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Cutting Out the Middle Man: New Video

Cutting Out the Middle Man: New Video

DSEF recently released its newest video teaching tool, The Direct Selling Business Model: Cutting Out the Middle Man.

The new video was filmed live at the University of Texas at Arlington during DSEF’s Business Ethics Forum Campus Event. Al Bala, President and CEO of Mannatech, explains the direct selling business model in a way that business students and entrepreneurs can understand. “Eighty percent of the cost of a product in normal retail channel is in distribution. A large percentage of that is spent on advertising. Direct selling cuts out the middle man by redistributing the costs of advertising and distribution to pay independent contractors.” says Al.

The video was distributed to DSEF Fellows and is designed to be used both by direct selling companies and easily incorporated into a variety of university and community college courses, such as:

  • marketing classes
  • distribution channels courses
  • sales classes
  • entrepreneurship classes
  • management, communications and ethics/reputation courses

DSEF’s growing bank of video content also includes the Ask the Experts series, which may be viewed on our Vimeo channel.

DSEF-Funded Research Wins Best Paper Award

DSEF-Funded Research Wins Best Paper Award

At the 2017 Global Sales Science Institute (GSSI) Conference held in Mauritius in June, Julian Allendorf (Ph.D. Candidate, Institute of Marketing, University of Muenster, Germany) received the GSSI 2017 Best Doctoral Student Paper Award for his paper on “Direct Selling Distributors – Why Do They Stay or Leave!”, developed through a grant and data provided by DSEF. The prize-winning paper is based on Allendorf’s joint work with DSEF Fellows Dr. Anne T. Coughlan, PhD (Northwestern University) and Dr. Manfred Krafft (University of Muenster, Germany), and demonstrates how DSEF ‘s academic partners are producing data-driven research that validates the channel. The award was presented to Manfred Krafft by the President of the island nation of Mauritius, Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim, during a conference reception on June 8.

“Being awarded the GSSI Best Doctoral Student Paper Award for the work we have done so far feels like a great honor to us and provides the motivation for future endeavors,” said Allendorf.

In their joint research, the authors highlight similarities and differences between traditional sales and direct selling, and build on Agency Theory to develop predictions about the ways in which individuals stay in the direct selling distributorship, and what explains their intention to leave.

The authors analyzed a unique dataset of over 13,000 individual direct-selling distributors from 68 firms and asked the the “nature vs. nurture” question: does a “stayer” retain the same motivations as a “joiner,” or do distributors develop and change their motivations over time? Nurture doesn’t refer only to environment. Joiner-Stayers do indeed receive support and training from their companies and uplines, but they also learn about themselves (personal development).

The Stay-Leave decision is represented by the question, “How likely are you to continue representing the company for the next year?” Dr. Coughlan and Dr. Krafft used regression analysis to determine which factors are most likely to have a positive or negative impact on the decision to stay versus the decision to leave.

The drivers of income identified in the study, also called predictor variables, are consistent with those used in academic research and the long history of research on selling. The incremental effect, in dollars, of a change in a predicted variable – either positive or negative – is explained in the study. All effects assume that other drivers are held constant and should be interpreted for changes on the margin.

The results are consistent with the authors’ modified Agency Theory model and suggest academic, managerial and policy implications regarding direct selling investments and assessments.

Twenty-Five DSEF Fellows Attend DSA’s Annual Meeting; Several Present Research on Direct Selling Channel

Twenty-Five DSEF Fellows Attend DSA’s Annual Meeting; Several Present Research on Direct Selling Channel

The 2016 formation of the DSEF Fellows program is an important step in deepening the Foundation’s connection to academic leaders who advance knowledge of the direct selling channel in their field of study. To support and sustain these important partnerships, DSEF created Fellows Learning Journeys – a pathway for exploration and discovery through immersive experiences with executive leadership and staff – for Fellows participating in DSA’s Annual Meeting.

“I appreciated the opportunity to attend the Direct Selling Association’s Annual Meeting as a DSEF Fellow,” says Dr. Andy Gold, Business Administration and Entrepreneurship Professor, Hillsborough Community College.  “It was a unique opportunity to learn about this complex and growing marketing channel. The insights from the Annual Meeting and keynote speakers will certainly help inform my students about this channel.”

