February 01, 2013
ACN: 20 Years of Core Values Driving Success
by Barbara Seale
Photo above: ACN co-founders Tony Cupisz, Greg Provenzano, Mike Cupisz and Robert Stevanovski. Photo Credit: © 2012 Dave Moser Photography.
- Founded: 1993
- Headquarters: Concord, N.C.
- Executives and Co-Founders: President Greg Provenzano, Vice Presidents Mike Cupisz and Tony Cupisz, and Chairman and Vice President Robert Stevanovski
- Products: Essential services such as telecommunications and energy
Sticking to principles while adapting to rapid change is a real balancing act—one that essential services direct seller ACN has managed expertly for 20 years.
In 1993 ACN’s Co-Founders Greg Provenzano, Robert Stevanovski, Mike Cupisz and Tony Cupisz started their company as a long-distance service reseller. Their basic commitment: Put the needs of the company above their own personal needs and always do what’s best for the company’s independent business owners, or IBOs.
They literally sat down at a desk and recorded the vision they had developed through their combined decades of network marketing experience in two columns on a yellow legal pad. In column one were the best practices they had seen throughout the industry that reflected their own values—practices they knew were essential for success. Column two contained methods and procedures that, while they might be right for some, didn’t reflect the company and culture they wanted to build. Their business, they determined, would operate only in column one. And those principles from that original legal pad are what continue to drive the company today, with its original, four co-founders at the helm as they remain actively involved in all daily operations.
And growth? They weren’t focused on fast. They wanted stability and longevity. Being the best and growing in a smart way was their style. Both then and now, they have believed that, over time, sound business practices plus integrity equal strength and size.
“Don’t confuse our commitment to maintaining our original, core values to mean that we aren’t changing,” says ACN President Provenzano. “You can’t be successful in business if you aren’t willing to change, to evolve with the marketplace. So while our core values have remained the same, we continue to reinvent ourselves as a company. This means we are always reviewing our product line and our business support—asking ourselves how we can make our product offerings and the opportunity for our IBOs even better.”
“You can’t be successful in business if you aren’t willing to change, to evolve with the marketplace.”
—Greg Provenzano, Co-Founder and President
That flexibility has let ACN grow steadily, so much so that by the end of 2013 it expects to reach nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in annual revenue. As the company celebrates its 20th anniversary, it now has six, state-of-the-art, world-class facilities around the globe that support and serve 23 countries on four continents: North America, Europe, The Pacific and Asia. Keeping with that original commitment to always seek out new product offerings, its initial product offering of long-distance service has expanded into a complete lineup of essential services for home and business, such as digital phone with video phone, natural gas and electricity, wireless, high-speed Internet, traditional local and long distance phone, television, home security and automation, computer support and more—services people already use and spend money on. ACN gradually reinvented itself, transforming from a long-distance company to the largest direct seller of telecommunications and essential services in the world, and the 19th largest direct seller overall.
|ACN co-founders and executives present a check for over $122,000 to the Ronald McDonald House. Pictured (left to right) are Ronald McDonald; President Greg Provenzano; Executive Director of RMH of Charlotte, Mona Johnson Gibson; co-founders Tony Cupisz, Robert Stevanovski and Mike Cupisz; and VP of North American Sales, Mike Kane.||ACN’s international training events, drawing thousands of participants and hosted four times a year in North America, are a key component to the company’s training and support system.|
Ahead of the Curve
Today ACN boasts a complete product lineup, providing customers with a one-stop shop for all their essential services. The founders’ desire to think outside the telecom box and add additional services has created an even more lucrative opportunity for the company’s IBOs. They believe that a consumer’s telecom services go hand in hand with their home services, creating a fantastic relationship for the company, the IBOs and their customers. But even with a robust product line, telecom will always be where their heart is. And that isn’t by accident. When asked why, Provenzano says that no matter what changes in the world, one thing would always remain the same: people’s desire and need to communicate with one another.
In fact, the December 2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report revealed that a whopping 90 percent of young people grab their smartphone first thing in the morning, sometimes while they’re still in bed. Even before coffee, they have turned off their alarm, checked their email and text messages, and taken a quick look at social media. So there’s no denying the importance of telecom products in everyday life; and there is no denying the perfect positioning of ACN in this lucrative marketplace.
