Learning and experience came quickly for me as President and CEO of Nature’s Sunshine Products. Within a year, our MLM business was larger and growing faster than our health food store business. Pressure was mounting from the distributor force for us to stop selling to that market. They didn’t want competition. A decision had to be made. The decision to discontinue the health food store business was one of my worst decisions I could have made.
We soon had other competitors enter into the health food space and nothing was gained by our distributors by that move. In fact it was worse. I have often thought that had we remained supplying that market we could have controlled the product mix and pricing and kept it better for us and our distributors. Nevertheless, we moved forward, dropping that segment of business and continued to grow every month.
Soon I learned that you can’t please all of your distributors all of the time. A giant decision had to be made. Two of our top female distributors each had an opposing viewpoint. Whatever the outcome, one would not be happy. After much deliberation and prayer, I made up my mind. The leader whose preference was not chosen immediately came to see me at my office. She told me how stupid I was, that I knew nothing and had made a very bad decision. Her four letter words were worse than I had ever heard from any soldier while in the Army and I had heard everything, or so I thought. I couldn’t believe my ears! I was speechless and just stood there dumbfounded. I can’t remember how long she ripped into me, but it seemed like an eternity. She finally left telling me she was through with the business. I never expected to see her again and heard nothing from her as she was true to her word. She had quit, as did some of her distributors. About six months later, she returned to see me, apologizing for her bad language and wanting to resume her business again. Letting her know that I had already forgiven her and that she was welcome back, she went on to explain why she had returned. She said, “I was so mad, my language was terrible, but you didn’t say one word to me. You just let me yell and swear at you. Had you said one word, which you were justified in saying, I would not be here today.”
I learned a valuable lesson that day; never permit another to make you angry and react negatively to them. Be quick to forgive, even if they don’t return. That is important in life as well as in business. It’ll make you a better leader and you’ll be respected by others.
As the years ticked by, I felt a need to remove myself from the company. I wanted to do other things, to learn and to experience other businesses. But every time I thought I would leave, that “Invisible hand of God” just seemed to take me by the collar and pull me quickly back into focus with the company. This happened several times leading up to November of 1979. In my next blog, I’ll tell you more about how and why that “Invisible hand of God” released it’s grip, letting me move on. In fact, it seemed to be pushing me out the door.