The Fellows Learning Journey began with the Direct Selling Boot Camp, which provided academics with a comprehensive understanding of the business challenges that new direct selling companies face, and continued with a DSEF Fellows Workshop, in which Fellows shared their direct selling white papers and teaching successes with incoming Fellows.

Fellows also participated in networking and education tracks throughout the conference. “Throughout the Boot Camp and Annual Meeting, I saw countless examples of leaders doing the right thing, both for their companies and for their representatives,” says Dr. Bonnie Canziani, Associate Professor, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality & Tourism Department; Coleman Fellow in Entrepreneurship at University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).

DSEF invests in dynamic partnerships with leading academics, who bring short-term impact through research and data-driven third-party validation for the channel. Seven Fellows highlighted recent and upcoming research during three business intelligence panels for executive attendees.

“It was wonderful to receive instant validation of our research from people who are living the reality of direct selling and entrepreneurship every day,” says Dr. Canziani, who co-presented with Dr. Dianne Welsh (UNCG) research comparing satisfaction rates among franchisees and direct sellers. “Our findings suggest that being aware of the field’s needs for flexibility and recognition is an important step in keeping sellers interested and motivated to maintain connections with their companies.”

DSEF Presents First Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Brenda Cude of UGA

DSEF Presents First Educator of the Year Award to Dr. Brenda Cude of UGA

To recognize the significant contributions and achievements of its valued academic partners, the Direct Selling Education Foundation created the Educator of the Year award, and presented the inaugural award to Dr. Brenda Cude, University of Georgia (UGA), during the Awards Gala, at the Annual Meeting held in Orlando in June.

“I was incredibly surprised and honored by this recognition,” says Dr. Cude, who serves as Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator at UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “Serving as a member of the DSEF Board has been a great experience, and I appreciate DSEF’s support of educational programs to expand students’ knowledge of direct selling.”

Recipients of DSEF’s Educator of the Year Award demonstrate outstanding service to the Foundation through leadership, personal involvement, teaching and research.

“Brenda served two terms on DSEF’s Board of Directors, and has made immeasurable contributions as a strategic and tactical advisor to the Foundation’s Academic Advisory Council.” said Gary Huggins, DSEF Executive Director. “Brenda has also hosted multiple DSEF Campus Events, reaching thousands of students with accurate information about the direct selling channel and the industry’s commitment to ethics.”

People First: Social Entrepreneurship in the Real World

People First: Social Entrepreneurship in the Real World

Social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility are twin drivers of positive social change. Direct selling companies and the independent salespeople that represent them are a quintessential example of the power of networks as a force for social good. The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) shared that message with 300 students at the University of San Francisco during the “Putting People First: Changing the Way We Do Business” campus event on March 2.

DSEF’s “Changing the Way We Do Business” event, which also featured business innovation in the classroom, was conceived by DSEF Board Member, Dr. Elizabeth Davis, Dean of the USF School of Management and Dr. Peggy Takahashi, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs. The DSEF event kicked off USF’s Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Conference and Tech4Good Startup Weekend, which brought together business leaders, investors and social entrepreneurs to discuss how socially-conscious action, innovation and education can change the world.

Shaklee Chairman and CEO Roger Barnett and Trades of Hope Founder Chelsie Antos shared their companies’ remarkable stories of service, social entrepreneurship and sustainability on panel moderated by Executive Advisor, Retired President and CEO and USF’s Executive-in-Residence Lori Bush. Many US companies have Corporate Social Responsibility programs in place, but direct selling companies are in a unique position to scale those efforts through their independent salesforce. “Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Peace Prize winner, challenged me to plant one million trees.” says Roger. “At the time, Shaklee had 700,000 direct sellers. I realized that if each person planted one tree, that’s nearly three-quarters of our goal.”

Sales networks can serve as a powerful catalyst for social change.

