BLOG ARCHIVE FOR: September, 2006


Be cool, stay in school

Remember that one?  How about “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute?”  If you don’t, you either can’t remember the ‘70s or weren't born yet.

It seems like every cause that needed a public service announcement (PSA) in the ‘70s had a rhyming slogan.  The exception would be one of the most famous PSAs of that era; the shot of the frying pan and the egg, with the somber voice narrating… “This is your brain.  This is your brain on drugs.  Get the picture?”  But this post is about staying in school.

Direct selling and college campuses have a long history.  Direct selling offers a way to earn supplemental income, and college students are typically cash-strapped.  Some direct sellers even focus on recruiting college students and promote their businesses as a way to earn while you learn.  Perhaps some of you have been approached by a college student working their way through school selling knives, china, or pots and pans.   

Quixtar, too, has seen a rise in college recruiting.  And our business provides a way for anyone to earn extra income, especially by retailing products.  But we have a message for our student Independent Business Owners…stay in school.

Some people enter our business with big dreams and long-term goals.  And that’s great…those who want to make their Quixtar business their career will work hard over time to create full-time income.  There’s no magic bullet to getting there – it’s all about time and effort.  But we would never encourage anyone to quit school to build their business, because what you learn in college will affect every aspect of your life and who would want to give that up?

I used to joke that the liberal arts education required by my journalism major at Indiana University best equipped me to participate in just about any kind of cocktail party conversation.  At the time, I objected. Loudly. I wanted to be a reporter and learn everything there was to learn about newspaper and magazine journalism.  But I was forced to learn a lot about a lot of different topics – perhaps become a jack of all trades and master of none, but certainly learned a lot that I could apply to many aspects of my future work and life. 

Education should be a lifelong process, and for many of us, college is the first step in us starting to manage our own life learning.   We learn and get exposed to people and ideas that might never normally cross our paths. 

There are a couple of college professors that I remember dearly, but didn't expect to learn a lot from.  Dr. Philip Burton was an old (literally) ad man who worked for a major consumer products company.  He was a tall, gangly, nerdy guy in his 70s who made us write about garden carts.  Imagine the “Mr. Six” character from the Six Flag ads and make him a foot and a half taller and about as wide as a telephone pole and you’d have Dr. Burton.  We were part of the journalism generation that was launching USA TODAY, MTV and CNN and saw ourselves doing cutting edge work that was bold and colorful – not writing about yard implements.  But Dr. Burton knew that most of us would deal with the mundane rather than the magical.  And he was one of the coolest professors I ever had and the one I learned the most from. 

Richard Tobin was my magazine editing prof and formerly served as an editor for a major magazine.   He was a distinguished, gentle man who was patient, kind, and supportive.  He gently guided my work and was endlessly encouraging while shaping the writing and editing skills I have today.    Richard Merriman was a long-haired visionary who was my adviser on my political science thesis – smart, socially committed, and passionate about people and how politics affect them.   He helped me understand the impact politics have, especially on those who have so little.  

And then there’s the social and emotional growth.  I developed friendships in college that have lasted decades.  I met my husband at IU.  I learned to take responsibility for my finances, my actions, and my future – largely through mistakes I made in all three categories.  And as someone who always followed the rules, did what I was told, and was a good girl in high school – when I left for college at age 17 I was on my own and making a lot of decisions for the very first time, within the relatively safe cocoon of a dormitory and in the comfort of other fledgling adults who were doing the same thing. 

So there’s time to have a business powered by Quixtar while in college. The business will be there when you've gotten the sheepskin, as it has for nearly 50 years.  It shouldn't  be an “either or” proposition. 

I grew up in a city where steel mills dominated local employment.  Most of the kids I graduated from high school with went straight to the mills, where they could immediately earn more than they’d collect after four years of college.  But times quickly changed and those “kids” were downsized or rightsized and wound up bagging groceries or asking others if they wanted fries with their order.  Most ultimately wound up going back to school and getting a degree.   

An education isn't a guarantee, but an investment designed to deliver benefits over time.    Like a Quixtar business, it only gets better with time and effort.


A sunnier outlook

After nearly a week of rain, the sun has finally come out again.  I'm not seeing much of it because it's really busy here with a lot of projects, launches, etc. and busy at home with back to school and back to all the other after school stuff like Girl Scouts, swimming and stuff.  We're working on planning for 2007 while kicking off the new year for IBOs.  Lots going on. 

Blogging has taken a back seat to a lot of other stuff, but isn't totally off my screen.  I'm working with a team to redesign this blog, in essence, building it a new house in a new neighborhood.   You'll also see a new look and feel for The Real Quixtar Blog hosted by Robin Luymes.  I'm also thinking about the type of information I want to share here.  Some of it will be driven by comments or by postings elsewhere on the Internet.  Some from comments we get here through our Customer Support or other teams.  Some just stuff I want to talk about because it interests me and might interest others.  Sometimes I might set the record straight, sometimes I might express an opinion, and hopefully, sometimes I'll add another dimension to the conversation.



Gathering dust

I used to collect cookbooks when I traveled on business or pleasure. It was a more practical and lasting souvenir than a t-shirt or coffee mug, and I'd find a local cookbook that showcased the regional flavors and dishes of the places I'd visited.  I've collected cookbooks from eight countries and dozens of cities.  My favorites are from Pike Place Market in Seattle, a San Francisco Restaurant Cookbook and one from the Maritimes that features seafood recipes. 

Last week a colleague said she wanted to bring me a cookbook on Italian cooking but wasn't sure I'd like it.  I said thanks, but no thanks, for two reasons.  The first is that I have to visit the place myself and stay there long enough to have some of the local fare.  Touching down in an airport for a few hours does not count as a visit.   The second is that I haven't been picking up cookbooks because many of mine have sat largely sat unused for some time and have been gathering dust as I don't have a lot of time to cook.

