A direct selling veteran talks about the importance of technology and leadership in building global companies
By: David Bland
Dallin Larsen, a former Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year and Utah CEO of the Year, founded Vasayo in 2016. Prior to Vasayo, Larsen founded MonaVie in 2005 and grew that company from zero to nearly a billion dollars in annual sales in less than five years. Under Larsen’s direction, Vasayo’s philanthropic partnership with Hearts & Hands for Humanity has generated enough contributions to build more than 130 wells in Tanzania, Africa, delivering clean water to hundreds of thousands of people.
Location: Pleasant Grove, Utah
SSN: Tell us about your history in direct selling.
My first experience with network marketing was with Nu Skin in 1988. I was in my late 20s and living in San Diego, California. I fell in love with the industry and what it could do for me and my family as well as others. About a year later, a gentleman called to tell me about a new company and asked that I meet with the founder. So, I interviewed with Myron Wentz, the founder of USANA. One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was heading up sales for that company. We launched USANA in 1991, and I was with them for roughly 10 years. That’s where I cut my teeth and gained a lot of valuable experience.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he says you have to put 10,000 hours into something before you can expect to be really good at it. USANA is where I put in my 10,000 hours. It was a slow-growth company, just one relationship at a time. I traversed America in a green Ford Taurus trying to build that company. A lot of times I’d go to meetings, and no one would show up. It was kind of discouraging, but I never quit. As I recall, we did roughly $3 million our first year, which is not exactly the foundation for a billion-dollar company. In our sixth year, I believe we broke $100 million.
Over the past 30 years, USANA has gone on to become a billion-dollar company. I’m not sure USANA ever hit what people would call “momentum,” which, I think, is a word far overused and overhyped in direct selling. People say, “Man, we’ve got to get the momentum!” But look at companies like Melaleuca, USANA, Forever Living, Mary Kay, and a few others; most of those legacy companies never really hit massive momentum. They just kept getting better, quarter after quarter, year after year, and decade after decade.
A few years after leaving USANA, I started my own company, called MonaVie, which was a rocket ship. I mean, talk about a company going into momentum… we certainly had it. We went from zero to almost a billion a year in revenue in 3.5 years! Few companies in direct selling, if any, have achieved that level of growth so quickly. It was both a blessing and a challenge as incomes outstripped leadership. Yet, I’m proud that in a few years we paid out billions of dollars in commissions and created a non-profit organization in Brazil that was instrumental in helping to feed, clothe, and educate thousands of kids in the favelas (a type of slum in Brazil).
SSN: After such success, what inspired you to start over again with Vasayo?
I came out of retirement in 2016 to start Vasayo after leaving MonaVie in 2014. I thought my career was done and thought, “Oh, I’ll play some golf and enjoy the fruits of my labors over the last 30 years. I’ve worked hard. I deserve it.” After about three months of retirement, I was bored out of my mind, and I didn’t like the direction the country was going. I saw the division and lack of understanding in public discourse and, sadly, it hasn’t gotten any better. I said to myself, “I want to speak into people’s lives. That’s what I do.” I don’t have many gifts, but I have a gift of helping to create culture. I love people easily. I believe in people, and I want to help put them in positions to win. I want to create a home where all feel welcome and respected just as they are.
So, I started Vasayo with the goal of building a global company. After four years, we are now open in multiple countries, including North America and parts of Asia. We recently introduced our joint venture in China—the largest market in the world with a population of 1.4 billion people—with a 30-year-old direct selling company.
When I conceived of the idea of Vasayo, I didn’t want just “me-too” products. I found out about liposomal technology, which helps deliver nutrients to the cells in a fat bubble, making them significantly more bioavailable. It’s the same technology pharmaceutical companies have been using for years to deliver drugs to our cells. With this technology and us being the first nutritional company to introduce multiple nutrients into liposomes, we have been recognized as one of the “Top 50 Healthcare Companies in the World.” I’m very proud of that award because it validates Vasayo as a pioneer. We’re doing something that’s never been done in nutritional supplements.
