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May 01, 2010

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming, May 2010


John FlemingOur cover story this month probes how important it is to understand the changing demographics of America, with a focus on the Hispanic segment. As we assigned and reviewed the story, including thoughts from the executives we interviewed, it became apparent that we would also share information smaller companies may appreciate. Larger companies always have internal market-research departments that make significant investments to stay abreast of changes in the marketplace. However, smaller and newer companies that are not yet ready to invest extensively might be well-served by what we share.

America is changing, and the key question for all companies will be: Is the company ready to maintain/gain market share in the years to come? When the marketplace changes, a company can easily find itself in a very different position, not because their products and services are outdated, but because their marketing efforts may not be keeping pace with marketplace changes. The following sound bites are worthy of note:

“The demographics or characteristics of the American population are about to undergo some of their biggest changes ever.”

“By 2050, Americans of non-Hispanic background are projected to decrease from the current 85 percent to 75 percent. But, at the same time, the Americans of Hispanic descent will roughly double to 25 percent.”

“About a third of the [American] marketplace is Hispanic, African-American or Asian right now, and it’s growing at three times the rate of the Anglo population.”

Addressing the previous question may require an assessment of strategy that goes far beyond simple translation. These changes will impact the company’s employees, executive team, shareholders and, of course, consumers and independent contractors. In the cover story, several executives speak to this, and I want to share my personal observations of the industry, which now span more than 40 years. These changes in the marketplace—now being focused on diligently—were discussed more than 15 years ago. I remember the first diversity programs and all the discussions and retreats focusing on the subject. I also remember the data presented. However, comprehensive diversity strategies focused on gaining market share, inclusive of corporate leadership development, appear to remain rather invisible to many of us who observe the industry.

As an observer and former executive in the industry, I do not really see much diversity in the ranks of company leadership. Without diversity in those who make the decisions, it may be difficult to really understand the culture, values and priorities of a new consumer base. As I interact with some of our leaders, I often feel that the conversation about a changing America is discussed by some as being about someone or something else beyond what is most important today. The U.S. military has determined that meeting the needs of a more diverse America is of critical importance to the defense of our nation. Programs are being developed and evaluated to increase the number of diverse candidates eligible for officer ranks, and a corporation is no different. When the leadership ranks of an organization continue to be very unlike the diversity in the targeted marketplace, a credibility issue will soon emerge, regardless of the material available in other languages and the graphics that appear to identify with the targeted audience.

Direct selling companies have probably done more to open the doors for all people, from all walks of life, than any other form of business. It may be time to create and implement programs that contribute to developing the leadership needed within the executive ranks. Such a focus would not be designed to interfere with the entrepreneurial opportunities offered to the independent contractors, but more focused on the strategies developed by those who are responsible for developing the corporation’s human resources. Perhaps this focus has actually been ignored for too long. The attendee demographic for this year’s Direct Selling Association Annual Meeting may provide us with a glimpse of how much progress companies are making, and I look forward to seeing you there!

I hope you enjoy the cover story, for the topic is one that we will revisit again before the year is out. Our cover story is an important one, and so are the other stories we will bring to you on the changing demographics of America and how the direct selling/network marketing way of doing business will be impacted and advantaged.
As we  go to press, we are preparing to host the first DSN Global 100 celebration. Look for the final rankings in the June issue. Our 2009 Global 100 ranking is now posted on our Web site at www.directsellingnews.com.

Until next month…. enjoy the issue!

  
John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief