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May 02, 2011

Top Desk

No Better Time for Entrepreneurs than Now

by Doug DeVos, President, Amway

Amway Taiwan distributors arrive at Amway World Headquarters.

What can we do to make the world a better place? I have talked to people around the world about this topic. I have discussed it with scholars, government officials, colleagues in the industry, Amway distributors and friends who come over for dinner. While it is a complex question with a number of variables, one theme rises above the rest as a key component to making the world a better place: entrepreneurialism.

Entrepreneurs, and the economic development they foster, play a critical role in successful societies. Individuals who build businesses of their own are the answer to helping our world achieve economic stability—the kind that lifts everyone up.

Entrepreneurs are a powerful, often overlooked, group of individuals. While corporations are important to our economy, entrepreneurs are just as important, if not more so. We’ve seen it time and again in our industry. A person starts out selling products, builds a business and then helps others learn how to do the same.

At the same time, these individuals are often sharing their time, talent and treasure with their communities to help build them up. The entrepreneurs we encounter each day create an economic and social ripple effect that makes the direct selling industry unique. No other industry can say it empowers people the way we do.

Economic Freedom

Our industry inherently promotes free enterprise, and that is why I am particularly proud to be a part of WFDSA, as well as DSA, and call you all my colleagues.

Free enterprise, at its most basic level, is about opportunity—opportunity for everyone.

Of course my perspective comes from Amway, so let me talk about what free enterprise means to us. We are a business without limits. Anyone is welcome to join us. And each individual’s success is directly impacted by their hard work. We can’t build a distributor’s business for them, but we can give the products and support to help them. Our business, like many of your businesses, is about opportunity and fostering an environment where entrepreneurs can work as hard as they want and enjoy the benefits of their accomplishments.

We give people an opportunity to achieve earned success. This is about having the freedom to make lifestyle choices. For some people, their Amway business allows them to spend more time with their families, or save for a vacation they’ve wanted to take. For others, it’s the chance to take on a leadership position where they can help others earn success.

Amway distributors from the Ukraine meet with company executives.

Amway distributors from the Ukraine meet with company executives.

Amway President Doug DeVos greets China distributors.

Amway President Doug DeVos greets China distributors.

Earned Success

It is a proven fact that the happiest people are those who believe they’ve created, built or contributed to their own success. One of my friends, Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, talks about this idea at events all around the country. He has written a book called The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future, where he has data to back up what we already know—individuals crave a sense of accomplishment.

Earned success is the creation of value in our lives or in the lives of others. People who have earned their success are, quite simply, happier than those who have achieved success in other ways. Individuals want to be responsible for their own success. Our distributors around the world tell us how satisfying it is to own their own business, go out and work hard, and watch their business grow.

Brooks says that financial metrics aren’t the only measures of happiness. This is where our industry comes in. Direct selling companies bring free enterprise and opportunity to entrepreneurs all over the world by giving them the chance to make choices about their lifestyles—how they spend their time and the people they choose to spend their time with. We can all agree that financial success is nice, but there are a lot of entrepreneurs in this world who find joy in noneconomic endeavors. To them, success is defined by volunteering at a soup kitchen or having the flexibility to attend their child’s basketball game.

Strong Economies

While free enterprise brings opportunity, we believe it also brings responsibility. At Amway, we’re committed to helping people live better lives. This applies to our employees, distributors, families and communities. Like many of you, we believe in helping out. The devastation in Japan and Haiti are two of the most recent examples where we’ve come together to help those who are suffering.

The most amazing attribute of our industry is that we do the right thing—we help others—because it is who we are as an industry. We believe in sharing our resources and empowering others so that they, too, can give back.

We all want to make the world a better place. And our dedication, as an industry, to helping entrepreneurs succeed is one of the most important factors in lifting up the economy, not just in your own country, but all around the world.

By continuing our focus on free enterprise and opportunity, we can help people achieve earned success, however they define it. This in turn will help them to invest time, dollars and talent in their communities, pursue greater accomplishments and help improve economic vitality around the world.

Doug DeVosDoug DeVos is President of Amway.