The Direct Selling Association’s incoming President, Joseph Mariano, is often fond of explaining the strength and purpose of a trade association by comparing it to fasces, the Roman symbol of strength that still adorns many of our nation’s historical monuments. The fasces, a group of simple reeds bound together, symbolize strength in unity and numbers. Individually the reeds can easily be broken—bound together as fasces they are almost indestructible.
It seems that no matter my age or stage of life, I am surrounded by a culture of women. I attended an all-girls school for 10 years, where our senior class slogan was “Women of Wonder.” At that stage of our lives we were full of wonder and curiosity, but had yet to fully understand where that wonder could lead us. My first job was in the Office of the First Lady at the White House under Hillary Rodham Clinton and it was an honor to work with some awe-inspiring women who were true role models. I recently became a mother for the first time—to a daughter—and throughout my pregnancy and early days of motherhood I was touched by the sisterhood of supportive women I encountered and connected with immediately. And, for the past eight years I have had the privilege of working at the Direct Selling Association on behalf of 16 million direct sellers—nearly 90 percent of whom are women.
At the mention of the word “Whistlestop,” students of American history certainly envision the iconic photo of Harry S Truman, on the rear platform of a train, displaying a newspaper proclaiming “Dewey Defeats Truman.” The image was important not only for the historical significance of Truman’s election to the presidency, but also for the significance of his campaign travels, covering long distances over vast expanses of land by train, stopping in small cities and towns to greet the citizens.
According to the Chinese calendar, 2011 is the year of the Rabbit, which means a year in which one should strive to be creative and compassionate. For the direct selling industry, 2011 might well be the year of focusing on a continued and diligent commitment to ethics. During his address at the Annual Meeting several years ago, Direct Selling Association (DSA) President Neil Offen challenged our industry to be both creative and compassionate by redoubling efforts to make direct sellers the envy of other industries by “walking the walk and talking the talk” on high ethical standards and consumer protection. DSA companies responded in earnest to this challenge with renewed vigor and commitment to raising the bar on ethics on a variety of fronts.
The dawn of a new year is always a good opportunity to evaluate and refresh business operations and processes within a company, and it’s no different for a trade association like the Direct Selling Association (DSA). The DSA Board of Directors has approved a strategic plan that will guide the association through the next five years. Special thanks to Jim Northrop for his leadership as Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee during the development of this plan.
The past year has been a busy one on the advocacy front, with many legislative successes for direct sellers. The combined efforts of DSA members and staff have resulted in positive outcomes in many instances, with the ultimate goal of protecting direct selling companies and the independent business people they represent. Here are just a few key issues the DSA worked on in 2010.
Last month in this space, Neil Offen, DSA’s President, gave his analysis of the direct selling industry. He promised that I, as his successor in that office, would share my thoughts this month. I’ve worked with Neil for 25 years and generally have found his insights and observations to be spot on. But this time (in an obvious effort to be at least a little bit controversial and interesting for our readers), I am going to disagree with Neil.
As I approach retirement on June 30, 2011, I am getting more nostalgic about the 40 years I will have spent at DSA, and more analytical about the things that over these past decades have made an impression on me. I thought I’d share some thoughts and observations with you today. Next month, my successor, Joe Mariano, who becomes president and CEO of DSA on July 1, will share his vision for the industry’s future. Here are a few hypothetical questions on the industry for your consideration:
The Direct Selling Association community recently suffered the loss of two devoted servants of the industry: DSA Vice President of Finance Kathy Lindner and DSA Vice President of Research Eileen O’Neill. Between them, they worked for DSA for nearly 65 years. Along the way, they impacted many lives, both directly and indirectly. They were friends and colleagues to many and will be sorely missed.
For direct sellers, going international is a bit like taking your first dive into the pool. It is something you really want to do, but it takes time to get over the trepidation.