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Making the Connection: Why DSEF Matters

Making the Connection: Why DSEF Matters

At the Annual Meeting in June, the Direct Selling Association’s outgoing chairman Orville Thompson, CEO, Scentsy, described how DSEF serves as the bridge to prominent academics and leading consumer protection voices—key influencers and opinion leaders who drive the national conversation about our industry’s reputation and its place in the economy. Watch what he had to say here.

Experience of Lifetime Auction Sets DSEF Fundraising Record

Experience of Lifetime Auction Sets DSEF Fundraising Record


At this year DSA’s Annual Meeting, the Gala Celebration on June 2, held some extra suspense for attendees as they vied for exotic getaways and exceptional products. In addition to the presentation of awards, the evening included an Experience of a Lifetime live auction benefiting DSEF.

“The excitement of DSEF’s auction was literally jaw-dropping as direct selling executives competed for great auction items and the opportunity to support our Foundation,” said DSA President Joe Mariano. “I’m hoping the auction will become a ‘signature’ event for DSA’s Annual Meeting.”

Serving as the event’s auctioneer, Craig Fleming, President, Global Direct Selling Division, ServiceQuest, kept the crowd energized as they bid on items donated by Amway, CUTCO, Mannatech, Nu Skin, USANA and WineShop At Home, raising more than $154,000 for DSEF.

Among the evening’s winning bidders were Truman Hunt, President and Chief Executive Officer, Nu Skin Enterprises, and Orville Thompson, CEO of Scentsy Inc.  The two went head-to-head competing for the chance to attend an Orlando Magic game in the Founder’s Suite—as the guest of Amway’s Chief Sales Officer John Parker and President Doug DeVos. When the bidding topped $50,000, John, who also serves as DSEF Board Chair, agreed to offer the package twice, raising $100,000 for the Foundation in a matter of minutes.

“I was pleased to be able to participate in DSEF’s Gala auction and feel privileged to be a part of the great work that DSEF is doing to educate people about our business channel,” said Truman, who also was the winning bidder for a complete set of knives donated by CUTCO.

In addition to the Amway’s Orlando Magic package, Orville was the winning bidder for the Pirate’s Cove package donated by Nu Skin—a three-night stay for 30 people at a 22,000-square-foot, pirate-themed mansion in Boulder City, NV.

For Orville, whose winning bid for Pirate’s Cove was $20,000, the auction provided the chance to help the Foundation achieve its vision of a global marketplace that respects and appreciates direct selling.  “DSEF serves as the bridge between the direct selling industry and traditional centers of influence such as academia, government and many others,” he said. “Without its outreach and education, the extraordinary work of direct sellers to enhance the lives of millions through great product, inviting cultures and financial opportunities will not be sufficiently understood, represented and appreciated.”

Before the evening was over, attendees also had the chance to bid on a Hawaiian vacation. With a $7,000 bid, Jeannette Mills, Executive Vice President, Take Shape for Life, beat out her competitors and will spend a week on the beach in Maui, courtesy of Mannatech. Stan Fredrick, Mannatech’s Chairman of the Board and Chair of DSEF’s Development Committee, was overwhelmed by the generosity of Jeannette and other bidders. “This was the first auction we’ve held, and we look forward to making it a part of future Annual Meetings,” said Stan, whose $3,000 bid earned him a case of WineShop At Home’s Artisan 5. “Craig did an excellent job of making it exciting and fun for the audience.”

When the bidding kicked off for USANA’s Sky or Ski Excursion, Traci Lynn Burton, Founder and CEO of Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry, said her adrenaline took over. “‘Fearless’ is what I felt when I decided to bid on the skydiving adventure!” said Traci, who bid $5,000 to go skydiving with USANA’s CEO Dave Wentz. “I also have great respect for Dave and trust him to throw me out of a plane. I love the work of DSEF, and my company and I support the foundation. I believe it must be well-funded to continue its educational mission because we all benefit, we all win!”

