The year was 1959, and a manufacturer and its separate marketing company were locked in a dispute over distribution rights that could affect the livelihood of the company's independent Distributors.
Faced with this crisis, two of the leading Distributors, Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, called a meeting with several of their top downline Distributors in Charlevoix, Michigan. Out of that meeting came a new Distributor organization, the American Way Association.
The original members of the AWA included not only Jay and Rich but also other pioneers such as Walter Bass, Fred Hansen, Joe Victor and Jere Dutt. It was decided eventually that Jay and Rich would head a sales company that would supply products and that the AWA, now the IBOAI® (Independent Business Owners Association International, Inc.®), would serve as the voice of the Distributor network to promote the interests and protect the rights of the Distributors.
A Voice for Distributors
Fred Hansen's widow, Bernice Hansen, recalled Jay and Rich asking what they would like to see in the new corporation. "We told them we wanted a voice for Distributors in the field and Distributorships we could pass on to our heirs," Bernice says.
Jody Dutt is the son of Jere and of Eileen, who have passed away. Jody said, "In those days (leading up to 1959) the rules had been changing almost monthly. The AWA was founded to protect what people like my dad and mom had built."
Jody Victor, son of Joe & Helyne Victor, points out "Every Distributor has a chance to be heard. The AWA, now the IBOAI, would listen intently to everyone, from the newest to the oldest IBO".
Key to the Opportunity
To this day, the voice of the Distributor is a vital component of the Business.
"My father sold [the value of] the Association more than anything," said Jody Dutt. "He'd talk about the rights, the independence you were guaranteed-that you could build something you owned and pass it on to your kids."
A Business for Generations
That original concept of inheritable Distributorships was prophetic of the family nature of the Business. All of the pioneers mentioned previously have children and grandchildren in the Business today.
Great-grandmother Bernice Hansen has three daughters and sons-in-law in her business. Jody Victor's son Steve became the first third-generation Platinum & Sapphire. Jody's youngest son, Joe, has also attained the level of Sapphire.
The Rock on which the Future Is Built
Like the other founders, Jere Dutt insisted there was no limit to what the AWA and The Corporation could accomplish. Jody Dutt remembered his father saying "that we would grow around the world because what we're selling is not just a product or a company. We're showing people how to be independent."
Copyright 1998. Source: October 1998 Amagram® magazine. Reprinted with permission.
(Amagram® was the monthly publication for IBOs. Effective 9/1/99, Amagram® was replaced by Achieve™.)