BLOG ARCHIVE FOR: September, 2007

Sep.27
2007

Giving

U.S. Dream Academy, an organization supported by Quixtar, Quixtar IBOs and the Independentl Business Owners Association International (IBOAI), is featured in Bill Clinton's new bestseller, Giving:  How Each of Us Can Change the World.

The story of how Wintley Phipps founded the U.S. Dream Academy is just one of the extraordinary and innovative efforts to solve problems and enrich lives featured in "Giving."  The book ends with a call for every individual to do whatever they can, regardless of circumstances, to help others achieve.

The U.S. Dream Academy is a nationally-honored after school program that empowers at-risk children to achieve their dreams. The Academy focuses on breaking the tragic cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system — basically intervening and helping prevent the children of prisoners become convicts themselves and reaching other at-risk kids.  By providing after school support and a network of mentors, the U.S. Dream Academy seeks to lift children at risk out of danger and help them achieve their full potential.

The best way to learn about U.S. Dream Academy is to get personally involved as a mentor or supporter.  Visit the Dream Academy's website to learn more about how you can get involved with one of their 12 centers across the country and be part of the effort to double the number of centers in the next five years.

 

Sep.26
2007

Making Things Simpler

There's been a lot of talk about making things simpler around here lately — a lot of it tied to the launch of Simply Nutrilite and how that line makes good nutrition simple for busy families.

But the whole topic of simplicity is hot.  Years ago Sarah Ban Breathnach launched the simplicity movement with her book "Simple Abundance," which taught the simple idea of being grateful for all you have and to create the life you want. It advised ways to clear the cobwebs and the clutter away so you could focus on all you have to bring joy to your life.  A leading women's magazine, "Real Simple," was born to create ways for people to do things easier, simpler, or better to give them more time for what they really want to do. 

More recently, architect Sarah Susanka wrote the "Not So Big Life,"  a followup to her hugely successful "Not So Big House" books.  She teaches a simple philosophy that more is not always better, from the house you build to the life you inhabit.  The Not So Big House movement insisted that people build thoughtfully, based on what they need and what will add to their life without adding to their accumulation of stuff.  Likewise, "Life" focuses on finding what you want in your life (and from it) and how you create a balance between what you must do and what you dream of doing.  More importantly, it reminds us all to be present and fully inhabit every moment of our lives.  The web site is very useful and has loads of content from the book you can use for your own virtual life cleaning.

I checked the book out from the library (as I'm selective about what books I bring into my home as permanent occupants — it's a simplicity and frugality philosophy.)  It was instantly meaningful as I looked at how I may do a lot, I may not be bringing all I can to all I do.

Case in point…I'm a Blackberry user (although some have called me a Blackberry abuser.)  I view the Blackberry as bringing flexibility to my life and schedule…which means instead of waiting at the office at 6 p.m. to review a document, I can do that from whereever I want to be.  Good thing, right?  But not if I'm looking at that tiny screen when my daughter does her first cartwheel and sees that I've missed her accomplishment.  And not if her sister calls me a "Blackberry Zombie" when I don't hear her question about her homework.

Recently a Blackberry and laptop ban was instituted in some meetings here.  I've blogged (or blabbed) here before about how we have way too many meetings and how it feels like you're not getting a lot done because you're in meetings.  At first, I resisted and resented the restriction.  After all, a lot might happen while I'm locked away in a meeting for a few hours, and I'd often use my Blackberry to keep things moving during the course of the day.  In fact, a lot of people relied on me being available by Blackberry whenever I was in a meeting. I had to go back and make sure people understood that I was literally out of pocket for a few hours.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I often get assignments, questions, or tasks to do during meetings that I can pass along — and can often resolve– during the course of a meeting with a simple note to a colleague.

So what happened?  After I stopped thinking about what I was missing outside the doors of the meeting room, I listened more.  In fact, I was present and ready to respond to whatever needed an opinion, insight, or follow-up.  I focused on one thing instead of a half dozen.  And yes, life went on while we were meeting and what needed my attention was still there when I got out.

So I've been making a conscious effort to be more present in my own life.  To give something my full attention.  To listen intently.  To engage fully.  To really notice what's going on around me.  

Even if it looks like I'm just sitting there.  It sounds simple, but it's taken some effort.  Like sitting down and watching homework being done rather than darting in and out while cooking dinner.  And I don't think those committed moments have added hours to my day….but they may have added more value and meaning to those moments.