Yet while telecom continues to be the driving force behind the company, the products offered today look very different than the products of yesterday—and that has all been part of ACN’s master plan. In fact, it’s the company’s commitment to staying ahead of the curve that has allowed them to adapt and change right along with the way people communicate.
“Providing consumers with the telecom products they need and use certainly isn’t always easy, given the constant change in telecommunications. But it’s all part of the territory, and it makes for a very exciting ride,” Provenzano says. “So for us, we kept our product line flexible, ensuring it could change and adapt right along with the marketplace. For example, years ago paging was one of our leading products. But with the rise in wireless, paging began to fade away. So we said goodbye to paging and focused our efforts on where the consumer demand was going. We can’t predict what telecommunications product will be the top product another 20 years from now, but I can assure you ACN will be there offering that service to our customers—and more importantly, ACN’s IBOs will be benefiting from yet another powerful income stream, earning residual income each time their customers use that product or service.”
But regardless of the products and services offered, the real beauty of ACN’s business model always has resided in its simplicity. As IBOs tell their friends and family about ACN’s telecommunications, energy and other offerings, the company’s essential services model gives them a comfort zone from Day One because every service is something the customer already knows about and pays for each month. IBOs don’t need to change consumers’ buying habits or get them to add to their monthly budget. They don’t have to convince someone why they need energy services or phone services. Those services are considered absolutely essential to everyone’s daily lives. And in many cases, ACN can save their customers money over what they are currently spending.
In addition, the company provides every IBO with an ACN Direct Online Store their first day in the business, personalized just for them. They simply direct customers to their online store to shop and purchase all their services. ACN handles customer provisioning, billing and back-end support. IBOs don’t need to purchase or stock products they may or may not sell. They simply direct customers to their online store. So how effective is the whole process? Consider this: ACN launched energy services in Canada in 2010 and in the United States in 2011. According to Provenzano, the company already has the largest energy footprint of any direct seller worldwide.
“The beauty of ACN is our business model and our powerful distribution system. Regardless of the product or service, when you put good things into our proven, winning business model, success naturally follows,” Provenzano says.
Total Business Support, Totally Customized
The Kids, the Communities and the Clown
ACN co-founders Greg Provenzano and Robert Stevanovski are pictured with Ronald McDonald at the groundbreaking for the Charlotte Ronald McDonald House.
Since its beginning, ACN has always believed in giving back, to making communities a little better than they were before the company’s first IBOs were recruited there.
“Our success means nothing if we aren’t helping as many people as possible along the way,” insists ACN President and Co-Founder Greg Provenzano.
ACN has supported countless charities over the years, most focused on assisting children. “We instituted an exciting tradition many years ago in which we collect donations from IBOs at each of our international training events,” Provenzano notes. “ACN then matches those donations dollar for dollar and presents a check at the end of every event.”
Beginning in 2008, ACN executives decided that they could do the most good by focusing their efforts on one charity, so they selected the Ronald McDonald House Charities due to their global presence. Since that time, ACN has supported the local chapter of the organization at all of its events worldwide, raising millions of dollars in support.
ACN’s headquarters is in Concord, N.C., a suburb of Charlotte. After discovering that Charlotte didn’t have a Ronald McDonald House, ACN made it the company’s mission to help change that. It became a key sponsor for the Charlotte house, which opened its doors in 2011, and has pledged $2 million to ensure that the house can provide support to Charlotte families on an ongoing basis. The move is just the latest in a corporate lifetime of generosity among the company and its distributors.
In addition, ACN supports a number of local charities close to its world headquarters. “Having a sense of community is important to us,” Provenzano says. “ACN knows the importance of cultivating our roots in the Charlotte area.”
In addition to the ACN Direct Online Store, the company provides all the tools an IBO needs to be successful, regardless of background or experience. ACN offers a completely level playing field, giving anyone an opportunity to succeed. The company recognizes that IBOs almost always start their business on a part-time basis. Family, full-time careers, existing obligations and even hobbies compete for their attention. So ACN works hard to make it as simple as possible for someone to get started and experience some success immediately. But just like everything else, its business building and support systems have changed and evolved over the years, right along with technology.