Trades of Hope’s hand-made jewelry is fairly-traded with women artisans in developing countries, which are then sold through “Compassionate Entrepreneurs” – or direct sellers – in the United States. “When you empower one person out of poverty, they bring three people with them,” says Chelsie. “42,000 people in developing nations are being positively impacted by the work these artisans are doing in their communities,” supported by the sale of these products by direct sellers, who can build businesses of their own.

Social entrepreneurship is also a market disruptor, given the right circumstances.

Ruby Ribbon, a shapewear company that sells products through home parties known as “Trunk Shows,” is using social entrepreneurship and innovative garment technology to disrupt the shapewear market and radically change consumer experience. Market disruption occurs when a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge an established industry. “Our investors told us there was no way women would try on shapewear in other people’s homes,” says Ruby Ribbon Founder and CEO Anna Zornosa, “but our customers benefit from being professionally fitted by our Stylists,” in a private, rather than public, space.

Exposure to direct selling companies as real-world businesses changes hearts and minds of students and faculty. “I was impressed with the companies that visited USF,” says Dr. Sonya Poole, “DSEF’s program shifted my perception and understanding of the direct selling business model.” Dr. Vanessa Hasse echoed that sentiment, “My students shared their thoughts about the presentations and they all loved it. It was an enriching classroom experience.”

DSEF and UTA Host Successful Business Ethics Forum

DSEF and UTA Host Successful Business Ethics Forum

The business environment is changing dramatically. From online transactions and social media to the rise of independent work in the marketplace, the need for ethical business decision-making has never been greater. DSEF’s most recent Campus Event at the University of Texas at Arlington showcased the ethical business practices of seven direct selling companies through presentations and interactions with 700 students throughout the day.

Our nation’s universities are increasingly looking to the business community to share expertise and model practices with faculty and students. The Business Ethics Forum on October 18, executives from AdvoCare International, Mannatech, Inc., Mary Kay, Inc., Nerium International, pawTree, Stream and Zurvita led discussions that helped students understand the changing business climate, the need for ethical decision-making and effective community involvement strategies.

Dr. Larry Chonko, a Professor of Ethics and DSEF Circle of Honor recipient, hosted the Foundation’s event. “As faculty, we are third parties in describing how companies conduct business – what selling practices they use, how they develop products, how they behave ethically, how they give back to their communities,” Larry says. “When representatives of those same companies come to campus they not only tell that story, they can talk about living that story, which is an invaluable experience for students.”

Mark “Bouncer” Schiro, Chairman of the Board of Stream, says campus events are a valuable experience for direct selling executives as well. “While we were on campus interacting with the students, you couldn’t ask for a better situation for reaching millennials,” Bouncer says. “I personally had more than 200 students listening to what it takes to be an ethical entrepreneur. Our time there was priceless.”

Business ethics is the pedestal on which every truly successful direct selling company has been built. One of the most fundamental business ethics issues is trust between a company and its customers. “Direct selling is a relationship marketing enterprise,” says Rick Loy, Vice President of US Sales Training and Field Development at AdvoCare, “People do business with people they like and trust.”

Developing a company culture that instills honesty and integrity in your independent salesforce is the first step, says Michael Lunceford, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Mary Kay and a member of DSEF’s Circle of Honor, “Never sacrifice growth and profit for integrity.” he says.

Businesses of all sectors, not just direct selling, have the responsibility to develop a framework for ethical decision-making. “People have a tendency to go along in order to get along,’” Michael says, “We have a moral obligation to say, ‘no, that is wrong.’ Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.”

Identifying potential ethical dilemmas and developing courses of action is a top-down business strategy. “You have to be proactive to make sure people are doing things the right way,” says Dick Laurin, Director of Business Ethics at AdvoCare, “And you have to understand the legal landscape.”

In addition, companies—and their independent salespeople—benefit from a code of ethics that every member of the organization must follow and put into action. “Whether you are a consumer, distributor or both, look for a member company of the Direct Selling Association (DSA),” says Rick. “They have a Code of Ethics and we, as member companies, must abide by it.” As a condition of membership in DSA, every applicant must agree to a comprehensive ethics compliance evaluation that takes at least one year. “We make changes to our products and marketing materials, based on this oversight,” Rick says.

