We had a fireplace, a poolside grill, and a river-rock deck with closing screens. We had an island counter. We had walls covered with mirrors. To get to my parents’ master bathroom, I passed through a dressing area connected to a walk-in closet. The bedroom next to mine was expressly for guests; the one at the end of the hall became a study. One of two living rooms seemed intended only for show, and the planter inside the front door housed pots of plants – silk, they never wilted. The bathroom off the family room had an outside door and a shower for people coming in from the pool. We bought new furniture, new rugs, new artwork. I had never felt more proud.
Sometimes we brought along a camera and took pictures of one another walking around the houses. We saw two or three in a day and then took the film to be developed. Back in our three-bedroom, we looked at the photos together, then stored them in fresh albums. In the photos, we wore the same outfits while the houses around us changed. We were the proud owners of three beautiful homes, the photos said – or this was one big home. One monstrous behemoth of a home comprised of three mansions smashed together.
In Western Michigan, what matters isn’t how Amway is run, but what the DeVoses have done for the community. Drive through downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest metropolis, and the family’s contributions are omnipresent. There’s the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. A few blocks west, hugging the Grand River that bisects the city, you’ll find the sleek DeVos Place Convention Center, the DeVos Performance Hall and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Across the water, the campus of Grand Valley State University is anchored by the spacious Richard M. DeVos Center. A few blocks north is the DeVos Learning Center, housed at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. (You would be forgiven if you assumed that DeVos, not Ford, had been president.)
In addition to customer preference, the other driver of where goods are manufactured is economics. “It costs almost nothing to ship a nutrition item around the world, Dr. Calvert said. Transportation is just 0.1 percent of the landed cost of these products. Liquid home care products, which have high weight, have different economics. For these products, 15 percent of the landed cost is based on transport costs. Further, for these products consumers care most about the price value of the product. It just does not make sense to manufacture these kinds of products in the U.S. and then “pay to ship liquid over water.”
On campus, Betsy became politically active, volunteering for the presidential campaign of hometown hero President Gerald Ford, who was facing off against movie star-cum-California Governor Ronald Reagan. She joined a pro-Ford group called “Friends of the First Family,” and along with her compatriots, took trips to Indiana and Ohio to participate in the Ford campaign’s “scatter blitzes.”
To understand the choices, you have to understand the business. He explained that the products developed to be sold for the direct sales model need to be different from any others on the market. “We develop products with specific deliverables that are unique. These products, what they are and how they work, needs to be explained by someone who knows the product. A good product for the store shelf is not necessarily a good direct sale product.”
‘As long as you’re a golf member, you’re open to playing all the tournaments and games,’ Dale says to me. ‘There’s something for the ladies, and then if couples play together, we have a couples’ golf on Sundays. We have a senior group, and then a young under-forty-year-old guy group.’ He shows me a schedule pinned to a corkboard near the door. ‘These are kind of the core golf groups. And then we have a formal Men’s Golf Association as well, one tournament per month. If they win that tournament, there are parking spots up for grabs, if you want a nice parking spot – or some trophies. You know, when you love a game and you watch it on TV, to be able to still play it and go out there with a large group of guys, and then win a tournament? These guys are having a blast. They feel like they’re on the PGA Tour. That’s what it’s all about.’
Amway has phenomenal products, with a low startup cost. You make excellent margins on products 20-40%. You get excellent business training and sales/product training with the Britt System. The atmosphere is always positive, negativity is not allowed. You build great relationships and friendships. It becomes a franchise environment with support from an entire team and business system. You can purchase products at a heavily discounted price. You can expand your business in over 80+ countries world wide.
Scott confidently reprised decades’ worth of conservative alarmism, invoking inflation and national debt and other flat-earth bugbears in a doomsday routine as charmingly archaic as it was fatuous. An accurate narrative of the last few decades—growing productivity, GDP, and per-capita income, accompanied by a massive upward redistribution of wealth—would hardly have packed the millennial portent Scott was looking for. The Second Wave, like Communism, like all the works of man, was destined to decay and collapse, making way for the coming entrepreneurial kingdom—which, for those who lacked faith or zeal, would bring a day of reckoning. Were we ready? To prove he “wasn’t making this crazy stuff up,” he littered the floor with copies of Fortune, Money, and Forbes, citing the relevant disaster stories. I felt like I was back at ENTERPRISE 2020.