To its supporters and believers, Amway remains a symbol of free enterprise—an “empire of freedom,” as one best-selling book put it 27—and the resilient spirit of entrepreneurship under attack by big government. As one top distributor, Ron Puryear, says about walking away from his previous job and following his dream: “I chose freedom.”28 At the heart of Amway’s success is helping people to feel good about themselves, he adds:
We are a stand-on-your-feet-and-cheer-each-other’s-victories people. And our cheering isn’t phony or contrived. We know how hard each of us works. We know what it takes to stay motivated, to go out night after night when it’s easier to stay home and watch television. We know what those first hard years cost in time, energy, and commitment.29
Leonard Kim, who is a marathon runner and with his wife, Kim, formed a leading global sales organization in South Korea, says that some people mistakenly think the Amway business will “give you a fortune right away. However, in reality, the business is a like a long marathon.”30 The key to productivity and making money, Jay and Rich believed, was to motivate people like Puryear and Kim, who didn’t want to work for someone else in a big company, and to show them the way to self-sufficiency. Amway set up a highly decentralized organization and eschewed top-level bureaucracy to encourage people down the chain of command to work harder because they were working for themselves. “The A. L. Williams Company ...