Interview: Peter Maddox, President of the Canadian DSA
Peter Maddox has been the President of the Canadian Direct Sellers Association since early January this year. Despite he already had a pile of tasks to accomplish on his desk, he was so kind to made time to tell us about himself, and what he intends to do at his new post.
Could you tell us about your education and your professional background?
Originally from Australia, I have an MBA from Chifley Business School and a Marketing Degree from the University of Tasmania, both Australian schools. Over my career, I have managed files as diverse as government relations, regulatory affairs, marketing analysis, member engagement, communications, business development and sales, both in corporate roles and with respected national associations in Canada. My role at the DSA calls on all of these skills and experiences to help achieve the organization’s strategic goals.
I worked for the Canadian Propane Association, Canadian Tire Corporation, the Australian Professional Engineers Association (now Professionals Australia), the Australian Pharmacy Guild and Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Pharmaceuticals.
What were your opinions and observations on direct sales before?
I had definitely had some contact with direct selling companies, through family and friends.
I knew that direct selling is an industry that rewards entrepreneurship and hard work, and that it is also often a “side gig” for people looking for something more from everyday life. However, I was also aware of the perceptions and misconceptions that exist about the industry, specifically regarding a small minority of companies and individuals occasionally pushing the boundaries of appropriate business practice. Fortunately, I have discovered that, in Canada in particular, both the DSA and regulators set and maintain a very high standard for those involved in the industry. Our member companies pride themselves on achieving and exceeding these high standards.
I was just incredibly impressed and inspired by the energy and the passion of the people I met during the hiring process. And even though many of our member companies compete with each other, they seem really open to collaborating and growing the industry as a whole.
From a personal perspective, this role gives me the opportunity to drive an organization that has so much potential, in an industry that has innovation and creative thinking in its DNA. It really was a case of “right time, right place” for me career-wise.
From your perspective, what are the biggest threats or challenges to the Canadian direct sales industry?
The way that people are purchasing and consuming is changing, particularly from generation to generation. As we become “time poor” it is important that the direct selling industry continues to position itself as a great model for both consumers and those looking to create a business for themselves. If the industry stops innovating and fine-tuning its tactics to meet the latest consumer needs, challenging times will surely follow.
I think the industry’s other major challenge is to uphold the highest possible standards in everything we do. There are other consumer goods distribution models who we compete with fiercely, so we cannot afford to be our own worst enemies by letting standards slip. It is very important that the DSA, through our Code of Ethics and Business Practices, continues to support our members in their aspirations.
And the biggest opportunities are?
People are looking for more freedom and control in the way they make a living. Direct selling offers exactly that, without a huge investment in real estate or products. And Canada is still a little bit of an untapped market, particularly when you look at the number of direct sales companies in the US who haven’t yet ventured north of the border. We offer low-barrier entry to generating income for individuals and an attractive environment to invest and grow for businesses.
Canada is a great first step for US companies looking to expand globally. It’s close, business practices are similar and consumer tastes are relatively closely aligned. But it does take focus and dedication to make it work.
Secondly, there is an opportunity for the industry to be a strong lobbying presence and to proactively play a part in the evolution of regulation and policy. As an example, the Canadian DSA has taken strong positions in NAFTA negotiations and we have subsequently built meaningful relationships with various government departments. Where appropriate, it is better to work with government in shaping policy, rather than fighting against it.
The federal government, especially, has demonstrated a clear interest in supporting policy and industries that allow women opportunities to earn, learn, and succeed. Direct selling is well-aligned on this, with 83% of participants being women, so we are continuing to deliver this message.
What will be your priorities in the coming weeks or months?
Initially, my goal is to get to know the people, companies and issues that are central to our industry. If I can’t speak from a position of knowledge, then I will have little chance of convincing stakeholders to support and embrace what we do.
The next step will be to continue our advocacy work. We need to find ways to leverage the political power of the estimated 1.2 million independent sales consultants involved in direct selling in Canada – that is a great basis for having a strong voice with policy makers. I have already had an opportunity to do some lobbying in Ottawa and am focused on establishing relationships that will pay long-term dividends for our industry.
Beyond that, we have the challenge of upgrading and revamping our messaging and communications, to ensure that our members are involved and that they see value in the work that we do. This will start with new online resources, and will also include programming more events, refining our news distribution, and providing more in-depth research and information for members.
What would you recommend to a person considering becoming an independent salesperson?
Research, research and then maybe a little more research. Find out about the company you are considering, including their products and business model. Talk to people who have been a consultant for them and see if their experiences meet your expectations. Consider your talents and ambitions, and whether they align with the skills required and likely outcomes of being a consultant.
Of course, you should also confirm that the company is a member of DSA Canada, to ensure integrity and trust!
Thank you for your time Peter, and wish you all the best! Anything you would like to add before we conclude?
Thank you! The World of Direct Selling is an important communication channel for the industry. I am glad I had this opportunity to speak with and I hope to share more with you as the Canadian DSA evolves and grows.
Hakki Ozmorali is the Principal of WDS Consultancy, a management consulting firm in Canada specialized in providing services to direct selling firms. WDS Consultancy is a proud Supplier Member of the Canadian DSA . It is also the publisher of The World of Direct Selling, global industry’s leading weekly online publication since 2010. Hakki is an experienced professional with a strong background in direct sales. His work experiences in direct selling include Country and Regional Manager roles at various multinationals. You can contact Hakki here.