…What’s in a name? That which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet…
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Names are important: they carry meaning derived from the legacy of past actions and an ability to reliably deliver. While names conjure an image that may be easily recognizable, looks alone can deceive. Even Shakespeare notes in his couplet about the rose the importance of remembering that anything that is called a rose must genuinely smell like a rose. After all, it is The sweetness of smell together with the name that demonstrates the object to be what it claims to be.
In our world of direct selling, it is the DSA Code of Ethics that helps ensure that those who call themselves direct sellers are worthy of the title and that they genuinely “pass the sniff test” laid out by our industry. As any member of the Direct Selling Association (DSA) knows, embedded within the moniker “direct selling” is a commitment to the most ethically rigorous business practices and vigilance for protecting the consumers who participate in the opportunities we create, as well as those who buy our products.
However, there are those whose nefarious deeds betray their self-identification as bona fide direct sellers: their businesses practices do not withstand the DSA Code of Ethics’ tests.
Those who require individuals to buy more inventory than they could ever sell or project false promises of a better life free from financial worry are anything but direct sellers. Pyramid schemes masquerading as legitimate companies prey upon unsuspecting victims, exposing legitimate enterprises to attacks. And critics then paint the entire business model with the bad acts of a few imposters.
The DSA Code of Ethics is the industry’s way to set bad actors apart from the visionaries whose ideas have empowered millions to start their own direct selling businesses and build better lives for themselves and their families. The Code allows the name “direct seller” to carry the same credibility as other opportunities. It is what assures the nation’s budding entrepreneurs that direct selling is a flexible, profitable and modern opportunity they seek.
There is so much in the name direct selling. Some of the brightest brands in our industry are envisioning new ways of describing themselves and what they do.
While many names are now attached to our business model — “social selling,” “network marketing,” “party plan,” “multilevel,” “door to door,” “person to person” — I believe that all direct sellers have more in common than those names might suggest. With our ability to serve our customers with the greatest level of service and product knowledge, combined with the micro-entrepreneurial opportunities which we provide, direct selling is perfectly positioned to compete in a marketplace being rapidly changed by the advent of e-commerce, on demand delivery, and the gig economy. And this moment of change, together with our shared commitment to doing the right thing for our customers and salespeople, gives us the opportunity to work together to propel direct selling to new heights and prominence in the market. It is this opportunity which brings all direct sellers together, through DSA.
Thus it is that more than ever before, DSA is engaged in the fight task of preserving and enhancing the ability of direct sellers, of every name and type, to serve their customers, communities, and salespeople in a rapidly evolving market. Today the Association is actively working at the state and national levels to:
- Ensure the independent contractor status of direct sellers;
- Improve the reputation and understanding of the direct selling model among policy makers and other critical audience;
- Reduce unnecessary regulatory scrutiny of and bureaucratic requirements that might be imposed on direct selling;
- Provide the highest level of confidence to individual consumers and salespeople of direct selling companies;
- Ensure that the tax treatment of direct selling salespeople and companies is fair and equitable;
- Protect the opportunity for individuals to start their own direct selling enterprises;
- Enact a strong and credible self-regulatory program to cure perceived and real problems in the marketplace;
- Guide new proposals regarding the “gig” economy, “job sharing” and similar models to guarantee that direct selling is not inhibited, but encouraged;
Social sellers network marketers, party plan sellers, door to door, person to person, big ticket companies, — all those who share and demonstrate this commitment to work together on behalf of this great business model, to provide products and opportunities to their customers and salespeople ethically and honestly, to work together to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving marketplace, to speak to government with one voice about the value and importance of direct selling, to build the image and reputation of our business model — all the companies and individuals able to meet these rigorous standards of DSA membership, regardless of their names, are welcome to join us in this important cause.