From the hometown to the big city…Quixtar in the news

On Sunday the Grand Rapids Press, a Booth newspaper, ran a story about Quixtar and IBO business support materials.  The story was fair and balanced, although in journalistic tradition, the allegations led and the corporate response followed.

On Tuesday Quixtar Managing Director Jim Payne made a brief appearance on NBC’s Today Show announcing Alticor and Quixtar’s $2.2 million donation to Today’s national toy drive to help bring holiday cheer to children around the country.  We were one of a number of leading Direct Selling Association member companies that provided toys or products for this effort.  Locally, Alticor has been a long-time supporter of Toys for Tots.

In other news, we just pulled the brand-spanking-new redesign of What You Want off the presses.  This monthly publication focused on products has a bold new look and feel and a focus on what’s new in products, services, and merchandising materials to support IBO businesses.  IBOs will see this in their mailboxes next week.

There are also new interviews and content at, including quite a few IBO interviews.  Keep checking back at this site as there will be new stuff added every week for the next month or so.

As an FYI, Quixtar is closed for Christmas on Friday, December 23 and Monday, December 26 and will be closed on Monday, January 2 in celebration of the New Year. Stay safe, happy, and healthy through the holidays.


Back to life, back to reality

The two-week run of Achievers ended and our Quixtar team members returned home to the cold and snow of West Michigan.

Not that Grapevine, Texas was sunny and warm…Dallas had an ice storm that crippled the city, shutting down schools, the airport for a period of time, and put a lot of activities on hold.  It even cancelled the Quixtar 5K run scheduled for December 8.  In fact, the Gaylord Texan even asked their staff to stay overnight because they feared they wouldn't be able to serve the needs of guests should staff be unable to report to work because of icy roads.

Still, Achievers was a huge success.  Expo was the best ever, and offered a look at what's ahead in Quixtar's health, beauty, and home tech categories.  NAO spokesperson and makeup artist Jeannie Mai was there, as was iCook chef Jason Roberts.  Both bring a lot of fun and energy to what they do.  And, there was lots of traffic at the One by One booth, where IBOs learned how they can get involved in Easter Seals and US Dream Academy to help children live better lives.

And, there was the tireless Quixtar team staffing expo, taking care of IBO needs, and in general, working hard to support our IBOs.

Achievers is part celebration, part look at the future.  But most of all, it's all about celebrating the success of Quixtar IBOs and their businesses.  For the Quixtar team, it's an incredible opportunity to spend time with our customers and learn how we can support them better.  And that's something that makes Achievers one of the best times of the year for us. 


Deep in the heart of Texas

A number of Quixtar team members aren’t here in snowy and cold West Michigan — they’re deep in the heart of Texas along with thousands of our top IBOs for the annual Achievers event.

Themed ”Achievers Xtreme,” this incentive event celebrates the achievements of the prior year and takes a look ahead at the products and programs coming up in ‘06  to support IBOs.

For more on Achievers Xtreme, visit


So much to say….

I've been away from this blog a bit.  First, I went through  weeks of trying to post but not being able to do so.  And I've been in and out on business travel.  Seems like every chance I have to post, BlogHarbor doesn't feel like letting that happen.  So it goes.

In the meantime Quixtar announced its annual sales, we made updates to, we're in the middle of launching a major new program for health and also finishing up all the communications for Achievers.  And that doesn't even include all the communications that are created every day to support ongoing projects, programs, and initiatives for Quixtar and IBOs.

Quixtar Communications at any given time has about 1,500 active projects.  An active project is one that is being worked on in some way – even if only by a single individual.  The projects range in size from a three-sentence "What's New" story at to a 200-page catalog or Web site with dozens of pages, video, flash and other components. 

Every product we offer gets communicated in some way — whether it's a paragraph in a catalog or an entire campaign to celebrate and announce a major product launch.  Every program needs to be detailed and shared with IBOs and their customers.  And, of course, we offer a wide range of communications and offer an extensive array of support for IBO businesses and the Quixtar Business Opportunity — our primary product.

Every communication touches a number of individuals.  A writer or editor crafts copy.  A designer determines the look and feel.  A project manager handles schedules, tracks budgets, arranges for publication or distribution, and a bunch of whiz bang folks in premedia make sure it looks and reads like it should wherever it appears.   And once it's ready to go someone from PR loops in to see if it's something we want to share with external audiences or employees through Quixtar's employee communications vehicles.

