Moy Chambers, LifeVantage’s Senior Vice President of IT, joins us to share experience from his long history as a software professional in the MLM space. He talks to us about the dramatic changes in software in the recent past and the current landscape of IT solutions for direct sales companies. The biggest factor? APIs—tools that integrate applications (built by as many software companies as you choose to partner with), creating an integrated system that’s seamless for the user. Moy tells us about his approach and offers words of advice to startup network marketing companies.
Kenny: Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of the MLM.com podcast. I’m your host, Kenny Rawlins, and today we’re joined by Moy Chambers of LifeVantage. He is their Senior Vice President of IT. I’m excited to talk to Moy about how IT integrates with MLM’s, and some of the challenges facing IT directors. I look forward to talking to Moy. Thanks for joining us Moy. How are ya?
Moy: I’m doing good. How are you, Kenny?
Kenny: Good, good. Just so that our listeners know, this is Moy Chambers from LifeVantage, and you’re currently—make sure I got your title correct— the, the Senior Vice President of IT, correct?
Moy: That’s correct.
Kenny: And, you and I, obviously, go back a long ways, from your time when you worked at InfoTrax, and taught me a lot of the things that I know, and it’s great to have us joining us. So, maybe just to start out give our listeners a little bit of background—where you’ve come from, and how you’ve ended up at LifeVantage, and within the direct sales industry?
Moy: Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting story. I actually started out in direct sales as a distributor for Melaluca, back in the 90’s. So, my first experience was as a distributor, but I was working in Washington D.C. I worked for the White House—did a lot of trade software systems for them. But I moved back to Utah around 1999, got involved in MLM software working for InfoTrax.
Then I moved on to the other side, where I actually went to work for my first MLM company, XanGo. Spent some time at XanGo. Helped XanGo convert off a home-grown system to InfoTrax, and then I went to a company called Agel. They were on a whole different platform using a lot of open source, and they had purchased the source code. So, we had a full staff development team. And then from Agel I moved on to some other startup companies to help them write software.
I left the industry for a couple of years. Thought I’d get out, and I went to work for Wayne Corp, which is a specialist in aircraft parts. And then I started finding that there was a need in this industry for consultants. So, for a couple of years I was consulting to small startup MLM companies. TruVision Health. I did some work for Unicity, which is really not a startup. And then I got contacted by the CEO of LifeVantage to come back, and run their IT department. So, that’s kind of a short version of my experience.
Kenny: Wow, yeah, and now ya—so I knew you’d been, obviously on the vendor side, and then you’d been in house. I didn’t realize you had the trifecta where you were also, a distributor for a time. So, that definitely gives you a little picture of the whole pie. So, yeah. We’re glad to have you on, and share some of your experience. So, I’d be curious just to start out… pertaining to IT and how it’s used within the MLM space, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen, within how IT solutions are crafted?
Moy: I think that—well—some of the biggest changes I’ve seen is, you know, change has changed. It used to take you two, or three years to make a change to an IT system. Nowadays that time frame is just shorter, you know. They were expecting big changes in six months or even changes in three months.
Or, we need this change done by a convention next month. So, the distance of… the timeframe of change has drastically changed. Does that make sense?
Kenny: Yeah. No, that does and I’ve seen that as well. Andthen that makes me think… one of the other things—going along with that same point of how change has changed—is the visibility to that change. So, I remember, particularly coming from a commission’s standpoint, if somebody was making a change to their account plan that was gonna be effective, you know, say July first, that meant that we had to have it all buttoned up and ready to go, ready to run by August 15th.
Because that’s when they were gonna run it, and print recaps, print checks, right. And, obviously, you don’t wanna be finishing the coding on August 15th, but that kind of gave you your drop-dead date. Like, this thing has to be completely out the door, finalized August 15th. People—distributors, consultants, business professionals—are expecting to be paid. Now if there’s a change that goes into effect July 1, it’s gotta be done, and ready to go July 1, because you’ve got different volume calculations and rank advancement projections, and all of that is so visible now that the, the margin for error is much smaller, because of the transparency that the IT world has enabled, you know, through things like the internet, and mobile apps, and things like that. So, I think yeah, that is a totally interesting thing. Whereas before, you know, to change systems was just such a headache, and it still is a headache, but it’s a different shorter term, faster changing, less expensive headache than it used to be.