When business challenges arise, direct selling companies work with their salespeople to resolve the issue. Direct selling companies closely monitor product claims on social media and are continuously work to improve their processes and communications. “At Zurvita,” says Director of Compliance, Erin McGuiness, “our policy for open communication and dialogue often results in our field coming up with the best marketing solutions.” Professor Omar Itani teaches the Social Media class in UTA business school. “We discuss social media strategies in my class, but having a real example of how one company controls its social media presence is a rare opportunity,” he says.

The event also provided a forum for direct selling executives to demystify the industry and explain the business model to students. “We were able to clarify that direct selling is a channel to market your products, not a stand-alone industry,” Bouncer says.

Al Bala, President and CEO of Mannatech points out that direct selling cuts out the middle man by redistributing the costs of advertising and distribution to pay independent salespeople. “Every time you buy a product, you pay for advertising,” he says. “As a consumer, wouldn’t you rather benefit from the opportunity and your own productivity?”

Another unique aspect of smaller direct selling companies is its immediacy. “Being connected to your customers – to 130,000 salespeople –enables us to problem-solve and course-correct in real time and results in innovations that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” says Deborah Heisz, President and COO of Nerium.

Direct selling companies also have a positive effect on the US economy. “Mary Kay does business in 38 countries,” says Kerry Tassopoulos, Vice President of Public Affairs, Compliance and Risk Management, “but what people often don’t realize is that 60 percent of our global product line in manufactured is the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

DSEF campus events advance knowledge of direct selling and demythify the business model to the benefit of companies, executives, professors and students. “The best way to grow a positive image of direct selling is to have executives visit with students and professors and show them, first hand, what direct selling truly is all about,” says Dr. Chonko.

The event exposed students to direct selling as a micro-entrepreneurship opportunity in what can be a competitive job market. “Many of my students are facing tough times finding jobs after graduation, so I also wanted them to understand that direct selling is a viable opportunity to work and earn income,” says Professor Itani.

Roger Morgan, Founder and CEO of pawTree agrees, “We had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of students who are already in the job market and help these students see direct selling as the powerful and viable selling channel we all know it is,” he says. “We appreciate the DSEF providing these opportunities to raise awareness and respect for our entire industry.”

DSEF Introduces Two New Video Teaching Tools

DSEF Introduces Two New Video Teaching Tools

To provide DSEF Fellows and other Academic Partners with relevant teaching content to use in their classrooms, the Foundation has produced two 10-minute videos designed to educate students about business trends such as big data analytics and the sharing economy, and to advance their understanding of the direct selling channel. Tools such as these allow DSEF to reach thousands of students beyond those who attend our campus programs and other events.

Earlier this year, DSEF held a Campus Event on Micro-Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy at Belmont University, featuring Lori Bush, retired President and CEO of Rodan + Fields, and Will Reinhart of the America Action Forum. Through the video teaching tool based on the day’s discussion, students will learn how direct selling is an effective, modern, go-to-market strategy, as well as a mainstream form of micro-entrepreneurship.

In June at DSA’s Annual Meeting, DSEF featured a general session panel, “What Big Data Can Do for You.” The new classroom video based on the panel discussion — and featuring Dr. Liz Davis, University of San Francisco; John Parker, Amway; Bill Schmarzo, EMC; Frank Perkins, Saleforce.com; and Brian Hopkins, Forrester Research — will help students understand how successful companies turn data into actionable business strategies.

 

What Big Data
Can Do for You

Micro-Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy

Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility: We Can Make a Difference

Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility: We Can Make a Difference

Every day, direct selling companies and the independent salespeople that represent them make a difference in the lives of their customers and their communities. The Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) shared that message nearly 1,000 students and their 13 professors at the University of Georgia(UGA) and Athens Tech during the “Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility: We Can Make a Better World” multi-campus event on February 23.

To bring our industry’s commitment to social responsibility and entrepreneurship to the classroom, DSEF partnered with Dr. Brenda Cude, Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator in UGA’s Department of Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics (and DSEF Board Member) and Jared Bybee, Director of ThInc UGA.

