By: John Fleming
Publisher’s Note: I received this letter from John Fleming concerning our channel and the social unrest generated by George Floyd’s killing. I asked him if we could reprint the letter in its entirety so that more people could benefit from his insight and thoughts.
— Teresa Craighead, Publisher
COVID-19 has changed the game and so will the resurrection of the social justice movement.
The direct selling model has been approaching an inflection point for more than a few years. We have never experienced a threat to the health and welfare of nations as we are experiencing today. Add to that the events of the past few weeks, during which we have seen an unprecedented global outcry for repairing social injustice, and one could easily say that these are indeed the most challenging of times.
What can we learn?
Throughout my direct selling career, whether in my days of direct involvement or indirect involvement, I have often said that direct selling is one of the finest, if not the finest, entrepreneurial forces for good on the planet. I have also enjoyed hearing the same words from other leaders who hold leadership positions within direct selling companies. I share with you this thought: It is time for your voices to be heard, loud and clear, as to what you and your company truly stand for.
In 1968, when reflecting on the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”
We know that it is not the products alone that could ever be the sole fuel to the building of a successful direct selling company or any direct selling business.
Direct selling companies depend on attracting people from all walks of life. Those individuals choose a given company, more often than not, because they see a glimmer of hope for themselves and believe they share that company’s principles and values.
They also believe that, regardless of their walk of life, direct selling could be a dream come true. My definition of a dream is simply the opportunity to earn a return on the time and effort invested that is exciting and fulfilling, within a time frame that is realistic and achievable. Some people strive to achieve more, but this simple description is itself a dream. We learned this from Rich DeVos, Jay Van Andel, David McConnel, Mary Kay, Mary Crowley, Doris Christopher, Mark Hughes, and others. What are people learning from you at this most important moment in time?
The additional challenge you are facing, as current leaders and torchbearers, is the challenge associated with how you are perceived by those who have chosen you as the brand with which they align.
From this point of view, the social injustice demonstrations we are experiencing should not be taken as another incident with thoughts such as, “This too shall pass.” It is also important for all of us to understand the difference between authentic protest and unlawful behavior.
Here are a few questions I have asked myself, and I hope you may have asked similar questions. What do I really stand for? Who else knows? Do they know now?
This is a time for innovation, creativity, and, possibly, reevaluation of the founding principles and values of your businesses—the key to any authentic strategy to attract diversity. There are people within your company who are stressed, and some are tired. People are concerned and rightfully so. Those who have chosen you—and those who would like to get to know you—often go to bed at night with a hope or a prayer, and it may be about you.
No one should be waiting for a time when we will go back to the way things were relative to either of our challenges. To believe such a time will come would be the equivalent of believing in the “good fairy.” We can exist with differences when we are advocates of principles and values that are common to the needs of humans. The direct selling business model can also be a pain reliever, a source of inspiration during the most challenging of times, a beacon of hope!
We can never take our focus away from the importance of achieving growth, nor should we ever take our focus off the needs of the people. There are KPIs associated with both.
I believe this distribution channel will become stronger, better, more appealing, and more relevant than ever! There are solutions to the challenges we face. When leadership carefully guides and navigates, brings forth the best in innovation and creativity, and shares a commitment to values that are common to all the people, we win. What do we stand for?
The great British philosopher and historian Arnold Toynbee said many profound things in his life relative to the strengths and attributes of civilization. He frequently warned us about silence. And, although he was writing in the 1940s, his words remain relevant today. I’ll share this excerpt in closing:
“We are not doomed to make history repeat itself; it is open to us, through our own efforts, to give history, in our case, some new and unprecedented turn. As human beings, we are endowed with this freedom of choice, and we cannot shuffle off our responsibility upon the shoulders of God or nature. We must shoulder it ourselves. It is up to us.”
Just thoughts, my friends,
John T. Fleming
DSA Hall of Fame,
DSEF Circle of Honor,
DSN Lifetime Achiever
Ultimate Gig Project Lead, www.ultimategigbook.com
Please feel free to share these thoughts with others.