Kenny: How have you seen the internet—just recently—change the way that your IT solutions are even crafted? Because from my experience the internet, while enabling a lot of great things, it also adds a dimension that we didn’t have originally. You know, I’m thinking from, like I say a compensation standpoint you normally had the comp plan and the visibility into it was the recap and the check that you got. And now, those still exist—a lot of times, I mean, maybe not the check—but you’ve also got mobile now, and then, you know, we’ve had the internet for a long time. How does all the different ways that people have to access information change your job heading up an IT department?
Moy: That’s a good question. You know, a lot of people just think you just jump on the cloud, and, you know, you can run out there on the cloud, but you can’t really just do that. You have to have a good partner and come up with a good strategy. We are leveraging the cloud today on some of our technology that we wanted to bring in house. And what we do is we have our cloud solutions connect to our software as a service—InfoTrax—through their API’s.
So, if you got a provider like InfoTrax that has a good set of API’s, you can start leveraging cloud technology if you want to. We’ve done replicated sites. We’ve done spot orders, quick shopping stuff. We’ve been doing some enrollments now where we’re leveraging the cloud against the API’s. So, it’s a lot more flexibility. You can scale with that, and you’re not dependent on your SaaS partner if you don’t want to be.
Kenny: That’s a great point. Going back in time, it used to be you either built in house, or you outsourced. And when you outsourced you weren’t integrating with a bunch of different solutions, right. I mean, your main software provider was who you are invested in. And it kinda had to be a one stop shop just because of the overhead of integration. And obviously that’s an oversimplification. They’ve always been some level of integration capable. But now, it really is a whole different world. And I think we’re probably still on the cusp of what’s possible. Where you can take solutions that different third party [companies offer] or do a hybrid in-house third party solution. Where you’re able to pass, you know, through the API’s just much smaller pieces of it, and you don’t have to be 100% reliant on any one service provider.
And, you can have kind of that hybrid solution where if, you know, company X Y Z has a really great tool that you wanna partner with, that doesn’t mean a divorce from your current provider. That’s an opportunity to integrate. But it also, I’m sure, for you makes for doing a lot more homework. You’ve got… I mean talk to me about what it takes. How many different tools do you offer? Between distributors and other people (either corporate or vendors) you’ve got a lot of people that want to integrate with you guys, I’m sure.
Moy: Yeah, we do. We get, contacts quite a bit with different vendors with mobile apps. And, you know, mobile apps can be anything from helping you prospect to helping you… remind you what you have to do, step by step by step, to be successful. And there’s a lot of ’em out there. I mean, if you look at sales in general there, probably the first apps ever written were probably to help a salesman make a sale. So, there’s a wide variety of those out there.
It’s kind of interesting. I sit on the CIO board for the direct selling industry, and we sit down, and talk as a group two, or three times a year, and some of the CIO’s have taken the position just to let the leaders go out and find what works best for them. And they’ll be successful. Sometimes it’s hard to put somebody in a box, and say, “okay, now you gotta function in this box.”
Kenny: Yeah, and I can definitely see that, but what kind of responsibility does that then put on you if they want to do integrations where they pull information from the back-end system? Or is it pretty isolated where you can let them go partner with whoever and it doesn’t necessarily affect you guys?
Moy: So, you can’t really let distributors go part with anybody, but you can take, you know, third party software vendors if they want to sign an NDA with you, and write an app for you. And we’ve, we’ve done that with three, or four other partners. And then we just look at the app, and the functionality. Then what we do is we have this tribal knowledge in house with a small development staff, and we can tell these third party providers, “here’s the API’s you need to do to accomplish what you want to accomplish.”
And, sometimes we’ve been able to say, well, we’ll just write you a wrapper. We know the API’s. We have that knowledge. So, we’ll just write a single API for them, and then we’ll go out and hit, maybe two, or three, and two InfoTrax. Wrap it up nice, and pretty, and give it back to the provider. I mean, sometimes it’s a lot easier just to do that route.
Kenny: Yeah. So, where do you see things going? Do you think we’re just gonna continue down this path of people taking smaller and smaller chunks where they become the expert? I mean, at InfoTrax we’re focusing most of our resources on our commission engine. Do you see that being the state of things in a few years where a company like LifeVantage is going to have partnered with, you know, half a dozen key service providers that specialize in a pretty narrow thing? Do you think the one stop shop is gonna make a resurgence? What are you seeing, and, and what do you think is the place where somebody like yourself could be most served that’s not currently being served?
