- Founded: 1958
- Headquarters: Fremont, Calif.
- Top Executives: Founder and Chairman of the Board Jerry Brassfield, President Roget Uys
- Products: Wellness, home care, personal care, water treatment systems
In an industry where long-term distributor retention is the gold ring, GNLD® seems to have found the winning formula. In its 54-year history, the health and wellness company has created an opportunity and culture so appealing that its field salesforce spans generations of numerous families.
Founder and Chairman of the Board Jerry Brassfield says that he can’t think of a large distributor team in their organization anywhere around the world—GNLD operates in 50 markets—that doesn’t include multigenerational families. Many of them trace their dedication to GNLD back to the company’s earliest days. They stay because their commitment to the company mirrors the company’s commitment to them. Jerry says he and GNLD’s other founders built a company with such incredible staying power among its distributors simply by having a foundational commitment to do so.
“Among our basic values is that we’re here for the long haul,” he says. “When do you abandon or sell a company? If it’s a good company, the answer is never. That was a foregone conclusion from the beginning. Knowing that there would be mountains and valleys in our 50-some-year history, we have always strived to have capable people in management; strived to make products that are leading edge and top quality; and offered a program that deals with people’s desire to be healthier. And as is prevalent in direct selling, we strive to provide a financial opportunity for those who want to be challenged to pick up that task.”
“Among our basic values is that we’re here for the long haul.”
—Jerry Brassfield, Founder and Chairman of the Board
He reflects on some of the families who joined the company early in its life—families whose second and third generations are now at the top of their upline: the Spaldings, the Martins and others. In some families the original GNLD generation may no longer be living, but their legacy lives on in the residual income stream they initiated. Jerry believes that descendants stick with GNLD because it would be prudent for the next generation to continue to stoke the residual-income fires in the business their parents or grandparents started. He also recalls other direct selling icons who were part of the GNLD family at one time: Herbalife founder Mark Hughes and the revered direct selling trainer and motivator Jim Rohn.
“I did a bad job of retaining them!” Jerry says with a smile. “But,” he adds, “we created an environment where some very successful entrepreneurs have come out of it.”
Like Attracts Like
And there’s another core element: the close family itself.
“Coming from a strong family, for myself and my brother Bob, the people we attract to us are family-oriented people,” Jerry says. “My brother Bob was president of the company for 10 years. He spent 30 years with GNLD and is still on the board of shareholders. We call ourselves the GNLD family.”
Families, of course, take care of each other. So GNLD’s executives have made decisions with the long-term well-being of their distributor families in mind. Their company hasn’t sprinted to any finish line. Instead, they’re ultra-marathoners who set a consistent pace in a race that has no finish line.
“We’ve had slow, stable growth,” Jerry recalls as he thinks back over the company’s history. “We’ve always remained very financially conservative when it comes to how we operate. We’re debt-free—always have been. We carry large cash balances in the company. That comes from my experience as a distributor in companies that went broke. I know how it feels to have a company go out of business, and I wanted above all not to be part of that. I have always wanted to protect the people who put their time and energy into GNLD. We feed a lot of families around the world and feel that responsibility.”
“We’ve always remained very financially conservative when it comes to how we operate. We’re debt-free—always have been.”
That commitment to distributors is continuing through the next generation of the Brassfield family. Jerry’s daughter Kendra joined the GNLD corporate staff last year after college. Like many key staffers, she actually became a distributor and built an organization before joining the corporate staff.
“Kendra really dedicated herself and built a distributor organization,” Jerry says. “I believe you really can’t learn the business unless you do that. If you want to know how the field lives, you have to be one of them.”
“I have a passion for helping others. Of our family businesses, GNLD was the one that fed my passion and allowed me to fulfill that need.”
—Kendra Brassfield, International Marketing
Kendra’s background will be priceless as she handles GNLD’s international marketing function. She chose to join GNLD because she grew up using its products and because the company fit her vision for her life.
“I have a passion for helping others,” she says. “Of our family businesses, GNLD was the one that fed my passion and allowed me to fulfill that need.”
Forming a Golden Opportunity
GNLD Founder and Chairman of the Board Jerry Brassfield remembers that his childhood summers were miserable. As a kid growing up in a California farming community, Brassfield had severe asthma and hay fever. Triggered by dust and pollen, his attacks were so serious that he says they almost killed him every year. He was forced to sleep sitting up during allergy season, and his mother annually had their minister visit their home to pray for the sickly boy. Effective allergy drugs weren’t yet available, and doctors couldn’t offer much help. Desperate but determined, his mother sought relief in nutritional supplements.
“When I was about 14 she forced me to take cod liver oil and other liquid multivitamins that tasted absolutely horrible,” Brassfield recalls. “I resisted taking them, but after a while I realized that I was getting better. That convinced me that supplementation works. Without knowing it, she was giving me omega-3 fatty acids and a lot of micronutrients. Because of the improvement in my own health, I became passionate about supplements and their ability to help people.”
