August 02, 2010
Zrii: Finding the Right Balance
by Jennifer Workman Pitcock
The Chopra Center and Cross-Branding
Dr. Deepak Chopra’s endorsement of Zrii goes far beyond the statement that appears on every bottle of Zrii—he uses and sells the products at his world-renowned Chopra Center for Wellbeing. Located in Carlsbad, Calif., the center integrates the healing arts of the East with the best in modern Western medicine.
Drs. Chopra and Simon participate in Zrii events, as well. “The Chopra Center comes to our events and does trainings on meditation. They teach how to incorporate Zrii products into a lifestyle,” said Vice President of Sales Jayson Arfmann. “A lot of leaders attend the Chopra Center and train to be certified in ayurveda as well.”
Fruit of the Loom, Dingo boots, Gitano Jeans—these are just a few of the famous companies that entrepreneur Bill Farley has owned and run. Farley purchased his first company, Anaheim Citrus Products, in 1976. That purchase became the foundation for a series of acquisitions that grew into a multibillion-dollar group of businesses. At its height, Farley Industries was doing approximately $5 billion in sales annually and employed 65,000.
Today, Bill Farley is the sole owner of Zrii LLC, a direct selling company that markets ayurvedic health products. So how did this titan of traditional business make the shift to running a direct selling company?
“I made a conscious decision in the late ’90s to really scale back,” Farley said. “So I sold off a group of businesses. Then around 2005 or 2006, some friends of mine suggested that I should have an interest in a multi-level marketing company.”
Farley took his friends’ advice and began looking at network marketing companies. He was impressed with what he learned. “From the point of view of business, it’s a great model to help others,” he said. “Most people do not know how to start a business.” It also allowed him a venue to mentor. He’d been mentoring individuals for years, but with a direct selling company, he could take this to a whole new level. Perhaps most important, Farley could focus on something he was passionate about—health and wellness.
He looked at buying several companies and finally settled on a direct selling company called Body Wise. Farley spent the next couple of years learning direct sales from the inside out. He began looking for ways to really grow Body Wise. Liquid nutritionals caught his attention, and he decided to develop one of his own.
“I went to a good friend of mine, a fellow named Deepak Chopra, who I’d known for 25 years but never done business with,” Farley said. “I met with him and Dr. David Simon, the co-founders of the Chopra Center, and presented my idea to them. Deepak and David had never endorsed a third-party product. But they said to me, ‘We don’t do this, but because of our relationship and our history, and because of the brands you’ve developed, we know you know how to develop a brand.’ ”
Both are medical doctors and trained in ayurveda. Ayurveda is the practice of 5,000-year-old traditional Indian medicine that focuses on the connection of mind, body and spirit. Ayurveda provides an integrated approach to preventing and treating illness through lifestyle interventions and natural therapies.
Drs. Chopra and Simon believed it was imperative they develop a product that had a significant, beneficial result. Dr. Chopra suggested amalaki, the divine fruit of India, reputed to increase energy, promote cellular rejuvenation and enhance immune function. With amalaki as the keystone ingredient, the two doctors worked with a panel of other doctors and Ph.D.s to create a liquid nutritional that combined the wisdom of ayurveda and the latest in scientific research. Zrii was born.
Instead of putting this product into Body Wise, Farley decided to create a whole new company. “I believed we could grow it dramatically. It would be more effort, but I thought it was the best route,” Farley said.
Zrii had its soft launch in 2007. In 2008, the company’s first full year, Zrii achieved sales of more than $40 million.
In 2009, Zrii began experiencing issues related to its explosive growth. The company was outgrowing its back-office system. As a result, executives decided to do a major overhaul. “Zrii invested over $2 million in new systems,” Farley said.
Vice President of Marketing Andrew Mangeris says it was difficult for Zrii’s distributors, known as “independent executives” (IEs), to wade through the change in systems. “For a period of time, they were flying blind from a communications and a managerial standpoint—knowing where they were to achieve their next ranks and communicating with their downlines through the e-mail system,” Mangeris explained.
The company ultimately decided to move off of its original platform and create one specifically for Zrii. “Now, people are very happy,” Mangeris said. “The new platform can educate and help our distributors manage and build their businesses.”
Enhancements in the compensation plan also caused some frustrations. Most notably, though, in February 2009, several employees of the company walked out, moving to a competing direct seller. Zrii sued and eventually received a nearly half-million-dollar settlement from the other company.
“There were some dishonest employees who made it through the interview curve,” Farley said. “That created some issues that were significant. We had to deal with distortions and misrepresentations. We had to make some changes in the management team.”
Despite the challenges of the past year, Zrii is on an upward swing. “We have a very full new management team,” Farley said. “We introduced a new weight-loss product, NutriiVeda. Now everything has been stable for months—the comp plan change, the system change, the management change—and we’re seeing a renaissance.”
