Amway is a family company. Its leaders Doug DeVos and Steve Van Andel are the sons of its founders Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel. Amway's principles of "freedom, family, hope, and reward" have remained at its core through phenomenal growth. From humble beginnings in 1959, Amway has become a more-than-$8-billion company with more than 3 million associates (called independent business owners, or IBOs) in 50 countries. Those are achievements worth celebrating.
And with 20 levels of recognition that reward thousands of IBOs annually, Amway does celebrate. Big.
But no celebration was ever bigger than the program Amway planned for its 50th anniversary last year. The 2009 Founders Council, Executive Diamond Conference, and Diamond Club Conference were combined for the first time, bringing together more than 3,800 achievers. And these were winners from around the globe, including a large number from Asia. This was another big change, since top earners from different regions are usually honored at separate events. (It also meant that production partner TBA Global had to provide simultaneous interpretation in 27 languages!) The first wave of the program brought 1,200 attendees to Amway headquarters in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Not impressed? Imagine 2,000 Amway employees along the highway cheering and waving as your bus passes by. Imagine getting to visit the home of whatever celebrity or businessperson you admire most:
That's how these IBOs view their time at headquarters, says Tina Bain, Amway's director of global special events.) After four days, the group traveled to Las Vegas, joining 2,600 additional achievers at MGM-Grand. Here the pomp and circumstance really began. There were the gallons of confetti falling on a cheering crowd, performances by Cirque du Soleil, and all the best Las Vegas celebrity impersonators. Even legendary Taiwanese singer Tsai Chin was there. And capping everything was a concert by Elton John.
If the IBOs had any doubt about how much the company appreciates their loyalty, this would have made things crystal clear. Amway's brand strength internally key to its success was reinforced.
And yet the emotional high point came at the ceremony for the top 180 achievers. The two current leaders welcomed everyone. Then their fathers, lifelong friends Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, addressed the crowd. Hearing the corporate vision described by the founders themselves, feeling their passion, was extremely moving for all, says Tina Bain. Especially because founder Jay Van Andel had passed away in 2004. His appearance came via hologram technology the first time a life-sized hologram had been produced using only archival footage crafted to fit into the live stage setup, says Alison Jenks, vice president, marketing, at TBA Global, which created the hologram and the entire event production.
"We started with a video of both of them, then Rich came out to speak," Bain explains. "When he finished, he said, 'I'd like to invite Jay to say a few things.' It was a 'wow' moment. Jay appeared on stage behind a lectern. It truly looked like he was there. This was a really emotional piece of the celebration." Jenks notes that hologram technology isn't for every event. But when it's right, it's right. "These two partners built this tremendous company," she says. "It was so inspirational for the audience to hear from one of them. We wanted them to be able to hear from both." It was also just what DeVos wanted. "This was his party," says Bain. "He had a real need to celebrate this milestone in a memorable, first-class way."