual hangout to catch up.

Hash tags help too. Those little number signs on Twitter connect people to the information and topics they value most. Companies often get it wrong with hash tags, Vernon says. It’s not about pushing the company or products, but sending a message of value to the reader.

Rather than bursting through the front door with an obvious sell, take the side door and offer up interesting content that connects newcomers and anyone else who follows the hash tag to your corporate culture. “When people find that the information is valuable, especially the millennials, they are going to click and they are going to look,” Vernon says.

More the Same Than You Think

The answer is coaching. Call it a generational intersection for the direct selling industry, where the needs of baby boomers and Gen-Y’s, and likely whoever is coming next, merge.

Alexia Vernon, author of 90 Days, 90 Ways, belongs to Gen Y and helps companies understand them better. She says it matters little the working culture of a company. Coaching conversations bring people of varying communication and working styles together.

“It’s not about making everybody the same. It’s just about figuring out how our people like to play.”
—Alexia Vernon, author and Gen-Y expert

Messaging that revolves around coaching allows companies to learn more about their people. “When you learn what makes them tick, then you help them take responsibility for their behaviors and performance,” Vernon says.

“By asking questions and getting people to think, everybody plays together better. It’s not about making everybody the same. It’s just about figuring out how our people like to play. So you make adjustments and you play the way other people want to play.”

That advice goes for direct selling companies appealing to diverse generational groups of newcomers and to the newcomers themselves. When people play well together, they get a whole lot more done in the first 90 days and after.

Every Newbie Needs the Same Things

As different as they seem on the surface, the needs of Generation Y actually mirror the industry expectations for serving direct selling newcomers of all ages.

Vernon’s list of “Gen Y’s Top Five Needs in the First 90 Days” involve:

    • Coming up with a career development plan. They need to know where they want to go and what they want out of it.
    • Feedback delivered in a way they designate and that stretches their best performance.
    • Support from a team consisting of people who don’t necessarily have a stake in their success. They need mentors, cheerleaders, and a community to calm their fears and answer questions.
    • Short-term rewards. It could be money, but it could be as simple as sending a card that recognizes them for a specific accomplishment.
  • Corporate modeling for what the company seeks from the newcomer. In other words, practice what you preach.

Getting Where You Want To Go

It takes hard work on the part of the direct selling company and any new distributor to get where they both want to go, regardless of the company’s messaging style or the newcomer’s generation.

New distributors must see and feel that they’ve got what it takes to succeed, while companies must devise the simplest method for them to get there and speak to them in a way they best understand.

“It’s about giving people very simple, very social, very actionable steps to get the result they are looking for,” says ViSalus’ Mallen.

Differing corporate cultures, product type and breadth, and demographics play into every company choice about the first 90 days and beyond. And while technology’s importance can’t be stressed enough in this high-tech, on-demand world, how companies leverage it to the advantage of newcomers, established distributors, customers and their overall business can be dramatically different.

The overwhelming focus of a new distributor’s first 90 days holds fast to fundamentals that stretch back decades in direct selling. Companies break it down, keep it simple, teach the basics, then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Call it what you will—mastering the mundane, creating new habits—but fundamentals work. Sure, the messaging, methods and tools may be changing, but today’s new direct sellers, whether baby boomers or Gen Y, respond like their predecessors did.

“It’s about giving people very simple, very social, very actionable steps to get the result they are looking for.”
—Blake Mallen, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, ViSalus

Goals technology strategy

Clear Objectives, Simple Steps

“Our entire culture is based around creating a success story within someone’s first 90 days. We want every Promoter that comes into our community to have both a physical transformation and a financial transformation. That really puts a lot of emphasis on getting someone started out of the gate correctly and focusing on a tangible result. It’s a micro-goal strategy,” Mallen says.

ViSalus knows what it wants—a success story. The objective is clear to new Promoters through Project 10: Lose 10 pounds on the Body by Vi Challenge, submit a before-and-after video, and get registered for weekly cash drawings with the chance to win $1,000. Lose the weight and ViSalus throws in a free T-shirt and donates 30 shake meals to kids dealing with obesity.

It’s simple, really. Drop 10 pounds. Help a kid. Share your story to earn product, cash and a sleek, black BMW, all within the first 90 days.

Simple works because new distributors have full-time lives filled with spouses, kids, dogs and hobbies, not to mention 40-hour-a-week jobs. They want quick, visible strides that fit within the framework of their daily lives. They want progress without feeling overwhelmed or overworked. In layman’s terms, these new entrepreneurs need a “to-do” list and Olson says Nerium gives it to them. “We’ve identified the highest-payoff daily activities that we know will give new Brand Partners the fastest and biggest results,” Olson says.

With Nerium’s 8-Point System, Brand Partners accumulate points, in what they call The Box, by participating in predetermined daily activities. They check company emails, seek personal development, contact and follow up with a customer or prospect, and attend or host a Real Results Party. Brand Partners choose what they do and when. Not every day’s activities will be the same, but the expectation is to earn eight points a day, 40 points a week—mostly by redirecting activities. “Instead of watching that sitcom that does nothing for you, listen to a conference call. Instead of building somebody else’s dream, build yours,” Olson says. “The 8-Point System has caught on like wildfire and it just works.”

That’s because Nerium’s 8-Point System breaks the business down into daily action items that are manageable. By consistently layering point after point, day after day, week after week, new Brand Partners build habits that help them become the very best version of themselves. Their individual growth sustains them and The Box keeps them on track through the ups and downs of the first 90 days and beyond.

Regardless of their age, new distributors often need to step outside their proverbial comfort zones in that first 90 days. Reaching out to people about products or services can be awkward for newcomers. Trepidation and lack of self-confidence impedes progress, so direct selling companies must hold some hands and give newcomers a little push in the right direction.

