Ryan Napierski  (Nu Skin) Megatrends disrupting Direct Selling Industry

With 20 years’ experience, Ryan Napierski is a veteran of the direct selling industry. Since joining Nu Skin in 1995, Ryan has held multiple positions of influence including, most recently, president of global sales and operations. He has also served in multiple positions internationally including president of Nu Skin’s North Asia region and president of Nu Skin Japan.

DirecTech Labs CEO Michel Bayan caught up with Ryan to ask him a few questions. 


What are some of the biggest changes and challenges you have seen over the course of your 20-year career?

The first thing our leadership team did take upon started 3 1/2 years ago. Two of the critical questions at that time was “where is the industry going in light of some of these macro trends?” and “how does Nu Skin fit into that new world?” To answer those questions, we threw the direct selling playbook out. We went into it with no preconceived notions. What we found was somewhat startling, somewhat alarming. In fact, our industry is being disrupted. We saw the entire entrepreneurial and micro-entrepreneurial space transform to a large extent by companies with no experience in direct selling.

Companies like Amazon and Uber, companies offering “gigs” have been growing and drastically disrupting the Direct Selling industry. And so as we acknowledged that while direct selling has its unique attributes that create the value proposition that drives our industry specifically the person-to-person-trust-transaction that no other businesses have. We found that even that interaction was replicated in new forms. So for us to be relevant in the future, we needed to disrupt ourselves. Upon really moving into this position we’ve been able to initiate those theories and take the prework that was done into a cohesive growth strategy.

Today it is touching every aspect of our business from our go-to-market approaches to our product philosophy – how we how we develop, how we research, and how we how we implement product innovations to the market. It’s touching our programs areas which include compensation, recognition, roadmaps, leadership development programs. All those areas are being disrupted.

What kind of advice would you give a company wanting to make these changes?

The absolute starting point is getting clear on a vision of what needs to happen and where the company is going. You need to make certain that that vision has been tested and refined amongst your team. And in that co-creation process, your leadership vision goes sequentially throughout the organization to the field. Then I think the sequence of implementing the vision is very much reliant upon state and capabilities. The state of the business, what is most pained in terms of achieving that vision. Then there are the capabilities to enable that.

How are you looking at companies like Airbnb, Uber, Amazon that are positioning themselves as “gig” companies?

The form of commerce has changed dramatically. For example, Amazon is one that we’re studying at great length because I believe that we need to be watching and understanding these companies beyond any threat we’ve ever faced. This non-traditionalistic form of business opportunity is what will disrupt the industry. It will also massively accelerate the opportunity for existing direct selling companies who can reposition themselves.

Where do you see the gig industry in the future?

There are McKinsey studies out there that say 67% of the workforce will be independent contractors within the next five years. There’s a MetLife study which states that 74% of all millennials actively pursue gig opportunities or desire to pursue gig opportunities. Eight years ago, the same McKinsey study stated that only 15% of the world was interested in being independent contractors and the rest of the world was very interested in the traditional employment Channel.

What are your thoughts on systems that rate customers’ interactions with direct sellers?

I think it’s the way that the world is going. And so I think it’s the way that direct selling companies need to be thinking. The reality is that feedback is what creates a smart network effect. Take Uber drivers for instance. They learn very quickly how to address someone in the car, how to keep the car clean, how do you know what level of chattiness they should have. They get real-time feedback after every single drive. And I look at that, and I say how much more effective would our new salespeople be if they were getting real-time feedback. Whether it is that the salesperson emphasized too much on X, Y or Z or that their breath smells terrible. Whatever it is, the reality is that people need that feedback.

In the past years, the direct selling industry has seen multiple self-regulation initiatives. What are your thoughts on it?

I believe that people generally want to do good and companies want to do good and mean to do good. But at times we say things that we shouldn’t be saying and when I say “we” I mean that includes the brand new distributors who haven’t had any training yet. They may misinterpret something, or they have been told something incorrectly —their education level isn’t where it should be yet. And so things are set. The intention behind self-regulation is to ensure that there is a set of core general guidelines and that we are holding ourselves accountable to those guidelines rather than having a regulatory agency holding us accountable to guidelines that they determine are correct.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen countless headlines regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. What are your thoughts on it?

There are two perspectives I’d share on this topic. First, the word that screams out in my head is responsibility. In fact, we have arguably more customer data per capita than a lot of companies out there. If you think about a traditional CPG (“Consumer Packaged Goods”) company or retail business, we have access to customer information to a much greater extent than many companies out there. Still, there is a responsibility for us to be highly conscientious about how we utilize that data. That’s a very big focus for us.

Our operation team also believes that there’s an opportunity if we are responsibly thinking about how to connect with consumers to better meet their needs.

How do you manage to keep a work-life balance?

For me, it’s learning how to be present wherever I am despite the connectivity and the responsibility. “when you’re there, be there.”. I heard that a few years ago. And and that’s something that I think is vital.

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice? When and what?

I would go all the way back to when I first started my professional career, 22 years ago. I think I think the one piece of advice that I would give myself is that people matter most. What I’ve learned in the last eight years of running larger businesses and now in the position I am in is that the only way to move an organization forward is to focus on the people. The principle of empowerment for people to the people is what drives the ship forward and help society progress.

Want to read more? Check out the article: How to Increase Customer and Field Retention

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