Building a Great Distributed Workforce Culture in Direct Selling
How Direct Selling Companies Turn Gig Opportunities into Distributors’ Successes
As Forbes reports, 57 million people in the US have made a living over the past year thanks to side hustle gigs. It comes as no surprise that more than a quarter of Americans are involved in various gig opportunities since they offer flexibility, entrepreneurial freedom, and oftentimes don’t require specific degrees or major upfront capital investments.
Although these side hustle gigs are often considered to fall under the same umbrella, not all of them offer equal opportunities in terms of personal development, earned income, and other factors. While some of the aspects are not as important to the people who see the gig economy as a part-time job, those who chose to be full-time giggers do have to think about the long-term benefits they can draw upon in their “gig life.”
The ugly truth about some gig opportunities
The majority of gig companies such as Uber, TaskRabbit, Lyft, and others leverage a business model that focuses only on the customer demand side. As a result, their independent workforces face a lot of challenges that they have to solve on their own.
It’s not me, it’s you
Sarah Kessler, former reporter at Fast Company, spent a month working in the gig economy to find out the dark side of what it’s like to be your own boss. This is how she describes her experience with Postmates, a logistics company that connects customers with local independent couriers.
If you work for Postmates and you don’t beat your coworker to accept deliveries that might fill your shift, you — not Postmates— are out of luck. If you get a flat tire, you— not Postmates — are out of luck. And if there aren’t enough jobs to go around, you — not Postmates— are out of luck.
This kind of gig business model places all the risk on its independent workforce, meaning that companies do not accommodate the couriers who contribute to the business’s profits. A similar experience happened to Kris Marv, an Amazon Flex delivery driver. He points out the cutthroat competition thriving among people who work to make ends meet: “The more people get involved in the gig economy, the less work there is to be had within it. If we double the amount of drivers, our workload is cut in half.”
What savings? You will pay for your absence
In the gig economy, flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom are not always as attractive as described. Amber Petrovich, writer and editor, writes in The Washington Post about common concerns that gig workers experience:
The world in which I live, floating from gig to gig, unable to gain a solid financial footing, is one without pay raises or basic benefits. For more than a decade now, I’ve struggled to build retirement savings, because my hourly wage barely covers living expenses. And God forbid I become seriously ill or injured and can’t work. I’d go broke.
Of course, this challenge applies only to those people who have chosen the gig economy as their main source of income.
However, even if you’re a side-gigger, you can also suffer a financial loss, and the problem is not confined to the US. British-based Parcelforce pays 25% of its independent contractor drivers on a per delivery basis, and the drivers need to fund their own vehicle, fuel, insurance, and uniform. We have discovered that if these drivers turn down a delivery request because of illness or any other reason and can’t find cover, they may get a £250 fine for a missed day. “We all hate it. My colleague handed in his notice after being told he was being fined £750 for being off sick for three days,” says one of the couriers.
So, apart from avoiding gig offers that may lead to financial losses, are there any opportunities that would guarantee the workforce not only extra income but also skills development?
How direct selling triumphs over the dark side of the gig economy
Direct selling, unlike the gigs mentioned above, puts independent distributors at the center of its business model and creates a pool of ongoing, personalized growth opportunities in addition to a supplemental income. A company’s focus on personalization needs to start during recruiting. This is when DS companies get to know what internal drivers motivate potential recruits, helping the company to effectively use those factors as a further impetus to success as well as the means to boost distributor retention and productivity.
The next level of support comes with targeted learning that helps distributors reach their goals more quickly and efficiently. Since the direct selling industry is very focused on the power of supportive communities, new recruits get their backs covered through the joint efforts of their uplines and personalized onboarding tools. Each distributor’s small wins translate into the success of a company. “In direct selling, you work for yourself, but not by yourself,” says Dave Merriman, Executive Vice President of ACN. That’s the ultimate secret to winning over the talent in a gig economy.
Let’s take a look at real-life stories that show how some direct selling companies have translated various distributors’ personalized goals into their field success.
- Enjoy favorite products at a discount, share your joy with others, make extra income.
Aside from being a writer for The Hull Hub magazine, Jennifer Gilmour is also an independent Jamberry consultant. One reason why Jennifer joined the company was that she loved getting her nails done, but she had neither time nor money to go to a salon each month. But discounts on products were just the beginning.
“Jamberry has helped in so many ways,” says Jennifer. “Firstly, I was still caught in a financial trap from my previous abusive relationship as well as still having to pay off the legal costs of freeing myself from that situation. Everything was kept to a minimum as a family and we were rarely able to afford many luxuries. Joining Jamberry changed that for me and for my family last year.”
By raising some extra money from her Jamberry business, Jennifer could afford “that trip to the cinema or day out” as well as “a little family holiday to London, a Christmas food shop,” and a weekend away for Jenn and a couple of her recruits in Newcastle.