The Experience of a Lifetime Auction helped DSEF exceed its goal for the 2014 fundraising year, which ends June 30.  “My personal thanks to all who participated in the DSEF Auction at the Gala,” John Parker said. “Thanks to your generosity—and in particular Truman Hunt and Orville Thompson—we raised more than $150,000! This money will help fund the great work done by our Foundation!”

Elizabeth Owen Newest Member of DSEF’s Circle of Honor

Elizabeth Owen Newest Member of DSEF’s Circle of Honor


In 1988, DSEF created the Circle of Honor award to recognize individuals who make significant contributions to the Foundation. On June 2, 2014, at the Gala Celebration during DSA’s 2014 Annual Meeting, DSEF named Elizabeth Owen as the newest member of the Circle of Honor. “Elizabeth is a perfect inductee to our Circle of Honor,” said Joe Mariano, DSEF President. “She’s a principled consumer leader with years of passion about and understanding of how direct selling serves and protects consumers.”

During her two terms of service on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, Elizabeth’s outstanding leadership—and her ability to fully understand DSEF’s & DSA’s missions from both a consumer protection and business perspective—translated into DSEF developing effective and balanced programs that won the respect of consumer advocates nationally.

“While it is an incredible honor to be given this award, it has already been my honor to be a part of an industry that I have grown to appreciate and respect,” Elizabeth said. “It has been my honor to work with people I have grown to love as family; and it has been my honor to further the worthy mission of the Direct Selling Education Foundation.”

Throughout her career in consumer protection, Elizabeth has been a constant presence both on the state and national scene. As the Director of the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, she lobbied state government for better consumer protection laws. During her stint as consumer reporter for NewsChannel 5, the CBS affiliate in Nashville, her viewers depended on her for the latest in consumer protection advice. And she served as the Executive Director of NACAA—the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators—representing consumer protection agencies across the US.

Over twenty years, Elizabeth supported numerous Foundation consumer protection programs with diverse groups that included law enforcement, military and the disabled. She also represented DSEF at international consumer protection programs held in Moscow.

And, when the direct selling industry was faced with the potentially devastating, disruptive and unnecessary regulation of the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed rule on business opportunities, Elizabeth, in her capacity as NACAA’s Executive Director, provided invaluable and balanced comment to the FTC on the impact of the proposal on consumers and direct sellers.

“I am awed to have my name added to the Circle of Honor,” Elizabeth said.  “These are people I consider as heroes, and I am humbled by the trust this honor signifies.”

Networking on Steroids: DSEF Sponsors Guerrilla Mentoring Workshop

Networking on Steroids: DSEF Sponsors Guerrilla Mentoring Workshop

Finding an effective mentor can greatly enhance your business and personal life.  In fact, studies show that having five mentors can boost your confidence and your success. To show DSA Annual Meeting attenkathy_korman_frey12-150x150dees just how effective mentoring can be, DSEF sponsored a Guerrilla Mentoring workshop led by Kathy Korman Frey, CEO of the Hot Momma’s Project, the world’s largest women’s case study library. DSEF partners with the Hot Momma’s Project in support of its Global Case Study Competition.

At the interactive workshop, held June 3, participants used Kathy’s proprietary process, adapted from a million-dollar executive peer mentoring technique, to solve real challenges in real time, walking away with actionable steps to better their work and personal lives.

“The Guerrilla Mentoring session was highly interactive and resulted in some fantastic action items, realizations, and what I call ‘mass mentoring.’” said Kathy, who is also Entrepreneur in Residence, Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at the George Washington University School of Business. “By the end of the session, when participants were sharing their takeaways, they also mentored an entire room of their peers. Thanks to DSA and DSEF for bringing our special process to its members. What a great group.”

Elena Panos, Vice President of Training at Shaklee Corporation, enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with her peers. “As a first time attendee, I was impressed with the workshops!” Elena said. “Guerrilla Mentoring with Kathy Korman Frey allowed me to meet and share with other participants during the interactive table activities.”

