MLM: The DSA
An Introduction to Network Marketing
By Jeffrey A. Babener
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The DSA is the granddaddy of the industry, which actually goes back to 1910. One of the founding members, Avon, is still probably the most famous direct selling company in the world. (Back in those days, Avon was called the California Perfume Company.)
After early stints in New York and Minnesota, the DSA moved to Washington, D.C. in 1969, and has been there ever since. DSA organizations belonging to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations are now located in more than 40 countries around the world, but they take their cue from the American-based DSA in Washington, D.C.
The DSA has more than 100 member companies in the United States. If you're affiliated with a company such as Amway, Mary Kay, Shaklee, or Tupperware, chances are good that you have access to the information and support systems of the DSA through your company. DSA membership is for companies, however not individual distributors. Nevertheless, the DSA, issues gold identity cards to individual networkers through member companies to identify their affiliation with the DSA.
DSA representatives travel tens of thousands of miles every year to testify before state legislatures on issues of importance to network marketers. The crowning achievement of the organization came in 1982 when it successfully convinced Congress to amend the Internal Revenue Code to recognize independent contractor status for direct sellers.
The DSA also gives input on pending legislation in areas of consumer protection and ethical trade practices, including anti-pyramid laws, rules on in-home solicitations, business opportunity registration laws, etc.
What's the future mission for the DSA? In an annual report, DSA president Neil Offen noted, "In the days ahead, I see DSA playing a greater role as the industry's vehicle for self-regulation, both here in the United States and in conjunction with our 39 sister DSAs around the world. While I see us continuing to win independent contractor tax fights and affirm how crucial that and our other government relations efforts are to our long-term existence, 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."
On an ongoing basis, the DSA organizes conferences for networkers that train and educate on many aspects of the business. The DSA has a sister organization - the Direct Selling Education Foundation - which supports academic research and conferences on direct selling issues. The DSA is also instrumental in the WFDSA (World Federation of Direct Selling Association), an affiliation of associations from around the world that promote ethnical practices in direct selling.
DSA members are required to agree to a comprehensive ethics code, which commits them to fair business practices for both consumers and distributors. The far-reaching rules deal with such issues as buy-back policies, inventory loading, earnings representations, and deceptive recruiting practices.
In addition, the DSA continually tracks industry information and prints out a wide variety of informational materials, brochures, and pamphlets that are helpful to both companies and their individual distributors.
The sole purpose of the DSA and MLMIA is to support the network marketing business, its companies, and distributors. It pays to get involved.
For more information, contact:
1666 K Street, N.W., Suite 1010
Washington, D.C. 20006-2808
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