When It Works! distributors crack open their Welcome Kits, they find Blitz Cards, a coupon of sorts. These help newbies break through the fear of selling by tilting their perspective toward sharing, instead. With Blitz Cards in hand, suddenly striking up a conversation isn’t so scary.

“We evaluate what a new consultant wants out of the business and then figure out what’s between her and that first party.”
—Alexa W., Independent National Executive Director, Thirty-One Gifts

But newcomers to party plan companies like Thirty-One Gifts can struggle with a stage fright of sorts. That’s why Thirty-One reaches out to new consultants, building one-on-one relationships to help pull them over their fears. “We evaluate what a new consultant wants out of the business and then figure out what’s between her and that first party,” says Alexa W., Independent National Executive Director. “New consultants usually stumble in one of two areas: getting over the fear of putting themselves out there or making sure they are armed with enough information.”

So Thirty-One teaches a five-step party process that offers the basics. “We try to keep it very simple, so she can see herself doing it,” says Natalie Johns, Executive Director of Communications and Training for the company. New consultants are encouraged to check out online party demonstrations and tag along with upline directors.

Some of the best learning, Johns says, happens when newcomers watch more experienced consultants in action or network with each other at Celebrate and Connect meetings hosted by field leaders across the country every other month. “It’s so important to the relationship building and networking to be at those meetings,” Johns says. “We really feel like it helps that new consultant learn who we are and feel a part of something bigger, a part of the Thirty-One sisterhood.”

Perhaps nothing works better to bolster newcomer confidence than being surrounded by fellow direct sellers at a live event. By far the most elaborate of newcomer activities—whether nuts-and-bolts regional trainings or national conventions with loads of bling—corporate messaging at these gatherings can still be simple, clear and direct.

Event-driven companies like ACN promote large, live events hosted every 90 days, as well as regional and local trainings because they say these events build newcomer confidence and knowledge and accelerate performance. “Events are a huge piece of our strategy,” says Sheila Marcello, Vice President of Marketing. “People are going to get the training, the motivation, the personal development, the contacts—everything they really need to be successful. Not to mention our events have the energy and excitement of a concert, making them that much more appealing for even the youngest, most progressive IBOs.”

“People need to have the tools to hit the ground running. We know that no matter who you are, money talks. It’s the one approach that truly crosses generations.”
—Sheila Marcello, Vice President of Marketing, ACN

It’s all about momentum, Marcello adds. “People need to have the tools to hit the ground running. We know that no matter who you are, money talks. It’s the one approach that truly crosses generations,” she says. “Our 30-day fast-start bonuses are designed to get our new IBOs off the starting block quickly—and to get some immediate financial rewards in their pockets right away. This ultimately helps fuel their businesses long after that ‘new business excitement’ has worn off.”

Regardless the product, the messaging, the branding, the demographics or the business model, a fast and simple start is what each of these fast-growing direct selling companies offers to newcomers. Thirty-One’s Johns says, “For the new consultant, we know we only have her for a very short time. She’s working her Thirty-One business in the nooks and crannies of her already busy life. We want to be very clear, simple, easy and fun for her on how to be successful.”

Technology Direct Sellers

Leveraging Technology

Tempting as it may be to jump on the latest tech craze, learning how best to leverage technology keeps newcomers and more experienced direct sellers from getting overwhelmed, confused and bogged down. It is often a slow, yet ultimately profitable, process. ACN started low-key with social media until they knew how best to implement it in their channel. “It had to add value for our IBOs and the company as well,” Marcello says.

What they found on the other side of their patient transition into social media was unexpected and of greater value than originally estimated. Their intent was to inform with social media, but motivational messages from co-founders and leaders gained more traction with IBOs. Facebook and Twitter exploded during ACN’s live events, and they understood that “people wanted to share what they’ve learned as they are learning it,” Marcello says. Social media empowers and excites IBOs and ACN now knows in real-time what they think and feel.

There are infinite ways for companies to successfully inspire, motivate and teach newcomers using technology, but an equal number waste time, money, and social media credibility and clout.

There are infinite ways for companies to successfully inspire, motivate and teach newcomers using technology, but an equal number waste time, money, and social media credibility and clout.

Companies who manage technology well keep tabs on how their people want to communicate with them, their customers and each other. That’s not to suggest companies cave to the tech-challenged baby boomer and become flipbook exclusive, nor should they invest in technology for technology’s sake.

But to attract wider audiences of potential sellers and buyers, companies must diversify and cross-purpose communication using technology. Newcomers, like their more experienced colleagues, need multiple touch points and choices in how to engage: social media; distributor websites; back offices filled with on-demand webinars, PowerPoint presentations and training; 24/7 access to top-notch personal development; entire business management and communication programs; and app after app.

That doesn’t mean newcomers must use everything that’s offered, but as Marcello puts it, “We teach them how they are all interrelated and then they pick the ones that work for them.”

Fair warning, Gen Y, seemingly born with a smartphone in hand, expects technology to work. Send them down a rabbit hole and they’re out. Hit them with “See me, see me, buy me, buy me” social messaging, and “unfriend” it is.

Despite their techno-savvy, however, Gen-Y newcomers often don’t understand the long-term business ramifications of social media. “It’s like standing in the middle of a crowded food court and yelling at the top of your lungs. It doesn’t go away and it’s not private,” Thirty-One’s Alexa W. says. “Some of the younger people need help understanding the impact of what they say and do on social media. They don’t realize how it shapes who they are to those they may not have realized they were reaching out to.”

