May 01, 2009
Executive Connection with Steve Wallach, CEO, Youngevity
In this month’s “Executive Connection,” Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming speaks to Youngevity CEO Steve Wallach about Youngevity’s distributors, his vision for the future and much more.
DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being the top executive of Youngevity?
SW: I love business, and there isn’t any more dynamic business out there than a direct selling business. I enjoy every aspect of it. If I had to put it in one statement, I’d say that it’s the “people” aspect of this type of business that I enjoy the most—seeing them evolve and thrive.
DSN: What has been your greatest challenge since assuming this position?
SW: I’m not good at saying no, so that’s the most challenging task for me. Sometimes people bring us products that they’re excited about or people want to incorporate a company that isn’t a good fit. I usually try to find a way to make something happen.
DSN: How would you describe the ideal Youngevity associate?
SW: Somebody who is passionate about whatever they’re excited about. That is the key ingredient. Honesty, integrity, willingness to help others without expecting something in return. That’s the epitome and when the industry is at its best.
DSN: What is your vision for Youngevity?
SW: For the company to far exceed any one person’s ability. We’re building a huge community that is here to help people with their health and wealth. I want to see it exceed everyone’s wildest dreams—be here for my kids and the kids of today’s associates and last into perpetuity.
DSN: What is the most difficult decision you’ve had to make at Youngevity?
SW: Deciding to challenge the FDA on petitions. Do you want to take on the FDA? Most companies we’ve encouraged to join that cause shy away from it. They don’t want to wave a flag at the FDA. But we felt that it was important for us to get the information out. We’ve defended the FDA when we felt the cause needed it, but we’ve also challenged them in court. It was a very difficult decision at the time.
DSN: Is there one basic principle which has governed your leadership at Youngevity?
SW: Passion. Excitement for the cause. We all have those worn-down days at work, but whatever the decision on hand is, passion wins the day. Without passion, you have nothing.
DSN: Leaders usually draw on something or someone for inspiration, guidance and direction. Do you have a hero or heroine?
SW: I have several, but my father definitely taught me a ton about the direct selling industry and the value of distributors. Without him and his constant encouragement, I wouldn’t have succeeded as a distributor. He’s my hero in this industry and in life.
DSN: Which other direct selling company or person do you admire the most and why?
SW: I have to give credit to Amway for blazing the trail. None of us would be in existence today without the causes, challenges and fights they took on in the ’70s. I really appreciate what they did for the industry and the people who now benefit from the industry.
DSN: What do you see as our industry’s greatest challenge?
SW: Because of how the industry has evolved, the biggest challenge is that we’ve done a great job as an industry of creating great consumer products with great value. Yet in this economy, that is a challenge. People are buying fewer consumer products right now. When your product is better than store-shelf products, price becomes an issue. That’s the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for the industry right now. We have to shift the mindset that it’s about selling products. We have a fantastic business opportunity. A huge part of what we do as an industry is to provide fantastic business opportunities to supplement people’s incomes. We offer flexibility with extremely low overhead.
DSN: What is your favorite way to relax?
SW: I work a lot of hours, and I enjoy it. To relax, I like to fish when I have time. I also like being out with friends and family. I enjoy classic cars, too—tinkering with and restoring them.
DSN: When are you happiest?
SW: I love being with family, relaxing and having a good time. But truthfully, I’m probably happiest when I’m heavily involved in a rewarding project at work, doing something that’s starting to come together.
DSN: What is your favorite travel destination and why?
SW: This industry has afforded me and my family and many in the company to travel extensively. We’ve gone to Japan, Australia and New Zealand. We’ve gotten to know people in those areas and cultures. After we went to Japan, my son started taking Japanese classes and has taken them ever since. If my wife had her way, we’d pick up the dogs and move to Australia. I like every new culture we’ve gone to so far. Building friendships and camaraderie around world has been a real bonus.