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August 01, 2008

Exclusive Interviews

Executive Connection with Richard Wright, President, CEO, AdvoCare

imageIn this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming spoke to Richard Wright, President and CEO, AdvoCare, about the company’s vision, its distributors, and much more.

JF: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being top executive of AdvoCare?

RW: Being able to direct my own schedule. I can spend as much time in the field with distributors as I want.

JF: What has been your greatest challenge since assuming this position?

RW:  I’m not very patient. I want it now. I’d like to see us have more revenue right now. There’s been a major positive change in both the climate and atmosphere at AdvoCare for last 12 months. It’s all good, but just not fast enough to suit me.

JF: How would you describe the ideal AdvoCare distributor?

RW: Someone who’s willing to work and wants to make a better life for them and their family.

JF: How involved are you with Advocare’s distributors?

RW: I tell people all the time, here’s my email address. It comes to my Blackberry, which stays on my hip. Here’s my cell phone number. If you don’t hear from me in two hours, it’s because I’m in the ditch! I respond as fast as one could respond to both phone and email. I’m heavily involved. I already knew most of our leaders before I ever came on board. We’re friends with them; we’ve been to their homes and know their families and their histories.

JF: What is your vision for AdvoCare?

RW: For it to be a billion-dollar company worldwide with its major emphasis in America.

JF: What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make at AdvoCare?

RW: On the inside, it’s the tradeoff between the cost of things like insurance and our 401K, because you know you’re dealing with employees’ families and those things make major differences in their lives. In the field, it’s where do I go next? We get dozens of requests every week to do meetings in someone’s house or town. I can only go to so many. Over the past year, I probably spent 70 percent of my time in the field and 30 percent in the office. It might even be 80/20. But we have a great COO who runs the day-to-day office. It feels good leaving the company in his care.

JF: Is there one basic principle which has governed your leadership at AdvoCare?

RW: You have to lead through character. Leaders are constantly in the crosshairs—always being watched and critiqued based on decisions they make. There’s no roadmap to the right or wrong answer. We try to choose the right thing to do from a character and integrity standpoint. We might make some mistakes, but if you look at things based on the entirety of decisions versus one individual decision, the hope is that the majority of the time, you make the right decision for right reason.

JF: How do you communicate with your team?

RW: I’m a hands-off manager. I hire the right people and leave them alone.

JF: Leaders usually draw on something or someone for inspiration, guidance and direction.  Do you have a hero or heroine?

RW: I’m a big believer in Christian-based principals. Aside from religion, I have followed the teachings of people like Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill and Charlie “Tremendous” Jones for years.

JF: Which other direct selling company or person do you admire the most and why?

RW: Amway and Rich DeVos. That’s how we got our start back in the 70’s. We saw the character of Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel on a continual basis. We saw what they stood for, the integrity behind what they did, how they conducted their everyday lives, and how they treated one another, distributors and employees. Their actions have been a guiding principle for me throughout my entire business career. I was able to be successful in the private sector because of the basics I learned from watching and hearing them teach.

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

RW: Laziness. We’ve become a society with an entitlement mentality. We’re not owed anything other than an opportunity. Direct selling offers anybody, regardless of background, an opportunity to be successful. We don’t ask what your degree is or whether you have one. We don’t ask your background or your religious preferences. We just say, “here’s a plan.” No other industry does that. And we don’t tell you ‘this is as high as you can go.’ We don’t decide for you. It’s up to you.

JF: What is your favorite way to relax?

RW: Sherry and I are huge beach people. Our favorite place in the world is a place called Seaside, Fla. Pre-AdvoCare, we went there three to five times a year.  I’m a roaring failure at retirement. I’ve retired three times unsuccessfully. But when we retire, we’ll have a home there.