As effective as social media can be, there’s a cautionary tale here for direct selling companies. “It takes time to educate newcomers,” Alexa W. says. “It takes resources from the company and it takes leadership in the field being proactive and directing people toward company resources.” While social media guidelines established by direct selling companies may seem restrictive at first to some newcomers, they protect the company’s broader vision and branding, as well as the branding of the individual consultant and her ability to sell the product.

Remember, connectivity of all kinds is the millennial’s realm and posers need not enter. Direct selling companies can’t pretend to understand them, they need people who actually do understand them. Gen Y wants authentic messaging, and don’t dare talk down to them. If they have a problem, they know where to find the solution—it’s called Google. But put something on their radar and create a desire that speaks to their values or lifestyle, and it’s magic.

“Knowing a company has a social mission, being able to Facebook or tweet pictures of everybody on the team working with a local Boys & Girls Club—those are the ways companies can appeal to Gen Y,” Vernon says. “You’re not talking about your product, but the fact that you do that kind of stuff gives you a competitive edge.”

Power exists in success stories, especially for a relationship-based industry like direct selling. When someone earns an extraordinary income in their first 16 months, people need to know it and be inspired by it.

Vemma decided to push these stories out through YPR Radio, an innovative podcast on YouTube and iTunes, which reached their consultant base precisely where they live. They hired hip-hop preacher Eric Thomas to hang out and listen to members of the Young People’s Revolution tell their Verve success stories, then uploaded for the world to watch. YPR Radio was so successful connecting with Gen Y, an initial twelve 30-minute episodes turned into 60.

Making the right moves in cyberspace can place companies and their products squarely on anyone’s radar, Gen Y or otherwise, and leveraging technology can mean developing a flashy app with every bell and whistle, or simply moving a great PowerPoint presentation to a place where everyone can find it. Regardless, technology ideally drives offline conversation that builds relations, empowers newcomers to feel smarter and more confident, delivers messaging in a way that a chosen demographic can best hear it, and inspires people to engage in the company’s corporate culture. In the first 90 days, direct selling companies need to reach the newcomer in each of these ways, and the newcomer needs to be able to reach right back. Do that and the industry makes magic!

Focus on Isagenix International: For Family by Family

by Kassandra Hayes


Company Profile:

Launched: 2002
Headquarters: Chandler, Ariz.
Co-Founders: John Anderson, Master Formulator; Jim Coover, Chairman and President; and Kathy Coover, Executive Vice President
Products: Solutions for transforming lives that include weight management, energy and performance, healthy aging, and wealth creation

Just 11 short years ago, John Anderson, a master formulator of nutritional supplements, along with Jim and Kathy Coover, who had more than 20 years of experience in the direct selling industry, cast a vision to impact world health by freeing people from physical and financial pain. These three co-founding partners joined forces to create what has become health and wellness company Isagenix International. Based on what the company has achieved in this short time, Isagenix is truly fulfilling that vision and making a difference in the lives of those being touched by their products and opportunity.

Last year Isagenix reported revenues of approximately $335 million, up 28 percent over prior year.

In 2005, Jim and Kathy Coover acquired the company from John, which gave them majority ownership, but John remains an important contributor as “Master Formulator” of Nutritional Supplements and still has a very passionate presence within the growing organization. It was his creation of the Isagenix Cleansing and Fat Burning System—teamed with the Coovers’ focus on field leadership development—that helped sales skyrocket up an astonishing 1,300 percent in only five years. And just last year Isagenix reported revenues of approximately $335 million, up 28 percent over the prior year. According to Kathy, the success of the Isagenix business is based on real product consumption producing real results. There are currently 190,000 active associates in Isagenix. The products, referred to as “solutions,” include weight loss, energy and performance, healthy aging, and of course, wealth creation. The company has even been featured in leading health and wellness journals such as Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism and theNutrition Journal.

When Kathy talks about her company, she exudes pride with every word. Last October she was selected and recognized by Direct Selling News as one of the 20 Most Influential Women in Direct Selling. She is very active with Isagenix’s sales associates and spends much of her time traveling to visit and encourage them. Her personal and hands-on approach to building relationships has resulted in a culture that she feels to be the company’s primary asset.

“It’s all about the people! Our events are like a big family reunion,” Kathy says. “It’s really important to us to maintain our culture as we expand. That’s why we travel so much! We have built an amazing company and we offer solutions to transform people’s lives. We equate success with the number of lives we transform, and that is what we are most proud of.”

Time to Change

Jim, Kathy and Erik CooverJim, Kathy and Erik Coover

“There are a lot of stay-at-home moms and dads who just wanted an opportunity and to be with a company that they thought would be long term.”
—Kathy Coover, Co-Founder and Executive Vice President

Isagenix experienced steady growth in its first few years. It wasn’t until 2008 that the company plateaued a bit and reexamined its approach to building the business. The U.S. economy was clearly uncertain at that time and many businesses were beginning to deal with the great recession and the ramifications and implications to corporate strategy. The Isagenix executive team focused on their most important asset, their independent associates, who were both their consumers and their business leaders. The team decided to introduce promotional incentives that they believed would provide associates with a pragmatic approach to building their businesses by offering them quick wins to build on.

Isagenix invests over $15 million annually into these promotions, which feature an opportunity for associates to earn daily pay, weekly pay, monthly pay and yearly pay. These changes, along with the simplification of company messaging and the training/development process, reignited the sales field, resulting in solid and continued growth. These promotional incentives have yielded a business model that allows people to earn income immediately and also is developing field leadership that will help sustain the company for years to come. Kathy says that associates feel a real sense of accomplishment and the ability to build their businesses. It has also allowed them to better set personal targets, resulting in more highly motivated associates.

