Part 6 – Orrin Woodward and the team leaders stand tall in the throws of war.
“At my command, unleash hell” – Russell Crowe as General Maximus Decimus Meridius in the movie ‘Gladiator‘
Quixtar’s Smack-Down and the Team stands strong
Quixtar’s next move was in response to the wave of resignations. Imagine Quixtar’s ownership saying, “Somehow, Orrin or Chris must have told all of those people what to do! Then their top leaders must have conveyed the message. Lets identify the top 10-20 biggest leaders and attack them too. We will sue them, drag both husbands and wives into court and interrogate them for hours in front of cameras and high-powered lawyers. Lets drain them all financially; bankrupt them if you have to. Lets take their computers and phones and scan for any communication with Orrin, Chris or their teams. Lets spend millions to find the answer to the question: who destroyed our “property” by telling all of “our” people quit. Bury them, regardless of the financial cost!” For the next few months, this was the Team’s ‘Valley Forge’ moment – and without their two top Commanders. A potential breaking point was imminent. How long will decisions of principle carry them? Even thought the spotlight was on Orrin and Chris, there were many other leaders who sacrificed greatly to protect others from attack during this time. These are all unsung heroes. They were brothers in a foxhole getting mortars dropped all around them. And certainly there were some financial casualties. That being said, nobody sacrificed more than Orrin Woodward.
Nobody succeeds alone. Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time.
When George Washington walked through Valley Forge the winter of 1777 to begin the Continental Army’s 6-month encampment, I imaging that, privately, his confidence was extremely tested. What a breath of fresh air it must have been to greet Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, onetime staff member of Frederick the Great (King of Prussia), carrying an endorsement from Benjamin Franklin. One could argue a divine providence in the timing of events. With von Steuben’s help, the Continental Army made it through the winter with revived spirit and enhanced fighting skill to successfully engage the British Army at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey!
There were a few rays of hope during the Team’s 6-month ‘Valley Forge”. The first came with a Circuit Court ruling that upheld the constitutional right of assembly, allowing the Team to gather for meetings and seminars. The second ray of hope (and this would prove later to be the seed idea to the Life Leadership business) is that the Team could market a generic version of their audio CDs and books for general personal and professional development purposes. All references to Quixtar must be (happily) removed. Members that attained a certain volume of materials could still be paid a bonus from Team, based upon volume discounting. This gave birth to the idea that the personal and professional development found within the content produced by Team leaders could turn into a stand-alone marketable product.
What happened next was, in my opinion, one of the most generous moves in business history that I have ever heard about. In addition, almost nobody knew about this amazing sacrifice (until now). Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady and Tim Marks (and their spouses) were already under legal and financial attack by a billion-dollar company; they were getting stabbed in the back every other month by people they thought were friends, they were targeted by countless critics blaming them for everything going wrong, they were all getting interrogated in courtrooms after being forced to regularly read mountains of legal briefs, and if that wasn’t enough, they were forced to endure weeks at a time without seeing family and loved ones … did they reach their breaking point? No, instead, they did something truly amazing. In the middle of all of this turmoil, they agreed to surrender 100% of their Team bonuses for the purpose of subsidizing the incomes of the Team leaders that were camped with them in this valley. What an amazing move! What is even more amazing is this continued for 18 months while all three shouldered all of the aforementioned workload, attacks and immense stress. History, many times, recalls great deeds of men long after they did them. The great deeds of the original leaders of the Team must not go un-noticed any longer. No wonder they command so much social capital!
Next, a fortuitous chain of events! Stay tuned for Part 7!
Part 5 – Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady, Social Capital and the Test of True Friendships
“We few, we happy few, we Band of Brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me, shall be my brother..” – William Shakespeare from King Henry V
True leadership only shines in difficult times. There are many points in history where only a strong leader who is unwavering in their principles will be followed. To a non-leader, this type of leader is, at best an anomaly and at worsts a pariah. George Washington was chosen to lead the Revolutionary War and the Presidency not because of how tall he was, how wealthy he was nor where he went to school. He was chosen to lead because he was a man of iron principle, integrity and honor. This type of person attracts and builds something called social capital.
When the Quixtar letters were sent out, I can only imagine that the owners and legal staff concluded that they had financial capital to use as leverage to force members to capitulate to their demands. I imagine that Quixtar staff and legal council suggesting “nobody would dare give up their income and their entire business that they worked so hard for, just to follow Orrin and Chris into the unknown!” The rule in the Quixtar Member Contract was that you could not join another networking company for 6 months – so who would be crazy enough to give up their income and potentially start from scratch after 6 months? This is were Quixtar brass missed it – they were all about to witness the true power of social capital. Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady followed the judges TRO completely (phones and computers were seized for discovery by the lawyers, and proved in court there were no traces of down-line communication whatsoever). Not even the lawyers could understand why, in the days and weeks that followed, an avalanche of resignation letters were submitted to Quixtar. What began as a few member resignations led to dozens, which led to hundreds, which led to many thousands of resignations sent in to Quixtar. It was estimated that, within 60 days, Quixtar had managed to scare away almost $200 million in annual market share and an incalculable amount of potential growth revenue in years to come (full article reference here).
