In this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming spoke to Jeff Stroud, Founder and CEO, Private Quarters, about Private Quarters’ consultants, his vision for the company and much more.
DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being a top executive of Private Quarters?
JS: Seeing the lives of people change and helping people achieve their goals in a way that allows them to have complete freedom. There’s no glass ceiling, no waiting for someone to tell them they’ve got the promotion. They do it themselves. Do they want a promotion? They go out and earn it. They use that freedom to achieve their dreams.
DSN: What has been your greatest challenge since starting this company?
JS: To project and forecast the growth of the sales organization. When you’re running stores, you project growth by saying you’re going to open three stores next year then five the year after that. You have an element of control over it. In this business, consultants just recruit the number of people they want to recruit. You don’t know how many that will be or what direction it will grow, so it’s harder to control growth in that respect. Coming from a retail background, that’s been one of my biggest challenges.
DSN: How would you describe the ideal Private Quarters consultant?
JS: Someone who is open to discovering their full potential. In other words, someone who says, “I think I could be good at this and I want to find out how good I can be. I’m going to go for it!” That kind of person is the gold that comes into the organization. If they’re open to growth, discovering what their full potential is, that’s the first thing. Once they take hold of it and run with it, they can discover how high they can really go.
DSN: How involved are you with Private Quarters’ consultants?
JS: Very involved. I’m very close to what they’re thinking and feeling every day. I give out my email address, and I get emails from them all the time. I have a very hands-on approach. We always want to understand our consultants’ issues, problems, and challenges. That’s getting harder because the company is getting bigger, but it’s what I believe in.
DSN: What is your vision for Private Quarters?
JS: It’s a vision about changing people’s lives and allowing them to realize their goals and dreams. It’s been a delightful experience to meet these people and learn who they are and how the company is changing their lives. My vision is to open up the Private Quarters opportunity to more and more people, becoming a household name with our products and way of presenting them. We’ll be the dominant company, known for bed-and-bath products.
DSN: Is there one basic principle which has governed your leadership at Private Quarters?
JS: Believing in the best in people. We all know the story about the teacher who has the class in grade school and doesn’t believe in their abilities and potential. Guess what happens? None of them do well. As opposed to the teacher who comes into that same class and believes in their abilities and potential. Suddenly, those kids who weren’t doing so well before are doing better. A person who is an effective leader or coach expects and believes in their people’s potential. That’s always been my philosophy.
DSN: How do you communicate with your team?
JS: It’s very open door, very casual. Yet we do have discipline. We’re running a business. I communicate very directly with the staff. The staff gets to see the results when they see our national convention. Everyone understands our goals and mission.
DSN: Leaders usually draw on something or someone for inspiration, guidance and direction. Do you have a hero or heroine?
JS: My dad, without a doubt. He was a man who essentially put everything on the line for what he believed in his business. He ended up doing very well. The values and principles he believed in made his business a success. He has always been a role model to me. Because he is gone now, there are a couple of people who have been almost like a father: Neil Offen and Alan Luce. They helped me understand the direct selling business and helped me every step of the way to make this dream a reality. They helped to shape the way I do business.
DSN: Which other direct selling company or person do you admire the most and why?
JS: Doris Christopher of The Pampered Chef. I’ve read both her books and look up to her in a number of ways. I think she is not only smart and shrewd with a great business sense, but also a terrific human being and a good person. I don’t know her all that well personally, but I really admire her and the way she runs her company.
DSN: What do you see as our industry’s greatest challenge?
JS: Because there are so many companies, we end up bumping into each other. We have lots of cross-pollenization that happens, partly because of the Internet. People used to find out about an opportunity from a person. Now people to go to the Internet. It will be a challenge to peacefully coexist alongside each other even though environment is competitive.
DSN: What is your favorite way to relax?
JS: Going to the Rose Bowl with my son to watch a college football game. I love college football. My family lives about four miles from the Rose Bowl. I went to college at UCLA, which plays home games at Rose Bowl. I love to go there on Saturday afternoon, have a hot dog, watch the game and relax. There’s nothing better.
DSN: When are you happiest?
JS: When I’m giving out the awards at our convention. It’s the most wonderful moment and the highlight of the year from a business perspective. Last year, we presented about 35 of our main awards to express the company’s gratitude for the winner’s achievement.
DSN: What is your favorite travel destination and why?
JS: Mexico. I love the beaches. I’ve been to Cancun, Cabo and other places. I love the whole deal—sipping a margarita with my toes in the sand!