A Culture of Family

Isagenix is a family-owned business but also a business created for family, which not only includes Jim and Kathy Coover, but now also their son, Erik, who was Kathy’s original inspiration to start the business. When Erik was a baby, Kathy knew she wanted to be with him and desired to be in control of how she worked. This desire brought about the idea of providing parents with the ability to take care of their children yet still have the flexibility to earn a healthy income. Erik is now Director of Field Development and responsible for enhancing the effectiveness of the field.

As Kathy describes the Isagenix sales organization, she says, “There are a lot of stay-at-home moms and dads who just wanted an opportunity and to be with a company that they thought would be long term.” This caring attitude and concern for family and control of personal and work time has been the foundation of the Isagenix culture. The mission and culture of the company have remained unchanged since the business started in 2002. Kathy adds, “You have to attract the right quality of people to your company. If it’s not right for our associates, it’s not right for our company. And we have very strong relationships with our field. They are our best friends with a common goal to change this planet and make a difference in this world.”

CEO Kevin Adams agrees that maintaining the culture at Isagenix is a huge priority and that the relationship between the field and the corporate office is excellent and very beneficial to the company. He joined the team in 2007 after spending 20 years holding multiple senior financial positions with companies such as ConAgra Foods—one of the world’s largest packaged food companies. Kevin says that, by including the field as much as possible through listening, involvement and solicited feedback, Isagenix is gaining in key performance indicators. In the past year, he adds that recruitment was up 30 percent and fewer associates left the field as retention rates increased more than 10 percent in 2012 alone.

Technology and Social Media

One way Isagenix is keeping this momentum while doing business in an ever-changing world is through evolving its social media capabilities. The company is very focused on this and considers it key to future growth. In fact, it currently employs 70 people in the IT Department alone. The IT specialists support an extensive array of member solutions to help their associates take control of their destiny. One example is a new “Social Entrepreneurs” program where Isagenix fully embraces many social media platforms—YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more. According to Kathy, this ensures the company is constantly communicating with their associates but also helping them build their business while sharing the opportunity for better health and income with others.

Associates have access to free tools such as Isageeks, a social entrepreneur site offering solutions and support for establishing an online business as more and more people learn about the company through social media. Here they can share content on selling strategies and programs, as well as view and create their own videos and blogs. All of these channels are being leveraged for two-way communication with current associates and new ones as well. For example, Isagenix-to-go provides mobile apps for people on the run as well as iPad and iPhone apps.

Kathy says, “We are very much an Internet-driven company. Ninety-five percent of our orders come online. Applications can be completed via smartphones where they also have access to all presentations and training. All of our training is based on a systems approach inclusive of the associates’ product site, which explains everything about all products, as well as their business site, which provides guidance on everything pertaining to building a business.” Kathy adds that this includes a focus on personal growth with a dedicated personal-development coach, as well as an extensive array of product videos and online chats, videos and blogs led by doctors and experts in the health and wellness industry.

Having been in business for only 11 years, online is not new for Isagenix—they actually started that way.

Having been in business for only 11 years, online is not new for Isagenix—they actually started that way. Through their use of social technology and functionality, the stories of those who are benefitting from Isagenix solutions become excellent business-building tools.

Online strategies are growing in significance and contributing to the company’s success even though live events and personal interaction continue to play a huge role in the corporate strategy to build and maintain relationships and trust with the field. Using the web has become a natural way for Isagenix to conduct their business because its vast capabilities enable associates with a direct line of communication at all times. They don’t have to wait for personal help because there are always opportunities to gain instant access to a solution through online tools.

Generous Nature

While technology continues to bring people closer together, personal interaction is still vital to the Isagenix culture and this extends beyond its employees and field. It also includes giving back to the community. The company has donated $3 million to Childhelp, an organization that exists to meet the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual needs of abused and neglected children. Additionally, more than 1 million meals have been delivered to families in Haiti and 50,000 meals were sent to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Isagenix has most recently pledged over $500,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

This generosity all began with the founding family, as Jim and Kathy Coover, along with their son, Erik, strive to be strong role models for how a family business can be started and built upon basic ideals that can expand into solutions for hundreds of thousands of people. Women, in particular, have built several iconic direct selling companies upon these same principles of creating an environment for families, and today they represent brand names that are recognized throughout the world.

“Women bring a whole new life, heart and spirit into the industry,” Kathy says. “There’s a huge opportunity for women to be part of the corporate world in network marketing when they come to us with that experience of the field and have built successful businesses. They bring a brilliance of information.”

Through creating this nurturing family environment, the sky is the limit for Isagenix and its associates. In 2013, Isagenix looks forward to sharing health and wealth as it focuses on regional and international expansion. The company already has a presence in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico and is set to expand in Singapore, Malaysia and China over the next year. Isagenix also plans to increase the number of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and young people in the company.

“We as a company are focused on numbers, but our numbers are a reflection of the number of lives being changed.”
—Kathy Coover

“We have over 300 people who lost 100 pounds through the IsaBody Challenge, five people lost 200 pounds, and two people lost 300 pounds,” Kathy says. “We are not only changing lives, we are saving lives! We as a company are focused on numbers, but our numbers are a reflection of the number of lives being changed. That’s why I love what I do!”

Isagenix Market Trends

What Lies Ahead?—Reasons for Optimism throughout 2013

by J.M. Emmert and Teresa Day

Click here to order theDirect Selling Newsissue in which this article appeared.

DSN February 2013 Cover

In addition to navigating through the wake of recession in 2011, companies were faced with a new challenge: A seismic shift had occurred in the business landscape. Big, rapid change over the previous few years had completely altered the way people did business. New tools and technologies had redefined the way we communicated and formed relationships. The new self-empowered consumer had wrestled power from the supplier, reshaping the business model.

