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An Avenue for Career Advancement

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Gen Y is, without question, uniquely positioned to make a major impact on the marketplace within the decade. According to a recent report by global research association Conference Board, 64 million baby boomers will be eligible for retirement by the end of the current decade while, at the same time, the number of workers ages 18 to 34 will increase by 10 percent. In fact, within 10 years, Gen Y will represent more than half of the U.S. workforce. And still, the U.S. boasts one of the worst rates of youth employment among large-economy countries, according to a recent New York Times report.

But, while companies across all industries continue to revamp their approach to this highly competitive, tech-savvy generation, many in the direct sales channel have recognized that tailoring the business opportunity to meet the needs of this demographic group requires more than openness to new technologies and creative marketing techniques. Gen Y also needs assurance that their efforts will result in career advancement—a “resume boost,” if you will.

According to the Human Capital Institute, Gen Y prefers career development three times more than a cash bonus as a form of benefit. Even more, only 27 percent of young people think high pay is important, compared to 48 percent of older workers.

As Dave Webb, Vice President of Communications for XANGO said recently,” The people of Generation Y have all the energy in the world and we hear all the time that they didn’t grow up aspiring to work in a cubicle job.”

The question is, how might direct selling fulfill Gen Y’s needs for career advancement?

For starters, direct selling provides invaluable business ownership experience, without any barriers for entry. As direct selling companies continue to offer cutting-edge business resources and training to distributors via online and mobile platforms, today’s direct sellers gain access to top-notch business education as they grow their businesses.

Even more, from the moment a prospective direct seller chooses to start a business, he or she gains access to a network of direct sellers eager to offer their support. This is key because, according to the Human Capital Institute, Gen Y craves coaching and mentorship more than any previous generation.

Keeping Gen Y’s need for mentorship in mind, it is important to also recognize that a number of recent studies—including one conducted by Rasmussen College—have indicated that Gen-Yers are increasingly leaving traditional employment opportunities to pursue self-employment.

In fact, 71 percent of those polled who currently hold traditional jobs said they would prefer to quit their current positions and work for themselves. And, what are the top reasons for this?

Freedom, the ability to choose projects and the opportunity to maintain control over their workload were among the top five reasons Gen-Yers have increasingly turned to self-employment. How perfect it is that these are also frequently cited as the top reasons men and women choose to launch direct selling careers!

But of course, as anyone in direct selling knows, these reasons hardly scratch the surface of the many factors that drive today’s budding entrepreneurs to get started in direct selling. As evidenced by our Faces of Direct Selling page, men and women of all ages, educational backgrounds and interests find empowerment through direct selling.

What inspired you to get started in direct selling? Share your story with us to be featured as one of Direct Selling 411’s “Faces of Direct Selling.”

Bridging the Gender Gap

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

There’s no question that the U.S. direct selling salesforce is predominantly female—in fact, more than three-quarters of today’s distributors are women.

But, did you know that this gender gap has narrowed consistently, year after year, since 2008? In fact, just five years ago, 86.4 percent of U.S. direct selling distributors were female—compared to 76.6 percent today.

A number of factors have certainly contributed to this trend. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of direct selling companies in the services sector, particularly those selling utilities, which typically attract a larger percentage of male sellers than other categories such as cosmetics and housewares. Similarly, the market share for health and wellness products in the direct selling realm has increased in recent years and the relative percentage of men selling these types of products is larger than in other categories.

Additionally, with the rise of social media platforms and mobile technology, direct sellers are able to tap into a wider variety of social circles from which they can recruit new distributors. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn enable direct sellers to expand their outreach efforts to include more than their immediate friends and family members.

Perhaps, yet another cause for the recent increase in male direct sellers is rooted in national labor force statistics. One possibility is that the narrowing of the gender gap in direct selling could be inversely related to the widening of the gender gap in the overall job market.

According to a recent report in the Washington Post Express, as the U.S. job market continues to undergo a slow recovery process, women have rebounded from the recession faster than men. The report stated that women have actually regained nearly all the jobs they lost during the height of the recession, but men are still 2.1 million jobs short.

