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November 01, 2010

Exclusive Interviews

Executive Connection with Jere Thompson, CEO, Ambit Energy

Jere ThompsonIn this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming speaks to Jere Thompson, CEO of Ambit Energy, about his proudest accomplishment, what he’s learned and much more.

DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being the CEO of Ambit?

JT: Seeing our people grow and work together. When we got started, I was literally the only person who knew anything about energy in these markets. My depth of knowledge was pretty shallow then. When I look around today and see our cumulative and collective intelligence, it’s grown greatly. Also, I love helping others. John [Burke], Chris [Chambless] and I all sit together. We get more high fives because of something our people did than anything else.

DSN: What has been your proudest accomplishment?

JT: Outside the business, it’s my family—how our kids have grown up and my relationship with my wife. In business, it’s having been partners with Chris and John. We just had our annual convention and had a fabulous turnout. A third of my talks have been about how great it is to have two partners who have such great integrity.

DSN: What do you tell Ambit Independent Consultants to lead and inspire them?

JT: The most important thing we tell them is to set a high bar: to be the finest and most respected organization, and to never sacrifice integrity for growth. If you’re going to be a leader in your field, you have to exemplify the behavior you want to attract. Also I tell them to focus on their whys, make sure they’re big, and make sure you’re focused on achieving them. Work toward them every day. You have to have enthusiasm. People are attracted to the confidence that comes with it. Finally, never give up. Persevere through the hard spots.

DSN: What is your vision for Ambit?

JT: Winston Churchill said: “There is initial and ultimate success.” We can proudly say we had great initial success. Now we’re focused on ultimate success—building a great company that lasts and lasts.

DSN: If you could re-live one period of time—a year, a week, whatever—since you’ve been at Ambit, what would it be?

JT: I’d go back to Ambition 2010, not just because it’s freshest in my memory, but because we had so many people from the company working with consultants. With less input coming from Chris and me, more people did more than ever for our consultants. That circles back to the cumulative and collective intelligence in the company and the enthusiasm everyone has for taking care of consultants. Watching how every event we hosted over those three or four days came off with no hitches, we truly were able to convey to consultants how proud we are of them and how we want to make them proud of their association with us.

DSN: You were a newcomer to direct selling when you founded Ambit. What was the most important thing you learned in the process?

JT: I had hesitations. When I first began to consider this path, I had talked to Chris about direct selling. I had seen both sides of direct selling—the good side where people do it right, then the mischief side when people take shortcuts. I asked two friends to tell me about direct selling. The first one was Joey Carter, who used to be with Home Interiors. He said, if you do it right, it’s amazing what can happen and how many lives you can change. Later, I called Michael Lunceford at Mary Kay. I asked how they had been able to keep the company’s reputation so strong. He said, so long as you never sacrifice integrity for growth, then you’ll be fine. Ever since then, we’ve kept that in steel on stone. We were put to the test in 2008, with consultants taking shortcuts. We immediately got them out of the business and explained to the other consultants why we did it. It was an embarrassing moment for us; it was terrifying not knowing what the outcome would be; and we didn’t know how others would look at us for taking tough steps. By the time we were done, people said this is what we would expect.

DSN: Is there one basic principle which has governed your leadership at Ambit?

JT: There are a couple. Our goal to be finest and most respected company in America, and to never sacrifice integrity for growth. We use moral compass in decision making. We can’t be in the room all the time. We want everyone in the company to trust their gut and do things they’d be proud of. As a company, we’ve always said we’ll never let good enough be good enough. We’re always working to improve what we do. Operationally, we live and die through our skill set. There’s no other company like us who has the IT skills and depth that we do. We’ll always be improving everything we’ve done. We’re in our third or fourth generation of tools, just because we’re always trying to improve everything we do.

DSN: What do you see as our industry’s greatest challenge?

JT: It has to be skepticism. Anytime there’s an opportunity to make a lot of money quickly if you perform, you’ll attract all kinds—people who want to work hard and others who want to take shortcuts to get success as fast as they can. The challenge is, How do you attract good people and keep bad people out? You get the behavior you tolerate. The moment you begin to tolerate misbehavior, the good people will leave so their reputations won’t be tarnished. The industry needs to be sure you can overcome that skepticism.

DSN: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

JT: My daughter even quoted me on it, so I’ve been living it. Ten percent of life is what happens to you, and 90 percent is how you react to it. You can never predict what’s coming at you. All you can do is control your response.

: What’s something that few people know about you?

JT: I can spit watermelon seeds a really, really long way.