Many wondered if the direct selling industry was equipped to handle the changes. Others suggested that the industry was simply in the midst of a transformation, that it just needed time to acclimate itself to the new business environment.

In response to the ongoing discussion, DSN issued the S.W.O.T. Analysis on Direct Selling in June 2011. The report offered an examination of the industry using the S.W.O.T. methodology, replacing the traditional Weaknesses and Threats with What’s Important and The Future, respectively, in order to provide perspective on where direct selling was and where it was headed.

S.W.O.T. Analysis on Direct Selling

The conclusion of the DSN S.W.O.T. Analysis on Direct Selling in June 2011 was that, despite the challenges, thought leaders and business experts were optimistic about the industry’s future.

The motivation for the report was mounting concern over the industry’s future. U.S. direct selling retail sales had steadily declined over a four-year period, from $32.18 billion in 2006 to $28.33 billion in 2009. In 2010, sales grew only 1 percent, a positive sign that the industry was stable, but not exactly the rebound many had hoped.

However, the conclusion of the report was that, despite the challenges, thought leaders and business experts were optimistic about the industry’s future. Their optimism actually proved to be spot on when the 2011 statistics were released by the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA). That year, according to the report, U.S. direct selling retail sales jumped 4.5 percent, an increase of $1.3 billion, with many of the top direct selling companies experiencing increases in worldwide sales. Within the companies ranking in the top 10 of DSN’s Global 100 list, retail sales increased 11 percent between 2010 and 2011, moving from a cumulative $38.5 billion to $42.6 billion.

Now, 20 months after the report was issued, we’re wondering what might have changed. Have we met the challenges presented in 2011? Is the industry still in a period of transformation? What are the new opportunities ahead?

The following are our thoughts on where the direct selling industry stands as we enter 2013, and what we believe the future holds for those choosing to market their products and services through this enterprise system we call the direct selling channel of distribution.


Cover Story

Today’s consumers demand more integration, more networking and easier purchasing.

Customer Acquisition

Clearly, acquiring new customers is the foundation of any successful business, regardless of the channel. Companies need to acquire new independent representatives as their primary customers, and then equip those individuals to acquire new end users.

While the direct selling model has historically facilitated the customer life-cycle process with relative ease—educating and demonstrating through the party plan platform or one-on-one meeting—the seismic shift in the business landscape from a few years ago now requires new and improved strategies to engage and retain customers, both in approach and in technological prowess.

In approach, businesses have often tried to be “customer-centric,” putting the consumer first, but still really maintaining the control in the relationship. That approach has changed with the advent of the “empowered consumer,” who shifted the balance of power. Where once companies bestowed favor on customers by serving them well, today it is the customer who bestows favor when choosing where to shop. This shift has largely occurred in tandem with tech advancement. User-generated reviews and content have come to mean far more to consumers than any commercial or billboard could ever mean.

So what are some of the new strategies? Since consumers demand instant access to product information and fast, efficient customer service, those who can provide this have a distinct edge. Today’s consumers demand more integration, more networking and easier purchasing. These things do not replace the distinguishing mark of direct selling—the individual attention of the independent representative—but they do have added value and can give a direct selling company an even greater competitive advantage.

Social Networking

The explosion of social networks over the last nine years, beginning with the extraordinary growth of Facebook, has been sending many a marketing and communications executive scrambling for a new business plan. The speed of communication has drastically changed the social landscape in how people interact and how often. Online communities have sprouted up everywhere, enabling users to share thoughts, ideas and interests as well as advertise activities and events—all in real time, 24/7.

The stats are staggering. Facebook has more than 1 billion active users. Twitter boasts 500 million users generating 340 million tweets daily. YouTube receives more than 4 billion views per day. LinkedIn reports more than 200 million registered users. How on earth does one play within this giant playground?

As the stats on users have continued to climb, many businesses are simply overwhelmed by the social media phenomenon.

Back in 2011, some in the industry were concerned by research that indicated 78 percent of consumers trusted peer testimonials compared to only 14 percent trusting company advertisements. Information on products, services and brands were at the mercy of posters and bloggers. Fear became a paralyzing factor for some.

But now that the initial shock that the global community had suddenly and irrevocably been made smaller and more fully connected is over, companies are beginning to see the true value of social networking. It is no longer a scary leviathan that can sink a company’s reputation through negative publicity; it is a new forum to be leveraged.

Social media is, in fact, a tool that plays to the strengths of direct selling. It is the digital expression of what the direct selling model has always been about: a personal relationship between the supplier and the customer, whether that is the independent rep or the end consumer. Entire teams can become more connected and training can be provided in interactive forums. Challenges can be issued and the entire group can compete, record their achievements and celebrate together. Best practices can be shared and encouraged. There is truly no end to the cooperative sharing and learning that can happen on social networks.

Many companies have now branded themselves as “social sellers,” tying in the basic strength of the personal contact of direct selling with the emerging social connectivity through technology.

It is the combination of social media technology—which continues to evolve and expand—and the direct selling business opportunity that makes social networking a strength for the industry. This can be seen most clearly in the emergence of “social selling” as a specific designation among direct selling companies. Many companies, regardless of product, have now branded themselves as “social sellers,” tying in the basic strength of the personal contact of direct selling with the emerging social connectivity through technology.

Whether the product is jewelry, phone services, or weight-management products and coaching, more and more companies are focusing on helping the direct seller leverage their social networks through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other social platforms. A few companies have dedicated significant budgets to developing their own platforms that link their independent representatives directly into not only popular networks, but also virtual meeting places they have created for their own needs—a private Facebook, so to speak. In 2011, the S.W.O.T. Analysis recognized that companies needed to invest more in understanding the emerging social tools, and that is precisely what has happened.

