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

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Yen and Yang

When Amway decided to enter Japan in 1979, it faced a culture with deeply ingrained attitudes about work, employment, and a “notoriously difficult retail distribution system,” as Forbes magazine put it.7 Generations of workers had grown up with expectations of working for one company for life. Major companies in Japan traditionally subsidized housing for their employees and provided perks such as child care, recreation facilities, resorts, and free classes, and even arranged marriages. Few people struck out on their own in a culture that thrived on conformity and the corporation-as-caretaker mentality. But Amway’s message of financial freedom resonated with housewives, who saw a culturally acceptable way to earn money, and with corporate workers who were dissatisfied with the rigid, routine grind of lifetime employment and willing to give up security for the opportunity to work for themselves. Kaoru Nakajima was one of those “salarymen” who toiled in a company for eight years, then became an Amway distributor in 1982. He rose to one of its global sales leaders with his photo and bio splashed in Amway publications. “Now I am my own boss. Now I am free.” Nakajima said. “Now I am selling products that make me proud. Now I am helping people in five different countries to own their own businesses. When I see so many people getting more abundant lives, I feel really excited. This is no job to me. It is more like play.”8 Forbes took note of Amway’s success in Japan in a story ...

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