Photo above: Sandy Spielmaker, Vice President of Sales for Amway U.S., shares her thoughts on problem solving at VideoPlus University in April.
Click here to order the July 2013 issue in which this article appeared.
Editor’s Note: This article has been adapted from a presentation given by Amway’s Sandy Spielmaker at VideoPlus University on April 4, 2013.
The human head weighs 8 pounds. But so what? Who cares? What really matters is what’s going on inside.
According to the theory of left-brain versus right-brain dominance, both parts of our brains control different ways of thinking. The left side is logical, analytical and objective. The right side of the brain is intuitive, thoughtful and subjective.
At Amway, as a company we have really excelled at right-brain development. We’re really good at imagination, expression and understanding the EQ or the emotional intelligence of the business.
For the past few years we’ve embarked on a different journey, which is to exercise and build our left-brain thinking skills. So we’ve strengthened logic, data, fact-based and problem-solving skills. And as we embarked on this journey, we looked to a well-known problem solver for inspiration: Albert Einstein. He was once asked what he would do if he had just one hour to solve a problem that was going to save the world from a terrible fate. His answer was that he would spend 59 minutes studying the problem, and just one minute solving it.
We’re really good at imagination, expression and understanding the EQ or the emotional intelligence of the business.
We’ve embraced this method of problem solving. When you have complete clarity on what the problem is, and the issues surrounding it, it actually becomes quite easy to solve.
So how do we study the problems? We collect the data generated in our business and then study it in lots of different ways. This practice is also known as analytics—the science of studying data. Two professors at MIT have been studying the impact of analytics on companies, and what they’ve shown is that companies that inject data and analytics into their operations grow productivity and profitability over companies that don’t. And, in fact, those numbers are 5 to 6 percent greater.
We’ve also discovered that by utilizing the data and helping our leaders to do the same, distributors have actually become more productive. The partnership between the distributor and the company is strengthened, and we feel we add more value for them.
And then finally, reputation improves, because with data we’re very specific about what the expectations are for those getting into the business. We’re very specific on how the distributors perform along the way. And we’re very specific on what they need to do to continue to develop and achieve the dreams that they’ve set for themselves.
So how do we do this? We start in our customer service area, where every year we have millions of contacts coming through, and we mine all that data.
We also have thousands of interactions every year with our distributors in a variety of ways, whether at events or out in classrooms. We have hundreds of conversations that we capture among distributor panels that we’ve set up to talk about a variety of different subjects.
And, of course, we have a very large database, as you can imagine, because we’re capturing all the transactional data that is occurring for our distributors—what they’re buying, what they’re selling and how they’re prospecting.
What does all this data do for us? It allows us to dig really deeply into understanding and getting clarity on what our problems are and the issues we are facing. We take all this data, and we study it. We cut it by age and by ethnicity. We cut it by time in the business, by level of success and by behavior. We’re able to look at the distributor and see whether it’s Day 5 in the business for them, Day 500 or Day 5,000.
We also look at all of this in terms of the patterns. We look at what’s happening on a global basis, but we also look at it in terms of what’s happening in specific markets, all the way down into cities like Newport Beach, New Orleans, or even into the heart of New York City.
In fact, when we talked to families in New York City, we uncovered an opportunity for us. We found out that we had a really large contingent of distributors in the area, but we were underdeveloped in that market relative to how we were doing in other markets. And when we dug in deeper we could understand why. Basically, there was a gap in how we were providing the support and services that they needed to find success in the business.
After learning this from studying the data, we opened the Amway Business Center in New York this year. It’s located in Flushing, right in the heart of where all these distributors live. This center is a place where training, product information, compensation information, and even some recognition is available to distributors. There’s also an area to buy product. Distributors can bring prospects and customers to the center. The new center is providing credibility, and all the training that they need to find success.
A second example I want to share with you is the learning that we’ve received in talking to and mining data about young people. The main opportunity for us with young folks is in mentorship. They want to succeed, but they need to connect with someone who can help them do that. We encourage people in both directions—for the older people to reach out to the younger people to mentor them, and for the younger people to reach out to the older ones and ask to be mentored. It can make a huge difference to have someone who’s willing to be a partner and guide others through not only the business processes, but also through life.
A third example of our analytics is that when we mine the data and look into those transactions, we can identify which distributors are most profitable, and which ones aren’t as profitable. And we can dig again really deeply and understand them better. What are the best practices, what’s happening among that healthy group that we should teach everybody else? But also, what’s happening in the group that isn’t so profitable, and how can we do some retraining?
And so one thing we’ve done as a solution is to simply expand our training. We realized we needed to offer a wider variety of courses, we needed to offer them in many different languages, and we needed to offer them in the ways that were convenient and easy for people to learn best—whether that’s a webcast, or online through live training, or out at an event.
The fourth example I’d like to share with you comes from a lot of conversations about our behavior. As we spent time with our leaders in the business, what was very, very clear was that we have an incredibly rich history and heritage of paying it forward, of offering a helping hand in our communities. What we found is that as distributors do well, they do good—for others and for their communities.
As a result, we wanted to recognize them not just for their accomplishments in the business, but for their accomplishments in life. And so we created the Amway Hero Awards.
As we’ve been building out this left-brain thinking, we’ve grown as a company. But we’ve also been able to grow our distributors, of course. Because what happens with our distributors is that, as we’re giving them facts and figures, they, in turn, are educating their downlines.
I want to share with you a quote from one of our leaders in the field. He said, “The process of looking at data in my business has re-energized my leaders and helped my team understand a healthy business. People’s volume is increasing, and the level of excitement is off the charts.” Right, because we’ve shown them the way and how to be successful, and that’s really what they’re looking for.
But these analytics and the solutions don’t just provide distributors credibility and excitement. They are also providing credibility for our own internal sales folks. And here’s a quote from one of our sales leaders internally. He said, “Access to distributor data has given our team credibility. They look to us to understand what successful distributors are doing to build a long-term business that’s sustainable.”
Using analytics is making a difference in so many ways. One of our field leaders summed it up this way:
“It’s been amazing to see the unity between the field and the Amway corporation, just the connection and the respect for understanding: We don’t do what you do and we don’t want to and we can’t, and you don’t do what we do and you don’t want to and you can’t. And I think there’s such a strong foundation when we respect what we both bring to the table and appreciate that. And it’s nice to see that partnership. It really makes me more comfortable, as we have many, many years ahead, and this is our career.”
So, yes the human head does weigh 8 pounds. But who cares? What really matters is what’s going on inside. Having a balanced business and balanced thinking—between left brain and right brain, between the analytics and the intuition, and between the IQ and the EQ—is what has really made a difference in our business. I believe it can for yours as well.
Sandy Spielmaker is Vice President of Sales for Amway U.S.