Because of DSEF’s ongoing support of the Hot Momma’s Project, Kathy is offering to bring her Guerrilla Mentoring process to DSA member companies at a discount. Additionally, Kathy will be a featured speaker at DSA’s fourth annual Women’s Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30, 2014. The by-invitation-only gathering is planned for women who are direct selling company owners and top-level executives. For more information, contact Nancy Laichas.

Gary Huggins Named DSEF’s New Executive Director

Gary Huggins Named DSEF’s New Executive Director


At its June 1 board meeting, DSEF’s Chairman John Parker (Amway), announced that, after a comprehensive national search, Gary Huggins has been named as the Foundation’s executive director. “I am so pleased we were able to introduce Gary as DSEF’s Executive Director,” John said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will equip him well in leading DSEF.”

For more than fifteen years, Gary has managed nonprofit organizations, working with various constituencies including educators, government officials, business executives and consumer advocacy groups. Most recently, he served as CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, a network hub for thousands of summer learning program providers and stakeholders across the country.

“Vision, leadership and action—as a new era begins for DSEF, these are the qualities that our volunteer leaders bring,” said Joe Mariano, DSEF President. “As Gary begins his tenure with the Foundation, we know he will share his vision, leadership and experience to turn our leaders’ great ideas into action.”

Gary also served as director of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind—a bipartisan, independent effort dedicated to improving the No Child Left Behind Act—and as executive director of the Education Leaders Council and the Education Leaders Action Council, organizations that represented governors, state education chiefs, state education boards and other officials focused on improving K-12 education.

Gary was the founding executive director of the Coalition for Safer, Cleaner Vehicles, an alliance of corporations, small businesses, and consumer and environmental groups that promoted market-based environmental solutions. He also served on George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign and Inaugural Committee.

Earlier this month, Gary attended DSA’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, providing him the opportunity to meet with many DSEF and DSA board members and other executives. “I am honored to be part of advancing public knowledge of our industry and the life-changing economic opportunities we provide to more than 16 million people,” he said.

Originally from Dallas, TX, Gary graduated from Texas Christian University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Communication.  He lives in Laurel, MD, with his wife and four children.

After July 7, Gary can be reached at “If you did not have a chance to meet Gary in person in Orlando, I hope you do soon,” John said.

On Board with DSEF:
Dr. Linda Ferrell

On Board with DSEF:
Dr. Linda Ferrell

DSEF’s Board of Directors brings to the Foundation a wealth of experience and expertise that helps it fulfill its mission both inside and outside the boardroom.

On November 4, 2013, Board Member Dr. Linda Ferrell, Professor of Marketing and Bill Daniels Professor of Business Ethics at the University of New Mexico (UNM), led a panel discussion at UNM’s Student Center for the Public Trust comprised of direct selling industry experts: Lori Bush, President & CEO, Rodan & Fields; Alan Luce, DSEF Board Member and Founder & CEO, Luce, Murphy, Fong & Associates;  John Parker, DSEF Board Chair and Chief Sales Officer, Amway; and John Wyckoff, President, Dove Chocolate Discoveries.

The panel discussion, “Crisis Management Strategies and Implementation in the Direct Selling Industry: The Role of Ethical Leadership,” demonstrated to students how the industry supports ethical conduct and educates the public when ethical challenges occur.

We recently spoke with Linda about the importance of fostering ethical business practices and DSEF’s role in educating the public about the direct selling industry.

Linda Ferrell

How long have you been involved with DSEF?

I joined the DSEF board in the Spring of 2009. I was very familiar with the work of DSEF through their strong relationship with the Academy of Marketing Science as well as their support of some ethics conferences that we were involved with.  I also knew about DSEF from my work with the CUTCO/Vector College Advisory Board.

What do you feel is DSEF’s value to the public and the direct selling industry?

DSEF helps to elevate an industry that provides so many entrepreneurial opportunities for individuals throughout the world. DSEF proactively sees opportunities and supports member needs. The development of ethics training resources, the education program with community colleges, and the commitment to elevate awareness of the opportunities that direct selling creates are phenomenal resources. I recently joined the ethics committee and see their work as very vital and relevant to helping member companies manage current and potential risks they may face.

