Getting the Basics Right

Too often it is the basic things that business gets wrong, and more often than not, it takes a simple process to fix what is wrong. While this might be something small, the benefit to the business can be huge. Avon Justine experienced this first hand through their Service Model Evolution which focussed on Brilliant Basics. Mafahle Mareletse, group vice president TMEA GM Avon Justine South Africa, told the story at the DSA November meeting. This is a short summary of what he presented.

Two and half years ago, Avon Justine put in place 18 major initiatives after examining their business and realising there were many problem areas. The improvement under this process has led to massive growth, and the improvement is continuous.

The starting point was giving the company a vision. Secondly, developing a strategy and then aligning the entire business to that strategy. “Change is always difficult, and often more so for leadership. In our case we had to be a team if we were going to accomplish our strategy.”

He says this is a basic rule: get it right upfront or you will fail. If your team leaders are not united it will spill over into the rest of the business.

Each time, a simple measurable objective was pulled from the strategy. It would be executed throughout the business. “We became rigorous in our monthly tasks and through this discipline the spin -offs in the business have been incredible, for example it has assisted us to plan upfront extensively.”

To find out what people wanted and what their concerns were, they talked to their people themselves. They talked to the reps (direct sellers) constantly, had meetings, ran surveys and focus groups in the field every quarter. The contact centre is also a good place to see where your problems lie he says.

The feedback was sombre and woke the leadership team up, he says. “The problems were numerous, and were impacting on the selling ability of the rep and many reps were leaving within six months of being recruited because of these problems.”

He adds that the starting point for them is always the rep and making it easier for her to do her job. “We knew that if we could get this right, then we would see revenue increase.”

Within this they also learnt that while they were good at recruiting people, they were not very good at retaining them and as such suffered a huge turnover in certain departments.

“What was a big lesson to us was that talent in Direct Selling is very different to other businesses and this is something not everyone understands. Therefore, we reorganised and repurposed staff rather than employed more.”

Improving the business also means taking on legacy issues and recognising that they no longer fit the business. By addressing one such issue, immediately the weekly sales went up.  He says you should not be afraid to address issues such as these. “A simple initiative of assisting new recruits with credit for their first orders in their first few months has reaped benefits, and had a huge positive impact on the business.”

Something as simple as moving from 13 to 12 campaigns a year has allowed our consultants to have better control over their business and again reaped great benefits for our business, he explains. Other issues addressed ranged from banking, the purchasing of brochures, customer service, to streamlining administration tasks for sales members.

In the process of improving a business, you will always meet some resistance he says, especially if you are working across the business. “Departments do not always take kindly to other people telling them what they think is wrong. However, if you persist then you will reap the rewards, which is what we did. It took time for some people to accept it, but in the end, they did.”

These changes have ensured improved results in all areas of the business. “Avon Justine has won the global Avon top award for the last two years and will most likely again in 2017”, he says. “It’s all due to Brilliant Basics.”

Mafahle Mareletse’s presentation gave an in-depth look at the initiatives implemented – in far more detail than we can summarise in this article. We encourage members to attend the general meetings in 2018 to hear from other members. It could be the one thing you need to hear to make a significant positive change in your own business.  


The Directors of the Direct Selling Association of South Africa (DSA SA) wish to extend their sincere gratitude and appreciation to Mafahle Mareletse for sharing this valuable information with the member companies.