The article notes that one of the contributors to the job recovery’s gender gap is the fact that industries such as retail, education, restaurants and hotels have been hiring the fastest—and each represents an industry in which women comprise a greater portion of the workforce.

But, as men await new opportunities in fields such as construction and manufacturing, direct selling offers a helping hand. Whether or not it is later proven that the recession has directly contributed to the narrowing of the gender gap in direct selling, the recession has without a doubt left many men looking for flexible sources of income as they weather the recovery process.

It’s also important to remember that nearly 20 percent of total U.S. direct selling sales were from the services category last year, meaning that men—and women—who once shied away from selling traditional products via the direct selling business model are finding opportunities that better fit their interests. Year after year, these very individuals grow their independent direct selling businesses, earn an income, expand their social networks and even develop skills that can be applied to their respective full-time careers once an opportunity to do so arises.

Did the slow job recovery inspire you to launch a direct selling career? If so, share your story with us in the comment section below!

Helping Entrepreneurs Overcome Their Fears

Friday, September 27th, 2013

I recently read an article on entrepreneur.com about the five biggest fears that prevent entrepreneurs from working toward their goals.

Among the fears author Lewis Howes lists are that of seeking money from investors and lacking enough experience or knowledge to get started. There are certainly a number of reasons today’s budding entrepreneurs are hesitant to confront these fears when looking to establish a brick-and-mortar business, but the direct sales channel can relieve entrepreneurs of these concerns.

For starters, today’s direct selling distributors can launch a business with very minimal upfront cost – a kit full of product samples and other essentials will often cost less than $100. These costs, of course, are miniscule when compared to the fees one might incur in pursuing a store opening or other type of sole proprietorship. Even more, the direct selling business model allows the business to be built at one’s own pace and comfort level, and connects new sellers with a built-in support system made up of others on their team.

Considering the fact that more than 55 percent of those surveyed in a recent Gallup poll stated they would prefer self-employment opportunities over traditional employment, direct selling is on-trend with the changing landscape of today’s marketplace. Whereas the rising costs of education could leave would-be business leaders at an incredible disadvantage to those with higher education degrees, direct selling levels the playing field, allowing men and women of all backgrounds to enjoy a truly equal opportunity to launch a prosperous direct selling career. Even more, e-training tools, free business courses and social media have empowered today’s direct sellers with the resources they need to execute sound business practices and enjoy long-term growth and success.

How has direct selling helped you to set your fears aside and pursue your entrepreneurial goals? Share your story with us in the comments below!

Online Platforms Strengthen Role of Today’s Direct Seller

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

According to a recent report from Marketing Pilgrim, in the next five years, social media is expected to account for 57 percent of customer engagement.

The idea that social media is replacing other modes of interaction is not far-fetched. In fact, for many demographic groups, such as Gen Y, emails are increasingly replaced with Facebook and Twitter messages, and cell phones are more frequently used for messaging rather than phone calls.

But, one inference studies such as the Marketing Pilgrim report often make is the idea that social media is replacing face-to-face interaction, and that this process could prove harmful to businesses across the board.

The social media revolution has, in no way, caught the direct sales channel off-guard. In fact, while the vast majority of direct selling companies operate via a person-to-person or party plan sales strategy, direct sellers have no doubt jumped on board with the social media revolution. More importantly, however, while distributors and executives alike use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to strengthen connections with the field and with customers, direct selling has stayed true to its roots—and that provides the sales channel with a unique competitive advantage over industries that have shifted to an “online-only” model.

During last year’s DSA Be Connected Conference in Palos Verdes, Calif., Tori Molnar, President of Utoria and a Gen-Yer herself, talked about how the definition of “social” has changed over the years. As she noted, “social” today means being online, but she also stressed that Gen Y-ers – along with other key demographic groups—are so connected online that they’re actually craving in-life experiences these days.

