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May 02, 2010

Top Desk

Changing Lives— Real Commitment or Marketing Spin? Celebrating 35 Years of Purpose

by Doug Braun, President, Nikken International Inc.

The direct selling industry prides itself on providing the opportunity for anyone to change their life. I am proud of many aspects of our industry. After nearly 20 years, I remain steadfast in my belief that no other industry provides the opportunity we do for any individual, regardless of their background, personal or financial situation, to create the business and life they desire. We change lives on a bigger scale and more frequently than any other industry. And while I believe this to be true, I challenge all of us to look at ourselves and our organizations to consider what our real commitment is beyond the vehicle for change. Is providing the vehicle enough?

In my opinion, if the commitment to changing lives is not an integral part of your company’s DNA, then it’s marketing spin—not to say that marketing spin is all bad. In fact, I’m a proud marketer. However, I argue that making this commitment part of your corporate vision, mission, goals and purpose not only completes the promise, but that it can also have a long-lasting effect on sales, longevity and retention, as well as a positive influence on our industry as a whole. A real commitment to changing lives should change an organization’s focus and purpose from facing inward (the company) to outward, toward those people you do business with. This is logical but subtle, and its execution often goes beyond powerful statements in collateral material or in a speech from a stage. A change in focus and purpose is also a key differentiator of our DNA at Nikken that, I admit, I didn’t immediately understand at first. I didn’t fully appreciate the power, strength and focus it offers an organization.

Nikken is fortunate to be celebrating 35 years of success this year. Yes, we’re celebrating 35 years of changing lives, but, just as important, we are celebrating 35 years of committing to a singular purpose and philosophy.

While Nikken began with a single product, our Magsteps, using the direct selling method of distribution, our company was not created with a focus on a product or a method of distribution. Nikken was founded on a philosophy that continues to guide us 35 years later. Our founder understood that the pressures of daily living—a busy schedule, the demands of work, inadequate family or personal time, not enough rest, environmental challenges—can lead to a life thrown out of balance, a disturbance of our natural equilibrium. That understanding led to our company’s purpose being focused on changing lives by helping others find balance in five key areas (pillars) of their life. Our founder recognized that wellness depends on recognizing and sustaining what he called the 5 Pillars of Health™: healthy body, mind, family, society and finances. A balanced approach to living strengthens each of these pillars and results in a more satisfying, healthy and rewarding lifestyle.
It was our founder’s belief that if the company focused on helping others find that balance, those people would enjoy total wellness, creating significantly more growth and success in our business than by focusing solely on building a company. Our Japanese heritage has greatly influenced our corporate culture and has instilled a commitment to this philosophy. While we may have acted more consistently with our philosophy in some years than in others, it has given those of us on the corporate side and our consultants in the field a strong sense of purpose that has protected and strengthened the business for more than three decades. As a part of our DNA, it has provided all of us with a strong understanding of why we do what we do, why we care beyond balance sheets and income statements. Our philosophy has kept us from being shortsighted on a particular product, technology or initiative, and has forced us to consistently refocus on the bigger picture, our purpose.

Many companies talk about purpose; few actually live it. Our industry takes it on the chin at times; however, I believe we have the opportunity to deliver on this point more than any other. Author Roy Spence wrote a book on the importance of purpose called It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. Today, people want to do business with companies they trust, companies with a purpose, companies whose actions are consistent with that purpose. Our 5 Pillars of Health philosophy is a simple concept that could have easily remained only a concept or, worse yet, become marketing spin had we not implemented a steadfast commitment, belief and focus to make it our purpose.

A strong sense of purpose has many benefits to an organization. Ours guides us in all of our decisions. It lives in our vision, mission and goals. It forces us to take the next step in thinking initiatives and actions through to the point where they intersect and affect customers and our consultants. However, it’s also not the end-all answer to everything, and it unfortunately doesn’t keep us from making bad business decisions, but it can help us recover from them faster and stronger. Nikken is a company with a strong sense of purpose. Our purpose holds us steady; it is executed in every aspect of our business, and it is exemplified in our commitment to growing people through our Humans Being More program. Humans Being More is not a business seminar, even though it can help you be more successful in everything you do. It’s also not some self-help program that promises to make you a different person. Instead, Humans Being More helps you to understand yourself—to define your needs and values—and shows you how to achieve precisely those goals that are important to you. Humans Being More is an intensive, two-day experience for men and women wanting to know who they are, what they truly want in life, and how they can achieve it through a self-discovery process. This program plays a key role in our business and is required at our first leadership position. Our commitment to this program is endless and doesn’t waver. It’s a key component of our commitment to changing lives. It’s also part of our DNA to the point that it is our corporate vision—a purpose and a vision focused outward on our partners. This commitment isn’t always easy, and we have lost our way from time to time. But, as part of our DNA, we always refocus and come back to it. I also find my role in the company more focused and enjoyable because of it.

Like many of you, I have found Jim Rohn’s quotes both simple and profound. Jim was, and still is, a mentor to me, and I had the privilege of knowing and working with him for many years. I can find a “Rohn” quote for nearly any situation in business and my personal life. There is one quote I use regularly when I discuss Nikken’s commitment to changing lives  with new consultants: “When the promise is clear, the price gets easy.”

Doug Braun is President of Nikken International Inc.