June 01, 2017
Bravo Leadership Award: Isagenix’s Jim & Kathy Coover: Agents of Change
by J.M. Emmert
IN THIS ISSUE:
DSN BRAVO AWARDS:
Over the five-year period from 2010 to 2015, health and wellness company Isagenix International grew from $256 million to $890 million in revenue, a 247 percent increase. 2016’s revenue of $924.3 million then placed them at No. 26 on this year’s Global 100 ranking. In addition, Associate growth exploded from 25,000 to 506,000, a 1,923 percent increase, during that same period. Today, the company has more than 550,000 customers worldwide.
Any company experiencing that kind of tremendous growth must have exceptional leadership at the top, and this is certainly true at Isagenix. Partners in both business and in life, co-founders Jim and Kathy Coover have spent the past decade and a half serving employees and Associates in their near billion-dollar company.
In recognition of their exceptional leadership, both of their company as well as within the direct selling channel, Direct Selling News presented the Coovers with the Bravo Leadership Award during the DSN Global 100 Celebration held in Dallas on April 19.
Recently the Coovers enjoyed celebrating Isagenix’s 15th anniversary. It seemed fitting that on that same day, March 23, the Gilbert, Arizona-based company reached another major milestone: cumulative sales of $5 billion. The company moved to Gilbert last year when it finished construction on its new 150,000-square-foot three-story headquarters, now home to 650 of the company’s over 1,000 employees. Thrilled to be celebrating the town’s largest business by revenue, Mayor Jenn Daniels declared March 23 Isagenix Day.
The Coovers, however, are most delighted because for them, their 15th anniversary and the $5 billion marker represent the vast number of lives that have been touched in a positive way through their company.
To impact world health and free people from physical and financial pain: That was the Coovers’ vision for Isagenix when they founded the company in 2002. It was a lofty goal for a company with fewer than 10 employees and five initial products. But they had a plan: add incremental products that provided incremental benefit to customers. Over the past 15 years, the products have continued to evolve, as have the company’s internal systems and the tools they offer to the field to build their businesses.
The Coover’s philosophy is that if it is not right for the customer, it is not right for the company, and this philosophy is echoed by all of the staff. Today the company has more than 100 products, packs and systems that make up their core offerings focused on weight loss, performance, healthy aging and energy products.
Of course, one of the most important offerings Isagenix provides is the entrepreneurial business opportunity. The core principle that has enabled Isagenix to have continuous growth from its inception hasn’t changed: It is creating the best experience for Associates. The Coovers believe that the best way to do that is through direct selling. In fact, when first envisioning what their company would be, they made a commitment to be a legacy company and an ambassador for the direct selling profession.
“We wanted to fulfill the promise of what our profession makes possible, and that’s to create a vehicle that helps people to take control of their health as well as their financial future,” Jim says. “Direct selling at Isagenix allows people to engage without a significant investment, to participate in developing a residual income, to join a community that supports them in personal growth. I think this is the greatest profession in the world, and I think our best years are ahead of us.”
Growing into a top-30 Global 100 company does not come without its pains, however. Like any company experiencing growth, there are challenges. The key is to act quickly and keep moving forward. “At Isagenix, our inclusive and collaborative culture allows us to tackle challenges and find solutions that work for everyone,” says Kathy Coover, who serves as Co-Founder and Executive Vice President. “There will always be issues in any business, but the key is to find the right solution and immediately make the adjustment. Most importantly, we move forward with a positive attitude.”
One of Isagenix’s challenges was IT. Technology is a fast-moving target for any company; when the company began, the iPhone did not exist. Consider all the technological advances that have occurred during the past 15 years, and it is easy to understand the challenges for a company that was integrating a high-touch profession like direct selling into a high-tech platform. However, as Jim Coover sees it, the challenge has been a real opportunity.
