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June 02, 2011

Top Desk

Rules of the Road

by Michael O. Johnson, Chairman, CEO, Herbalife

In addition to having loving parents who started me off with firm guidance and an excellent education, it has been my good fortune to have several important mentors in my life. These strong and successful individuals have taught me about character and loyalty, as well as about business. One of my mentors lives by his written “rules of the road” and encouraged me to write my own rules. For this article, I was asked to write about how I lead Herbalife, so here are my personal rules of the road, and how I relate them to our industry.

Rule No. 1—Never leave the high road.

“We take the high road” is part of our vision, mission and values at Herbalife. The direct selling/network marketing industry has been scrutinized since it began. So, it’s in the best interest of us all to operate with the highest level of ethics and integrity. It’s also the right thing to do.

Rule No. 2—Develop your vision.

In 2003, as the new Herbalife CEO, I spent a lot of time thinking about the company and how to lead it. Four elements helped organize my thinking: product, business opportunity, brand and image. Setting a visionary goal for each of these four areas—or buckets, as I call them—helped me develop a vision for the company, which in turn helped us create a strategy and plan.

Rule No. 3—Keep it simple.

We confuse things in business. It’s not that complicated. It’s content and distribution. At Herbalife, our distributors offer outstanding nutrition products and a financially rewarding business opportunity. For more than 30 years, our business has been based on three basic principles: use the product, wear “it” (your weight-loss or health results, a button or the brand), and talk to people—use, wear, talk. Simple.

Rule No. 4—Hire people smarter and better than you.

In hiring people, I look for fraternal, technical and guts. Is this a nice person, one you’d enjoy working with? Does he or she have the right technical skills for the job? Do they have guts—can they stand up for what they believe in? When you find those employees, delegate responsibilities; it will make your job easier. And find a mentor for yourself.

Rule No. 5—Build a team, and give them the limelight.

To paraphrase the famous quote from former president Harry Truman, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets credit. Recognition is a big part of the direct selling industry and very important at Herbalife. That goes for our employees as well as our distributors.

Rule No. 6—Be a leader who is accessible—no job too big, no job too small.

At an Herbalife meeting, you might see top distributors jump in to help move the tables and stack the chairs if that’s what is needed. And senior executives will be right alongside them if it helps. Never say, “That’s not my job.” At Herbalife, another important value is, “We succeed as a team.”

Rule No. 7—Keep yourself healthy, work out, get a regimen and stick to it.

It reminds me of that old adage on the airplane about putting the oxygen mask on yourself before anyone else traveling with you. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of your team? If you make the time to give yourself what you need, you will be able to give your team even more.

Rule No. 8—If you have a problem, don’t delay, face up to it immediately.

Problems arise daily in our business. Deal with those problems immediately. It’s okay to make mistakes, we all do. Admit it when you do, and remember that the important thing is to learn from them and keep moving forward. Always remember, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Rule No. 9—Be tough and fair and never lose your sense of humor.

It takes hard work to succeed in this business. It takes hard work to lead in this business. Keep yourself, your staff and your distributors on task with goals. And remember to laugh.

Rule No. 10—When you suit up each day it’s to play at the top. Think big.

From my first days at Herbalife in 2003 until his death in December 2009, I had the privilege of working closely with direct selling industry legend and business philosopher Jim Rohn. In closing, let me offer you this advice from Jim: “Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.”

Michael O. JohnsonMichael O. Johnson is Chairman and CEO of Herbalife.