Currently, Zrii is experiencing 5 to 10 percent growth each month. The company has no debt. “As a result, a lot of new people are looking at the company and saying, ‘Wow, this is a pretty powerful package,’ ” Farley said.
The Zrii Foundation:
Raising Money for St. Jude’s
In May, Zrii announced that the company’s charitable organization, the Zrii Foundation, would focus its efforts on raising money for St. Jude’s Research Hospital. “We’re raising money through the sale of products, as well as through other donations,” said Andrew Mangeris, Vice President of Marketing for Zrii. “St. Jude’s changes people’s lives. It increases the survivorship of people with cancer, especially children.”
New Products, New Directions
Since launching NutriiVeda in September 2009, the company’s new weight-loss product accounts for a significant amount of the company’s growth.
“NutriiVeda is the first product of its kind to include unique ayurvedic botanicals, including gymnema and guggul which help balance blood sugar levels and support metabolism,” Mangeris said. “We’ve had incredible success with it. We’ve had about 20 people lose over 70 pounds already.”
The company’s advertising campaign for NutriiVeda has been highly effective. “We’ve created a very visual campaign using before and after pictures, which are extremely powerful,” Mangeris said.
NutriiVeda’s success has also been spurred on by the NutriiVeda challenge—a program where customers can track their weight loss and are eligible for rewards ranging from $250 to a grand prize of $5,000, all based on how much they lost.
The field chooses the grand prize winners by texting in their votes at large meetings after the finalists’ stories are told from the platform. “It takes any objective voting out of it and places the choice in the lap of the field,” said Jayson Arfmann, Vice President of Sales. “It’s one example of the way we listen to our IEs.”
Mangeris notes that Zrii’s IEs skew a little to the young side, which has influenced the company’s direction, especially in terms of technology. “We’re generally a younger management team,” Mangeris said. “Because our distributor base is younger, they’re a little more into technology. We want people who understand social media and technology to help them build their businesses.”
“We have a company blog,” Mangeris said. “You can find us on Twitter and Facebook. We post announcements and communications through our back office. Our communications manager does a phenomenal job of maintaining over a dozen different social media sites.”
Additionally, in June, the company rolled out a new way to pay IEs using a Zrii-branded Visa debit card. “The cards make it possible for IEs to get their funds immediately,” Mangeris said. “They can transfer it for free to whatever checking account they want. We’ve already had about 80 percent sign up. It also serves as a prospecting tool. It’s a very striking card—black or red, depending on your pin level, with the Zrii logo. When an independent executive pulls it out to pay, it’s a way to start up a conversation about Zrii.”
The company doesn’t stop with merely helping its salesforce start a discussion; Zrii teaches its people how to continue the conversation through detailed training that extends beyond webinars, conference calls and conventions.
“We travel out and team up with our IEs. We meet them face to face and do one-on-ones. We go through their numbers with them and strategize to help them take it to the next level,” Arfmann said. “It’s a mentoring and coaching philosophy on our end. We’re basically accountability partners in helping them reach their goals.”
This energy isn’t primarily directed toward top leaders. Arfmann and his sales team look for key indicators to help them quickly identify IEs who want to work the business.
“Maybe they’re coming in brand-new, and they make our top enroller list. Or they’re a brand-new advancement. We look at the top check earners of the brand-new businesses,” Arfmann said. “Sometimes we hear [about promising IEs] from our key leaders. There are lots of different ways we qualify somebody for coaching and mentoring.”
Arfmann said Zrii’s sales team is constantly looking for ways to better support its IEs. “We already have stuff planned out for the next year,” he said. “This year, we’ll be rolling out things that will make it easier for our IEs to build a business and retain customers long-term.”
Growing and Prospering
The company’s commitment to its IEs extends beyond training to the corporate level. Zrii is a Sanskrit word that means “light, luster, splendor and prosperity”—and the company’s management team is working overtime to make Zrii into a company that lives up to its name.
Internationally, Zrii has already launched in Mexico and Canada. Currently, the company is in prelaunch in Colombia and anticipates a prelaunch in Israel in the next several months. “In the next six to 12 months our objective is to become a $100 million business, and in the next five years or so to become a $1 billion company serving the continents of Asia, Europe and South America,” Farley said.
More products are in the works, too. “We view Zrii as a brand and not a one- or two-product company,” Farley said. “We’re working on new formulations and new products that connect to ayurveda. They must also be true to what the Zrii brand stands for—very healthy products that have a Western and Eastern grounding—products that have a beneficial effect.
“One of the phrases we use at Zrii is, ‘We want to slim your waistlines and fatten your wallets.’ At Zrii, a healthier lifestyle doesn’t just mean taking a nutritional drink and weight-management product.”
The desire to help teach others the overall connection between mind, body, spirit and financial and physical health keeps Farley going. “Nothing is easy in life, but network marketing is powerful,” he said. “I feel passionate about teaching others and encouraging them. I’m interested in helping others learn the secrets of earning money.”