We have a lot to say and a lot of different ways to say it — with an increasing focus on getting the right message to the right person at the right time.     


Substance beats style

Oops!  Accidentally posted yesterday before I was done thinking!

We’re in the process of hiring a vendor to do some creative work for us.  The difference this time around is that we’ve got non-creatives involved in the evaluation process, so they can see how we evaluate resources and ensure that work produced is closely tied to strategy.

And that’s where it gets interesting.

Because as creatives know, sometimes style and sizzle gets more attention than truly great work.

The first group presenting was polished and had a great pedigree.  They were well-dressed, presented well, and had a friendly, easygoing manner.

The second group was a little rougher around the edges.  They didn’t present as well.  They didn’t joke and make everyone feel at ease.

But their work was spectacular.

So when we huddled after the presentations,   it was interesting to watch the reactions and keep the focus on the work — not the presentations.  But I had to admit having a soft spot for the group that didn’t present well.  I tend to root for the underdog, and I know I have that bias.

It isn’t always the package but the contents.  It sounds like a Hallmark moment, but what’s inside matters most.

So we’re still debating…and likely will be for a while.

And that’s the beauty and the curse of what we do in Communications — it often all comes down to opinion about what you like and what you don’t and what you think will or won’t work.  So it goes.


We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give…

This was a better way of saying what I wanted to say in my last post.

Just jotted a note to a relative whose husband just died of cancer, two months before she was slated to retire and they were going to spend what time they had left together doing what they wanted, when they wanted.  It was a second marriage for both of them, and they approached it realistically and practically. 


Your life and mine shall be valued not by what we take, but by what we give.

That's a quote from Easter Seals Founder Edgar Allen, who was among 20 Americans honored last week during the dedication of The Extra Mile:  The Points of Light Volunteer Pathway, a brand new monument in Washington, D.C. 

Also among those honored for creating volunteer movements were Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross; Girl Scouts Founder Juliette Low; Caesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers of America; Civil Rights Activist Booker T. Washington; and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass.   

Quixtar and Amway have had an association with Easter Seals dating back to 1983, when a handful of Amway distributors began supporting Easter Seals' mission to help people with disabilities achieve their potential.  Today Quixtar and its IBOs raise about $1 million a year for Easter Seals in the U.S. and Canada.

I have a soft spot for Girl Scouts, dating back to my own experience as a Junior Scout and today as a volunteer with my daughter's Brownie Troop.   I was amazed at her last troop meeting to see what they had done to achieve their "TryIt" badge for the earth — they built terrariums to understand ecosystems, created room decorations out of recyclable materials, made their own earth-friendly cleaner (vinegar and water), and made a vow to reuse, recycle, or reduce wherever and whenever possible.  My daughter walked away with a commitment to protecting the earth and the belief that even a kid can make a big difference.

Last week a couple  dozen Alticor employees — including one from my department — went down to Louisianna on a Katrina Relief Trip. They gave up vacation days to help aid ongoing recovery and rebuilding to help the victims of Katrina put their lives and homes back together. 

There are no shortages of people and organizations that need help.  It doesn't matter whether you help for a week or an hour, or whether you give of your time, talent, or money — your help is needed.  It doesn't matter what you're able to give — only that you give. 

Rich DeVos used to say that with success comes an obligation to give back.  His philosophy was to give to provide a hand-up, not necessarily a hand-out, so people were empowered to make their lives better.  And when you help people do that, you've given something that's truly priceless.  


I got soul, but I’m not a soldier….and other workplace annoyances

We’re currently in the process of redesigning our workspace at Quixtar.

Quixtar Customer Support moved down the street to Alticor last spring, which will allow the other departments based at Spaulding to spread out.  It’s a good thing, but it isn’t easy.

That’s because nothing sparks more debate and consternation than moving or changing a team’s workspace.

I’m pretty low maintenance.  I don’t need much space and when I get more space, I tend to expand my stuff to fill the space I’m given.  For me, less is more.  I work off a laptop so as long as I have wireless access, I can park myself anywhere.  I’ve also been very intrigued with the trend of “officeless” workspaces, where you essentially move your laptop and a small box of belongings to different spaces.

But I’m in the minority.  Some people don’t want to sit anywhere near certain people.  Some insist on a particular chair so they can work at a certain height.  Some have unique workneeds that require different space requirements. But most of all, despite complaints about their existing workspace, what they don’t seem to want is change.