It only makes sense in a world where, according to a recent study published in the Personal and Ubiquitous Computing journal, smartphone users check their devices an average of 34 times per day.

What’s important

Cover Story

While tech advancements may have changed the delivery vehicle for some tools, providing them is not really negotiable.

Industry Education

Sadly, success has a habit of not only attracting admirers, but also detractors. There are those who would misrepresent the industry in the eyes of consumers, claiming fraudulent or illegal activity for what are the legitimate aspects of direct selling. Last year was a particularly challenging year for many companies, as the business model and their integrity were attacked by some.

What gives such attacks traction is that people unfamiliar with the industry do not fully understand how the direct selling channel of distribution works or how it contributes to the nation’s economy. Some have dredged up old stories and outdated stereotypes and paraded them out again to a public who doesn’t know that the Direct Selling Association works daily with government officials and regulators to ensure that legitimate companies are distinguished by law from those who engage in illegal behavior.

Transferring the knowledge of the direct selling industry’s commitment to ethical business practices more effectively is crucial in combating the negative perceptions that persist and the falsehoods that periodically arise. May we all continue to collectively defend the true value of direct selling and engage in a marked effort to educate the public, industry regulators, policy-makers and even those misguided and misinformed individuals who seek to tear down what this industry has built.

Tools and Training

Providing the salesforce with the tools and training they need to successfully run their businesses remains a critical function of any corporate home office. While tech advancements may have changed the delivery vehicle for some of the tools, providing them is not really negotiable. Additionally, the categories of information remain similar, regardless of company, product or tech innovation. These categories are recruiting, retention and training.

Perhaps more important to a company’s growth and longevity than a specific individual tool are the intangibles that are nurtured (or not) behind the scenes by the company executives. VideoPlus, a direct selling supplier, recently conducted an informal study of growing companies and found four common denominators:

    • Focus: A single product or product category was used as their “lead” to attract people, rather than trying to offer the entire product spread all at the same time to everyone.
    • Messaging: Each had a very basic set of prospecting tools that clearly explained the benefits of the product and business opportunity. The message was spread across a range of delivery media but remained consistent across them all. Additionally, they had a very clear system to help people understand how to deliver the message.
    • Leadership: Company executives maintained a healthy ego that focused on making the field win, rather than focusing on their personal gains. Most provided some sort of ongoing messaging from the leadership to the field.
  • Personal development: Each had specific personal development programs in place and an internal culture of personal development for executives and employees as well.

Direct selling remains the only opportunity that provides extensive tools and training to the independent representative at either low or no cost.


Cover Story

“We have this new space where we hang out, buy stuff, learn anything we want. It’s the first time humanity can share the same space.”
—Futurist David Houle, during the TEDx inaugural conference in December 2012


In 2011 we spoke to the change in the selling landscape due to the expansion of e-commerce. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers were seeing a major shift in market share due to the success of online channels of distribution. We predicted that this new direct-to-consumer relationship would be competition for direct sellers. But many direct selling companies have remained on the leading edge of e-commerce technology, and found innovative ways to combine people and their networks, high-tech delivery systems, and the sale of goods and services.

Through the development of apps, companies are integrating individual social networks with the power of crowdsourcing and group interactions, leveraging an idea put forth by futurist David Houle that our concept of “place” has changed forever. At a speech he gave in December 2012 as a part of the TEDx inaugural conference in Sarasota, Fla., Houle says there is now no time or distance limiting connectivity for the first time in human existence. He says that although 200 years ago technology started shrinking the distances between us first with the telegraph, and then with radio, TV and the Internet, the proliferation of mobile devices has completely eliminated the concept of distance.

Houle notes that there are 7.1 billion of us on planet Earth, and 5.6 billion of us have cellphones. He says, “We have this new space where we hang out, buy stuff, learn anything we want. It’s the first time humanity can share the same space.”

A well-designed app can indeed eliminate all time and distance barriers between a direct selling company and its independent representatives and their customers. Some weight-management product companies have produced apps that bring personal trainers to the customer’s home, no matter where they live. That same customer can join a virtual group and be cheered on by people across the country. A skincare company can provide a virtual makeup artist to give customers guidance, then take an order. iPads can be loaded with all the tools the rep would need to take a prospect from a brief opportunity presentation to enrollment to ordering, all navigated easily and quickly.

Clearly, the direct selling model continues to offer the best blend of people, technology, personal communications and relationships.



As we seek to inform the public of the business practices of direct selling, we realize that transparency will always be an essential component to greater understanding and acceptance. Our culture, in light of the financial misdeeds of so many politicians and corporate giants over the last many years, has come to demand more and more transparency. Even in the selling sphere, transparency is being demanded by the same empowered consumer who is disgusted with corporate greed and insensitivity.

According to, an independent firm that watches and aggregates consumer trends, people are so disillusioned with brands in general that most people would not raise an eyebrow if 70 percent of brands just ceased to exist. This staggering number surely speaks to the lack of relationship, and thus loyalty, that consumers have to any brand or company today. The site also states that just as people have a hard time connecting to other people who pretend to have no weaknesses or flaws, consumers “will become increasingly disenchanted when dealing with traditional, impersonal brands” who seem to exhibit the same impenetrability.

These consumers are becoming increasingly demanding about a brand having a personality and that “profit and personality can be compatible (think Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s, Tom’s shoes).” The direct selling business model’s reliance on the personal relationship that exists in the form of the independent representative between the company and the end consumer is a perfect illustration of what other traditional businesses are now striving for. As consumer demand for transparency increases, the environment can become one that encourages the growth of the independent representative.

Within direct selling and among the groups that support the business model, we understand that transparency is an important issue. The process of standardizing global statistical data collection, which the WFDSA made great strides toward in 2012, will help bring a higher level of credibility to the industry. Such data will enhance industry government affairs and media relations efforts as well.

