Letter from John Fleming, October 2012

John Fleming

As you can tell by the cover of this issue, we are embarking upon another Direct Selling News first. Never before has the face of any direct selling industry leader graced the cover of our magazine. That has been intentional, as this publication is always focused on stories supportive of an entire industry built upon a unique channel of distribution. But when discussing the Cover Story for our October 2012 issue, “The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling,” it immediately became apparent that this issue would change our rules and that the cover would indeed portray these 20 luminaries on the “front line,” leading their companies on behalf of millions who choose direct selling as their pathway to a better life.

DSN Cover, October 2012Over my many years of participation and now observation, I have always been amazed at the makeup of the direct selling industry and the fact that 75 percent of the independent contractors—worldwide—who sell the many products and services are women! When I had the responsibility of line-management within a direct selling company, I often used the phrase, I am very grateful that there is a tiny bit of room for a few good men. It was certainly through my personal direct selling experience that I grew to understand the power and influence women had on a business model built upon relationships. When you think about the model from this aspect, it just makes sense that women play an integral and leading role.

Where did it all start? David H. McConnell, Founder of Avon Products Inc., is often described as revolutionary. His thinking about the manner in which he wanted to build his business was very different than the traditional thinking of his time. McConnell decided to build a sales organization focused on and composed primarily of women at a time when men were predominant in this role. In fact, women did not even have the right to vote at that time. McConnell changed the landscape by involving women and focusing on a new type of presentation that would forever change the business model.

More than 100 years later, direct selling is the only industry—the only major channel of distribution—composed primarily of women. Throughout the world, more than 65 million women find direct selling to be the answer to gaining control of their own time, often while working in other full- or part-time careers and while being wives and mothers—managers of households. They can still be part-time business owners, and for some, the owners or partners in full-time enterprises. All 65 million, and the hundreds of millions who have gone before, demonstrate those special skills and attributes women bring to an industry built upon the power of relationships.

In the corporate ranks, we don’t have the same percentage of women in leadership as we observe in the field sales organizations of the companies that compose the industry. But as we looked at the top 100 direct selling companies in the world, we saw corporate executives with great responsibilities, as awesome enablers of the millions who have found direct selling to be their opportunity of choice. From the legal function to the marketing function, to C-level and founder or co-founder, we saw amazing executives who happen to be women, and heard their amazing stories. This issue serves as recognition for those U.S. executives, for those women who meet awesome responsibilities every day, making available the life-changing opportunities offered by the companies they lead and manage.

In this issue we also recognize the iconic pioneers who blazed the trail for women on the front lines today. Each is a legend in so many ways, and the industry is forever indebted to their courage, vision and leadership. From companies such as Avon, Mary Kay, Home Interiors, JAFRA Cosmetics and The Pampered Chef, these women stood tall in their advocacy of equal pay through a special way of conducting business, and on the terms women embraced. It worked, and a global industry is the result, now as relevant and important as any time in its history.

Our Industry with Heart story for this issue focuses on the contributions of the Mary Kay Foundation, a choice we made many months ago. As we mention in the opening paragraph of the story, Mary Kay Ash’s heart was to positively impact the lives of women because she wanted them to have a thriving career without compromising their family time and their faith. It’s a great story we know you will appreciate and enjoy.

Our Direct Selling News Blog was launched last month. Our primary focus will be to make sure good content is not forever moved to our archives without reminders and easy access to those topics of interest. The blog (www.dsnblog.com) also provides us with the flexibility to be ad hoc when we deem necessary, and it is accessible on all mobile applications.

Until next month … enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief

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