How important is it for business leaders to support and promote ethical business practices?

It looks like we are going to survive the global financial crisis, but unethical activity by a few has had a far reaching negative impact on our economy. Ethical business conduct is the ‘glue’ that holds relationships together. The direct selling industry, more than many, understands the importance of a strong relationship grounded in exceptional products and promoted through dedicated and trusted distributors. To say that good ethics is good business and good for the bottom line is an understatement. Ethisphere’s Worlds Most Ethical Companies have outperformed the S&P over the past five years. Everything a company does to support ethical conduct in their organization is one of the best investments they can make. The days of seeing investments in ethics as an unnecessary expense are behind us!

What specific challenges do you see affecting direct sellers in the marketplace?

We still have yet to see the ultimate benefits of social media in supporting the goals of the industry. That along with the ongoing work of DSEF, DSA and others to inform consumers and educators about the strengths, benefits, and unique and entrepreneurial elements of the direct selling business model will continue interest and growth in the industry.

In addition, the ‘naysayers’ who threaten the integrity of the industry simply do not understand marketing and the direct selling business model. These attacks create opportunities for DSEF and others to clarify these inaccurate conceptualizations.  The marketing function and relationships built look and work differently in a direct selling firm than a traditional business. This has been a great strength of the industry from its inception.

Thank you, Linda! It’s great to get to know you better, and we thank you for your support!

Tools You Can Use: Research and Case Study Archives

Tools You Can Use: Research and Case Study Archives

researchAs a business owner, you probably already know the value of research and case studies for your business. The more you can find out ahead of time, the better decisions you can make. DSEF’s partnership with professors and researchers throughout the academic world has allowed us to compile an archive of academic research papers and case studies addressing relevant topics to the direct selling industry and business in general. And you can access them right now!

With titles such as “Redirecting Direct Selling: High-Touch Embraces High-Tech,” “When Acquisition Spoils Retention: Direct Selling vs. Delegation Under CRM,” “Multilevel (network) Marketing: An Objective View”  and “Motivation of Direct Sellers,” you are sure to find research that will help your business. Whether you’re searching for third-party validation of the direct selling business model, considering expanding into international markets, exploring how to court Baby Boomers for your salesforce, and more, you’ll find information in the archives that can help.


Tim Haran

“From my point of view, I think specific company case studies are really valuable,” says Tim Haran of USANA Health Sciences. “The direct-selling model is such that it’s tough to incorporate many of the off-the-shelf social solutions we’re presented with regularly. I appreciate seeing how similar companies — with the same business model — work with vendors to tweak platforms/software, etc. to maximize its impact for our business. It helps us better understand what might and might not work for us. Any general best-practices or tutorial-type information (consumer vs. salesman, marketing management, etc.) we can provide to our distributors is also helpful.”

You can access any of the documents in the archive from DSEF’s website, by clicking here.

DSEF & BBB: Will You Have to Pay a 4% Surcharge for Using a Credit Card?

DSEF & BBB: Will You Have to Pay a 4% Surcharge for Using a Credit Card?

By Caitlin Vancasblue_with_website-225x30022

Did you know that every time you make a credit card purchase, the store you are buying from pays a fee to the credit card company? Did you also know that as of this week, PA merchants are able to pass along up to 4% of these credit card interchange fees to customers?

All but ten states (CA, CO, CT, FL, KS, ME, MA, NY, OK, TX) are allowing merchants the option to incur these new surcharges. Luckily, if a business does decide to add a check-out fee for credit card users, it must be clearly posted near the door of a physical store location or on the website for web transactions. Customer receipts must also clearly state any additional costs to consumers using a credit card. Purchases made by debit and pre-paid cards will not be impacted.