Today, we are four years into Vasayo and, like anything else of value in life, it has not been easy. There are days that I’ve said, “Man, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” You’d think after 30 years it’d get easier, but it hasn’t. I’ve helped build two global companies, and Vasayo is my third. I love the grind and the personal development required to climb to the highest peaks in business and in life. Having a global pandemic break out when your company is only 2 years old has not been easy, just the opposite. We’ve had to adjust our model from in-person events to virtual events.
We pivoted, and, as a result, we have a thriving business. We are growing, and even during the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve never missed paying a commission check or shipping our products to our Brand Partners and Customers. We pay commissions every Friday, and I’ve never missed paying a commission check in 30 years. Distributors will forgive you for a lot of things, but trust is lost if you don’t pay them. I’m proud of the fact that for 32 years and running, I’ve paid Distributors accurately and on time 100 percent of the time. And, like I said earlier, those commissions have now accumulated to several billion dollars being paid out to families around the world. That gives me a great sense of satisfaction because I know the money is being used to sustain life, pay off debt, create memories, and for many other valuable purposes.
SSN: Speaking of payouts, one common element to your career history is the binary comp plan. What are your thoughts on this system?
I’ve run with the binary compensation plan for over 30 years, but I’m not the guy shouting from the rooftop, “You’ve got to be in the binary.” Honestly, there are billion-dollar unilevels, billion-dollar breakaway plan companies, billion-dollar binary companies. Every company has a compensation plan, and each has its pluses and minuses. The binary has served me well.
There are things about it I really like. However, the compensation plan is way down on the list of reasons a direct selling company succeeds or fails. Success in this business requires leadership, first and foremost—a leader who understands that any direct sales company’s greatest asset is the relationship the company has with its Distributors. Some owners get this concept, and some owners, frankly, don’t. If you can find a company with proven leadership, that company has a chance. Couple that leadership component with the other necessary ingredients such as world-class products, a culture of inclusion, a keen sense of how to recognize people for the little and the big things they do, always keeping your word, and a few other absolutes, and you may have a chance to build a global company. If it was easy to create a billion-dollar direct selling company, there would be hundreds of them in the world. However, there are only a handful. I’m grateful that I’ve played a part in helping to create two of those companies, and Vasayo is a third. God willing and through a lot of hard work, persistence, and determination, Vasayo will also become a billion-dollar global brand.
SSN: You mentioned an office in China. That is no small feat. Tell us about that.
The biggest market in the world is China with 1.4 billion people. They’ve got 700 million women—that’s more than double the entire U.S. population—and our business is largely women. Not only is it the largest market in the world, but there are not that many direct selling licenses. The Chinese government has not issued a license in several years now.
Operating in China certainly puts you in a different mode. When I was with USANA, or shortly after I left USANA, they purchased a direct selling license. They purchased a company called BabyCare, and I think the transaction was somewhere approaching $45 million to $50 million. I believe that China is now their No. 1 market. I believe China is also the No. 1 market for Amway, Nu Skin, USANA, and others. At the virtual convention we had in August 2021, we announced a joint venture on a direct selling license to China, so now we have access.
We’re one of only 91 companies in the world with a license in China. We’ve just hired the former president of another large direct selling company in China to become Vasayo’s president of Greater China, so I’m very excited about this new chapter. I’ve heard that Vasayo is the youngest company ever to have legal access into China. I love being a pioneer and doing things nobody has yet done. That’s the American spirit of free enterprise. We are a country born on a dream of doing things differently and creating a future of freedom and prosperity. That spirit runs through my veins as well.
SSN: What does your scientific advisory board bring to your company?
We are always looking to reinvent ourselves and improve. In 2019, just two and a half years into our business, the International Forum on Advancements in Healthcare selected Vasayo as a “Top 50 Healthcare Company in the World” primarily because of our introducing liposomal technology into nutritional supplements.
