June 01, 2012
DSN Global 100: The Top Direct Selling Companies in the World
by J.M. Emmert
Table of Contents
Intro • Global Outlook • Why the Global 100? • The 2011 DSN Global 100: The Top 10 • The 2011 DSN Global 100: 11-100 • Topping the Charts • DSN Global 100 • The $100 Million Club • Celebrating the DSN Global 100
Direct Selling: The Rules of Perspective
Painting a picture of the global direct selling industry really depends on perspective.
by J.M. Emmert
Created from a lateral view—that is, outside the industry—it is generally painted with broad brush strokes as a business landscape populated by small- and medium-sized companies vying for consumer acceptance, a sector sometimes reacted to with less-than-positive perceptions. Those looking in from the outside often miss the success of the publicly traded direct selling companies that have averaged triple-digit percent increases in stock price over the last three years, as well as the privately held multinationals that continue to show year-to-year sales growth.
But produced from a centered view—one from within the industry—it is a vibrant and thriving channel, full of infinite possibilities, an agent of social change, a pathway to economic and personal freedom, and a harbinger of better, prosperous times to come. Included in this picture are the faces of 87 million people worldwide who have started their own businesses.
Any work of art, and any business model, is open to interpretation. And that’s the challenge facing the direct selling industry: how to change the perception of an industry that is often ignored by big business, big investors and big chunks of the labor force—an industry that in 2011 contributed more than $132 billion to the global economy.
The Power of Observation
Direct selling is a bit like Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People at The Louvre: It’s there, but everyone is more interested in Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Those with little knowledge or understanding of art—and little time to dawdle—hurry down the traditional path to the recognized masterwork. If only they paused and reflected, they would see freedom in the revolutionary ideas that are changing the business landscape.
The fact is: Direct selling is leading people out of the grips of economic depression and back into prosperity. Sales growth for the Top 10 companies in this year’s DSN Global 100 list came in at a median 26.8 percent, the high at 60 percent (Peru’s Belcorp). American companies Amway and Herbalife had increases of 30 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Even Avon, which had its share of problems this year, reported a 9.7 increase.
Globally, two direct selling markets—South Africa and Peru—surpassed the billion-dollar barrier in 2012, joining 19 other countries from all four major regions of the world.
Still, the industry receives minimal recognition from the government—in fact, the U.S. Labor Department does not even include entrepreneurs in its statistics—and is most often overlooked by jobless workers eager to reenter the mainstream labor force.
A Window on the World
In 1413 Filippi Brunelleschi set the art world on its head when he created a painting from a window on the world. People were used to seeing only one perspective; Brunelleschi offered another, one that reinforced the notion that all reality converges and intersects at some end point. In other words, the picture changed, depending on your point of view.
While his work focused attention on the religious and intellectual issues of the time, the analogy is relevant for today’s time and place, where the No. 1 discussion among nations is the economy, and jobs in particular.
In April, the U.S. Department of Labor released its latest figures, and the picture wasn’t pretty. U.S. job growth slumped for the second straight month. Only 115,000 jobs were added in April—39,000 fewer than the previous month of March. America had 13.7 million jobless workers.
Optimism over a .1 drop in the unemployment rate for April (from the previous 8.2 percent) was short-lived when it was discovered the drop was due to an estimated 342,000 Americans dropping out of the job market in April alone. The bad news continued: The share of working-age Americans working or actively seeking employment reached its lowest level since 1981. The share of men in the labor force fell to the lowest figure since the Labor Department began collecting data in 1948—70 percent. There was a drop in young people in the labor force as well.
However, in the midst of these economic woes, not once did the perspective shift to the industry that is a true job creator: the direct selling industry. As Amy Robinson, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the U.S. Direct Selling Association notes, “Direct selling is exactly what helps [workers] bridge the gap or even becomes their primary source of income. We must find ways to change the public’s mindset about what ‘opportunity’ means and become part of the national solution.”
A Fresh Point of View
So, while the industry plays a large role on the worldwide stage, it remains largely unnoticed. There exists that need to shift perspective, to show where those lines of reality intersect and converge in relation to economic and social change happening in the world. And where is that? It is at the nexus point, the place where the most extraordinary ideas are born. And what industry lies on that point? Yes, direct selling.
You will find the most innovative ideas that have transformed and transported people from all corners of the world in those small, medium and large companies that comprise the industry.
Social entrepreneurship is flourishing, which allows independent business owners to earn income while embracing their desire for social responsibility. Direct selling is one of the most generous industries by nature, contributing over $400 million annually to feed malnourished children, provide disaster relief, and support local, national and international organizations and associations.
The industry is full of innovative products and services that uplift, enrich and protect precious resources, enabling entrepreneurs to successfully duplicate repeatable results and share their knowledge and wisdom with others who want to share in the opportunities presented.
Forward-thinking ideas like social and challenge marketing engage a new generation that craves a relationship with the global community while relishing the flexibility and control for their personal and professional lives.
The Eye of the Beholder
In Brunelleschi’s painting, the rules of perspective allowed the viewer to be a participant in the process of perception. The eye of the beholder became the center of the visible world, a world that exists to be experienced by people just discovering their power to experience it.
From a direct selling point of view, the rules of perspective allow the entrepreneur to be a participant in creating their new reality as an independent business owner. That is true opportunity.