In this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming speaks with Jerry Brassfield, Founder and Chairman of the Board of GNLD, about leadership, discipline and having the next generation join the family-owned company.
DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being Chairman of the Board of GNLD?
JB: Traveling around the world and being with the people—both distributors and the company executives. They’ve become my extended family. They’re my social life.
DSN: What has been your greatest challenge in keeping the business successful for 54 years?
JB: The greatest challenge is always for the executive team, our distributors and me to remain disciplined to do the things we’re committed to doing. Without discipline, you eventually fail. Staying focused and disciplined is always a challenge. Another challenge has been that sometimes you’re disappointed when people make choices to do something else. But if you really care about people and they’ll be happier doing something else, you have to let them go.
DSN: How would you describe the ideal GNLD distributor?
JB: We want young people in our organization so they’ll become old like me! Let’s say her name is Sarah, she’s 25 to 40 years old, has a family, needs extra income in her budget, and is concerned about the health of herself and her family. She is the one who takes care of people, makes them take supplements and keep their weight in check. She has a college education, but she may be underemployed. About 80 percent of the people in our business are women. When we aim for Sarah, we also get her mother and grandmother and her children. They come with the package.
DSN: How involved are you with GNLD’s distributors?
JB: Very involved. My phone number and email address are out there. I don’t get as many calls as you would think because there are a lot of capable people in GNLD to take the calls first. But not a week goes by that I don’t get a call or email from Africa, Asia, or somewhere in our marketplace. And I see them multiple times a year at conventions and trips and events.
DSN: What is your vision for GNLD?
JB: My vision includes the visions of the people who are around me. It’s collaborative and bigger than the individuals. My vision is to keep building the company; keep working on products to make them better as science unlocks more mysteries; to make quality products at fair prices; to provide opportunity and keep our markets strong. We want to be the best at what we do and to continue to grow in a healthy manner.
DSN: Is there one basic principle which has governed your leadership at GNLD?
JB: Whether it is distributors or employees of company, we care about them and let them know we care. That is the basic principle of treating others the way we would like to be treated. I believe in helping people and in having a long range vision—no short cuts. It may sound corny, but if you really love people for who they are, then you’ll do all the right things.
DSN: If you could relive a time at GNLD, what would it be?
JB: I’d like to be exactly where I am right now, only be 25 years old and do it again.
DSN: Which other direct selling company or person do you admire the most and why?
JB: There are a lot of them. The DeVoses and Van Andels are wonderful people, and of course, Don Pickett at NeoLife. I admired Mark Hughes when he was starting off. Michael Johnson has been terrific at Herbalife. There are so many that I admire. It’s not an easy thing to run a direct selling business. Anyone who does it over a lot of years has my respect.
DSN: As you think back over the last 54 years in the direct selling industry, what do you think the most important change has been?
JB: The legitimate companies have been accepted by the financial institutions. Now you can go to the bank and get your financing, and you can participate in public markets if you choose to. We get talked about on financial channels and people say good things about us when we deserve it. The industry is being perceived today as a legitimate way to market products and services. That’s a change from when I started.
DSN: Finally, your daughter Kendra is now part of the business. What does it mean to you that you’ve joined the ranks of some of your original distributors and have a new generation of your own family in GNLD?
JB: That is probably the most gratifying thing that ever happened to me. It means everything to me. She has decided that this will be her life. I believe that she will play a big role in the company as she learns. She’s a bright woman. It’s great to have a family member who wants to be a partner in the business.