May 02, 2010
Vollara: Taking Flight to ‘Uncompromising Health’
by Norbert Brown
Flying. The ancient Greeks wrote myths about it, Leonardo da Vinci sketched machines to do it, and the Wright brothers finally made it a reality. Through the ages, people have dreamed of the freedom, the exhilaration, the personal power of flight.
It’s no surprise then that a company that encourages each of us to empower our “best self” would have a name associated with flight. “Vollara,” the company’s name, is derived from the Latin verb volan, which means “to fly.”
Although Vollara officially launched in February, the company isn’t completely new. Its roots reach back more than 80 years to 1924, when its parent company, Electrolux USA, was founded. With a reputation for quality and innovation, Electrolux products were so ahead of their time, they were chosen to be part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection, and the company garnered more than 50 million customers in its long and prestigious life.
But in 1998, when CEO Joseph Urso acquired the company, Electrolux USA was at the tail end of a 20-year decline in business. Although the company’s products continued to enjoy a strong reputation for quality, the business itself was no longer keeping pace with changes in the marketplace.
Urso and his team set about transforming the company, broadening its scope to be more scalable and diverse in its offerings. And so Electrolux USA transformed into Aerus LLC, a company manufacturing and marketing a full line of quality products for a healthy home, including air and water purification systems, and vacuum cleaners and carpet shampooers. Today, the company is a strong presence in the marketplace, with an exceptional franchise opportunity and more than 500 franchised locations providing outstanding service to more than 5 million customers.
Urso saw the existing Aerus business as an ideal platform to enter the network marketing market.
“Network marketing is the most powerful opportunity I have to genuinely help people live a better life,” Urso says. “That is what makes me happiest.”
Urso entered the network marketing business in March 2009, when Aerus acquired the operational assets of EcoQuest, a network marketing company with a full line of products focused on environmental purification. In just under a year, Urso and his team transformed the EcoQuest platform into Vollara, a new company with a mission to promote “Uncompromising Health.”
What is “Uncompromising Health”? It’s both a product philosophy and a business approach. On the product side, the phrase encompasses solutions for a healthy environment and a healthy life: air and water purification products, as well as science-based nutritional products that feature patented or proprietary ingredients—what Urso calls “protection from the inside out.” On the business side, it’s an opportunity to empower entrepreneurs looking to achieve financial health, and gain the emotional health that can come with it.
“Our strategy is to have the world’s best products, products that are rooted in science and that we can protect to give us a platform for years to come,” Urso says.
Vollara launched in February with a slate of products in three key categories: Shape Your Weight®, Protection from the Inside Out® and Protection from the Outside In®.
Shape Your Weight includes weight-management supplements, as well as products to enhance energy. Re:Activate for energy and Re:Place meal-on-the-go formulas are available in both soy and whey-based formulations and in vanilla and chocolate flavors.
The Protection from the Inside Out category includes a broad range of supplement products, including Re:Sist, which Urso calls “the world’s most powerful natural immune booster.” Other products in the category address nutritional issues, such as aging gracefully, bone health, joint and digestion support, eye health, and men’s and women’s needs.
“Every product has science behind it,” Urso says. “In almost every case, there’s independent lab or clinical research behind the products and there are ingredients or formulations that are patented or proprietary. It’s a very unique value proposition, because we can protect our products. It’s our competitive advantage.”
The final category, Protection from the Outside In, features both new products and some carried over from the EcoQuest product line. This category includes FreshAir air-purification products; LivingWater products to filter and pH-optimize water; and Laundry Pure, a unique product that allows clothes to be washed without hot water or detergent.
“It’s an amazing technology,” Urso says. “It really works.”
‘Four Corners’ of a Business
Urso’s success in transforming Electrolux USA into Aerus and then relaunching EcoQuest as Vollara is based on what he calls the “four corners” of a successful business. It’s an approach that has worked so well for him, in fact, he’s currently writing a book on the subject.
Corner one is a competitive business strategy, a well-thought-out, clearly articulated company focus, along with a plan to reach customers with a value-driven approach. In the case of Vollara, that strategy centers on the concept of “Uncompromising Health” and the exclusive, protected products and business plan to achieve it.