According to a recent GfK Roper study commissioned by DSA, while consumers appreciate the benefits that technological advances and increased choice bring, they need “filters”—such as others’ insights about products and services—to make decisions more manageable and uncomplicated. In fact, more than half of Americans believe there is too much choice across most all product categories today.

That is where today’s direct seller steps in.

Direct sellers provide more than access to products or services; they provide much-needed insights and assistance with narrowing a never-ending list of options down to the choices that best fit the consumers’ needs. And, although mobile devices can provide consumers with instant access to product reviews and online shopping platforms, direct sellers provide consumers with an unmatched—and sought-after—shopping experience away from crowded malls or big retail hubs. Even more, the study found that 75 percent of Americans believe experiences are more important than possessions. Plus, 50 percent of Gen Y-ers said they enjoy in-person shopping when they are presented with a genuinely unique experience or product.

Have you purchased a product or service from a direct seller recently? Share your favorite direct selling shopping experiences with us in the comments below!

 

A Changing Landscape

Friday, September 6th, 2013

According to U.S. Census data, between the years 2000 and 2050, new immigrants and their children will account for 83 percent of the growth in the working-age population and, by 2050, there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the U.S.

For decades, companies of all shapes, sizes and product offerings have talked about the importance of diversity, but the most successful businesses – those best positioned for long-term growth and sustainability – are those that see diversity as much more than another buzz word in the working world.

Within the direct sales channel, countless companies have demonstrated what it means to foster diversity both in the workplace and in the field. For those organizations, embracing diversity requires more than an openness to all racial and demographic groups; it also relies on the extension of the business opportunity to men and women of all generational, educational and experiential demographic groups. In fact, for those that truly understand today’s changing landscape and what it means for businesses everywhere, embracing diversity is a necessity. After all, it not only means promoting growth and sustainability, it also means fostering creativity and innovation.

Embracing diversity not only positions companies to expand their recruitment efforts, rather, various studies have proven that greater inclusion results in economic growth, both for businesses and the national economy at large.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Brown University economists and released as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that countries and regions that remained most open to cultural diversity in the workplace have seen the greatest economic growth, even during pre-industrial times. Additionally, a 2011 Forbes report revealed that, of 321 global companies with at least $500 million in revenue, 85 percent agreed that diversity is crucial to the promotion of innovation in the workplace.

Without a doubt, the U.S. direct selling population stands today as a premier example of a truly diverse salesforce. While the majority of U.S. direct sellers are female, direct selling provides a unique business ownership opportunity for men and women of all demographic groups, with no limitations based on economic or educational barriers. As demonstrated through our “Faces of Direct Selling” page, each direct seller’s story is unique, and yet all are equally positioned to achieve great success.

The Competitive Advantages of Going Green

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

By now, the direct selling company through which you have launched your business has probably recognized the financial and operational advantages of “going green,” but, did you know that supporting the environment could also position your company to draw in more consumers than your competitors?

According to a recent study by the Natural Marketing Institute, today’s consumers are 58 percent more likely to purchase products or services from a company that is mindful of its impact on the environment and society. Even for those companies that do not specialize in eco-friendly products or services, experts say their efforts to launch an environmentally friendly campaign could not only help reduce energy use and operating costs, but it could also attract environmentally conscious consumers who remain appreciative of companies that have made the first step in reducing their carbon footprints.

Rest assured, the direct sales channel is no stranger to environmentally friendly initiatives. In addition to offering revolutionary eco-friendly products and energy conservation services, the direct selling industry also features a wide variety of companies that have spearheaded eco-friendly campaigns to educate distributors and connect with the general public about practices impacting the environment on a daily basis.

From carbon offset programs and recycling campaigns, to solar power education initiatives and water conservation challenges, countless direct selling companies across the country have put forth tremendous efforts to do their part in protecting the environment.

Along with the obvious benefits to the environment, many of these companies have also recognized the importance of “going green” from a business standpoint. After all, today’s budding entrepreneurs (most notably, those newest to the workforce) have conveyed a strong interest in eco-friendly practices – so strong, in fact, that time and again, research has proven that a company’s commitment to the environment impacts consumers’ brand loyalty and job-seekers’ career pursuits.