 

 

Sep.24
2007

Why we want a customer to have an IBO — one way or another

Some of you have posted comments about why we would allow customers to come to the Simply Nutrilite site or to Quixtar.com without an IBO escort.  We call customers who come to us this way "stumble ins" as they find their way unescorted to our sites.

The best scenario, from our perspective, is when a customer has an IBO who can help them select products based on their needs.  I don't care how good an assessment tool is, nothing beats one-on-one interaction and discussion.  Some people can look at my face and see I have special skin care needs — rosacea.  But on most assessments I have "redness or ruddiness" as choices.  Not the same thing.  And we know that when a customer's need is met, they're open to trying other products that may help them in other ways.  I know I've given greater share of my wallet to salespeople or merchants that have provided exceptional service or insights or helped me address a need or goal successfully.  In fact, some of my favorites have been the ones who have told me not to buy something rather than just let me buy something that was all wrong. 

But we also want to help people who don't know an IBO or our brands to get acquainted with them.  That's because we believe so strongly in the brands that are the cornerstone of our business — Artistry and Nutrilite.  Pardon the pun, but the Artistry quality story is more than skin deep — the science behind Artistry creates products that are uniquely effective in creating beautiful, healthy skin.  The older I get the more I appreciate Time Defiance.  And Nutrilite has a quality story that's unmatched, from the organic fields to the tablets that delivery more power-packed phytonutrients than anybody else.  We believe that an initial, positive product experience can lead to a productive and rewarding relationship — but a product alone can't always do that.  The personal touch of someone who cares about your needs and wants to genuinely help — whether it's removing tough stains or addressing those fine lines around your eyes — is what really makes a difference.

There's currently a leads program in place, but we're taking a look at it — like we're looking at all that we do as part of our First Circle transformation — to make sure it's the best way to support IBOs and customers.

So what's the best way to connect a customer who's interested in products with an IBO?   If you ran the company, what would you do?

 

Sep.18
2007

10 reasons this is absolutely the best time of the year

I noticed driving in to work this morning that the maple I always trust as a harbinger of fall is already losing its crimson leaves.  I think a cold snap and frost last a week ago or so back did the trick, and fall is officially on its way.

Fall is my favorite season, as it's always brought good things.  I got married in the fall, my husband's and my birthdays are both in fall months, and I just like cooler "sweater weather."

Here are 10 reasons I love this time of year:

10)  The color.  Midwest falls are nothing short of spectacular, as the trees turn hundreds of shades of gold, orange, and red.   We have a lot of pines around our house but they are punctuated by punches of color from the deciduous trees that have survived in the woods.

9)  Apples.  West Michigan has dozens of orchards that allow picking, or at least hayrides with cider and donuts afterward.  One of my favorites is Klackle Orchards near Greenville.  Skip the commercial stuff and go right to the U-pick.  Stop by the barn on your way out for a fresh pumpkin spice donut and cup of warm cider.  Yummm!

8)  High school football.  There's nothing like sitting on cold metal bleachers in a sweatshirt and wrapped up in a blanket to make you think you're in high school again — and be glad you never have to go back!

7)  Fall festivals.  Here in west      

 

Sep.14
2007

Nearly 50

No, not me!  But I can't protest too much, because I'm closer to that age I'd like to admit.

Amway, however, is nearly 50 years old and will celebrate this anniversary in 2009.  Talk is already starting around the company about how to commemorate this milestone, from bringing IBOs from around the world to the place where it all started to capturing the illustrious history of the company in variety media.

I met with someone yesterday who's chronicling the history, and just spending a few minutes thinking about the past is a great reminder of the remarkable contributions of this company and the accomplishments of our co-founders, Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel.

I was fortunate to join the company when Rich and Jay were still at the helm, and even luckier to be assigned to handle some of their many speaking engagements.  I'd make the arrangements, handle logistics and media relations and very often accompany them and hear them speak and see the crowd's reactions. Jay Van Andel would command a crowd at such rapt attention that you could hear a pin drop as they eagerly awaited his next word.  Rich DeVos on many occasions told a story that inspired listeners to tears.  In fact, I sometimes gauged the success of an appearance by how many hankies I saw in the crowd.

