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February 01, 2016

Top Desk

Defining a Legacy through Partnership

by Heather Chastain


Click here to order the February 2016 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


Everyone you meet in this business has their own unique story of how they found the industry or, more likely, how it found them.

I found this industry quite by accident. The company that hired me to be the production manager for their lipstick manufacturing department just happened to be in direct selling. I knew nothing about the industry and didn’t really understand it until I was sent to my first national convention. Like most who attend a national convention for the first time, I was awestruck. And hooked. I saw first-hand the power that we have to transform people—their belief in themselves, their optimism for the future, and their active engagement in their lives. As I looked into the faces and heard the hearts of those who were building their businesses with us, I saw clearly how it helped them to be better.

As home office leaders, we are often called upon to tell our “why” stories of how we found the industry and why we stay. Like our field leaders, we each have our own reasons. But I have found that those of us who stay in the industry generally have one thing in common, and it has everything to do with the people we serve. 

Some of us are highly motivated by the significant financial impact we help people achieve, some are more focused on the life experiences we provide. For me personally, it’s all about the fulfillment of potential. When someone finally discovers that they are capable of achieving so much more than they ever thought possible, they overflow with confidence and pride. When that realization clicks for someone, there is no limit to what they can accomplish. And when it clicks for millions of people united by one common purpose, the potential is staggering! 

But to me, the real question we should be asking ourselves is not necessarily how we got here, or why we stay. The real question we should be asking ourselves is how we will leave this industry. What will we do today to ensure that our company, our industry and the millions of field leaders we serve are truly better for knowing us?

The desire to create a lasting impact and the commitment to help people to unlock their potential are what led me to Shaklee. From its inception 60 years ago, Shaklee has understood the value in uniting for a common purpose. We know the ripple effect of social influence and the power that it has, and we realized long ago that this industry has the scale to create real and meaningful change in the world. Not just to build successful businesses, but also, as an example, to make our planet a cleaner, healthier place to live. We have used our influence over the years to rally the Shaklee community to plant over 1 million trees, have become the first company in the world to obtain Climate Neutral™ certification and totally offset our CO2 emissions, and have helped millions of individuals lead healthier, more productive lives.

Through our business opportunity we make entrepreneurship accessible to everyone, and through our products and our genuine commitment to the earth (no greenwashing here!) we also help create the foundation for a longer, healthier life—something that is available to everyone who wants to join us. 

As Shaklee enters its 60th year in business, we are naturally thinking about our legacy. Milestone anniversaries are good times to look back, but as one of just a handful of companies in the U.S. Direct Selling Association with more than 50 years of heritage, simply celebrating the past would miss the point entirely. We must look forward. We understand that ultimately our legacy is not just what we have done before but what we will do in the decades to come. 

A rich heritage and long legacy are wonderful things, but we also need to ensure we stay relevant to the next generation of leaders. Shaklee was founded on the principle of Living in Harmony with Nature®. This founding position, quite fortuitously, is even more on trend and relevant today than it was in 1956. 

Since taking on the task of helping to grow a company like Shaklee, at the advent of our 60th year in business, I’ve received a lot of questions about our plans. Friends and competitors alike (often one and the same) are curious about the future, knowing that when one company in this industry is strengthened, we are all stronger. 

One thing I know for certain, it is only through a consistent partnership with our field leaders that we will have success. No matter what we may tell the media or our boards of directors or put on our resumes, no one in a home office has ever grown sales in this industry. Growth always comes from our field leaders. Always.

When faced with this opportunity, it can feel like the right thing to do to just listen to the under-30 set. You can easily convince yourself that they are the future and that’s “where we need to go.” But when you do only that, you will miss out on all the wisdom and history that got you where you are.

Conversely, when you just listen to the most senior people in the organization, you will miss out on the relevance and freshness that comes from those newer to your company. So, of course, the answer is to listen as much and as often and to as many distributors, leaders and customers as you can. And then take action! We certainly will have no shortage of action in the months and years to come. 

Of course we are going to keep ensuring that our incredible story of environmental commitment and Living in Harmony with Nature is told well and often. 

Of course we are going to continue to upgrade our digital experiences, focusing on leader-driven apps that truly deliver on performance and are so easy to use.

Of course we will keep delivering products that help you feel younger longer, keeping our industry and our company strong with science backing up every single claim we make about every single product, every single time.

But we are going to try a lot of new things too. As an industry, we tend to be leaders in product innovation, but we are often following behind our online and retail counterparts with inventive, effective and on-point marketing messaging and delivery systems. The cost of experimentation in this digital age is negligible, and we are going to take full advantage of that by experimenting, shaking things up and generally making people take notice. Not every idea will work, not every campaign will be effective, but this digital age gives us more power than ever to take what’s working for a pocket of field leaders, roll it out more broadly and test along the way to see what works and what doesn’t. 

The most important thing we will do is partner with our field leaders. Not through lip service or perfunctory conference calls, but through a transparent, open partnership through which we will strategically build together.

Through that partnership, a willingness to take risks and a commitment to freshness, fun, and our founding values, Shaklee will define its legacy. Not the last 60 years, but in the next. I can’t wait to see how far we will go… together.


Heather ChastainHeather Chastain is President of Shaklee U.S. and Canada.