To further illustrate just how much today’s consumers value eco-friendly initiatives, a recent Harris Interactive survey concluded that 82 percent of American adults consider themselves to be well-informed about companies and brands with a strong track record for sustainability. Add to this the fact that an astounding 80 percent say they “consider the history of a company’s sustainability when purchasing from them.”

What does it all boil down to for today’s direct selling companies?

Put simply, whether or not your company’s core mission involves a heavy focus on eco-friendly practices, it is now more important than ever before that you do your part to protect tomorrow’s planet today.

Does your company participate in eco-friendly initiatives? If so, share them with us below!

No Sequester for Direct Sellers

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

In Washington, D.C., where DSA is based, it seems not an hour goes by without some mention of the sequestration cutbacks. With talks of mandatory budget reductions and spending cuts that could drastically impact low- and middle-income Americans, it’s no wonder so many are concerned—not just in the nation’s capital, but throughout the country.

It’s during times like these when one can really appreciate what direct selling can offer to men and women of all income brackets. Nearly 16 million men and women participated in direct selling in 2012—producing $31.6 billion in sales.

To reference a quote by Joan Hartel Cabral, President & Owner of DSA member company Vantel Pearls in the Oyster, “We, as an industry, have an incredible opportunity. We can influence the economy in an amazing way. For young moms, for those who have a second job, for senior citizens and for those in college, we offer an opportunity that inspires personal growth and financial independence.”

Perhaps direct selling won’t reverse all the damage done by the impending cutbacks, but, what it can do is provide added support to men and women who remain committed to their full-time jobs yet find themselves in need of extra income to make ends meet.

Sequester or not, this is something direct sellers have known to be true for decades. However, the current economic climate allows us to further educate others about who we are, how we operate and why so many throughout the country have established direct selling careers, even if they maintain a steady income elsewhere.

Public discussions on economic challenges provide an opportunity to reach out to those impacted most by potential cutbacks to address how direct selling can help compensate for reduction in pay or work hours. After all, for those who face salary cutbacks or caps, direct selling provides an alternative source of income on a flexible schedule. For those who are likely to receive furloughs, direct selling can provide a way to use the extra time off to launch and promote a business without the risks or responsibilities associated with building a brick-and-mortar shop from the ground up. And, for those men and women impacted directly by layoffs, direct selling can provide a source of income through which they can ride out the storm until full-time employment options surface once again.

Direct Selling is a Case Study in the Effectiveness of Mentorship

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

I read this article last week with great interest as it very clearly and succinctly describes the importance of mentorship in direct selling. I read it again today after it was forwarded to me by an executive with a direct selling company.

Key aspects of direct selling (such as recruiting) are often portrayed in a negative way, but I thought this article did a particularly nice job of describing why mentorship is key to success in direct selling. It’s not about how many people you can recruit for your team, but how many people you can inspire to be successful. The actions of those around us shape us, for better or for worse. Simlarly, every action we take sets an example for people who we may not even realize are watching us.

Whether you are a direct seller or not, keep in mind that we are all mentors for the next generation. The actions we take and the decisions we make will help determine their success. Direct sellers are uniquely positioned to demonstrate the power of mentorship – it’s just one of the many ways direct sellers lead the way.

Inspiration from the Field

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

You may have noticed a new feature on the DirectSelling411 website recently – our Direct Seller Profiles page. While it is impossible to encapsulate biographies from the 15.6 million men and women across the U.S. who own and operate an independent direct selling business, we have assembled a small collection of stories, sortable by location as well as by motivations for joining the direct sales channel. Through this effort, we not only hope to provide those interested in direct selling with a tiny glimpse of the countless success stories that characterize this industry, but we also hope to educate the general public about what it really means to be a direct seller. These men and women come from all walks of life and have many different reasons for joining.

These stories are truly inspirational – not only do they share their stories of personal achievement, of challenges overcome and of financial success, but they also provide a glimpse into what makes direct selling so unique.

