Arts & Entertainment and Manufacturing

Rich DeVos pens autobiography

Many of the lessons the Amway co-founder has learned over the years still apply today.

April 11, 2014
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Richard DeVos is scheduled to attend a “meet the author” event today at Schuler Books and Music on 28th Street SE.

Though he’s written four books previously, “Simply Rich” is Richard DeVos’ most personal so far.

The Amway Corp. co-founder and Orlando Magic NBA team owner begins his story by sharing some of the earliest experiences that would shape his future philosophy and achievements: making his first sale alongside his grandfather, taking on his first newspaper delivery job, and the friendship he formed with the seemingly opposite Jay Van Andel — which started when DeVos was looking for a more efficient way of getting to school each day.

He also describes the realities of the time period — growing up during the Great Depression and the onset of World War II, and how that period differs from today. Readers get a vivid glimpse of a time where kids played in front yards instead of fenced-in backyards, and families had many fewer distractions and spent more time together.

The book includes stories about the founding of Amway Corp. and how the company grew into the global enterprise it is today, as DeVos shares how faith and family have impacted him at every juncture of his life and career.

The 18-chapter book is split into three sections — Action, Attitude and Atmosphere; Selling America; and Life Enricher — all of which are titles taken from some of the most popular speeches DeVos has given during his career.

“There are so many things about dad in this book that are interesting to me,” said son Doug DeVos, president of Amway.

“First, it’s just the experience he had when he grew up — that Depression era, that atmosphere of community. … You had a whole community that connected you together. You didn’t have all of the distractions that technology and the busy life today has. You had each other.”

Opportunities were not as abundant then as now.

“How do you dream that big in an environment that is that difficult, and how do you keep working that hard? And dad wasn’t the only one. There were so many that came out of that generation and that environment that we’re blessed with in Grand Rapids and around the country, that had that experience, but they kept dreaming big and working hard,” he said.

DeVos added that he thinks the stories of his father’s and Van Andel’s sense of adventure will inspire people. He noted that the two friends started a flight school without any personal experience of learning how to fly and they also took off on a sailing trip to South America without knowing how to sail.

Early in the book, DeVos writes about how Van Andel’s father offered the pair, still in their teens, their first great adventure: delivering a car out west. He acknowledges the uniqueness of that experience and says teens today would probably not be allowed to take that sort of trip.

But there are many stories in the book that can be applied to the present day, in the form of the lessons they imparted. Doug DeVos said the faith his father and the family share is a guiding principle others can definitely relate to today, and also the attitude of caring for others and not just helping oneself.

“The simple rule that he tried to apply was paying attention to others, putting others first — ‘Do unto others as you’d have them do to you,’” he said. “The Golden Rule really applies, and I think that comes out as being an important example of the way that he has lived his life.

“As we talk about the future of Amway (he said), ‘It’s not about me. It’s about people in our sales force having a bigger business and a better future; it’s about our employees having greater opportunities to succeed, grow and learn,’” DeVos said of his father.

Rich DeVos will attend two Meet the Author events. The first will be at Schuler Books & Music, 2660 28th St. SE, at 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 14; the second will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at Baker Book House, 2768 East Paris Ave. SE.

The hardcover book is available for $25 at Schuler Books, Baker Book House and online.

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