Alticors Challenge Under DeVos Stay Focused

June 14, 2002
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ADA — Doug DeVos anticipates a smooth transition when he steps into the shoes of his older brother — and his father before him — as president of Alticor.

Under brother Dick DeVos's leadership, change was the order of the day as the company was restructured to adapt to the Internet-driven economy and a fast-paced global market.

Don't expect big changes come Sept. 1 when Doug DeVos, 37, takes his brother's place and joins Alticor Chairman Steve Van Andel in the office of the chief executive.

"What we have is a good direction that the company is going in. We are growing. We are moving forward," Doug DeVos said. "We have gone through a difficult chapter and therefore it is a strategy of enhancing where we are going, not changing everything."

But that doesn't mean the company is going to take its foot off the gas pedal, he said.

Like most businesses, Alticor has a lot of unique challenges it deals with regularly, but DeVos doesn't think there's any one challenge that stands out right now that the company hasn't dealt with in the past.

"It becomes very easy in a global business to want to do a lot of different things with the broad product categories that we have and to want to get even more broad.

"I think that our challenges are primarily to stay focused and make sure everything we do, we do extremely well." But not so focused as to be blinded to new opportunities, he added.

Upon being named president of Alticor, DeVos also was promoted from chief operating officer to president of Amway and Quixtar. He said the significance of that is the focus on the Amway and Quixtar businesses.

Amway and Quixtar really define Alticor today, and both have tremendous untapped potential, he said.

"We want to really make sure that the new Quixtar business and the global Amway business continue to get the attention and support that they deserve."

That, of course, means maintaining good relationships with the company's Independent Business Owners — something everybody in the DeVos and Van Andel families has grown up doing, he said.

Those relationships remain a huge priority, and he intends to travel frequently on behalf of the company, as he has done in the past, to stay close to the Amway business worldwide, as well as Quixtar operations in North America.

"All businesses are built on relationships in some way, shape or form; ours is very solid in that area. We need to be there."

What has been the reaction from IBOs in regard to the announcement that he would take his brother's place as president of Alticor?

"I haven't heard any of them resign yet or say they're not going to keep building their businesses," he quipped.

"The biggest thing we have heard from IBOs throughout the business with regard to Dick's previous announcement or my announcement now, I think, is the importance of the fact that this has been a family business and will continue to be a family business.

"I think we owe it to the board of directors, especially, to continue to see the family involvement there."

Whether that involvement is in management or on the board or whatever, "those historical relationships and the understanding of the founding of the business continue to be important to the future of the business," he said.

Since joining the company full time in 1987, DeVos has overseen Amway's Asia operations, which have posted high growth rates and record sales. He also is credited with overseeing the rapid development of the Quixtar business in the United States and Canada.

So of all his past experiences with the company, which best prepared him to lead the company into the future?

He said, in general, it has been the opportunities he's had through the years to travel and meet people in all different parts of the world where Amway operates.

Meeting people around the globe helped him understand the significance of diversity, why the company's products have to be unique, and why Amway has to operate differently in different places, he said.

"That's a great learning experience. But also balance with that the understanding that people are people and they have similar feelings about their families, about their future, about their potential, about the hope that they have for the future.

"Where those two pieces come together, I think, is probably the most significant bit of learning that I've had. And I know I will have tons of learning going forward."

Dick DeVos will retain an unofficial role as personal adviser to Doug.

"Big brothers always fulfill that role, don't they?" he said, laughing. "I think that's also a benefit that we've had with Rich and Jay's ongoing involvement and other members of the Van Andel and DeVos families with their role on the board."

DeVos and his wife, Maria, are active in a variety of causes in the community, many of them Christian faith based, and plan to remain so.

Their involvement extends to other community initiatives as well, he said.

"We like to be involved, and have been, because we grew up with that feeling. Jay and Rich were involved in this community. That was an important part of being here. That's why Grand Rapids is special. That's why it stays special — because so many people stay personally involved. We expect to continue that tradition."           

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