According to the National Retail Federation, merchants are unlikely to begin surcharging for credit card use. What do you think? Your BBB recommends asking stores you frequent about any additional costs that may be incurred if you pay using a credit card. If a merchant does not follow the rules about alerting consumers to these fees in their store or website, notify BBB and the FTC. Click the links for more information about the surcharge on Visa and MasterCard’s websites.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit for more information.

DSEF & BBB: Not All Customer Reviews & Review Sites Are Created Equal

DSEF & BBB: Not All Customer Reviews & Review Sites Are Created Equal

blue_with_website-225x30022By Myriam Cruz

Looking for pre-purchase advice, more and more consumers are turning to reviews for products and services. However, not all reviews are created equal and many consumers question their validity after several reports claim fake reviews are more common than expected.

An article by TIME Magazine highlights that while various review sites – such as YelpTripAdvisorExpedia and Google – are implementing steps to identify both positive and negative fake reviews, “the system is being manipulated…and that’s all negative for consumers who are using them to try and make smart choices.”

Aside from company staff and marketers, freelance writers are also paid for reviews praising a company, product or service. In one case, a Wall Street Journal reporter plugged the name of a reviewer into a search engine and discovered the “consumer” was a communications manager at the company whose product she was praising.

Are there any consequences for such misleading behavior, you might ask?

Considering similar situations misleading, theFederal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its Endorsement Guides in 2009 to reflect three basic truth-in-advertising principles:

  1. Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading.
  2.  If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances.
  3. If there is a connection between endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.

While FTC guidelines provide some protection from misleading customer review practices, they are only part of the solution. Consumers play a vital role when it comes to identifying and denouncing misleading practices.

As Better Business Bureau (BBB) joins the customer review industry, it provides guidelines to help identify real reviews from fake or paid praise. In the end, the best way to obtain information about a product or service is to become familiar with the review process and use review sites that have a user verification process, such as BBB’s email verification.

Do you think it’s worth looking at reviews before purchasing a product or service? Are you more likely to consider reviews for higher priced items?


DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit for more information.

DSEF & BBB: The Customer is Always Right – This Minute (Part 3)

DSEF & BBB: The Customer is Always Right – This Minute (Part 3)

By Lance Trebesch

Timing Is Everything

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we established that always-happy customers represent 1% of the average organization’s customer base. The other 99% are likely willing to flock to your competitors or slander you on their social networks the moment you fail to please them. Your window for rectifying the situation, addressing their problems, and proving your loyalty to them is small and shrinks quickly.

You have a two-fold strategy: first, identify problem areas and address or eradicate them before your customers have an unpleasant experience to begin with. Second, create mechanisms that allow you to instantly communicate with anyone who still isn’t satisfied.

Likely, you already know what areas are causing trouble in your business model. As Mark Hurd demonstrated, most of your customers are willing to pay more money for better service. Now is the time to invest in improvements:

  • Product Quality: Obviously, address this first. If your product or service is substandard, why are you in business? Sell something worth selling.
  • Website Design: Everything needs to load properly, be easy to use, and look up-to-date. If customers can’t interface with the site, you can’t sell online.
  • Delivery Options: Partner with a reliable company. Offer multiple options. If your product is expensive, consider whether free shipping gives you an edge.
  • Support Staff: You need smart, friendly people, familiar with all aspects of the business, able to deal with cranky customers, and ready to fix problems.

Most people with complaints would rather complain to someone who can help them, rather than barking randomly into space. Be available to hear problems. Go out of your way to make it easy for people to provide feedback. It’s far better if they complain to you than to a public website!

  • Webforms: Your website should include an easy-to-find link where customers can contact you. Any complaints should be answered immediately.
  • 800 Number: If call volume is low, maybe you only need twelve hours of customer support a day, but for bigger business, 24-hour toll free numbers are a must.
  • Social Networks: Your customers are connected. Are you? Many people head for Facebook or Twitter first. Be there, waiting for them, ready to answer.
  • Reach Out: Don’t wait for folks to complain. Customer surveys and other direct contact soliciting feedback help you provide everyone with what they want.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit for more information.