Part 4 – Orrin Woodward and the Team battle a giant.
“William, where are ya going?” “I’m going to pick a fight!” “Well, we didn’t get dressed up for nothing!” -from the movie Braveheart
Stunned from the recent news in June, Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady were still hopeful that the ownership group of Quixtar and Amway would come to their senses. As the buzz grew and the worry thickened, another ‘Boston Tea Party’ seemed imminent. On August 9, 2007, Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady and their legal staff made their last stand at diplomacy. David and Goliath, recreated 3,000 years later, only this showdown takes place in a boardroom in Ada, Michigan. As they stood outside the boardroom, I am sure you could have heard a pin drop. Imagine, theatrically, time slowing down and an intoxicating fog of worry and anticipation filling the corridor. Not a word is said, but thoughts scurry across the front of everyone’s mind “will this approach work?” and a thousand “what if” scenarios preplay through everybody’s mind. Then, imagine a reassuring glance that says, “we said we would do the right thing, no matter what the cost”. “Yup, lets roll”.
They all knew there were only 3 potential outcomes that could happen today (as the wild west shootout music plays in the background of their minds). Outcome #1: There is still time, they could just tuck tail and run. Seriously, both Orrin and Chris had enough money to just wash their hands of this whole mess and walk away from this fight. There is no argument that this option would have simply allowed Amway’s changes to erode their business in the months to come. This option also came with a guaranteed to also destroy the hopes, dreams and livelihoods of the tens of thousands of current Team members. This is what a coward would have done – walk away, or worse, cut a deal. Outcome #2: Maybe the potential resignation of two of Quixtar’s best and brightest leaders would sway the imperial rivalry to change course. Just like in March of 1766, Orrin and Chris must have felt like Ben Franklin in front of the English Parliament, hoping to convince the British Crown that their actions may cause a breach of trust and a possible revolution. Maybe Quixtar would see that Orrin and Chris were using all of the leverage they could muster to come to an amicable solution for all. Unfortunately, just like King George III, the Imperial ownership at Amway was not going to budge, not even for their top marketers. Outcome #3: Orrin and Chris would be forced to sacrifice everything, give their resignation, secede from the union and begin their battle for independence. As history has shown with previous groups who stood up for injustice, this move would surely be followed with threats of litigation and financial ruin for themselves and all of the top leaders who would dare to stand with them. (A minor point of fact: Quixtar staff claims they terminated Orrin and Chris that day; however the fact remains that the notice of resignation letters were handed to Quixtar’s legal staff prior to their announcement of termination. Quixtar later refused to acknowledge this small fact.) This would, just like September of 1768, lead to England sending warships to Boston Harbor to prevent uprising and revolution.
The conference room door opened and the time that seemed so slow just moments ago suddenly lunged everybody forward into a tempest. The corporate titans were not about to be intimidated and, as ego’s ballooned, diplomacy was tossed out the window. The meeting concluded with Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady tendering their resignations. The reply from Quixtar came in the form of a threat and a warning: this is where I imagine a scene from the movie ‘300’ (the famous battle between 300 Spartans and the Persian army in 480 BC) was recreated in the corporate boardroom as Xerxes messenger placed his foot upon the large mahogany conference table across from Orrin and Chris, and threw a string of skulls at Orrin’s feet saying, “Nobody has ever defied us and survived! Look at past rebels – Brig Hart, Ken Stewart, Don Storms, Bo Short, Gerry Betterman, Andy Andrews. None of them survived our wrath of litigation and went on to built another marketing business. Ever!!”
The very next day, as bold as sending warships into a peaceful Boston harbor, Quixtar sends tens of thousands of threatening correspondence, or “ultimatum letters”, to each and every member of Orrin Woodward’s Team organization. These letters demanded the members stop attending all Team events and stop using Team materials to build their network. These letters (and later court documents) showed that Quixtar considered members and their connections to other friends and family members to be private company property. The letters further demanded a written response of allegiance to the current Quixtar (and future Amway) system. If you did not reply within the 2-week deadline, they would automatically terminate the member’s business. Can you imagine being a new person receiving an ultimatum letter like this? Quixtar/Amway certainly does not have to worry about outside forces damaging the company when it seems to be the only company on planet earth that “eats its young”.
The ‘shot heard round the (networking) world’:
Flashback to 1768 – Imagine 2 young fishermen trolling the banks outside of Boston Harbor. Just another day at work, when suddenly, they are caught off guard by the sounds of two large vessels piercing nearby waves. The tall mastheads, ringing warning bells and a well organized crew hustling to ready their ship for port must have been both awe inspiring and frightening to the humble fishermen. As the British Royal Navy began to move their massive ships of war into Boston Harbor, the entire town stopped to wonder why so many ships have arrived? “We couldn’t be under attack by our own sovereign, could we?”
It’s been a couple of days since the meeting between Orrin, Chris and Quixtar brass. The majority of people in the Team organization did not even know that it was even happening. Many of the top leaders were concerned about how the upcoming changes would affect their business, but it has been many days since any communications from Orrin, Chris or any of the top leaders from Team. Complete radio silence (we know now that were immediately served with a court-ordered temporary restraining order (TRO) which forbade them from communicating with their entire Team organization). In fact, the only communication to the Team organization came from Quixtar, in the form of this threatening ultimatum letter. This left everybody wondering and asking “what do we do now?” Call Orrin (no answer). Call Chris (no answer). Call the Team office (no answer). What to do? Fear creeps into the mind. What has happened to the leaders? What will happen to the rest of us? The drama increased with each passing day…
Imagine the average member, sitting at their kitchen table on a sunny Saturday morning. A few months prior, they registered with Quixtar and were excited by the results of build a network with a great group of friends in a teamwork approach taught at their local Team meeting. Now, in one hand, they hold an ultimatum letter from Quixtar. In the other hand, a computer mouse that is scrolling through a fresh blog article from a Quixtar affiliate that reads “Just Go, Team”. This article includes allegations that Quixtar has just terminated its two fastest growing leaders and is happy to see the Team go. Hmmm… It isn’t difficult to imagine, at this very moment, that this member does not have a good feeling about sending a letter swearing allegiance to a company that behaves like this. Whether a member was new or making thousands of dollars in monthly bonuses, the gravity of this point in history weighed heavy on all members.
Stay tuned for Part 5!