“The investments we have made have and will continue to make position us well as we move forward,” he says. “I’ve always said I never want the company to be the limiting factor in how many people’s lives we can affect in a positive way.” As a result, the Coovers heavily invest in both infrastrucure as well as in tools and incentives for the field to stay strong and motivated.
|Isagenix co-founders Jim and Kathy Coover and their son, Erik Coover.|
Another challenging area has been international expansion. Isagenix has a presence in 11 markets across the Americas, Asia and Australia. Every new country that the company enters requires different regulations for the efficacy and safety of products; thus, expanding into countries has taken more time and expense than the Coovers envisioned. However, they remain committed to not compromising on the quality and integrity of the results people can ultimately enjoy. The company is continuing its expansion pursuits, including its soft launch in the U.K. in May.
What allows the Coovers to move seamlessly through the challenges is their servant-leadership philosophy and the culture they have created at Isagenix. Jim and Kathy believe they truly are in partnership with the field; they work hard at making sure the corporate staff, whose role it is to support the Associates, is connected with the same values and goals, so they have a clear vision of what the Coovers are trying to accomplish and what everyone’s role is within the company framework.
“Leaders create the vision and strategy for the overall direction of the company,” Kathy says. “It’s our responsibility to ensure clear goals and actions are communicated to everyone on our team in order to be successful.”
The partnership works because the Coovers have built a culture of integrity. “I know how important it is to create focus, to ensure that people have a clear vision,” Jim adds. “I try to show people what’s possible. That’s worked well in terms of how we have built our team internally, and how we have built our field leadership as well.”
And it is teamwork that has really driven the company’s success. When Isagenix first began, Jim wore a lot of hats. He has since delegated much of the day-to-day decision-making because he has built a first-rate team to support him. He credits a good bit of the company’s growth to this team building and surrounding himself with the best people possible, and then empowering them to grow into their own potential. He says, “We felt if we did it right that we would attract the right people and that has certainly been the case, both in terms of our corporate leadership and our field leadership.”
Along with all of this focus on the field, the Coovers also highly value their employees. They have created programs that reinforce their commitment by helping them grow as individuals and empowering them to enjoy the best quality of life, both physically and through their association with the company. Recently, based on feedback from employees, the executive team implemented new paid maternity and paternity leave policies, as well as granted everyone an additional week of paid time off.
The Coovers’ commitment to their employees is reflected in Isagenix being recently named one of the “Best Places to Work in Direct Selling” for 2017, by Direct Selling News and published in our April issue.
That spirit of helping others also extends to the company’s philanthropic efforts. As they started to enjoy success, the Coovers felt blessed, and they wanted to share those blessings with people in need, especially children. To date, nearly $4 million has been contributed as a company and as individuals to support that effort.
As Isagenix began to grow globally, the Coovers wanted to find a charity that was doing good work and had a bigger footprint around the world. It aligned with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and to date has raised $5.6 million and helped to grant 630 wishes. “Our field and staff have embraced making a difference, so we think our work is just beginning,” Jim says. “It takes about $7,000 to grant a wish, so we have lofty goals on the impact we can have on children around the world.”
In addition, Isagenix contributes to many other charities that align with their core values through its charitable giving program, including the Arizona Better Business Bureau Ethical Athletes Award, Food for Thought, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, and many others through its Global Give Back Day, which takes place annually on May 20.
Leading the Way
For 2016, Isagenix continued its steady climb toward the $1 billion milestone, earning $924 million. With the recent launch in the U.K., significant growth in markets such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico, and the U.S. market continuing to report double-digit growth annually, the company seems poised to surpass $1 billion in the coming year.
Jim also expects the company to double in size within three years, making Isagenix a multibillion-dollar player in the channel. Eventually, the Coovers want to be the undisputed leader for direct selling’s health and wellness sector.
What might take a bit longer to achieve, however, is a goal that was part of their original vision back in 2002. Their 25-year plan included the goal to become the largest health and wellness company in the world. Not just in direct selling, but in the overall health and wellness industry. “I think more in terms of when are we going to pass Johnson & Johnson,” says Jim. “We’re part of a health paradigm that is growing rapidly, where people recognize that drugs are not the answer and they need to start taking responsibility for their own health. We intend to continue leading the way in that whole movement.”
And they intend to do it using direct selling as the vehicle. “I think this is an opportunity for all of us to step up and demonstrate to the world what a powerful distribution channel we are, but more importantly, what a powerful agent of change in this world we can be,” Jim says.