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DSN BRAVO AWARDS:
There has been a remarkable story unfolding at It Works! over the past few years.
The Palmetto, Florida-based wellness company debuted on the Global 100 ranking in 2012 at No. 56 with $200 million in revenue for 2011; this year, its $686 million propelled it toward the top third of the list, landing the company at No. 33 in the prestigious ranking.
That incredible increase in revenue growth since the company’s debut on the list is in large part due to the fun and friendly company culture Founder and CEO Mark Pentecost has created, his focus on goals, and, perhaps most importantly, his philosophy on life. The former math instructor and basketball coach teaches his team to “live on the offensive,” and it is a mantra that took on a much deeper meaning as another, more personal story unfolded in 2016. In recognition of Pentecost’s leadership during the past few years of astonishing growth as well as leading his team during a personally difficult year, Direct Selling News presented him with the Bravo Leadership Award at the April 19 Global 100 Celebration in Dallas.
Offense vs. Defense
Things happen to all of us, and when we do encounter a challenging time it’s easy to take up a defensive posture, on our heels, watching what life throws at us. But for Coach Mark, as Pentecost is still called, it is during those times when people can grow the most.
His “live on the offensive” philosophy of life reminds Wrapreneurs—It Works! business owners—of a simple truth: When you are on offense, you score, you celebrate, you do an end-zone dance; when you are on defense, you are just trying to keep the other team from scoring, and you never get to celebrate life.
“So, I really coach about ‘on the offense,’ ” says Pentecost. “And the first step is just showing up. I want my team members showing up every day even when they don’t feel like it. That’s when the business really grows.”
It’s a philosophy Pentecost has taught for years; however, in 2016 he expanded it. “We added a word about being on the offense: We call it the road to legendary,” he says. “Satisfaction sneaks up on us. We say, ‘Hey, that was a good day.’ We get satisfied, and if we do that too many days in a row, we stop growing. But stretching ourselves? Legendary. We say: ‘Good’ is paying off your credit cards; ‘great’ is paying off your mortgage; ‘legendary’ is paying off your mom’s bills or your parents’ house.”
Pentecost’s teaching relates not only to business, but life as well. Whether it is family, financial or health issues, living on the offensive changes one’s perspective and the approach to life challenges. It’s similar to boxing, says Pentecost. “If you’re on the offensive, you’re the one punching; on defense, you’re the one getting punched. Life tries to punch us. It’s so much better when you’re attacking life, when you’re on the offense, and you’re dictating instead of just accepting whatever happens.”
Last year, life did take a big swing at Pentecost. It should come as no surprise that he swung back hard. He was not going to let a phone call undo everything he had built, and neither was his It Works! team.
A Team Effort
The call was unexpected. Hours before he was to fly to a team event, Pentecost listened as his doctor relayed the news that he had cancer. “My team had great plans for 2016,” he says. “I set personal goals and wanted to work with my team in the field every day. I wasn’t planning on a journey that involved cancer.”
The journey to success, and helping others achieve success, is not a straight line. Any CEO or direct selling leader can attest to that. Rather, it’s a squiggly line, Pentecost says, and cancer had the potential to make his journey an extremely squiggly one. However, to understand Mark Pentecost and understand why It Works! has climbed in the Global 100 rankings under his leadership, one has only to look to his response to the news: Squiggly lines, to him, are opportunities, and they make our personal journeys our success stories.
Immediately following the cancer news, new opportunities with his family and in the workplace started to take shape in Pentecost’s life. “My family got closer than ever before,” he says. “All three of my kids got involved in the company, and my Corporate Leadership Team stepped up to take on more responsibility. We decided, as a team, that together we were going to kick cancer’s butt.”
We can never plan for every obstacle life throws our way; however, as Pentecost has learned, what we can do is surround ourselves with the best team possible so that when life does throw a punch, a support team is in place to face what comes next as well as to confidently continue down the squiggly road ahead. “It’s these times that show you what’s important and what’s not important,” he says. “I want to lead a company of integrity—a company of great leadership and a unified team. I want to change lives and help families around the world by being a vehicle of hope on the road to legendary.”
