DirectLine: Support System

By Jeffrey A. Babener

Boost Your Business By Joining An MLM Association

In the network marketing industry, companies are fond of telling their distributors, "You're in business for yourself but not by yourself." Network marketing companies provide their distributors with broad support systems to enhance their businesses. But there's another important support source for distributors and their parent companies: industry trade associations.Connect With an MLM Association

The network marketing industry's two major trade associations are the Multi-Level Marketing International Association (MLMIA) and the Direct Selling Association (DSA). Whether you are selling toys, vitamins, cosmetics or encyclopedias, these organizations bring together legislative and educational support for the entire networking industry into a common resource.


The MLMIA is located on the sundrenched coast of California in Newport Beach - no coincidence since network marketing is especially popular in the sunbelt states of California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, and Southern California is probably the center of the industry. The MLMIA has affiliates worldwide, from the South Pacific to London.

Founded in 1985, the MLMIA leans toward members from the younger generation of network marketing companies, although older companies are involved as well. Doris Wood, founder and president of the MLMIA, explains the principal reasons the association was formed.

"We felt the direct selling industry needed an organization that focused solely on the problems and issues of multilevel marketing (MLM) companies," she says. "In addition, we felt distributors needed to have a participatory role in industry issues. We are the only trade association to accept network marketing companies and individual distributors as members. Our goal is to support multilevel marketing throughout the world." MLMIA members have done just that by testifying before legislatures on industry issues and by playing important roles in cases affecting network marketing. In addition, the MLMIA helps weed out disreputable operators and pyramid schemes and has adopted ethics screening standards for its members.

Debbi Ballard, head of the MLMIA's Government-Industry Liaison Group, leads a task force that meets regularly with attorneys general and government regulators to maintain open lines of communication between the network marketing industry and government. "We speak at their meetings, and they speak at ours," says Ballard. "It's a beneficial relationship for the industry and for consumers as well."

The MLMIA provides a wide variety of educational materials and hosts conferences on the industry, with specific segments devoted to issues of interest to individual and corporate members. "Since the organization is there to support both distributors and corporate members, we feel it's important to provide a balance of programs and activities," explains Wood.

In addition, members can obtain health insurance and benefits through the MLMIA. Call your parent company, and ask if they belong; you may be eligible for benefits. Nu Skin, Oxyfresh, Matol Botanical and Noevir are just a few of the corporations whose distributors can obtain benefits through the MLMIA. And don't be shy about individual membership, either; you'll enjoy the benefits of being part of a group. Write the MLMIA at 1101 Dove St., # 170, Newport Beach, CA 92660, or call (714) 622-0300.


Founded in 1910, the DSA is the granddaddy of the MLM industry. (One of its founding members is Avon, still probably the world's most famous direct selling company.) There are independent DSAs in 41 countries, but they take their cue from the DSA in Washington, DC.

The DSA has more than 120 member companies in the United States, and chances are that if you are affiliated with a major MLM organization, such as Amway, Mary Kay, Shaklee or Tupperware, you have access to the information and support systems of the DSA through your parent company. DSA membership is not open to individual distributors, but through its member companies, the group issues gold identity cards to individual network marketers showing their affiliation with the DSA.

DSA representatives travel tens of thousands of miles every year to meet and testify before state legislatures on network marketing issues. The crowning achievement of the organization came in 1982, when it successfully persuaded Congress to amend the Internal Revenue Code to recognize independent contractor status for direct sellers.

The association is also called on to give input on pending legislation in the areas of consumer protection and ethical trade practices, including anti-pyramid laws, rules on in-home solicitations, and business opportunity registration laws.

What does the future hold for the DSA? "I see the DSA playing a greater role as the industry's vehicle for self-regulation, both here in the United States and in conjunction with our 41 sister DSAs," president Neil Offen wrote in their annual report. "While I see us continuing to win independent contractor tax fights and affirm how crucial those and our other government relations efforts are, I also see the need for us to do more to further raise the level of integrity, openness and ethical behavior of companies, salespeople and distributors."

Individual network marketers can attend the DSA's ongoing educational conferences, held nationwide throughout the year, although the meetings are aimed at corporate executives of network marketing organizations. The DSA's sister organization, the Direct Selling Education Foundation, supports academic research and conferences on issues related to direct sales.

DSA members must agree to follow a comprehensive ethics code that commits them to fair business practices in dealing with consumers and distributors. The rules are far-reaching, covering such issues as buyback policies, inventory loading, earnings representations and deceptive recruiting practices.

In addition, the DSA tracks industry information and prints a wide variety of materials that can help companies and individual distributors. For more information, write to the DSA at 1666 K St. N.W., # 1010, Washington, DC 20006-2808, or call (202) 293-5760.

The DSA and the MLMIA are there to support you, but they can't help you if you don't get involved. Talk to your parent company, or find out about individual membership. You have nothing to lose - and much to gain.

Jeffrey A. Babener
Babener & Associates
121 SW Morrison, Suite 1020
Portland, OR 97204
Jeffrey A. Babener, the principal attorney in the Portland, Oregon law firm of Babener & Associates, represents many of the leading direct selling companies in the United States and abroad.

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