Nevertheless, each and every person who browses through our selection can find a story that resonates with his or her aspirations.

Ron A., from Seattle, for instance, joined direct selling as a 19-year-old searching for an environment in which he could find support and build new friendships. Erika H. from Marker Heights, Texas, joined the direct selling industry after she lost her job before her maternity leave ended. Carrie S. of Itasca, Ill., launched a career in direct selling in efforts to pay off her mortgage. Stephanie B. of Scottsdale, Ariz., became a direct seller so she could help others improve their own physical and fiscal health.

Whatever one’s role may be within the direct selling community, we can all find encouragement and inspiration through the countless success stories originating from the field. These men and women are more than just the backbone of this marvelous industry. They are also parents, coaches, teachers, military spouses, doctors, lawyers, students and retired professionals. Their backgrounds in business prior to launching direct selling careers range from a high school diploma to advanced business degrees, and yet each stands on equal footing as a key part of the direct selling model.

Whether you are a distributor, an executive, a potential customer or just someone interested in learning more about the industry, be sure to check out the Direct Seller Profiles page to get a sneak peek at some of the personalities representing your favorite companies in the field!

What’s in Store for 2013?

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Each January, as we set into motion our own resolutions for the year before us, direct selling executives across the country pause to assess what the future holds for the industry. Although no one can express with certainty what 2013 will bring, we at DSA recently invited a number of executives from a variety of direct selling companies—including those that provided their predictions last year—to share with us their insights, concerns and hopes for 2013.

While DSA members had the opportunity to read the full responses from those executives mentioned below in a previous edition of our InTouch publication, some of their insights deserve further exposure.

A New Demographic of Direct Sellers

Richard Wright, President & CEO, AdvoCare: As we have already seen, Gen Y represents a demographic with great potential to impact the direct sales channel. Studies show the average Gen Y-er is entrepreneurial minded—a great thing for our sales channel. I anticipate many people in this generation will look to direct sales as a career path, rather than a traditional 9-to-5 office job. With that said, social media has never been a more important tool through which we can reach this generation. After all, we’ve already seen how social media has transformed the way our distributors interact and communicate, and it will only continue to do so at greater lengths in 2013.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Lori Bush, President & CEO, Rodan + Fields Dermatologists: The onus is on us to motivate our salesforce members to communicate the breadth of values that direct selling brings to the marketplace, including product innovation and support, personal and professional development, community connections and part-time supplemental income opportunities.

Greater Inclusion in High-Level Discussions, Statistics

AJ Deeds, President, Loving Works, LLC: Direct selling will gain greater influence in the national discussion on ways to grow the U.S. economy when we have a seat at the media table. Inclusion in employment statistics thus is an indicator that direct selling is part of the conversation. Direct selling companies are uniquely poised to join that conversation when we extend our expertise at building relationships with key media reporters and personalities. We are incredible story-tellers and the media loves a story. Nevertheless, the direct selling story and the opportunity it represents will see greater national influence when we make media relationships—far more than press releases or advertising—an important priority on our leaders’ personal timelines.

Changing Behaviors

Cindy Juncaj, President, Demarle at Home: When we think about the key challenges the direct sales channel faces in 2013, we have to reflect on the changing behavior of the everyday consumer. Some challenges are industry-specific, though many are no different than the challenges that every business faces in 2013. Meeting the constantly changing needs of consumers is our top priority in 2013.

The consumer today prefers and enjoys short, simple messages through a constant flow of up-to-the-minute information and communication that must be entertaining, authentic and filled with value. Also, with the change in the consumer’s perception of company advertisements, we must acknowledge that user-generated content is more valuable than any message the company can prepare and promote; therefore, you must give the people something to talk about.

Expectation meets reality as interest in entrepreneurship continues to rise, creating the greatest opportunity for direct sales in 2013. The rise in the entrepreneurial education programs will benefit our industry greatly by helping those interested in direct selling learn the skills needed to turn their direct sales businesses into successful, fulfilling, lifelong careers.