In this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming speaks with Craig Jerebeck, President and CEO of 5LINX, about leadership, integrity and treating everyone fairly in life and business.
DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being the President and CEO of 5LINX?
CJ: The fact that every day is a new challenge and opportunity for growth.
DSN: What has been your proudest accomplishment?
CJ: It’s that we have received so much recognition from within and outside the industry: Inc. 500 four times since 2006, The Rochester Top 100; and the Direct Selling News Global Top 100. What’s gratifying is that the recognition comes from growth, which recognizes all the hard work our field leaders and corporate staff have put in. We’ve grown so much that this year alone we’ve increased our corporate staff from 224 people to 270 to keep up with field growth.
DSN: What do you tell the 5LINX representatives to lead and inspire them?
CJ: What we primarily talk to them about is the fact that they have an opportunity in their hands that has no limit on it. The most important message we can deliver is to persevere. We’re not a get rich quick scheme. We’re a lifetime opportunity. If they persevere, we can provide them with a significant change in lifestyle.
DSN: What is your long-term vision for 5LINX?
CJ: Financially, to hit the billion-dollar mark. We’re well on our way. Looking at it more broadly, it’s to continue to impact people in a positive way. When I first started the business, I didn’t understand the impact we have on people. That has turned out to be the most rewarding thing about this business. People come in with relatively meager expectations because of their experience with their “day job,” but they get transformed. As a result of our growth, we’ve been able to become generous charitably. Our success has let us do some very positive things as a corporate citizen.
DSN: If you could relive one period of time—a year, a week, whatever—since you’ve been at 5LINX, what would it be? You could choose a great time to relive or a period where you’d change something.
CJ: We have grown this business through a trial by fire. We’ve gotten a street-wise education. But I’d love to relive the 2011 year. It was a phenomenal year for us because the field leadership and corporate leadership found alignment and became a cohesive team. That was probably the best thing that happened in the recent past.
DSN: What’s been the most fun?
CJ: The travel and meeting so many new people, both domestically and abroad. But I think the most fun was when we took our leadership to Europe last year. Most people had never been offshore, and we got to spend some great time together in what was a unique experience for everyone. It was a tremendous celebration. We celebrate a lot together, but that trip really stands out.
DSN: Is there one basic principle which has governed your leadership at 5LINX?
CJ: Integrity. It’s one of our five core principles. That’s the one that everyone here would tell you is the one out of all five links that stands out. The five principles are on every employee’s desk, but integrity—doing what we say we are going to do what—that’s central.
DSN: What’s one piece of advice that you’ve found especially useful?
CJ: It came from an investment banker. We were looking for growth capital. He was an older gentleman, and he leaned over and whispered in my ear. He said, “Whatever you do, just don’t be greedy.” I think about that comment and it has broad meaning: being fair to suppliers, being fair to our representatives, to our employees. That’s what it boils down to for me. Treat everybody fairly. That’s what has really helped us grow the business the way we have.
DSN: If you hadn’t become an entrepreneur, what career path would you have taken?
CJ: I was on career path for a large corporate wireless company, though my destiny was definitely not to be a corporate employee. I’m far too opinionated and strong willed. I like to be even keeled, but I’ll push back hard if I don’t believe in the direction things are going, that doesn’t go over well in Fortune 500 companies.
DSN: What do you like to do when you just want to relax?
CJ: I’m not a relaxer. I don’t sit around. I’ll read a book—I love to read. But relaxing for me is doing yard work. I like to garden and do landscaping. It’s not mind work. I like getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits of my labor.