I'll celebrate my 19th year here next March and my 20th when Amway turns 50.  And every year, like every other employee, my anniversary is recognized by my boss and others –  cards or notes thanking me and congratulating me on another year.  Milestone anniversaries — 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years of service — usually mean cake.  Anniversaries of 20 years or more can be marked with a reception in the employee's honor — but a lot of people don't want the fuss and attention.  But regardless of the year that's passed, it's always nice to stop and think about the contributions of every Quixtar team member and how they help IBOs be more successful. 

So when you think about nearly 50 years of Amway, from the start of this business in Rich and Jay's basements, how do you think we capture and celebrate the anniversary?  We can't do cake and coffee for every IBO, but what could we do to celebrate all that's happened and all the people who have been part of this business?  If you were planning the party, what would you do?  

 

   

Sep.05
2007

Simply More

Or, more Simply.  Anyway, a few more details on the launch of the Simply Nutrilite line.

You can check out all the products at the Simply Nutrilite subdomain of Quixtar.com.   

There you'll learn all about the products that are part of Simply Nutrilite, the official food for the busy life.  This line was specifically created to meet the needs of busy families who are on-the-go, on-the-run and just too plain busy to stop for nutritious meals.  Simply Nutrilite allows families — and those guilt-ridden busy moms — to eat and drink healthy without slowing down.

Bear in mind that the busy mom is a beta mom — who wants to do the right thing for her family but doesn't have the time to do the research and the work behind eating right.  She isn't the mom who makes smoothies or cooks up a batch of high fiber, antioxidant packed homemade cherry granola bars for the soccer game.  She's the mom who remembers on the way to the soccer game that she's "snack mom" for the team's game that day!

How big of a market is this?  There are an estimated 79 million customers looking for products just like these to help make life — and nutrition — easier for their families.  If you want to capture your share of this market, check out the Simply Nutrilite launch kit that's jam-packed with samples, selling instructions, and customer leave behinds. 

The launch of the Web site is just the first of the extensive promotion you'll see for Simply Nutrilite, including major national advertising to capture the attention of those busy moms launching in October.  You'll see and hear ads online, on the air (radio and tv) and in print magazines like O — The Oprah Magazine and People.  All will point these potential customers to the free sample available at the Simply Nutrilite site — and pave the way for you to make a sale to all the busy moms you know!

I'll share more details on what ads are appearing where when we have a final schedule to share.

Sep.04
2007

Duh! Moments

 Don't ask me why, but today, Bryan Eisenberg posts a piece at Beneath the Cover  that cites a 2002 New York Times Bob Tedeschi column about comScore Networks Web retailing ratings.  Quixtar, of course, was listed among the top 25 (sixth, in fact.)  The resulting New York Times story focused on lesser known companies like Quixtar that had attracted huge online siles without the benefit of a retail presence.  My guess is that Mr. Eisenberg was stumped for something to write about and he'd had the Tedeschi column in a tickler file.

Eisenberg's column revists the 2002 Tedeschi piece (again, not entirely sure why) with a number of "Duh! Moments" that are still quite relevant.  The first is the recognition that an offline customer base can be moved to online ordering.  The second was recognition that Quixtar's "Ditto Delivery" service was responsible for some of the online success.  Quixtar wasn't a part of the other two "Duhs" but the takeaway was that each featured company (Quixtar, Quill.com, and Newport News) had taken distinct approaches to selling online.

And speaking of distinct approaches, check out the new Web presence for Simply Nutrilite.  This new brand is designed to help busy families fit nutritious snacking into manic schedules, and make nutrition quick and easy.  This line of juices, bars, twist tubes, and supplements takes the guesswork out of healthy eating on the run. 

It's designed for busy moms who want their kids and families to eat better but have a hard time fitting that in with everything else they have going on.  I'm very excited about the launch because I, like many working moms, wind up feeding my kids a lot of meals and snacks on-the-go.  In fact, we eat a lot in the car — granola bars as we head out in the morning, whatever they grab on the way out the door to Brownies or sporting events.  The emphasis is usually on quick and easy rather than healthy — until Simply.  Visit the site and get a sample of one of the Food Bars — I know I'm going to be packing the Sweet and Salty bars in my back seat for the times when we need a snack or quick bite and there's no time to stop!

And, as you can see by looking at the Opportunity Zone blogs lately, there's no shortage of things to write — or talk — about here at Quixtar!