Transparency is also why we at DSN will continue to speak out on these issues and support efforts to increase understanding. This is one of the primary reasons DSN conducts the research to publish the annual Global 100 list, to publicize the value and economic benefit these companies bring to the U.S. and the global economies, and the hundreds of thousands of opportunities that are created daily.

Last year, in an effort to support greater transparency, DSN adjusted its approach to the Global 100 list by instituting the Revenue Certification Form, or RCF, to ensure that the net sales figure submitted by a company was authenticated by the CEO as well as a certifier. It is DSN’s belief that any company receiving recognition as one of the Top 100 companies in the world would proudly share its numbers, for in doing so a company contributes to the distribution of information that clearly defines the magnitude of the economic impact direct selling makes upon the world.

The Future

Cover Story

As it has been for the past 150 years and will continue to be in the future, direct selling’s core value proposition is the business model itself.

The Business Model

In our 2011 report, we recognized the direct selling business model as the industry’s greatest strength. It remains that today, a distinct asset not found in any other tried and proven business model.

Collectively, the potential to earn money, the ease of entry, the opportunity to have a relationship with the business owner, and the offer of “privacy of consultation” regarding products and services combine to provide a perfect example of how a free-enterprise opportunity can be offered to the masses.

In addition, the opportunities to attach to charitable causes that are embraced and promoted by companies is yet another reason why direct selling appeals to so many people. Direct selling is truly an industry with a heart, providing financial support to local, national and global organizations that help fight childhood hunger and obesity, bring awareness to domestic violence, and look for cures for breast cancer and other diseases. It is an opportunity to affiliate with a good cause, one not typically found in traditional business models.

As it has been for the past 150 years and will continue to be in the future, direct selling’s core value proposition is the business model itself.

The Small-Business Owner

The traditional corporation has failed to provide the ultimate security it once seemed to promise—job security and a pension for a nicely funded retirement as a reward for working so hard. As a result, people are returning once again to small-business ownership. Today, the small-business owner is often held up as the savior to the current crisis.

What’s more, innovative online opportunities and home-based businesses are redefining Main Street, which is where most experts say true economic recovery will emerge. Main Street is now an open marketplace of people engaged in the business of providing products and services to meet consumer needs.

The Outlook

Over the course of its 150-year history, the direct selling industry has experienced both the best of times and the worst of times. It has triumphed in the face of new challenges, held steady while weathering economic storms, and fiercely defended its practices against misconceptions and outright attacks.

Through it all, the industry has never wavered in the belief that its business model has a positive social and economic impact on the world, offering people from all walks of life benefits that cannot be found in a collective anywhere else. The benefit of working at one’s own pace and being the boss. The benefit of a flexible schedule. The benefit of rewards and incentives for achievements. The benefit of personal development and skill training that comes along with being associated with a reasonable and affordable entry process.

People are now empowered. Their choices are more intelligent than any time in history because of access to information. Knowledge is indeed power. More people will choose direct selling opportunities because of the many and compelling benefits. More people will choose direct selling products because of the personalized service and human face behind the product. No one else can do it better.

In future years, these current times might be looked on as a defining moment—that the development of new technologies, the major business shifts and even the lingering economic crisis marked an important epoch in the history of the direct selling industry.

The Speed of Now: How to Harness the Acceleration of Everything

by Chris Brogan

Click here to order the Direct Selling News issue in which this article appeared.

Editor’s Note: We often write on the subject of technology here at DSN, though with changes and advancements coming more and more quickly, perhaps it is time to accelerate our coverage to keep pace. To that end, we are reprinting here an excellent article by Chris Brogan that appeared last July in SUCCESS magazine. Brogan speaks to what customers want, and why businesses should adapt to give it to them.

The average response time of a company’s public relations department to a public situation used to be 48 hours, then 24 hours. Now, with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, responses that don’t come within a few hours of the incident are considered too late. A few hours. If you’re asleep, who cares? You run a small business with only a few employees? Who cares? Everything happens at “now” speed, and you’re along for the ride.

The Quick Launch

Eric Ries wrote a must-read book for business owners of all stripes called The Lean Startup. Even if you don’t run a startup, the information captured in Ries’ book is worth getting into; it points to some effective tools for managing rapid change. For instance, Ries talks about the rise of using “live” prototypes in business, which involves shipping the “minimum viable product” to customers, then learning quickly from their feedback about this bare-bones prototype.

The days of “Let’s see what people say for a year” are quite over. Businesses are coming and going at an alarming churn rate, and those that turn over fast are quite often those that don’t use a rapid deployment and feedback structure to learn.

A Hundred Phones Ringing

How do you get your message out? Social media, right? Ask a small business owner whether they have a Facebook page, and they’ll often nod with a mix of pride at being cutting-edge and a kind of eyebrow wrinkle at feeling they’re still not 100 percent sure why they’ve gone down that road. And yet, it’s necessary.

Already, Facebook has reached over a billion customers. Though that may sound great to a prospective marketer, there are issues with this. Most people don’t seek a business interaction on Facebook. And most businesses put out cruddy attempts at interaction.

Let’s take a minute to review what Facebook is to you, the business owner. It’s another phone to answer. Putting up a Facebook page is like saying, “Please contact me here, and I’ll get back to you just as soon as I notice you called.” What happens when you don’t answer a prospective customer’s phone call? Right. It’s rarely a good thing. And yet…

If you have a Facebook account and you’re willing to monitor it and interact with people there, you have some opportunities, including a free focus group to comment on your products and services, potential lead generation with every “like” of your Facebook page that spreads your information to your fan’s friend list and a chance for community-building that will keep you top-of-mind between sales.

