October 01, 2013
An Unprecedented Opportunity for Direct Selling
by Joseph N. Mariano
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.”
As recently as the 1960s, direct selling was viewed as a stagnant industry, and few unfamiliar with the sales channel recognized it as a dynamic and influential force in the American economy. By the 1980s, the establishment of statutory independent contractor status for direct sellers ensured the viability of the business model from an operational standpoint, yet challenges such as misperceptions in the media and a lack of understanding of direct selling’s direct contributions to the U.S. economy continued to impact the sales channel, as they do today.
For those of us who proudly stand as veterans of direct selling, we have witnessed something incredible throughout the years —we have seen the passion and determination with which men and women of every age, ethnicity and educational background have worked to build successful businesses by way of the direct selling business model. We have seen the direct selling nation work as one in support of the ideals we stand for: ethical business practices, service to the community, and a commitment to economic and social empowerment.
It is this steadfast commitment that unites us all, from the latest direct selling recruit, to the most veteran direct selling executive. Through our common goal to serve as a force for good in the world, we each have the power to enact change, to educate those outside our industry about the truths of our model, and to ensure that our rights as sellers and business owners are protected.
Through our common goal to serve as a force for good in the world, we each have the power to enact change.
Today, the American landscape is changing. Social media and technological advancements are making it increasingly possible for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and a will to succeed to launch a successful business. Entrepreneurial education and online platforms are helping to bridge the once-insurmountable education gap. And, according to U.S. Census data, by 2050, new immigrants and their children will account for 83 percent of the growth in the working-age population.
Still, direct selling remains uniquely positioned to provide opportunities to all, even as the U.S. workforce continues to evolve.
It is not enough to say that our success benefits both local communities and the U.S. economy at large; rather, we must recognize—and let it be known—that millions of men and women across the country rely on our growth and progress to support their livelihoods.
That is why, this autumn, the Direct Selling Association will host a number of key events geared toward empowering our direct selling distributors and executives alike, and educating those unfamiliar with the sales channel—including members of the media and policymakers—about our role in the economy.
These influencers impact not only our industry, but also our ability to promote competition in the marketplace, our efforts to provide business resources and training to budding entrepreneurs, and our involvement in countless philanthropic initiatives both at home and abroad.
In recent days, we have seen how our sales channel can provide amazing examples of leadership, determination and success at its finest. During DSA’s Third Annual Women’s Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., Sept. 24–25, female leaders from across the sales channel gathered to share personal and professional insights with one another and with members of Congress. This dynamic group of women brought to the table their personal narratives on what inspired their career paths and what drives them to stand proudly as advocates of the direct selling industry today.
But, that was just the beginning.
Once again, direct selling executives from across the country —and, in some instances, across the globe—have made the trek to the nation’s capital to start October with DSA’s Global Regulatory Summit. These inspiring men and women come to share insights and resources with one another to help the direct selling network, as a whole, tackle the latest regulatory challenges to impact the sales channel. This event provides not only an invaluable education opportunity for executives, but it also allows all in attendance to develop a better understanding of the whys and hows behind up-and-coming regulatory challenges. Recognizing that these challenges impact executives as well as all levels of today’s direct selling businesses, this year’s event includes a presentation by members of DSA’s Diversity & Empowerment Council about the opportunities companies have to incorporate diversity and empowerment initiatives into their daily practices.
And, as growth and progress remain vital components to the improvement, achievement and success of our industry, DSA is proud to host the first-ever Top 20 DSA Member Companies Dinner & Congressional Briefings event to help demonstrate just how much the direct sales channel has developed and evolved in recent years. As executives from the 20 largest DSA member companies descend on Washington Oct. 9–10 to celebrate their companies’ achievements, direct sellers will share their success as these executives participate in congressional briefings with the congressional Hispanic and Black caucuses. Make no mistake, this event has the capacity to create tremendous opportunities for our industry as executives participate in valuable conversations with these two very important congressional bodies, demonstrating the impact direct selling has on the communities they represent.
Last, but certainly not least, on Oct. 23, DSA will welcome the most influential ambassadors of the direct selling industry to Washington—the direct sellers themselves. During the first-ever Direct Selling Summit on Capitol Hill, dozens of direct selling distributors will share with members of Congress and their staffs why they each chose to launch a career in direct selling. This will not only be a memorable moment for the distributors themselves, but it will also serve as an impactful reminder to today’s elected officials of the importance of direct selling to the lives of countless Americans. Time and again we, as direct selling leaders, hear how an individual’s heartwarming success story has shaped another’s perspective of our great industry. At a time when misinformation can spread across the Internet at lightning speed, it is our direct selling distributors who possess an unmatched ability to make sure the greater public learns the facts about our industry and the many ways we change lives for the better. That is why we, as one direct selling network, can’t help but feel incredible excitement for this year’s Summit and the tremendous opportunities it presents.
There is no doubt that real challenges continue to confront our sales channel today. However, while our industry continues to enjoy consistent growth—and as once under-represented demographic groups continue to foster the evolution of direct selling—we face an opportunity unlike any we have encountered before. We have an opportunity to further our goals of providing personal and economic freedom for all. We have an opportunity to communicate effectively and accurately about who and what we are, and what has inspired us to make direct selling a part of our lives. And, we have an opportunity to serve as a major contributor to the rebound of the U.S. economy as a major competitor on the global stage.
After all, we cannot succeed by dollars alone. Our success depends on the voices of those committed to, and passionate about, our industry. It is through their voices that improvement, achievement and success will always have meaning.
Joseph N. Mariano is President of the Direct Selling Association.