Remembering Rich DeVos: A salesman

Rich DeVos would never have said he was a “born salesman,” but selling was in his DNA.

During the Great Depression, Rich’s grandfather was a “huckster,” a term that comes from an old Dutch word meaning “to peddle.” Rich’s Grandpa Dekker drove his Model-T truck to the public market each morning and bought vegetables that he then sold door-to-door to customers along his neighborhood route.

“I remember as a boy being fascinated by my grandfather and other men like him in my neighborhood. Their livelihoods in those hard times depended on their talents for selling,” Rich recalled in his last book, Simply Rich.

A leftover bag of onions from that route gave Rich the opportunity for his first sale. Rich went to houses in his Grand Rapids neighborhood selling those onions one or two at a time until they were all gone.

“I earned just a few pennies, but that memorable achievement was a definitive moment in who I became as a man,” Rich wrote. “It took salesmanship and persistence, but I loved it.“

That experience led to a paper route, and except for a stint in the military, Rich never worked for anyone else. Rich and lifelong friend and business partner, Jay Van Andel, later went on to sell flying lessons, hamburgers at a drive-in restaurant and imported toys before they became Nutrilite distributors. While selling Nutrilite™ products, the future Amway co-founders graced the cover of National Salesman magazine.

When founding Amway in 1959, they focused on offering products that were used by everyone and didn’t require a great deal of complexity to sell. In doing so, they put Amway, as Rich used to say, “within reach of everybody, and that’s what makes it exciting.”

Could anyone become a legendary salesperson like Rich DeVos?  Amway Americas Regional President, Candace Matthews believes that while some people are born with natural selling skills, it’s something that can be developed in others.

“With hard work and focus, you can build the skills to succeed in sales,” Candace said. “With encouragement and support, I’ve seen people develop abilities they didn’t have before.”

Rich passed away September 6, 2018 but left a legacy of helping people achieve through a business of their own. To learn about Rich’s life, visit www.RichDeVos.com.

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