Moy: So, I think you know, where we’re headed is, we want to be in control of the user experience, and if that user experience needs to tie in with our product line, we’ll tie certain experiences into certain product lines. We’ll market in that way. It’s always nice to have an engine on the back end. You know… I’ve written commission programs before. I’ve written them in several languages. They’re not fun to write, and they’re not fun to maintain. You might think so, [Kenny], because you have a lot experience on commission engines. But it’s nice to be able to have these sophisticated systems on the back end that you could just interface with. And, I always tell everybody, in our industry, that people don’t understand. You know, we’ll get financial people come in say, “oh, we can hook in,” you know—whether it be AX, or Great Plains, or, J D Edwards, or SAP. But, what makes these systems, especially in direct selling really complicated is that you have a point of sale system to just runs out there, and takes all these orders on the internet.
And, you normally have this genealogy system. I’d say it’s like an Ancestry.com. So, you take an E-commerce and an Ancestry.com, and you shove the two systems together, and they got to be right 100% of the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And, you know, cuz the orders flow up the tree, you know, and you got your group volume, you got all your other stuff.
And, you know, I don’t wanna have to worry about that stuff. I don’t have to worry about the trees. I don’t have worry about the commissions. I just want to say, “I want to give my users the best user experience.”
Kenny: That is extremely well put. I think that that really is where we’re headed, and I think that is the beauty of where things are. That now, somebody like yourself can, like you say, take the user experience, and make sure you’ve tailored it to the way that fits your brand, that’s fits your culture, that’s fits your product, but that you’re leveraging tried and true engines and systems on the back end but you’re not reliant on them telling your story. And, I think that that to me… really if I were gonna give somebody just a primer on what I think they should be trying to accomplish as an in-house director of IT or vice president of IT, that’s what my goal would be, is to say, you wanna know what? This isn’t about having the largest IT department. It’s not about, you know, building a revolutionary system. It’s about partnering with people that give me that control. So, yeah, I appreciate the way that you’ve put that.
You know, we’re about out of time, but I am curious just to get your, your overall prospective. What, what are some of the, some of the tools that would best help the industry thrive? I think just leave it at that. Like, what are some tools that you think this industry’s in need of from an IT perspective?
Moy: You know, they really need simplicity tools. Sometimes you get out there, and some tools get so complicated that the users don’t them. And sometimes it’s just a matter of fact, I’m just gonna have a straightforward, simple website that’s responsive. Sometimes it’s like I’m gonna have a simple app that just helps me share stuff out on social media. And you have to really look at your user base.
I know some startup companies, they, they wanna be really flashy, and they wanna go for, you know, for the younger generation, and stuff. But, they overwhelm them sometimes. So, it, it’s interesting. Some of the small startups I’ve worked with, we had to scale it back, and simplify it, and even though you’re looking at millennials that have grown up with technology, you know, sometimes you can overwhelm ’em. And that would be the last thing I would think I could overwhelm was a millennial.
But yeah, you have to just keep things simple, and work on the processes. Make sure you do good business processes, and keep it simple. And everybody I’ve talked to that’s tried to interface, and go with different accounting systems, or whatever. It all comes back to, you know, best business practices.
Kenny: You know, I think we’ll end there, cuz I think that’s just a great note to go out on. You know, technically, I think I’m just barely a millennial still, and the thing that I will say, is yes, millennials, you know, they’ve grown up with so much technology and I do everything on my phone, on my computer, right. It just is… that’s my whole life, but there’s so many apps, and so many websites, and so many tools out there that if you don’t keep it simple, your people are just gonna move onto the next one, right? It’s such a low investment, right? Most apps are free, or, you know, in app purchase type stuff. People aren’t as invested as people seem to think they are when they’re designing ’em.
So, I think, you know, like you say, you gotta keep it simple. You’ve gotta give people the chance to live their life, and use your app or your tool within what they’re doing, or else they’re gonna move on without it. Okay, well, Moy, I appreciate it so much. It’s always been good to work with ya, and I appreciate your time this morning, or I guess this afternoon now. And I look forward to talking to you again in the near future.
And, that’s it for today’s episode of the MLM.com podcast. We’d like to again, thank Moy for his time, and his expertise, and his insights. We’d also like to thank Jana Bangerter and Adam Holdaway for production support. As always, this is Kenny Rawlins, and we look forward to you listening to us again next time.