These are just a few thoughts specific to the Facebook social network platform. But what about Twitter? What about Google+? What about Pinterest? Are you thinking, There are too many social networks. Where should I spend my time?

Welcome to the speed-of-change problems, my friends. First, you can’t pick. If your buyers love Pinterest and you’re not there, you’re choosing not to set up and answer a hundred phones there. If your customers are on Google+, it doesn’t matter that you spent your time setting up a Facebook page. You don’t get to pick the platform. You only get to acknowledge your buyers and prospects where they choose to be and decide whether you can manage up to their expectations.

I’ll give you a personal example. In 2010, I decided to buy a new Chevy Camaro. I went online to see what information existed on local dealership websites. It turned out their sites were terrible. Further, they all wanted me to come in and start a human, face-to-face experience instead of letting me do my work online and saving both of us time.

Because I’m a blogger and that’s often synonymous with “complainer,” I wrote a post titled, “Dear Car Dealerships: Your Websites Suck.” Fourteen minutes after that post was written, it was read on Facebook by one Aaron Manley Smith, proprietor of a virtual car dealership called Motorphilia and someone whom I’d met once at a party. Aaron did some quick looking around and sent me a private message on Facebook that said something to the tune of, “I’ve found the exact car you’re looking for, and if you send me $1,000, I can start the process of buying it for you.”

I did it. I bought a car off the Internet from a guy I didn’t know very well. And it was a great experience. Here’s why: I had done my homework. I knew exactly which car I wanted. Aaron was a professional car buyer, so he knew exactly how to get the car I wanted. He got me the best price without any haggling (none of that “I have to check with my manager” business) because he knew we both knew the value of the car.

But none of this would have happened three years ago. Aaron wouldn’t have been listening on Facebook for a post like mine. I wouldn’t have known exactly what car I wanted and what it would cost. I wouldn’t have been ready and willing to make this transaction happen. PayPal might not have seemed a trusted source for sending that initial $1,000.

So realize this: Your customers, right now, are getting faster than you. They are doing a lot of the research without you. They are coming into the buying situation with a lot more knowledge than they had before. And they have more options than ever before. Should this scare you? A little. However, if you’re happier with a more informed customer, you’re about to enter a golden age—if you get faster along with them.

Mobile Velocity

To stay ahead of the curve, you’ve got to keep up with the technology that people are using to buy your products or services. As more affordable tablets continue to enter the marketplace, predictions are that tablets will outsell laptops (forget desktops!) not only for the holiday season, but also for all of 2013. But what trends do the devices point toward? And more important, what can you do with this information?

    • In the home, tablets are being used to find snackable information while people are watching TV. For instance, IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) is a popular tablet application because people will frequently ask, “Who’s that actor and what was she in before this?”
    • Tablets are being handed out to sales staff and other light computer users because the majority of their activities involve responding to content: check email, review a calendar, watch a quick video, answer a quick back-and-forth on a social network.
    • One of the biggest buying demographics for tablets is people aged 35 to 75, and one reason cited is eyesight. It’s harder to look at a 3-inch smartphone display than a 9-inch tablet display, and thus more and more people are picking up Nooks, Kindles, Playbooks and iPads.
  • Across the board, website visits are happening more and more frequently from a mobile browser (either tablet or smartphone).

As a result of the above activities, these four conclusions must be considered as integral parts to any business strategy:

  1. People want information now.
  2. People want snack-sized information.
  3. People want your site to be mobile-friendly.
  4. People want simple interaction instead of longer-form interaction. (It’s harder to type on a tablet or smartphone than a laptop, and if that’s what they’re using, then you have to presume they don’t want to type as much.)

Getting up to Speed

Business owners of any size and shape have more opportunity than ever before to create advantages in this age of immediacy. Here are some next steps:

    • Set up a listening station. This can be as simple as typing a handful of keywords into Google Alerts that would indicate potential buyers. For instance, if you sell pet supplies, you might set up searches on Twitter and Facebook or elsewhere for “new puppy” or something similar. Listening online is the least-used tool that will help you set up the new digital sales channel. Most people are worrying about how they’re going to “speak” into these new places, but listening is the big game.
    • Create useful and engaging content for those tablets. If people are consuming more bite-sized information than ever before, what are you giving them to snack on? If more people are using YouTube as the No. 2 search engine in the world and if most small business sales start with searches (over 68 percent of your web traffic starts out as a search), can you create brief, useful videos for your audience?
    • Join the mobile world. Check your company’s website right now on your smartphone. Is it easy to use? Are people guided where you most want them to click? Simplify your site for mobile use. This is an inexpensive (around $500 for a professional’s services in most cases) piece of work that will pay you back fairly quickly, given that most traffic reaching your site is now coming from mobile or tablet browsers (over two-thirds, and you can check your server reports if that number is hard to believe).
  • Create helpful information in an email format. This is my personal favorite. Try this: Transform your email newsletter into something that’s not very HTML-formatted (meaning fewer graphics and other web elements) and less than 350 words long. Try sticking to one call to action per email, one next step people can take.

To me, the speed of change is something we can’t ignore. Unless you’re seeking to close down your business in a few years and not hand it over to another generation, these are the stakes in the current game. This isn’t something to think about over the next few years. This is something to adapt to now and on an ongoing basis. But you don’t have to listen to me. Embrace this, and you’ll see a great next few years for your business.

Chris BoganChris Brogan is CEO & President of Human Business Works, a business design company using publishing and media to provide tools and smarts to help professionals work better, do the work they want, and to be brave. He is theNew York Times bestselling co-author of The Impact Equation and Trust Agents (both cowritten with Julien Smith), as well as Google+ for Business and Social Media 101. Visit him at