Corner two is financial strength. But just as important as the right business strategy, Urso notes, is having the resources to achieve it. With 80 years of history, an established place in its community and market, and a presence in 23 countries, Urso is confident that having Aerus as a parent company fills this corner well for Vollara.
The third corner is a systemic business process, and the fourth is great people. In shoring up these aspects for his new venture, Urso points to his management team and the systems that have supported Aerus’s growth. In addition to executives with experience and expertise in network marketing, the Vollara team includes some managers and executives who have been part of the Aerus organization for 10 years or more.
“Our company’s culture is like a very intense family,” Urso says. “Everybody is aligned—we haven’t lost any senior executive for over 10 years. We’re very good at bringing people in who share our values, and this is a strong, values-driven culture.”
A Culture of Empowerment
Vollara’s Web site’s opening animation challenges each visitor to “EMPOWER your best self®.” That concept of empowerment is at the core of Vollara’s values system. The company’s products are designed to maximize personal health and create an environment in which all can thrive. And Vollara’s compensation plan, a hybrid of unilevel and binary plans, is engineered to build financial health. All in all, the Vollara business opportunity puts individual distributors in charge of their own health and financial future, an empowerment approach if ever there were one.
In support of this opportunity, Urso says that the company has been hard at work assembling “the best tools in the industry” for distributors, including Web sites and back-office tools, as well as print and video tools.
The Vollara empowerment philosophy includes employees as well as distributors. The low turnover at the company, Urso says, stems from the fact that “we’re able to help people advance their careers. Everybody knows what their role is, and everybody is able to add value and help to reach the overall goals of the company.”
‘Seven Strategy Plan’
Although Vollara is a new venture, it runs like an established business, in part because of the strong backing of its parent company, Aerus. It’s also because Urso and his team have been applying what they call the “Seven Strategy Plan” to Vollara from the moment it opened its doors. The seven strategies add up to a business plan designed to be scalable and maintain a consistent focus on the company’s goals:
Strategy No. 1: Apply a solid foundation of business systems.
With a strong parent company and business processes in place, Vollara is well-positioned to hit the ground running and to weather any of the volatility that can often plague startups.
Strategy No. 2: Articulate a clear brand identity.
As a company, Vollara clearly understands what it is and what its brand stands for. This clarity can be an enormous asset as the company grows because it helps to keep employees and distributors focused and aligned to achieve the company’s objectives.
Strategy No. 3: Create products for uncompromising health.
Although Vollara offers a wide range of products, they all support the same overall health goals. As a result, the products are consistent and complementary, and the opportunities for new product offerings fall into broad, but clearly defined, areas. In fact, Urso notes that the company has adopted a “three-year product cycle,” meaning that every product has a research and development team behind it dedicated to continuously finding improvements to release within three years.
Strategy No. 4: Provide the field with world-class tools.
Company support for distributors is critical to the success of any network marketing company. Vollara is dedicated to providing the best state-of-the-art tools to distributors, both at the company’s launch and as the company grows.
Strategy No. 5: Reward success every step of the way.
Vollara’s compensation plan is designed to reward achievement right away and to provide additional rewards as a successful distributor progresses. By not being “top-heavy” or “bottom-heavy,” the compensation plan provides balance and growth potential for distributors.
Strategy No. 6: Commit to an international platform.
Because of the existing Aerus network, Vollara launched with a presence in 23 countries, meaning Vollara distributors are free to network and grow their businesses globally.
Strategy No. 7: Nurture a kind, welcoming culture.
As a values-driven company, Urso says Vollara is able to establish and promulgate a culture that is welcoming and kind as it grows—perfectly in sync with the company’s goal to empower its distributors.
Launching from Strength
Unlike most startups, Vollara launched with a large and established distributor force. Between EcoQuest distributors who are now part of the Vollara organization and new network marketing professionals who are joining the company, Urso says that active distributors over the last year number in excess of 30,000. And Vollara begins its life as part of the Direct Selling Association, of which Urso is a member of the board of directors.
What’s in Vollara’s future?
“I hope that Vollara will become one of the most successful and unique network marketing companies over the next three to five years,” Urso says. “We have a great team of leaders, and the infrastructure, products and underlying financial stability we need to emerge as one of the strongest companies in the industry, joining other great companies that empower people to live the life of their dreams.”