ThInc is a celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship through events that engage, inspire and transform ideas to reality. “This campus event was an invaluable opportunity for students and their professors to see companies putting into practice ideals of social responsibility—in the company’s own business model in the case of Trades of Hope and through 4Life Research’scommunity outreach programs,” says Brenda.

Trades of Hope Founders Chelsie Antos and Elisabeth Huijskens shared their companies’ unique story of service, empowerment and compassionate entrepreneurship. The hand-made products designed by women artisans indeveloping countries are then sold through “Compassionate Entrepreneurs”—or direct sellers—in the United States. “Women want to be financially self-sustaining; charitable donations dry up over time,” says Elisabeth. “Only compassionate business can give women in poverty a job.”

4Life Research Founders David and Bianca Lisonbee created immune health supplements for optimal living built on the principles of science, success and service. Today, the Foundation 4Life focuses on child nutrition, shelter and education in 24 markets in the world. “Brand lives in the mind of the consumer,” says Calvin Jolley, 4Life’s Vice President of Communications. “Lots of companies sell supplements, but we differentiate ourselves through service.”

For professors, DSEF Campus Programs provide access to leading industry executives on important issues and business solutions. “The speakers presentations fit well with the concepts we’re studying in class – marketing, branding and how corporate social responsibility influences customer perception,” says UGA Professor Diann Moorman, who teaches an Introductory Consumer Economics class.

In a changing economy, people are more interested than ever in independent work, entrepreneurship and finding fulfilling career opportunities. “We interacted with educators, administrators, and approximately 1,000 students,” says Calvin. “These types of exchanges between our industry and higher education provide an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness, impact perception, and instill a sense of credibility for our businesses among an important cross section of the general public.”

Chelsie agrees, “We love DSEF and its mission to educate America about the direct selling business channel. Together, we are inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

DSEF’s next Campus Program will be held March 30, 2016, at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Linda Ferrell, DSEF Board Member and Belmont University’s Distinguished Chair in Business Ethics, will host and moderate a panel discussion on Ethical Leadership in the Gig Economy.Speakers include Lori Bush, Rodan + Fields; and Will Reinhart, American Action Forum. For more information, contact Kimberly Harris Bliton, DSEF’s Director of Academic Initiatives.

DSEF Campus Programs Help Direct Selling Go Mainstream

DSEF Campus Programs Help Direct Selling Go Mainstream

linda_student_webWhile leading academics, labor organizations and policymakers publicly discuss the growing trend toward independence in the workforce and its implications on US economy, the direct selling channel has long been a path to market for innovators and a driver of opportunity for entrepreneurs.

DSEF, which serves as the direct selling community’s education ambassador, explored this topic with professors, students and local businesses at the “Micro-Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy” campus program at Belmont University in Nashville, TN, on March 30.

The campus program featured Lori Bush, Executive Advisor, Retired President and CEO of Rodan + Fields, a premium skincare company that uses the direct selling channel to market and distribute its products, and Will Rinehart, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy from American Action Forum, a policy think tank organization based in Washington, DC.

Lori explained to students and faculty how direct selling fits in the sharing economy—direct selling companies share marketing resources with independent entrepreneurs who can build businesses of their own.

“Direct selling is a shared marketing platform – a business in a box – that provides a royalty-free license to use the company brand, technology and marketing to create a scalable, micro-entrepreneurial business at very little cost,” Lori says. “It’s not an antiquated business model—through the use of technology and crowdsourcing, it’s a mainstream opportunity for entrepreneurs.”

Will explained the gig economy as independent contractors moving from one project or “gig” to another rather than seeking full-time employment. “The economic downturn and technology are driving this shift toward entrepreneurship,” he says. “People don’t think of gigs or collaborative consumption as employment, but rather, supplemental income. People use the resources they have – their car (Uber), their living space (Air BnB) or their artwork (Etsy) – to support their hobbies, meet people, earn extra income and choose their own hours.”

