John Parker is used to being in situations that are a little scary and uncomfortable, whether it is surfing the world’s oceans or spending several years overseas in a completely different culture.
What he likes about those situations are the challenges posed—the process of getting through them, to him, is the ultimate reward.
This month, Parker, Vice President and Chief Sales Officer for Amway, will take on another challenge as the new Chair of the DSEF Board of Directors: to guide the Foundation as it works with its many partners to execute programs that promote ethical entrepreneurship and champion consumers rights on behalf of the industry.
“The DSEF does so much in terms of bringing credibility and understanding about our industry to key influencers,” says Parker, who is also a member of the Direct Selling Association Board of Directors. “By building those relationships with individuals and establishing partnerships with some really respected organizations, it creates an environment in which we can have others tell our story in a compelling way and speak for us in times of crisis. I think there is just a lot of power to that.”
Parker assumes his new position with a focus on a few key initiatives, such as the Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program, a new community college curriculum developed in partnership with NACCE (National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship), and the CBBB (Council of Better Business Bureau) program, which helps DSEF spread the message of the direct selling industry’s commitment to ethics and trust in the marketplace.
Parker would also like to expand the global relevance of DSEF, which already successfully supports consumer welfare globally through such programs as APEC /CEPI (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Consumer Education and Protection Initiative). From his extensive international experience, Parker knows that international markets could benefit from a variety of DSEF programs.
Charlie Orr, Executive Director of DSEF, thinks Parker’s knowledge and experience will be a great asset to the Foundation and its Board. “He brings both a domestic and global perspective,” says Orr. “And he knows and respects the distributor mindset as well as anybody in our industry.”
Parker’s knowledge of the distributor mindset comes from nearly two decades of working with Amway distributors around the world. Parker joined the company in 1993 as a Distributor Relations Sales Manager and assumed several management roles within the company over the years, including Chief Marketing Officer.
In 2007 he was named President of Amway Japan, where he led all operations for one of Amway’s largest affiliates. “It was a fantastic experience, both personally and professionally,” says Parker. “It was an opportunity to experience a very different culture. I think my children will forever see the world differently. Certainly I will forever see the world differently.”
Parker’s time in Japan provided him with a new global perspective of the industry. “It was interesting to see the challenges the direct selling industry is going through in Japan. Some markets are a little more organized than others, but as a whole the industry has very similar issues around the world,” he says. “I had a better understanding of that within the context of Japan, and now that I’m back here, we’ll be able to support our business and the industry as we try to improve the environment for direct selling in Japan.”
Living in a foreign country was similar to his time spent at the University of Notre Dame, where Parker was a member of the varsity golf team and earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. “The two experiences are not all that different,” he says. “Being an expat in another country—typically folks are there four or five years—you are thrown into a strange environment with other people going through the same thing at the same time, which is kind of like college. You build these deep relationships quickly and build on the friendships, just like you do in college.”
And just as he sees similarities in those two experiences, Parker also sees a connection between sports—he is an avid surfer and golfer— and the direct selling industry.
“We think about our industry as individual distributors doing their thing—and they are—but it’s also a community, a team environment,” Parker says. “If direct selling were a sport it would be a team sport. because the encouragement, the community and the social dynamic of direct selling make it more than just people selling products and getting compensated for it.
“The relationships are probably the things that make the industry so special,” Parker continues. “And I think that’s true in sports as well. You have a feeling about your friends and your teammates that you carry with you your whole life. I think our industry is very much the same way. We are out building businesses but we are also out building friendships. I think that is a pretty great part of the industry and a pretty special part of life.”
Parker’s new team at DSEF will include two new members to the Board: Orville Thompson, CEO of Scentsy, who will also serve on DSEF’s Executive Committee, and John Wadsworth, President of Morinda Bioactives.
“As we welcome our new Board members, I am looking forward to having their perspective and guidance as we continue to grow our existing signature programs and pursue several new exciting strategic opportunities,” says Orr.
Orr also acknowledged outgoing Board members Heather Chastain (Celebrating Home), Al DiLeonardo (CUTCO/Vector Marketing), Sandy Spielmaker (Amway) and Jim Stitt (CUTCO/Vector Marketing) for their contributions. “I thank them for their service and their support over these last several years,” he says.