In this month’s Executive Connection, Direct Selling News Publisher and Editor in Chief John Fleming speaks with Ryan Blair, Founder and CEO of ViSalus Sciences, about leadership, inspiring distributors and the challenges facing the direct selling industry.
DSN: What is the one thing you enjoy most about being the CEO of ViSalus?
RB: Seeing a person become a full-time entrepreneur. I love to focus on people who are replacing their income and are able to do ViSalus full time. It’s great knowing that they’ve been able to allocate more time to themselves and their families and to become a success.
DSN: What has been your proudest accomplishment?
RB: The turnaround we did in 2010. In 2011, we hope to double that accomplishment. We will have taken the company from a difficult situation and turned it into a massive success in a year’s time. Outside of being an entrepreneur, my greatest accomplishment would be raising my son.
DSN: What do you tell ViSalus distributors to lead and inspire them?
RB: I tell them the truth—what I’ve gone through to become successful, the things I’ve been able to do personally, the struggles I’ve had, and the lessons I’ve learned. We share ourselves authentically with our distributors. There’s lot to be said for that. We don’t just put our best faces forward. We show all of ourselves. Through that, they realize that they can, too. My story is unique. I came from the worst environment possible. I share with people what I’ve been able to do with my life. It helps people believe that they can, too.
DSN: What is your vision for ViSalus?
RB: To be the No. 1 weight loss company in the world, and the most innovative.
DSN: If you could relive one period of time—a year, a week, whatever—since starting ViSalus, what would it be? You could choose a great time to relive or a period where you’d change something.
RB: I would have come up with the Body by Vi business model the day after the economy fell apart, not in July 2009! It would have strengthened our lead in this space.
DSN: What was the most important thing you learned in the process of starting the company?
RB: Focus. Don’t try to do too much. I’ve taken a lot of insights from what Steve Jobs has done at Apple. Focus is saying no. That will be my mantra for the rest of my entrepreneurial career. It’s one of the key reasons why we’re so successful in this day and age. We say no. There are a lot of good ideas, but we are just as proud of the products we haven’t launched as we are of the things we have.
DSN: Is there one basic principle that has governed your leadership at ViSalus?
RB: We’re focused on adding customers. We literally have a customer-to-distributor ratio that’s nearly 10 to one. We provide incentives to customers. We are focused on customers unlike any other company out there. As a result of that focus, you have a distributor opportunity that’s very unique and that everyone can feel good about.
DSN: What do you see as our industry’s greatest challenge?
RB: Adaptation. Direct selling companies that are massively successful fear change more than any other industry I’ve ever seen. Resistance to change is going to create a lot of disruption to our industry. New models, new companies, new ways of doing business, new ways of communicating are emerging every day. The direct selling industry is slow to embrace it. I see a channel that is ripe for innovation. There’s a lot of opportunity to innovate in the direct selling channel.
DSN: What’s one piece of advice you’ve found especially useful?
RB: Bob Goergen gave me a quote when he first invested in ViSalus. He said, “I’ve just made you a wealthy man. Now realize there is no finish line.” It’s a quote that is short on words but intense with meaning. The race is just begun. There’s no end in sight here.
DSN: What’s something that few people know about you?
RB: I’m more introverted than extroverted. If you see me on TV or in the media, you suspect that I’m a complete extrovert. I’m completely the opposite. I like to go away for retreats by myself where I bring every book I haven’t read. I read and do a lot of critical thinking for two weeks in a row. Several times a year I get away for a couple of weeks. I think that people get overwhelmed by so many different messages that they don’t take the time to think. You need to make that time to think, particularly when you’re an entrepreneur.