Drs. Linda and OC Ferrell, Distinguished Professors of Leadership and Business Ethics at Belmont University, hosted the Foundation’s event. “Our students are thirsty for knowledge on how to be entrepreneurs. Will presented the opportunities in the gig/sharing economy and Lori nailed the way micro-entrepreneurship (direct selling) fits in. We have an amazing opportunity to connect with faculty and students in a way we have not had before,” Linda says.

OC agrees, “Will defined individuals in the gig economy who move from one project to another as independent contractors. The sharing economy is the online gig economy as represented by Uber, Lyft, Air BnB and direct selling companies who operate an app to allow for ordering. These conceptualizations of how direct selling fits into the gig economy resonated with both faculty and students.”

DSEF plans to significantly expand its academic outreach over the next three years. The Foundation is uniquely positioned to open a dialogue with academic and students to demythify the channel through campus programs, academic symposiums and research.

What’s YOUR Financial IQ?

What’s YOUR Financial IQ?

by Dr. Brenda Cude, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia

Brenda_cudeHow much do you—and your children and grandchildren—know about managing money? If you’re like most others around the world, the answer is not enough. Most—young, old, educated or not—have failed “financial literacy” tests given to measure their financial knowledge. Perhaps some fail because the tests don’t measure what we do know about managing money. But, odds are that most of us don’t know as much as we should. After all, financial decisions have become ever more complex with new options appearing often.

How can your children and grandchildren learn about managing money? An obvious answer is that they learn from you—and not just from what you say, but also from what you do. If you want your child to wait until he or she has saved enough to buy a desired item, show that you are doing the same.

Realize though that every child is different. For some, saving up for something is a fun challenge. For others, it’s pure torture. (For fun, search the Internet for YouTube videos about the “Marshmallow Test.”) While you’re online, search for resources to teach children about money—there are lots of options. Resources from University Cooperative Extension Services are unbiased and peer-reviewed.

Children can and should learn about money management in school. According to the Council for Economic Education, 17 states require public high school students to take a course in personal finance. In 22 states, high schools are required to offer a personal finance course.

In some states, including Georgia, money management concepts are required to be taught in K-12. One popular way to teach children concepts about money is through a Bank-at-School program. With the cooperation of a local financial institution, children can open accounts and make deposits at school, often with students serving as the bank tellers. Another popular way is through the Stock Market Game, in which children work in teams to invest a hypothetical fund into a portfolio of stocks. The accompanying resources for teachers (and sometimes parents) increase the students’ knowledge from the experience.

What if money management isn’t being taught in your schools? Ask—no demand —that it be taught—and offer to help. Contact a local credit union or University Cooperative Extension Service. Both have educational missions and may be helpful to bring money management education to your schools.

College students also have opportunities to continue to learn about money. They can inquire about in-person or online courses that teach money management concepts or even peer-led groups with a personal finance focus.

What about you? How can you learn more about managing money? For those who feel they don’t even know the basics, the answer is to start with the basics. Read (or listen to) one of the many, easy-to-read popular personal finance books. Search for “best personal finance books” and choose one that sounds right for you. You also can look for a money management course in your community or online.

If you think you know the basics but just need to update and keep your knowledge current, popular media sources can be surprisingly helpful and generally accurate. For example, last fall TV and newspaper outlets did a great job of covering the credit card conversion from “swipe and sign” to “chip and pin.”

Learning about personal finance from the Internet can be tricky, though. There are too many who write online from a perspective that may not work for most, advocating, for example, no debt other than a mortgage or investment strategies that violate one of the most basic rules of investing—diversification or investing in many different types of assets. Search “best personal finance websites” and read the reviews. Choose experts who write for your life situation. Follow them on Twitter to learn something every day.

Even those who know a good bit about money management also rely on experts. Ask your insurance agent to explain your insurance policies to you. Call your financial institution or loan servicers and ask questions about your mortgage, car loan, and student loans. Consider an appointment with a fee-only financial planner (one who charges by the hour instead of earning money from commissions on financial products). Look for one with the designation “Certified Financial Planner.”

In 2016, none of us can afford to say, “I just don’t know anything about managing money.” Start today to change that!