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June 01, 2010

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming, June 2010

John FlemingEach of us, during the course of our lives, celebrates many accomplishments and achievements that affect our own lives as well as the lives of others. This month is a time to acknowledge and celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Direct Selling Association (DSA). Founded in 1910 as the Agents Credit Association, the DSA has protected the rights of direct sellers, fought for our way of doing business, and done more to preserve the freedoms that allow a direct selling business model to exist than any other single entity. Of the 10 founding member companies, only one remains in the active ranks of membership today: Avon Products Inc.

As I recently retraced the highlights of the last 100 years on the DSA’s website, I found myself reflecting on the great battles the association has fought for all who engage in direct selling as a channel of distribution. I remember so many of the legal challenges. Some were “life-threatening” for the industry at the time, and many simply challenged the credibility of direct sellers as viable and ethical businesspeople. Armed with a strong mission created by some significant pioneers and leaders, the DSA has always been there to protect, serve and promote direct selling as a viable business vehicle for what has become an industry that attracts millions around the world. Today we even have a World Federation of Direct Selling Associations to ensure governance, education, communication, consumer protection and ethics in the global marketplace. We take this moment to salute the staff, both current and previous, for all they do to protect our freedoms and ensure that the direct selling business model is allowed to continue to grow, thrive and be the dream come true for hundreds of millions of the world’s people!

We also hope you enjoy your trip through this month’s cover story, the DSN Global 100. Our journey to bring you this ranking was long and arduous. Researching and making contact with more than 150 companies is a daunting task in itself, but we also experienced challenges with different time zones and languages, including how to bridge gaps in communication. If we found a company’s results to be within the range of the top 100 companies globally, we proudly included them with appropriate explanations, where applicable.

We believe the DSN Global 100 will support the research efforts of those desiring information about the companies involved in direct selling and how they perform as a group and individually in comparison to one another. Many will look to determine the number of party plan companies in the ranking; the number of companies that use the term “network marketing”; and those in the categories of nutrition, beverage, home décor, skin care and cosmetics, hobby, fashion, etc. Perhaps this data will inspire the interest of a few business-school students, who will then work to uncover whether there is a growth category or model within the industry. We obviously hope that the DSN Global 100 ranking will encourage both interest and thought. As I reflected on the questions of academics and private-equity investors who call for information on direct selling companies, it became apparent that those of us who can provide the information must provide the information. If we do not make the facts and statistics about the industry readily available, we cannot be concerned about image or ethics and whether the marketplace views us as a viable and credible industry. The industry comprises many privately held companies that could certainly have chosen not to share any information at all; however, overall, we encountered the cooperative spirit that makes this industry so unique. The facts are in: One-hundred companies represent more than $64 billion in annual revenues. I know you will enjoy your review of the DSN Global 100 ranking.

Our sincere thanks to all who helped and supported the DSN Global 100 project, especially those of you we interacted with and who provided your optimism and energy for what you are committed to do, not just what you have done.

Lastly, we salute a special person on the DSA staff. As with any organization, success only happens when the leader(s) guide and direct the organization effectively. Neil Offen, President and CEO of the DSA for more than 35 years, is now serving his last year with the association. Neil has been remarkable! Through the many years, Neil has faced challenge after challenge. He has been the voice for direct selling in Washington, D.C., and has worked relentlessly to identify those who understood our way of doing business and would join us in any battle against unjust legislation. Few leaders of any organization will stand the test of time as Neil has. We not only salute you at this special moment in the history of the association, but, on behalf of hundreds of thousands around the world, we thank you!

Until next month… enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief