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June 01, 2017

DSA News

DSEF Academics Yield Data and Third-Party Validation

by Josephy N. Mariano

Click here to order the June 2017 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


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As champion and advocate for the direct selling business model, DSA is tasked with preserving an environment in which direct selling companies can operate effectively and free from undue regulation. Efforts to educate policymakers, media and the public on the value of direct selling as a go-to-market strategy and entrepreneurial opportunity are all the more effective when made in collaboration with credible third-party validators, backed by sound and compelling data.

The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF), of which I have the honor of being President, partners with the academic community to expand knowledge of the direct selling model through education and research initiatives. Under the stewardship of my colleague and DSEF Executive Director Gary Huggins, the DSEF team is working diligently to not only meet but exceed its targets of engaging students and building meaningful relationships with professors and other influencers.

Through classroom content and campus programs, such as a recent entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility event at the University of San Francisco (USF) and hosted by DSEF Board Member and Fellow Dr. Elizabeth Davis, Dean of the School of Management, USF, students are given insights into direct selling as a path to micro-entrepreneurship. These business leaders, policymakers, media representatives, and consumers of tomorrow hear from DSA member company executives and learn about real-world business scenarios and the corporate decision-making processes of dynamic and conscientious companies.

DSA’s advocacy is “evidence-based,” relying on verifiable statistics and the validation of academics and opinion leaders. The DSEF Fellows Program—currently numbering nearly 70 leading academics—is yielding a rich supply of data and statistics that underscores the validity and vibrancy of our business model. The Program is also cultivating a cadre of credible third-party validators whom DSA can deploy to speak objectively about direct selling.

DSA members can also leverage DSEF research when conveying to the public, legislators, and would-be salespeople the legitimacy and scope of direct selling. The Socio-Economic Impact Study (SEIS) of Direct Selling in the United States, for example, measures and reports on the economic and social effects of direct selling. DSA invited DSEF Fellow and SEIS partner, Dr. Robert Peterson, Associate Dean for Research, John T. Stuart III Centennial Chair in Business Administration, and Charles Hurwitz Fellow, IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, to present data from SEIS at a DSA and Congressional Direct Selling Caucus event on Capitol Hill in March. The event was well attended by Members of Congress, congressional staff, media, and other guests, who gained a far greater appreciation of how direct selling benefits the American people and economy.

At DSA’s Annual Meeting this month, Dr. Anne Coughlan, DSEF Fellow and Polk Brothers Chair in Retailing, Professor of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, will be presenting DSEF’s Join Stay Leave study, which examines the many reasons why sellers join, stay, and leave DSA member companies—an invaluable tool for learning more about the motivations for becoming involved with direct selling.

The unbiased opinions of independent third-party validators such as Drs. Davis, Peterson, and Coughlan and other DSEF Fellows, based on objective research and data, carry a great deal of weight and underscore the credibility of direct selling to a degree that is not easy, either for member companies or DSA alone, to obtain. I urge all direct selling company executives to visit to learn more about how to support and take part in DSEF research initiatives and campus events.

NameJoseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association and the Direct Selling Education Foundation.