Part 3 – Orrin Woodward joins Quixtar board, attempts to ‘clean house’
2005 – 2007
Orrin Woodward was elected to sit on Quixtar’s Independent Business Owner’s (IBO) board of directors. The following year, Chris Brady was elected to serve on the same board. The purpose of the IBO board was to create and maintain synergy between the field marketers and the Quixtar ownership group. These years were filled with tremendous excitement and hope for a bright future. This excitement was based upon the idea that they could have their ideas heard and together forge an amazing future for Quixtar and Team. I imagine that this excitement rivaled the early 1770’s when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington owned a vineyard and an olive tree plantation in partnership with a British royal, The Earl of Dunmore. As exciting as this must have been to Jefferson and Washington, this partnership was not to last, as bigger problems disrupted their capitalistic synergy. In the later 1770’s, many of the selfish actions by the Earl of Dunmore were quickly turning himself into America’s first villian. Shortly after this, Thomas Jefferson (who was an avid reader of history) penned the “Summary View of the Rights of British America”, which highlighted the idea that if the British King does not act in the best interest of the colonialists, that his jurisdiction shall become null and void (whether he liked it or not).
Fast forward back to 2005, with the failing health of the two original founders (Rich Devos and Jay VanAndel), controlling interest was passed down to the next generation of Devos and VanAndel family members … eventually, a new executive staff was in place and the synergy that was enjoyed for decades was suddenly found wanton. It seemed as if the concept that Thomas Jefferson wrote about in 1774 (A Summary View of the Rights of British America) was starting to be abused once more by a corporate group that did not study or understand true leadership.
Stemming from his career as an Engineer and extensive training in the field of continuous improvement, Orrin Woodward could not sit idle and let problems fester. Both Orrin and Chris agreed that somebody had to stand in the gap and try to help fix the problems that were starting to hurt business growth in the field. It is said that ‘courage’ is not the absence of fear, but action in spite of fear. Wanting to drive continuous improvement for all, Orrin acted courageously and decided to risk the status quo and call out the ‘elephant in the room’. He gracefully drafted an ‘Olive Branch’ letter to one of the new billionaire owners, Doug Devos, pointing out some ways to improve Quixtar for everybody, ownership included. (You can read the full letter at Dan Hawkins blog). The two main points that were highlighted were retail price of Quixtar products in the marketplace and the means by which the company subtly began to take extra profits for themselves. It is curious how human nature and history tend to repeat from time to time in the form of greed and ego. There was a hidden form of taxation without representation happening at the corporate level, and nobody had the guts to go straight to the top to call out the elephant in the room – Nobody, that is, until Orrin Woodward arrived with the support of his loyal friend, Chris Brady. Prior to this, both Orrin and Chris often spoke in terms of principles, just like the founders of our nation, encouraging leaders to “do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of the cost”. Another historical fact to clear up is this: Just like pre-1770 colonial Americans had no intention of seceding from the British, neither Orrin Woodward nor Chris Brady had and intention of seceding from Quixtar. Ultimately, their hand was forced by an injustice…
After a few half-hearted “peace treaties”, corporate ego dictated the next moves by the second-generation ownership of the Devos and VanAndel families. Without warning or asking approval from the IBO board, Quixtar ownership drops 2 bombs. Bomb #1: They are going to reduce commissions on two products without reducing the cost of these products (the two products that The Team sold the most of). It is almost like taking a page out of history, like Imperial Britian imposing a tax mechanism like the Stamp Act or Townshend Act, then daring the people to defy the crown with ships of war sitting in the Boston harbor… Bomb #2: They are eliminating the parent company, Alticor, and merging the Quixtar Company back into the previously separate corporate entity, Amway. Period. No discussion. No deliberation with the field. It seemed like the attitude from the top was ‘we can do it just because. And if you don’t like it, too bad’.
To this day, nobody in the field really knows why these moves were made. Was it a conscious attempt to destroy their North American business? Sure, there were a few well-spun press releases, but none of it makes any sense considering the tremendous growth of the Team organization all of these years. Was the (second-generation) ownership really that oblivious to the negative marketing effects of the Amway name in North America? Either way, it was ‘their way or the highway’.
Stay tuned for Part 4, this is getting tense!