“We’ve always said that what was good enough to get us here won’t be good enough to keep us here,” Provenzano says. “This also means changing and adapting to ensure we are meeting our target market head-on, in a place that is comfortable for them. For example, we got to where we are today without the use of any social media platforms. It simply wasn’t a requirement in the past. But we know that we won’t continue to grow as a company without social media, so it has become a mainstay of our communication platform.”
Communication methods have morphed to accommodate IBO habits, and today social media such as Facebook and Twitter have a central place in ACN communications.
Provenzano notes that many people expect to be able to do everything online and on their smartphone, so ACN operates a virtually paperless business. Communication methods have morphed to accommodate IBO habits, and today social media such as Facebook and Twitter have a central place in ACN communications and in building the company’s community. Provenzano says it’s all about fitting into an IBO’s life, not asking them to fit into ACN’s. Company co-founders, executives and IBOs make heavy use of the company’s busy Facebook page, blogs and more, posting everything from encouragement and information to training, pictures and testimonials.
“Many IBOs—younger, older and everyone in between—are building their businesses without ever using a computer,” he says. “Everyone is becoming more mobile, so we have to ensure that our tools, training and back-end support can be mobile right along with them. By meeting people in a place that is comfortable to them—and a place that fits in with their busy lifestyle—we are attracting some incredible leaders who will certainly help drive our company into the future.”
ACN already has an expansive, growing global footprint. But for them, international expansion is a careful, methodical process.
“Our expansion philosophy has always been about exercising caution and restraint, to not strike until the iron is hot, per se,” Provenzano notes. “We want to ensure that when we launch a country, not only is ACN ready, positioned with the right products and services, but also that the market is ready for ACN. We see no need in launching a new country unless we are 100 percent confident that the launch, and more importantly our business operations for the long-term, will be a success—and timing plays an incredible part in determining that success.”
Country No. 23 was Korea. Although still in its infancy stage there, ACN has already become a powerhouse in Korea, rapidly growing into the premier direct seller in a short amount of time. Yet Provenzano says the company has barely scratched the surface of the Asian marketplace. In addition, with a strong foundation of Latino leadership already in place in North America, ACN is looking forward to launching Latin America, where Provenzano describes the opportunity as “truly limitless.”
Events: The “Secret Sauce” in ACN’s Recipe for Success
ACN’s large-scale quarterly events represent an essential component to the company’s success system, which is why event after event, year after year, IBOs turn out in droves for its events. Almost 20,000 of them from around the world flocked to ACN’s hometown of Charlotte, N.C., for the company’s International Training Event in late September, and they continue to host sold-out events quarter after quarter.
Regardless of when or where the events are held, they draw impressive crowds of people who come together for a weekend of recognition and training and to hear from renowned guest speakers such as John Maxwell, Donald Trump and Darren Hardy, just to name a few. The events have become the place to be for IBOs. More than just a place to spend the weekend, ACN’s events represent a powerful business-building tool.
“It’s not a coincidence that the top people in ACN never miss an event,” Provenzano observes. “We hold them quarterly and they truly provide the motivation and fuel our IBOs need to build their businesses. For a brand-new person, there is nothing quite as powerful as walking into an arena of 20,000 excited, supportive IBOs. It truly is the best way to be exposed to our opportunity and to see the big picture of ACN firsthand.”
ACN expects more big numbers when it celebrates its 20th anniversary at its annual convention, also in Charlotte, this month. This event will kick off a full year of anniversary celebrations. Provenzano was keeping the details a secret when he spoke with Direct Selling News in December, but he said that 2013 will be about reflecting on the company’s last 20 years, where it has come from, and celebrating what is to come. He is excited about the anniversary and the success it represents, but he is much more focused on the future. After all, there are still many more countries ACN has its sights set on for future expansion.
“ACN is growing in every way,” he says. “We have more IBOs today, more satisfied customers enjoying a more robust product offering across four continents. Not to mention, we are well on our way to being a billion-dollar company. For many new companies, where ACN is today is a dream; but for us, this is only the beginning. Every milestone we reached is just another beginning for us. There are still so many people who have yet to ever hear of ACN. And at ACN, finished never is.”