It was argued over and over, “They had to have communicated somehow!” Nope. The fact remains that Orrin and Chris did no such thing. To the mass of Team members who were in the dark, two facts were all that were needed. Fact #1: ‘Orrin and Chris were no longer a part of the Quixtar business.’ Fact #2: ‘Orrin and Chris were (and still are today) men of iron principle and integrity who have served a group of men and women for over a decade. As a result, they have earned a tremendous amount of social capital.’ This is all that was needed for the first wave of Team members to logically conclude that, “if Orrin and Chris are no longer in Quixtar, then I don’t want to be either.” This first wave of resignations to Quixtar was not a blind leap by mindless drones. This was social capital in its finest form. Through deductive reasoning, members could discern the facts concerning the status of Orrin and Chris at that time: (1) they are no longer with Quixtar, (2) they have always had a vision serve a million person team, (3) they have a track record of good character, integrity and service to others, (4) they have always adapted in adversity. Therefore a leader could conclude that there must be another ‘mountain top’ on the other side of this impending ‘valley’. The first wave of resignations led to an exponentially bigger second wave following the same explanation of social capital at other levels within the Team organization. Wave after wave of resignation letters crashed the membership department at Quixtar. Just like a scene out of the stock trading floor in Wall Street when there is panic in the trading markets, I imaging Quixtar staff frantically yelling and scrambling for answers to why, oh why, in a matter of 3 months, did they lose tens of thousands of distributors and a $200 million per year portion of their North American business… The answer is clear looking backwards: Social capital trumped financial capital.
The phenomenon of social capital can only be understood by studying those rare events in history: the Biblical account of David and his Mighty Men, the Greek history of Achilles and his Myrmidons, the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the WWII paratroopers of Easy Company portrayed in the movie series Band of Brothers (to name a few examples). It is something that is built and earned over time by adhering to the laws of leadership. Period. In addition, those who don’t have social capital have a very difficult time understanding those who do. Case and point: Quixtar’s next move.
The battle is about to begin – stay tuned for Part 6!
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!
Part 1 – An important review of American History facts
OK, its time to clear up the story of MonaVie, Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady once and for all! Once again, the antagonists continue to twist the facts and get the story wrong. The funny thing about actual events is that they typically do not require any embellishment or exaggeration – they are full of drama and suspense all by themselves!
The dramatic history deserves to be properly told concerning the events leading up to Orrin Woodward’s business partnership with Dallin Larsen and MonaVie, then onward to the launch of Life Leadership. This series of articles will illuminate, in more detail, the incredible chain of events in an effort to capture the honorable deeds of a few brave men and women in American business history.
In order to fully appreciate these ‘major motion picture worthy’ details of this moment in history, we need to take a peek backwards 247 years into American history – to a time where honor and duty were a matter of course for statesmen around the world.
“The time is near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves.” –George Washington
In case you were sleeping in your high school American History class, let us recall some of the major highlights leading up to the American Revolutionary War and the beginning of the United States of America:
- Jan. 17, 1706 – Benjamin Franklin born in Boston, MA
- Feb. 22, 1732 – George Washington born in Virginia
- Apr. 13, 1743 – Thomas Jefferson born in Virginia
- 1754 – 1763 – The French and Indian War occured.
- Mar. 1765 – English Parliament imposes the first direct tax on American colonies, called the Stamp Tax. This was to help pay for British military organization in America. It was the first time colonialists united together in opposition.
- Sept. 1768 – English warships sail into Boston Harbor to “keep the peace”. Part of the unrest was caused by the Townshend Revenue Act (a new tax to help pay for increased British military presence in the American colonies).
- 1770 – The American colonies are growing like crazy – population reaches 2,210,000
- March 5, 1770 – Boston Massacre occurs when British troops shoot into a mob at point blank range.
- April 1770 – The Townshend Acts are repealed by the British Crown.
- May 10, 1773 – The Tea Act takes effect, giving the British East India Trade Company a monopoly position on all tea imports.
- December 16, 1773 – Boston Tea Party! 8,000 Bostonians gather to hear Sam Adams tell them that British warships will not leave the harbor until all tea taxes are paid. Later that night, colonial activists disguised as Mohawk Indians board the ships and dump 342 containers of tea into the harbor. (What a bunch of Rascals!)
- March 23, 1775 – In response to escalating tensions between American colonies and the British Crown, Patrick Henry delivers his famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech. 7 days later, the New England Restraining Act is endorsed by King George III requiring that the colonies trade exclusively with England; and also bans fishing in the North Atlantic.
- July 5, 1775 – After the past year of escalated tension, including the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Continental Congress adopts the Olive Brach Petition – which expressed hopes of reconciliation with the British and King George III. King George refuses to even look at it and declares the Americas to be in a state of open rebellion.
- March 4-17, 1776 – Americans capture Dorchester Heights (above Boston Harbor) and point cannons (captured from Fort Ticonderoga) at the British Fleet stationed there, forcing the British to evacuate. A small victory breeds confidence!
- May 2, 1776 – The Americans, fragile and in need of help, receive foreign support from France and Spain! King Louis XVI of France commits 1 million dollars in arms and munitions to help the cause of freedom. Spain then also promises support. For financial perspective, $1 million in 1776 can be conservatively translated to $28 million in today’s currency.
- Feb 6, 1778 – After almost 2 years into the Revolutionary War, France and America sign two treaties: Treaty of Amity and Commerce and a Treaty of Alliance. They pledge to fight Britain until American Independence is won. A year later, Spain enters the war as an ally of France. The following year, the British are engaged in fighting all over the world.
- Sept 3, 1783 – Treaty of Paris is signed by the United States and Great Britain, ending the war and sealing American independence for good. This is the true beginning point for the Great Republic that, despite its faults, has been a place where its citizens can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I realize that a pure historian would be pulling their hair out right about now yelling, “you skipped some of my favorite parts!” My apologies. This condensed review should be sufficient to stir the imagination enough to appreciate the following tale of events. Stay tuned for Part 2.