One Team, One Vision
Changing people’s lives has been the No. 1 goal at It Works! since Pentecost and his wife, Cindy, founded the company in 2001. In the 15 years it has been in business, the company has changed its physical location—from the original home base in Michigan to a world-class global headquarters in Palmetto, Florida—but everything else has remained the same. That is due to Pentecost’s consistent leadership and commitment to a company culture built on the core values of friendships, fun and freedom.
“We’ve been very intentional, as we’ve grown and added so many new people, that we keep our culture, which to me is our secret sauce,” he says. “We [company leaders] meet regularly with HR to make sure we don’t wake up one day and, because of this growth and all the new people, it’s not who we were.”
What also remains constant from the day It Works! opened its doors is Pentecost’s focus on goals. It is that focus to which he attributes a large part of the phenomenal success his company has enjoyed over the past five years. He says. “We set goals and—although it is never that straight line to your goals, you have to readjust all the time—we really united our team. We called all our events One Team, One Mission, and we were really focused on what it was we were trying to do: Keep it simple; stay focused.”
Great leadership sets the vision and provides the pathway for people to follow and succeed, and Pentecost does this very well. He says, “We’re truly a vehicle of hope through our products, through our business, through our culture. We just get people dreaming bigger, and I think staying focused is what has helped us have the growth and success that we’ve had.”
It Works! President and CEO Mark Pentecost accepts the Bravo Leadership Award for not only the company’s amazing growth story but also for his personal inspiration while facing one of life’s toughest challenges head on.
Giving an Assist
Great leadership also knows no bounds when it comes to helping others. With the growth and success that has come to It Works!, the company, employees and Wrapreneurs have the opportunity to engage in philanthropic efforts that support the greater global community and several causes through the It Works! Gives Back Foundation.
Each year, the Foundation supports four major organizations but also encourages anyone in the company to find opportunities to assist their own communities. This One Team, One Mission philanthropy extends throughout the company’s 21 markets. “It’s a grassroots giving back,” says Pentecost. “We try to plant seeds—what can you do in your area with your teams to really make a difference. Anything we do, we look at it and say that is a great idea, but how can we take it to a whole ’notha level and make it legendary.”
Through its major partnerships, the It Works! Gives Back Foundation has sponsored over 2,000 children in need in five countries and has provided over 3 million meals through Children’s Cup; provided natural disaster relief for over 10,000 families through Samaritan’s Purse; and donated over 600 care packages to children battling pediatric cancer throughout the United States and Canada through The Payton Wright Foundation. It has also helped fund research for a cure for childhood cancers through The V Foundation.
In addition, for the past two years the Foundation has worked with Selah Freedom to open a safe house for survivors of sex trafficking; it has served over 575 survivors of human trafficking through training, advocacy and hope, and has educated over 40,000 children on human trafficking.
The Foundation is near and dear to Pentecost’s heart, and he is very proud of what the entire It Works! team has been able to accomplish through it. He also recognizes the reciprocal nature of caring for and about others. “To be blessed,” he says in true leader form, “you have got to be a blessing.”
The Game Plan
More than 150,000 Wrapreneurs sell It Works! personal-care, lifestyle and apparel products worldwide. The company is looking at other markets down the road, but for now most of the international expansion efforts are focused on Europe, Canada and Australia.
As he watches his company continue to grow, Pentecost is reminded how direct selling helped a struggling schoolteacher and basketball coach change his life. “This industry can bring families together and it can help people get out of debt,” he says. “It is such an answer for so many that we are going to continue to focus on our sales team and how we can help change lives.”
That has always been his goal: to see if It Works! could help people to step up and better their lives. He is most happy seeing people who didn’t have confidence gain that confidence, or realize that they are meant for so much more in life.
Last year, life presented Pentecost with a frightening challenge, but he knows there is much more ahead for him. “I realize now that every day is a blessing,” he says. “And I don’t want every day to be just good. I don’t want every day to be just great. I want every day to be legendary.”