Because even if what “is” today isn’t ideal, or perfect, it is predictable and known.

But for some, it isn’t really the space that’s the issue…it’s the occupants of the space!

I used to work near someone who would mutter my name without reason over and over again, like a mantra.  Drove me nuts.  I’ve also sat near chronic pencil tappers, gum snappers, and hummers (one notable peer used to hum the theme to “Tequila”, pausing only for my mind to insert the word “Tequila”, or so I thought.). recently issued a news release about coworker annoyances.  They included the coworker who gives everybody nicknames, the one whose office is littered with the artwork of their children (guilty!), the one who uses a lot of buzzwords and catch-phrases but essentially says nothing, and the person who ate smelly food at their desk or wore too much fragrance.

I’ve personally moved away and moved other people away from loud talkers.  Or moved a constant talker.

So you try to create spaces that give privacy to those who need it.  Give the person who needs to collaborate an open work space near those he or she needs to collaborate with.   Put the loud talker near the person who works wearing an iPod most of the day. I’m going to start bringing my iPod to work because I found out the person on the other side of my cube was getting annoyed by me playing the Killers while I worked (I’m not sure whether it was the Killers or me singing along…I got soul, but I’m not a soldier.)  I was just glad he spoke up rather than fuming about it.

You can’t make everyone happy.  But you can be fair, consistent, and try to accommodate needs.  And hopefully that will help create a better workspace.              .

PS — I’ve been having trouble posting over the past week so I’m crossing my fingers that this one makes it over the transom and into my blog!


Walking with others

On Saturday I participated in the Easter Seal "Walk with Me" event at Fifth-Third Park in Grand Rapids.  There were lots of others walking with me to help raise funds to help children with disabilities.

I took some pictures with my camera phone but I still haven't figured out how to send them anywhere yet.   So right now they just take up memory on my phone.

It was a beautiful day to be outside.  Some folks walked pretty fast to get either to the Michigan State – U of M match or to a television where they could watch the game.  As an Indiana grad, football season isn't much for me to commemorate or celebrate.    In fact during my four years in Bloomington, I attended every home game and they never won a single game (the disappointing Lee Corso years.)  They came close once, against Northwestern, and that was nearly as inspiring as a real victory.  The only consolation is that once you get past football the basketball season for Indiana always holds great promise.

It's looking like fall but feeling like summer here.  We've been roasting all day as we waited for the air conditioning to wake up and realize it's hot inside and outside.  Now, as we close in on 5 p.m., it's starting to cool down. So it goes as we make our way from summer to fall.



A chicken won’t do what chickens aren’t supposed to do

Qblog posted a little experiment with a product blog last week, where the "product" responds to questions.  Of course, the "product" can't answer a lot of questions about topics she (I'm assuming this product was a she!) doesn't know about — such as Quixtar.  It might be an automated response tool or it might be a real person using canned responses, but either way, it comes off as flat. But it doesn't have to.

Check out Burger King's subservient chicken Web site  The ads were funny, and the Web site that let you order the chicken around is a riot – but just like any automated function, it has limits.  If you ask the chicken to do something simple, like dance or jump on the couch, it will obey.  If you ask the chicken to do something chickens shouldn't, wouldn't, or couldn't do, it will either get confused, shift its feet, shrug its shoulders or shake its head "no."  If you ask the chicken to split an atom, it tries to do the splits.  Ask it to create world peace and it appears to either do a pushup or a lotus yoga pose.  Don't even try to get it to speak Portuguese.  It will fake a heart attack, but if you ask it to act like it has ADD, it just appears to pick its beak.

And why would anyone do this?  To test the limits of the tool. 

It's simple human nature…when you build something, someone will try to break it.  If you say something will do something, there's someone who will prove it can't or won't.  Waterproof will be saturated. Unbreakable will be cracked.  Foolproof will be unproven. 

Scrutiny often brings improvement.  In products, in processes, in tools, in technology, and in people.    

But so far, not in virtual poultry!

It's suddenly very cold around Quixtar.  Temperatures dipped to the low 40s last night.  But, it will warm back up and we expect beautiful weather for tomorrow's Quixtar-sponsored Easter Seals Walk With Me event in Grand Rapids.  I'll be out there walking with members of the Beauty Begins with Heart team.  For more about these and other Walk With Me events, visit