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February 01, 2010

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming, February 2011

John FlemingLast month, our cover story was “Turning the Economic Corner.” With the economy still at the forefront of our minds, I thought I would pass on some thoughts shared at a recent breakfast meeting. T. Boone Pickens was the keynote speaker, and several other notables here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area spoke to those in attendance. The basic message we are hearing over and over is that we have hit the bottom of this recession and the worst is behind us. However, I think the mood of the country is still one of cautious optimism.

The theme for the breakfast meeting was the economy, and five speakers and three panelists shared their thoughts from both local and national perspectives. Mayor Tom Leppert of Dallas hosted the breakfast and talked very optimistically about his city and what he learned from 2008 and 2009. He stated that history may describe this recession not as “the great recession of 2008–09,” but, quite possibly, as “the recession that made America great!” Stats and facts were discussed, as well as a bit of debate about whether the recession is actually over. The bump in the gross domestic product in third-quarter 2009 is certainly debatable, due to the national government’s Cash for Clunkers program, which stimulated the auto industry.

What really got my attention at this event were the thoughts shared about this being a “jobless” recovery. We all know that jobs have been lost and that unemployment is hovering around 10 percent. All major industries were described as having lost jobs, with two exceptions—health and education. No jobs were lost in those categories. If we were an industry, we would proudly have been in the category of being perhaps the only industry that increased earning opportunities during one of the most challenging years in the past 50, even though revenues for the year are expected to have been in decline. Obviously, the experiences and challenges of 2010 resulted in a learning experience for direct selling companies. Expenses were cut, and new ways and means were tried and tested, resulting in, perhaps, more effective ways to manufacture and distribute products and services, as well as tell our unique stories, when practically everything related to the economy has been shrinking.

The big thought for direct sellers may just be how to capitalize on a jobless recovery from the recession. One panelist stressed the importance of three things: education, education, education. I said to myself (not discounting the importance of education, because I am an advocate): entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship! I believe we are entering what may eventually be described as one of the great moments in history for the direct selling industry. Entrepreneurs create earning opportunities, and there is no finer example than a direct selling company. This is why I have so much respect for the courage and commitment of the independent contractor. Independent contractors often join a company with very little in terms of skills and experience. However, they can learn the fundamentals of a few basic skills, share the opportunity with others, and, before long, an opportunity that started with one person expands to hundreds and more, directly and indirectly. What a phenomenal business model!

A rather brilliant word of advice came from another of the panelists at the meeting: There are three things that every American can do to ensure that we are taking the personal steps that will result in our personal recovery from any challenges we may have faced. 1. Pay off debts. 2. Protect our national interest in whatever way we can (buy American). 3. Prepare—think strategically (long term)! The panelist said, “Short-term fixes are not good.” As I listened to these comments, my thoughts went to “Wow.” The advice was clear, spot on, and yet, the only way most Americans can do what she advised is through an earning vehicle other than the traditional job. That vehicle is called entrepreneurship. It allows one to build an income commensurate with one’s goals and commitment to plans that support personal growth, skill building and good habits. A jobless recovery from a recession that may one day be recognized as “the recession that made America great” could ignite some of the best times for direct sellers. The recruiting pool is obviously larger than ever. As we look toward the promise of the future and greater prosperity for all, the need for micro-enterprise will be discussed more and more as a viable solution around the world, even by economists. We are living in a wonderful time!

I close this month with a salute to Nancy Laichas, our Managing Editor for the past four and a half years, who will be leaving Direct Selling News to continue her career and passion for this industry in other ways. Nancy was here when I arrived, and she has been the managing force that has contributed immensely to what Direct Selling News has become as a publication. We wish Nancy much success as she embarks upon her new path.

Until next month, enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief
Direct Selling News