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Amway Forever: The Amazing Story of a Global Business Phenomenon by Kathryn A. Jones

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A Fuller Picture

That’s all quite a transformation from the once little soap company born in a Grand Rapids suburb, leading Richard L. Lesher, former president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to call Amway “one of America’s most spectacular business success stories.”20 Conceived of in the shell of an abandoned gas station with $500 in cash, Amway’s plan sounded simple enough: recruit people to sell products such as soap and cosmetics and sell others on the Amway system. Then they, in turn, would be recruited to sell the products, and so on and so on. To become an Amway IBO, one had to be sponsored into Amway by another IBO, who then received a cut of the new level of the business. And if others could be recruited, then the next distributor got a cut of their business. And so the MLM pyramid-shaped feeding chain of commissions built into multiple levels as distributors “upline” could make money on the layers of salespeople below them, or “downline.” Other names frequently used to describe the business model are “network marketing” and “direct marketing.” Whatever the terminology, Amway has been remarkably successful with its approach of building a network of salespeople through building and taking advantage of relationships. In his book Believe!, Rich DeVos noted that person-to-person selling has gotten a “bad rap” but is a time-honored profession:

We happen to think that personal service beats making the customer stand in line. . . . I respect the man who is in a business where ...

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