As an adult armed with his own story, he joined a direct selling company and sold its nutritional supplements. A year and a half later, the company went out of business. But he believed in the idea, so he joined another nutritional company. It lasted another 18 months. This time, Brassfield took his future into his own hands. With a core distributor group made up of his own downline, he formed Golden Products.
Meanwhile Donald E. Pickett and his business partner Wallace Wimmer were following leading-edge research into chronic fatigue syndrome and the growing understanding of cellular nutrition. They saw an opportunity to improve health while creating a business, Neo-Life Company of America. One of its biggest customers was another young company, Golden Products. Eventually, the two companies became one and the nature-and-science-based product line grew. Soon herbal products company Diamite joined the family of companies, forming today’s GNLD.
Now in 50 countries, GNLD is fueled by passion and the founding family’s values. It has created a multigenerational business opportunity for 54 years.
A Nod to Heritage
One of Kendra’s first tasks is to oversee the rebranding of the company’s products, a process she believes will help attract the next generation of GNLD distributors as well as recognize the company’s heritage.
“GNLD was built from three companies that came together, and new brand names honor those companies,” Kendra explains. “It’s similar to the approach that PepsiCo has with its Frito- Lay® and Aquafina® brands. We’re rebranding our nutritional products under the NeoLife brand; Nutriance will be our personal-care line; and home-care products will assume the Golden brand. Not only are the products of the highest quality, but the rebranding will ensure that they also have the best look and feel. We’ve always been at the top of our game in terms of the quality of products, but we haven’t made the most of our marketing potential. We’re changing that.”
She notes that the company will increase its use of technology for marketing as well as managing the company.
“We just hired a new Chief Information Officer with a lot of experience in taking companies to the next level through technology. We launched new distributor personal websites in July that give them top-of-the-line tools and resources,” Kendra notes. “The websites create a feeling of pride among distributors so that they know that they’re with a great company. Internally, new technology will make our operations more efficient.”
The technology also makes ordering products easier. The new websites enable e-commerce and catalog shopping, and the updated distributor websites are 10 times faster than their previous personal websites—a big help for distributors who need to download information on a large organization. Downline reports are cleaner, easier to use, and include performance graphs so that distributors can check earnings and performance at a glance.
It Takes a Family
The leaders of those large downlines work hard to recruit from all demographics, including Generations X and Y. Then the field and corporate GNLD families go to work to nurture and train the rookies. Seasoned distributors anywhere in a new recruit’s upline may tutor the newbie, and distributors with specialized knowledge—physicians or chiropractors, for example—often offer nutritional seminars. One of the advantages of having a distributor family that includes multiple generations is that a “grandparent” may help “raise the children.”
One of the advantages of having a distributor family that includes multiple generations is that a “grandparent” may help “raise the children.”
“It’s very important to us to build longevity because our distributors who have more experience have built solid, successful businesses. They can nurture new distributors in a way a newer person might not be able to,” Kendra explains. “More mature distributors are making a push to recruit a younger generation because they realize that’s important to their own business.”
Younger distributors can feel at home in the mature organization. GNLD makes sure of it. Conventions, for example, play music and use graphics that appeal to younger audiences. And improvements such as the enhanced websites and product rebranding reinforce the company’s contemporary attitude.
New or experienced, GNLD’s distributors can approach their business several ways. It all begins with products. GNLD strongly recommends that distributors use the products themselves so they can experience their benefits and develop a belief in them. Then they can show them one on one, but GNLD encourages them to introduce both the products and the opportunity to groups in homes or hotels. Beyond the usual business presentations, the GNLD family knows how to throw a party—a shake party. Distributors invite a group to their home, mix up a big batch of the company’s weight-loss shakes and let the tasting begin! The social environment lets friends have fun together while learning about the products and opportunity in a family-friendly, pressure-free environment.
“Our stance has always been that we refer to our business process as ‘social marketing.’ All the technology such as Facebook, Twitter and other new social media can help in the support of a business, but it doesn’t do the job of developing real connections with people,” Kendra notes.
A Foundation for the Future
Those connections have been at GNLD’s heart for 54 years and both of the Brassfields strongly believe that caring, human connections will carry the company far into a successful future.
“I believe that you have to have a balanced business to start with,” Jerry says. “You have to promote and get new distributors and customers, but at the same time, you have to make sure they’re using and reordering your products. Once a customer base is there, if you take care of it, you’ll have a solid business that can be run part time or full time. If they want to grow it—which is what we hope—then that requires more commitment and some special skills that we try to teach.”
He and Kendra both believe that their values make the company unique and contribute to the close-knit family culture that retains distributors for generations.
“My mother was a devoted, caring woman,” Jerry recalls. “I saw her always do a lot of good in the community. I found that, through this business, we could continue that loving, giving component. My approach from day one was that I wasn’t selling anything. I was just trying to help people live a healthier life and have a better income. The results have far exceeded my expectations.”