 

  

Sep.04
2007

Back to school….for you, too!

Today was the first day of school for hundreds of thousands of Michigan public school students.  My two elementary schoolers bounded out of bed, were dressed in record time, and hauled heavy backpacks to the bus stop to eagerly begin another year of learning.  That eagerness will soon wear off as the novelty of seeing old friends wears thin, oh, about Thursday.  But today they were excited to be going back to a new school year with new teachers and new things to learn.

And you can go "back to school" as well, with the eagerly anticipated launch of Quixtar University today.  To find the classes available online, go to Quixtar.com, click the "Build and Manage My Business" tab and you'll find information on how to get started.

There are five courses available under the "Basic Business Skills" heading, ranging from "Introduction to selling and building a balanced business" to how to "Make a successful sale."  You can take a quick course for 10 minutes or less or get more in-depth information and knowledge from a more extensive course.  And, if pressed for time, you can start a session, stop, and pick it up again when convenient for you.  The "Product Expertise" section allows you to start with Artistry and will eventually have additional product courses to help you learn about more health, beauty, and other product brands and categories.

Check it out today and keep visiting Quixtar University for more courses and information to help you become more successful!

    

Sep.02
2007

Like nails on a chalkboard

I'm normally pretty easygoing.  But grammar and style errors to me are like nails on a chalkboard…they're beyond irritating; they're almost excruciating. Or like those wonderful MasterCard commercials where the carefully synchronized shopping experiences in a deli or a garden center are ground to a screeching halt by someone writing a check or using cash.  Grammatical or punctuation errors literally stop me in my tracks when reading. 

I actually found myself sending an e-mail last week to a team member who was the first I'd seen lately correctly spell the phrase, "sneak peek." I'd seen a whole flurry of notes that described a "sneak peak" or worse yet, "sneek peak" e-mail.  Those who cherish language know that "sneak peek" is the accurate usage — and that something that's a peak would have a hard time sneaking anywhere at any time!

Another is that an idea needs to be "flushed out."  Now I've seen rough concepts or ideas that need to be "fleshed out,"  as in we need to put the meat on the bones of a thought.  If you're "flushing" something out, that means you've got a lot of, er, stuff to get rid of.

The misuse of "its" and "it's" is huge.  "Its" is the possessive, as in, "the dog lost its ball."  The contraction "it's" means "it is."  But this misunderstanding is very pervasive.  I actually work with someone here at Quixtar who changes the correct usage into the incorrect use — as in "The company is changing it's relationship with it's customers."  You and I both know that sentence should read "its."    

I was in a presentation of ad concepts the other day with placeholder copy that had a number of errors that I couldn't let stand — I had to fix them on the spot lest they find their way into another presentation.  Why?  Because they distracted me. 

One of my favorite gifts to high school grads is a copy of Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style."  The "White"  is E.B. White, author of "Charlotte's Web."  The "Strunk" is William Strunk, a Cornell professor who first privately published his musings on style in 1918.  White later resurrected the work after Strunk's death with some of his thoughts and passion for proper style and usage.  It's a slim, readable primer on grammar and an indispensible guide.  Those who want something more contemporary might like "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," by Lynne Truss, a witty look at punctuation errors. The cover alone is hilarious.  And if you don't get it, you need to read the book!

Another is Richard Tobin's "Tobin's English Usage."  This one is a sentimental favorite of mine as Dr. Tobin, in addition to being the nephew of Ring Lardner and a writer who graced the pages of The New Yorker and other pubs, was one of my journalism professors at Indiana University.  Your best bet for getting a copy is a used bookstore in a university town.  

The arbiter of usage and style in Quixtar Communications is Marsha Hoffman, our esteemed copy editor.  Marsha is our style cop and truly an expert in matters of punctuation, style, grammar, and usage.  While Marsha is willing to discuss and debate the merits of the serial comma or the preferred or colloquial usage of certain words, she literally has the last word as she's the final pair of eyes to consider just about everything we do. 

Nobody's perfect, and we all occasionally make mistakes. While I'm a fan of the serial comma, I'm not always consistent in my use.  Sometimes it's a rush to get something out, or in the case of an e-mail, the feeling that a communication is fleeting or temporary.   Our team is lucky to have Marsha as our guide for the communications destined for public consumption.  As for the rest of the world, there's Strunk & White!