A REFLECTION ON OUR TIMES: Where We Are and Envisioning What's Next

"I defy you, stars!"
It’s another of those pacing nights. The Spring sky above Washington, DC, is extraordinarily clear and crisp – they say it’s because pollution levels have dropped with everyone staying home – and I can’t help but notice the stars here in the wee hours. 
Most of the neighborhood is asleep, no doubt dreaming about the soccer and little league games they will miss tomorrow, or the friend or relative they haven’t seen for more than fifty days now.  Others may be, like me, awake, looking at the bright stars, and pondering what the future holds and what fates have brought us to this moment.
I am reminded of the line in Romeo and Juliet, when the star-crossed lover, having lost his friend Mercutio and now in exile for the killing of Tybalt, hears of his dear love Juliet’s purported death.  He despairs at the fates that have brought him to such a point, and yells, “I defy you, stars!” 
It’s an understandable sentiment and one that many of us may share; what are the fates that have brought us to such an odd moment in our personal and professional lives, and how will we deal with them?
As the 2020 pandemic’s first stages begin to pass, I—along with so many others—am increasingly thinking about the future.  And even as DSA has been working to help direct selling companies maintain stability in the pandemic’s first days, our focus has begun to shift to envisioning what the future holds for us as a business model.
Will our customers return when the strictures of social distancing are relaxed?  Will the economy be strong enough to encourage consumer demand for our products?  Will the need for supplemental income strengthen our salesforce recruiting?  How will our meetings and incentives be structured in a world reshaped by new rules for large (and perhaps small) gatherings?  How might investors see the future for a business model whose strength is personal, face-to-face interaction?
The current forecasts, while yet uncertain, are positive.
Despite the uncertainty, a number of direct selling companies are reporting robust sales and recruiting numbers for March and even April, and that is—obviously—portentous in a positive way.
As we move forward to collect the most recent data (including overall sales numbers for 2019), I’ve asked the DSA Research Committee to adjust our 2020 Growth and Outlook survey (which typically looks backward to the previous year as the harbinger of future growth and measure of current channel health) to focus more clearly on the 2020 and future, especially in light of the pandemic’s ramifications.
We will still report 2019 data—of course—since these insights are both helpful and necessary.  But the bulk of the Committee’s work will look forward.
Similarly, since the beginning of the crisis, we’ve had thousands of direct selling executives participate in nine webinars.  In each, we have seen and heard from a range of direct selling executives representing every company type and size, as they address immediate practical concerns for direct sellers, as well as lay out (as best they can) a path forward for our businesses.
Now as we enter May and June, our continuing robust educational series will look to the future even more. 
Three May seminars will look at providing resources to the field, regulatory concerns going forward in a hyper-scrutinized marketplace for products and opportunities, and essential information from our most recent consumer insights survey.  
In early June, the DSA ENGAGE 2020: Direct Selling’s @Home #GlobalCommunity Virtual Experiencewill provide a week of on-demand content, a virtual exhibit hall, attendee interaction and 3.5 hours of live-streaming content from the industry’s leading CEOs, all with a focus on the future of the channel in uncertain times. 
DSA Members will have access to the event beginning on Thursday, June 4. DSA Councils will meet online for chats on Monday, June 8, with live-streaming of the main event on Tuesday, June 9.
DSA is also working on an updated online member directory to enhance member-to-member connections and buyer's guide to help our industry’s valued vendors demonstrate their product and service offerings.  Additional information on this #ShopDirect Membership Directory and #Community Buyer’s Guide for both DSA members and suppliers will be forwarded during the course of this month.
Additionally, we have reviewed the impressive DSA library of executive insights and made fourteen key presentations from forward-thinking direct selling leaders available in our DSA ENGAGE Lunchtime with Luminaries video series.
The prescient presentations from these direct selling thought leaders have even more resonance now and will be available through May and early June as a preamble to our DSA ENGAGE 2020: Direct Selling’s @Home #GlobalCommunity Virtual Experience.
The stars have shifted a bit since I began writing, but they are still bright overhead, and I know from an astronomer friend that those three extraordinarily bright stars I see are, in fact, planets. 
Venus, Jupiter, and Mars have been aligned in a rare way recently and provide something of a signpost to guide us through the night sky.  Maybe this light is auspicious.
Perhaps the stars are aligned for us even amid a seemingly chaotic situation. But as hopeful as those stars might be,  I’m honestly less interested in the stars than I am in what we can do among ourselves and for ourselves.
For us, I believe the future, dear friends, lies not in the stars but in ourselves.

Warm Regards,

Joseph N. Mariano