And there's actually a third reason — I don't need the guilt.

Those cookbooks are evidence of days gone by where I'd spend hours laboring over a new recipe.  When I'd spend an afternoon constructing a menu that reflected a theme or cuisine or color from appetizer to dessert.  When I was cooking for ambitious and adventurous eaters rather than those who don't want sauce on anything or won't touch anything they can't recognize from 10 paces (those would be my children.)

The last cookbook I got was the iCook cookbook that the art director raved about — first Ken wanted to show me what he'd designed and describe his approach to the photography, then he talked about how easy and delicious some of the recipes are.  And they do appear to be  — it's a beautiful piece that has simple menu ideas.  And it's sitting right on top of the iCook grill pan that's still in its box.  This weekend I put all my cookbooks behind closed doors so they don't mock me and what I cook (or in my case, heat.)

So the cookbooks are out of sight, out of mind, but now I have this blog as a source of guilt.

Many posters over the weekend pointed out how long it's taken me to respond to some questions.  I'll have more on BSMs this week, and even more in the coming weeks as I dig up information and insights to respond to questions. My silence isn't an indication that I won't respond; rather, that I can't respond at that time.

But I ask for your patience, as this blog is something I'm shoehorning into some of the corners of my work and my life.


A short history of BSMs (business support materials)

You may not know this, but Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel created the first business support materials (BSM).

When Amway’s co-founders started the company, they personally sponsored and trained many then-distributors.  They held meetings, they gave speeches, they did product demos and they taught others to do the same.

Soon, they couldn’t be everywhere they wanted to be.  So they got a mimeograph machine and started doing print communications that were mailed to distributors to help spread information and share ideas.  Jay Van Andel’s old typewriter used to be in the old company Visitor Center.  Those of you old enough to remember when schools had mimeographs rather than copiers can probably practically smell the ink and see the blue smudges on your fingers.

But as the business grew and “company business” demanded more of their time and energy, Rich and Jay simply couldn’t do it all.  Distributors who had established themselves as leaders began holding meetings and creating communications.  So there was a stream of information coming both from the company and from distributor leaders.  You’ll note that I’m going to use the term “distributor” in a historical sense, since the term Independent Business Owner (or IBO) didn’t exist until just before Quixtar’s launch in 1999.

While many leaders began to charge to cover costs, some realized that they could be compensated for sharing their business-building ideas and insights – not unlike other motivational and business consultants.

Which led to a couple of widely reported and speculated upon communications from the company in the early 1980s.

The reality is that Amway Corp. did become concerned when books, tapes, and meetings became significant businesses for some distributor leaders.

In the following years the company and distributor leaders began working on policies governing these materials, their sale, and their impact on Amway businesses.  And the discussions continue today with Quixtar, with the most recent change being the launch of the Quixtar Professional Development Accreditation Program, which was developed in partnership with the Independent Business Owners Association International Board of Directors.

Over the past twenty or so years we’ve seen significant changes in this area.  And we worked with IBO leaders every step of the way.  Our combined focus has been to provide the necessary protections where appropriate.  Today there are rules that require that:

  • Every prospect be given a disclosure document that advises the average earning experience of IBOs; that IBOs must exert time and effort in order to succeed; and that some IBOs make money from the sale of privately produced sales materials (BSMs)
  • All IBO-produced materials shown to prospects be authorized by the company prior to use
  • Any IBO-produced materials showing the compensation plan be authorized by the company prior to use
  • Messages are given to purchasers of BSMs that indicate their voluntary nature and remind IBOs to watch their expenses of such materials
  • Sellers of BSMs offer a 180-day buy-back of any materials
  • Producers of functions and meetings offer a satisfaction guarantee on the meeting ticket purchase price.

Disclosures on BSMs, including the Business Support Materials Arbitration Agreement, make clear that purchase of BSMs is completely voluntary, that other IBOs may earn income from their sale, and that these materials are covered by a buy-back policy.

BSMs can play an important role in building Quixtar-powered businesses by providing motivation and training to IBOs, just as training and motivation are critical to any sales-driven organization.   And they do so from a perspective unique to Quixtar businesses.  It’s the choice of every IBO whether or not they purchase BSMs, and each IBO will determine whether they find them valuable.

A few months ago I bought “Body for Life” after a co-worker transformed her shape and health by following the diet and exercise regimen outlined in the book.  I tried it but didn’t like the regimen proposed (too much free weight work, not enough cardio and not enough carbs).  I did incorporate some of the ideas from the book into my workout, but you won’t see my “before and after” shots on their Web site.    So while “Body” works for some, it didn’t work for me.

That’s why the buy-back policy is important – it allows IBOs to try a way of building a successful business without risk.  If they find value in a book, audio, or function, wonderful – it was a good investment.  If not, they can get a refund within the time periods specified above.

Not the case with my copy of “Body for Life.”

The rules are there, but people need to use them.  If someone who doesn’t think the audio or book they purchased helped their business, they may be entitled to a refund and should ask for one.   If someone feels that BSM purchases were represented as not optional or voluntary, they should share their concern with our Rules division.    In fact, we’re redesigning the “contact us” section at to make it even easier for someone to file a complaint or raise a question or concern about IBOs, products, or the company.

We want everyone who touches our business to have a positive experience — for IBOs to achieve their goals through our business opportunity and their customers or clients to have our products deliver beyond their expectations.   And the only way we can continue to improve those experiences is through feedback that helps us create a better business for all IBOs and better experiences for their customers.   Which is why we do want IBOs and customers to “contact us” with their experiences, thoughts, and opinions. While we like to hear when someone is satisfied, we need to hear when they’re are not.