Kevin Guest, USANA CEO: Leading by Example
This year’s Bravo Leadership Award was awarded to Kevin Guest, Chief Executive Officer of USANA Health Sciences, for his visionary leadership and strategic direction throughout his nearly thirty years with the company. While he’s quick to shift the attention back to the company and its successes over the years, we managed to glean some thoughts on leadership from Kevin, tapping into all that he’s learned about life and leadership from his time at USANA.
Never Stop “Doing”
Like most great CEOs, Kevin is a problem solver. And a storyteller. Before crafting the USANA Health Sciences story all those years ago, he ran a media production company dedicated to sharing companies’ stories.
“My strength in the creative side was not the guy behind the camera or the guy sitting at the editing bay,” Kevin explains. “My strength was being able to understand another company’s issues and what they needed to communicate and then how to communicate that issue and then turn it over to the people that would run the camera.”
But when the opportunity to interview Gene Simmons from KISS came along, with no cameraperson available to handle the shoot, Kevin wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.
“I borrowed a camera as a demonstrator,” he laughs. “I stayed up all night in the hotel room with it plugged into the TV with the owner’s manual, learning how to run it. The next morning. I was sitting in front of Gene Simmons of KISS, shooting an interview that eventually was seen all over the world. And so that’s kind of the way I’ve done it here at USANA. Just digging in and learning and reading.”
That’s how he continues to lead—by doing, digging in and learning rather than simply managing, because he’s learned that “management mode” doesn’t build great leaders.
“One of the key leadership lessons that I’ve learned from the direct sales model is as a leader, don’t ask anyone to do anything you’re not already doing yourself at a very committed level,” he explains. “The second you start asking people to do things you’re not willing to do yourself, you’re in management mode. And management mode, in my opinion, is the first step to your leadership being very, very inconsequential.”
Today, Kevin leads USANA Health Science’s operations in 24 international markets that serve over 600,000 customers. The company will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, and there’s much to celebrate.
“The past few years have been very exciting for us at USANA,” shares President Jim Brown. “We’ve launched several great products, including our Oral Care line, Mood and Relaxation line, expanded our Celavive skincare line with a new Facial Oil and Brightening series, and the launch of our new Active Nutrition line. Outside of our products, we have also invested in improving our digital experience for customers. This includes improving our payment options, mobile platforms, and checkout experience.”
Seek to Understand—and Empower
From early in his career, Kevin saw the value of seeking to understand before jumping into problem-solving. Today, it’s a quality he works to develop in rising leaders at USANA and continues to apply himself as he leads USANA’s teams around the world.
“Culture is probably at the very top of the list of what I’m thinking about every day,” Kevin shares. “Especially on a global basis when we’re bigger outside the United States than we are in the United States—how do we maintain that culture?”
He believes the answer lies in understanding.
“Just because I think and do things a certain way because where I’m raised, my ethnicity and various things like that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the right way,” he explains. “We approach things from a level of respect and understanding. I think diversity and learning from others, especially on a global basis, is a great opportunity to enrich yourself and help yourself grow by being open and having an understanding approach, versus this is my way, I’m the boss, this is how we’re going to do things approach.”
Maintaining USANA’s corporate culture in vastly different cultural settings is no easy task. Still, Kevin and his team have continually pursued consistency through both understanding and a commitment to the company’s core values.
“A large part of what makes USANA’s culture so positive and strong is the consistent leadership that the company has seen,” Jim says. “Kevin has been with the company since the beginning alongside Dr. Wentz, and they have both been a tremendous resource for everyone in the USANA Family and have kept the same message, direction, and vision the entire time. From Kevin down to every employee and Associate, we live by our four core values of Excellence, Integrity, Health, and Community.”
This consistency has allowed USANA to thrive, even amidst the challenges of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, as trusting local leadership to know what’s best in their own global markets was critical.
“I immediately shifted authority to the local markets to make big decisions,” Kevin shares. “It didn’t have to come to the home office for me to make every decision. So, there wasn’t a bottleneck. There could be simultaneous decisions being made without bureaucracy. Shifting the authority to make key business decisions on the local level was critical to us getting through 2020. Those are a few key things that really made a difference in us having a very seamless year this last year as we move forward. And we gave out over $10 million in bonuses to employees based upon performance.”
Give More Than You Receive
In his Bravo Leadership Award acceptance speech, Kevin quoted the great Winston Churchill: “We make a living out of what we get. We make a life out of what we give.”
Giving has always been a part of USANA’s culture; the company has donated over $6.4 million since 2012 through its philanthropic arm, the USANA Foundation. Employees and Associates around the world have always been encouraged to give of their time and money to serve the communities they belong to, and in 2020, that commitment to giving was even more impactful. USANA markets around the world donated PPE and USANA supplements to frontline workers, money to local food banks and children’s charities and meals to families in need. USANA also took advantage of its manufacturing capabilities to produce over 25,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and donated to the first responders who needed it most.
“We like to think of everyone involved with USANA as a family,” he says. “You can see that family atmosphere in the way our employees and Associates give back so generously. I don’t think that would happen if there wasn’t such a strong culture of positivity at USANA.”
Congratulations, Kevin. We appreciate your leadership in our industry and the way you’ve inspired such a generous culture at USANA.
From the June 2021 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.