- Stay-at-home parents can make contributions to the family’s income.
“Anyone with passion and drive can build this business,” says Lisa Wolny. “I was a stay-at-home mom with very little post-secondary education. It doesn’t matter how much education you’ve had or what job you held before this opportunity. Being successful in this business is about being consistent and taking action, and the drivers are your belief, your attitude, your energy, and your heart.”
Being a mom of four is challenging and leaves practically no time for any side job. However, Lisa’s perseverance and desire to share products she loves prove otherwise.
“When people say they don’t have time to build this business, I call them out on it,” says Lisa, knowing that with Isagenix’s flexible business opportunity and 24/7 available support resources it’s possible. “Personal development is such a huge part of this business, and you can just hit Play and listen to these tools while you’re taking care of your life.” So that’s what Lisa did. She balanced her mom duties with Isagenix training, listening to podcasts while driving, changing diapers, doing household chores, and during nap time. Her dedication and efforts started to pay off, bringing in a decent supplemental income and also serving as an inspiring example for other parents.
- Learn more than just one skill with many opportunities to grow and become successful.
Lilli Vanhatalo has always wanted to enjoy financial and time-related freedom: “I did not want to do a normal 8 to 4 job—I would like to generate something of my own instead. I just had no idea what it could be that I could make enough money and gain enough time from.”
As a wedding gift from a friend, Lilli received some of Nu Skin’s products. This was her first introduction to the company and she didn’t even think about starting a business in direct selling. “I couldn’t even imagine that it could be a vehicle to achieve my dreams,” says Lilli. It was a journey from Helsinki to Copenhagen to see Nu Skin’s products, people and business that made Lilli change her mind.
The Nu Skin business has made me a better person! It teaches me self-control, trust, patience, and social skills. The business can grow only as fast as you grow yourself.
By running her own business, Lilli has learned how to set goals (both short- and long-term) the right way to reach desired objectives. She has also enhanced her leadership and management skills, which are beneficial for any kind of job—especially now, when companies in all industries are looking for talent with advanced soft skills. In turn, her improved soft skills make her a better upline who can attract a larger number of new recruits, thus contributing to the company’s growth.
- Direct Selling is for all adults (even if you’re retired).
Buddy and Debbie Edge have a combined total of 60 years of teaching experience. In 2010 they were getting close to retirement, but suddenly were struck by the fact that they wouldn’t have enough money. That’s when a fellow teacher offered them an opportunity destined to change the Edges’ lives.
When you first start out in the business, it’s all about you. Then your business starts growing; you get into the personal development. And it’s not about you anymore, it’s about the success of others, your teammates and all the other friends you have met along the way!
By joining WorldVentures, Buddy and Debbie were able to earn extra money after retiring from teaching and enjoy traveling to destinations they could only dream about before. They also have ongoing opportunities to positively influence other peoples’ lives and help them grow, just as they used to as teachers. “When you develop yourself, you become successful, but when you develop others, you become significant,” the Edges say, describing the “expansive and liberating” aspects of running a direct selling business with WorldVentures. “We always tell everybody, we educated children for 30 years, and now we’re teaching their parents how to make a living…living!”
From their first dream trip to helping other people succeed, the Edges have found a fulfilling way to earn supplemental income and a number of opportunities to travel.
- Direct selling flows smoothly into your daily routines.
The millennial actor and producer Pallavi Sastry recounts her tough times in the past after she decided to move from Houston to New York to become an actress. “I struggled for the first few years booking small gigs that didn’t pay very much. To pay the bills, I had to rely on a 40-hour a week waitressing gig. I wanted to be able to pay my bills without running myself ragged at a restaurant until two in the morning.”
At that time, one of her fellow actors was earning extra cash with Shaklee between acting gigs, so Pallavi decided to get supplemental income that way as well. “Shaklee allowed me to pay my rent every month in New York City so I could focus on auditioning well and therefore booking work as an actor,” says Pallavi, boasting that now she has a career in TV. Having more acting offers, supplemented by extra cash from her Shaklee business, Pallavi “was able to contribute the money to a down payment for an apartment in New York City,” and now is paying for the mortgage every month.
Apart from earning extra income, Pallavi also enjoys the unconditionally supportive community that she has found within the Shaklee family of distributors, which is “really hard to do in a big bustling city like New York.”
The gig economy is tricky. Some companies try to take advantage of their independent workforces and only care about pleasing their customers, but then they experience strikes, bad publicity, poor productivity, and high turnover. Other gig-like organizations place their distributors’ well-being at the center of their business philosophy and activities and offer them more than just a supplemental income. And that is how those companies win in the end.
If you want to provide your distributors with a gig and more opportunity to grow their businesses, ask for a demo of the Rallyware Performance Enablement Platform!
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