The 2006 Michigan gubernatorial race made Dick DeVos a household name, throughout the state of Michigan and across the country. As a lifelong supporter of the Michigan Republican party, DeVos has long been associated in most people’s minds with politics. However, his long and successful career has had very little to do with political life. Most of DeVos’ accomplishments have come in the form of business pursuits and philanthropy.
Born into the DeVos family and the son of Rich DeVos, the billionaire cofounder of Amway, Dick DeVos was seemingly destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a successful businessman. From the time he was a teenager, DeVos began working in the family business in various capacities. By the time he had graduated, with a business degree from Northwood University, he was ready to take on his first real managerial roles in the company. He worked his way up the ranks throughout the 1980s, proving that he had the leadership skills and talent to manage a large firm.
By the early 1990s, DeVos was vying for the top spot at Amway. In 1992, he was appointed president of the company. At that time, and we would struggling with slumping sales in North America and had not made great head roads into foreign markets. DeVos instantly saw East Asia as a gigantic, untapped market that the company could potentially use to dramatically expand its business. He aggressively went after Northeast Asian and South Asian markets, taking big risks in the hopes of big rewards. This strategy paid off handsomely, as Amway became the single largest global direct marketing company. Because of this move, Dick DeVos is often credited as having saved the company. The decline in sales, prior to his takeover of the firm, would have resulted in the company’s eventual bankruptcy, should they have continued on the same trend line.
But DeVos wasn’t through with making innovative and highly productive changes to the firm that his father had founded. In the mid-90s, he saw the enormous opportunities that were presented by internet marketing. He began moving the family’s firm over to a primarily web-based distribution model, where extensive automation of order fulfillment, logistics and recruitment could result in gigantic efficiencies and huge savings to the company. This was also a tremendous success. By the early 2000s, Amway was running one of the largest internet-based shopping businesses in the world. To this day, the Amway internet interface is one of the highest volume internet shopping sites in the world, competing with the likes of Amazon and eBay and terms of raw traffic.