Kevin Guest, USANA Health Science’s CEO and Chairman of the Board—and the Direct Selling Association’s Chairman of the Board—reflects on the need to protect the company culture, especially during crises, and explains why modernizing the direct selling channel is necessary to stay relevant with today’s entrepreneurs and consumers.
Kevin Guest on…
Q: You have said that a company’s reputation comes down to culture, which you define as those actions leaders will allow to happen and those they will not tolerate. What have you done to ensure USANA’s culture is clearly defined, from the corporate leaders and employees at the home office to those in the field?
A: I’ve chosen to focus on our core values as a company—health, excellence, integrity, and community. I believe our core values are the framework of our culture. Reinforcing those values helps everyone in the company—both in the home office and the field—better understand how to act and interact with each other. These core values are USANA’s north star as we all navigate uncertain times.
Q: One of the things that worried you coming out of the pandemic was the ability to maintain the culture USANA had built. The pandemic brought changes in connectivity, which could have created a lapse in culture. What have you done to ensure that culture was not affected?
A: We’ve leveraged technology in a more profound way to make sure we are communicating and connecting with our customers and employees. As this situation played out, I knew we needed to have as many touchpoints as possible so that we could effectively reinforce the core values that are so important for maintaining USANA’s culture. We’ve done that in a variety of ways, including hosting virtual or socially distanced lunches with our management team and new employees, hosting dynamic online conventions with our associates, working with our markets to support local charities impacted by the pandemic, and even holding a drive-through holiday party for our home office staff. What we’ve seen is we can still be together, and our culture can continue to resonate, even when we’re not physically in the same place.
THE DIGITAL WORLD
Q: Owning your digital space is so critical in these times. One video can quickly gain traction and garner more than a million views in a matter of days. What do you consider the most important action a company can take to ensure it owns its digital space?
A: Focus on actively training your employees and distributors to do things the right way instead of simply trying to catch them when they do something wrong. When someone enrolls with USANA, we immediately train them on appropriate business practices, income and product claims, and the importance of compliance. And then we continue to train them regularly on these topics, so they always understand how to conduct proper business in the digital space.
Q: Similarly, the success of a company ultimately rests on owning its message. How can leaders make sure their companies’ core values and good works are the messages being shared and that other narratives are not driving their stories?
A: In the digital world, numbers matter. The number of people who interact with your stories and content is essential. At USANA, we own our digital space by creating a variety of relevant content for our distributors to share. By doing that, our distributors are becoming the messengers, not the message itself. And if they focus on sharing the messages the company has created, we know they will meet compliance standards, and we know they will represent USANA well, both online and in-person.
Q: You have stated that, as it relates to industry reputation, companies must be likable—that social media plays a large part in determining that likability. What key components should leaders have in their social media plans to engender that likability?
A: In the world of social media, authenticity is the key to being relevant and likable. And authenticity comes before sales. I think we should focus on developing genuine digital relationships with people instead of immediately trying to push products at them, which often pushes people away. People want to be part of a community with mutual interests and values. We can build those communities if we are authentic and genuine in our actions.
WORKING WITH THE MEDIA
Q: Why is it important to develop relationships with the media? What are some of the opportunities in which companies can involve the media?
A: I believe media relationships are critical. Some companies only consider media relationships when there is a crisis and they need to take a defensive stance against it. Having those defensive plans is important, but I also believe it is important to approach the media proactively. Relevant people in the media should know who you are, they should know about your company, and they should know about the good you do. That way, if something does happen and you find yourself on the defensive, you’ve already built a solid relationship to stand on.
When it comes to looking for opportunities to involve the media, we need to look around and recognize how much good this industry does. So many direct selling companies support or operate charitable foundations or do some service in their communities. Look for these positive stories. If they’re newsworthy, there could be an opportunity to get the media involved.
MODERNIZING THE CHANNEL
Q: You have stated that, as DSA chair, your focus will be on modernizing the channel. What will be your first act related to this?
A: I personally believe that if this industry works together as a collective group, we will have a voice more powerful than any digital news source. I would like to focus on sharing positive core messages that reflect the good this industry does in the world. In that way, I hope we can greatly improve our relevance and search engine optimization, and that people will see positive messages whenever they look at the direct selling industry as a whole.
Q: Why is it important for direct selling companies to band together on this modernization initiative?
A: We live in a world in which people are constantly searching online for information and answers. If we band together, this industry will become more relevant. Numbers really do matter when it comes to online interaction. As an industry, we have the potential to generate millions of views and likes. Together, we also can build a community of millions of followers who share positive messages about our industry.
Q: The nomenclature used in direct selling has, at times, hurt the channel because it is too complex to comprehend fully. In your view, does the industry need to simplify its language? Also, what can be done to make the language of direct selling more inclusive?
A: Some of the acronyms and phrases we use are certainly not inclusive. I think being less inclusive does hurt our industry; we all want to associate with companies that connect with us on a personal level. As we focus more on customers and customer acquisition, we need to speak to people in a way they can relate to and understand.
Q: You are a believer that times are going to get more complicated, particularly in four areas: regulatory environment, competition, the digital sphere, and international ability between borders. What are you most concerned about, and what can companies do to prepare?
A: It’s time for all of us to be more actively engaged in the regulatory process. Laws and regulations—or how particular laws or regulations are interpreted and enforced—change. There are currently a variety of potential legal and regulatory changes that could impact our industry. Engaging in advocacy for our industry is more critical now than it ever was. In addition to advocacy, being knowledgeable about and adapting to regulatory changes that concern our industry is among the most important things we should be doing.