That’s something I’m very proud of, as I’ve mentioned previously.
As part of our desire to build a world-class brand, we are always looking to engage with the best and the brightest, and our Scientific Advisory Board is no exception. We have a stellar Board, and it will continue to expand. For example, we recently added Dr. Allen Seals to our Board. Dr. Seals is one of the top cardiologists in the country. He is currently helping us develop a heart product. Another scientist we are working with is Dr. William Andrews. He’s considered by many to be the father of anti-aging. He’s studied anti-aging, including critical research on telomeres, for 40-plus years. For Vasayo, he recently created, in his words, “the world’s finest telomere support product.” I’m so impressed with Dr. James Baker from Arkansas—who also sits on our Scientific Advisory Board—that I made him my personal physician. I fly from Salt Lake City all the way to Arkansas to meet with him as my physician because I think so highly of him. And the list of these experts goes on. They love serving. They are non-paid representatives for Vasayo because they love people, they believe in the power of nutrition for the body, and they believe in the science of Vasayo’s liposomal technology. They have raised their hands and said, “We’d love to be part of this.”
SSN: Health and wellness direct sellers find themselves under both Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) scrutiny. What is your philosophy to stay in the clear?
I am not one of those people that slam the FDA for overreach because, for the most part, I agree with the majority of what they’re doing. We live in a country governed by laws. If you don’t like those laws, you can elect officials to change those laws. With respect to vitamins and supplements, maybe I wish that we could say a little bit more, but no company should be claiming that their product cures a certain disease. The FDA looks to make sure that what is legally allowed to be said is said, but that the line is not crossed. I’m glad we have a governing body to do that. Otherwise, the marketplace would be littered with unrealistic health claims that could give false hope to consumers.
As far as Vasayo goes, we take the FTC seriously, and I want to believe that we’ve done it right from the beginning. It’s hard to monitor every person and be on every Zoom, but regulators have an easier job with technology now. They can plug into any company’s Zoom and hear what they’re saying. I know that when we see certain posts on social media that we feel like could be over the line, our compliance department is immediately in communication with that person to ensure a post is removed or that their wording is changed to be compliant.
Sadly, with COVID-19, I’ve seen some outlandish claims on social media by some nutritional companies that taking their product will absolutely protect a person from ever getting the virus.
The FDA has acted against these overzealous marketers, and rightly so in my mind. It’s always a challenge in direct selling to educate your distributors on what you can and cannot say, and I think we are doing a very good job in this area at Vasayo. It requires constant education.
The FDA and FTC have important jobs to do to make sure that the consumers are told the truth without hyperbole because a lot of people get taken by false claims. They buy into claims that just aren’t true, and that’s sad. I want to make sure we always tell the truth.
SSN: What is the secret to your success?
The psychology of this business is recognition and making people feel valued, appreciated, and honored, regardless of their rank, religion, the color of their skin, or any factor that divides people on social media. I wanted to create a community that’s welcoming of people from all walks of life, and I think we’ve done a pretty darn good job of that. I feel like that’s my most important job as the founder and chairman of this company. I listen to the field, and I accept quite a few of their ideas. And sometimes I don’t, and that’s okay. There’s a mutual respect there. Not only have I surrounded myself with groundbreaking technology and a stellar Scientific Advisory Board, but I have an outstanding business partner in Daniel Picou, who is the CEO of Vasayo and a founder. I’m blessed to have a great corporate team who holds the glue together so that I can focus on what I believe my biggest strengths are: being with the people and creating relationships. It takes a team for any company, and everyone needs to know and operate in their correct lane. We are doing that at Vasayo, and the music we are creating is sounding better and better. I’m confident that one day this symphony will create a multibillion-dollar brand all over the globe, and that’s something I can spend the rest of my days being passionate about.
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