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May 02, 2011

Publisher's Note

Letter from John Fleming, May 2011

John Fleming

There is much debate and discussion about technology and its impact on direct selling. The questions and discussions are endless, and the points of view are diverse. I have heard the direct selling industry described as the first industry to embrace social media, meaning direct selling has always been about the importance of personal relationships. While this may be true and agreed upon by most, it does not necessarily mean that all are clear on exactly what is happening today.

As our writers and contributors provided us with some great information on the topic of technology, we were amazed to find that many direct selling company websites are not keeping pace with how technology has evolved, especially with respect to the new devices that are being used to access information. Many websites were not viewable via tablets and mobile devices.

Our cover story is not as much about how technology may be impacting direct selling and its way of conducting business as it is about stimulating thought and raising awareness. Debating the role technology is playing in the formulation of opinions and the decisions we make is almost as ridiculous as any debate about the viability of planes versus trains. The story basically provides a message—get on board or be left behind. How you embrace the new technologies is still being invented by some, used effectively by others and watched by many more. We think you will enjoy the insights revealed in “App-solutely!”

Other articles in this issue, we believe, are also timely. Value is always our objective when we create the editorial content for this publication, and when we receive a contribution we consider ourselves the beneficiary of a great gift. Doug DeVos, President of Amway Corp., contributed this month’s Top Desk column. Doug’s thoughts as to what remains most important to direct sellers—helping people live better lives—is very insightful.

Our company spotlight this month focuses on a company I have personally grown to respect very much over the years for one primary reason: its strategy for building an organization focused on providing college students with the opportunity of free enterprise through a summer selling program. Since 1868, Southwestern has trained college students—now from 30 countries—with a summer earning opportunity that can yield $8,000 to $9,000 in gross profit for one summer alone.

Years ago I had the opportunity to witness some of the Southwestern training provided to the students. The training is incredible! I also had the opportunity to ask several of the students whom I met what was most important to them relative to their Southwestern experience. Invariably, all mentioned the quality of the training, their growth in self-esteem and confidence, and their positive outlook on their futures. Many of these students were pursuing careers in law, engineering, science or medicine. What I most remember is this: One summer—or several summers for some—spent selling books had enhanced their belief in themselves and who they could become!

Our selection of Southwestern as our spotlight this month was the result of an editorial review meeting in which we realized that May is graduation month and far too many college graduates are looking at an economy with a shrinking job base. We salute Southwestern for what it has accomplished over the years in support of youth, and college students in particular. We also know that more and more direct selling companies are embracing a focus on our younger generation as the future of their organizations. Traditional companies can never do what many direct selling companies are doing to support this most important segment in our society! We salute all of you who have taken this step.

By the time you receive this issue, we will have conducted our second DSN Global 100 Banquet in salute of those companies that are leading the industry in annual wholesale revenue. The 2010 list will be posted on our website in the coming weeks and the final list will be published in our June issue. Our objective for this project was to identify the top 100 companies globally and, in so doing, recognize the importance and value of direct selling as a channel of distribution. We hope you find the list valuable as a resource and also inspirational. The facts behind the numbers tell an incredible story. The number of independent contractors supported by direct selling companies around the world totals, according to our count, more than 50 million from the top 100 companies alone. The fact that these individuals are benefiting financially from their chosen direct selling opportunity is not a statistic recognized in any country’s job reports. However, the activity of direct sellers is a part of the economic engine of communities throughout the world.

As I reviewed this year’s list, I looked for movement and growth among those companies previously listed as well as who the newcomers might be. I also realized the pride and respect we share for all companies that have chosen direct selling as the preferred channel of distribution.

Enjoy the issue! Until next month!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief