How to Be Like Rich DeVos: Succeeding with Integrity in Business and Life

How to Be Like Rich DeVos: Succeeding with Integrity in Business and Life

by Pat Williams


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Rich DeVos, founder of Amway and owner of the NBA's Orlando Magic, possesses qualities rarely found in business leaders today: leadership wisdom putting others first philanthropy patriotism focusing on family It is these qualities, along with his dedication to Christ, that have made him into the successful leader and beloved figure to millions that he is today. This book in the How to Be Like . . . series focuses on one facet of DeVos's character in each chapter, exploring how that one special quality has helped him to overcome huge obstacles and achieve the highest level of success and fulfillment and how you can benefit from this example in your own life. Author Pat Williams knows how to deliver a real page-turner by liberally sprinkling the text with quotes about DeVos from his friends, colleagues, NBA players, world leaders and others, and including sidebars that summarize DeVos's easy to follow success secrets.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757301582
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 02/01/2004
Series: How to Be Like
Pages: 314
Sales rank: 706,576
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

Pat Williams is senior vice president of the Orlando Magic. He has worked for or with Rich DeVos for over 14 years and has unprecedented access to the people who know Rich best. Before joining the Central Florida pro basketball effort in 1986, Williams spent 12 seasons as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, taking them to a World Championship title in 1983. Williams is married and the father of 19 children, including 14 adopted from four foreign countries.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 7
Be a Life Enricher!

IN HIS SPEECHES, RICH DEVOS often quotes a statement originally made by Walt Disney. "There are three kinds of people in the world today," Disney said. "There are 'well poisoners,' who discourage you and stomp on your creativity and tell you what you can't do. There are 'lawn mowers'—people who are well- intentioned but self-absorbed; they tend to their own needs, mow their own lawns and never leave their yards to help another person. Finally, there are 'life enrichers'—people who reach out to enrich the lives of others, to lift them up and inspire them. We need to be life enrichers, and we need to surround ourselves with life enrichers."

Well, that's exactly the kind of person Rich DeVos is. He encourages people to be what he calls "life enrichers." Ask him what his role is with Alticor or the Orlando Magic or any other organization he's involved with, and he'll say, "I'm the head cheerleader!" Boy, is he ever! That's his job description in a nutshell.

Rich has a wonderful ability to praise, encourage, inspire and motivate. Whenever he comes to visit the Orlando Magic, he'll stop by my office and spend time with me, asking me about my life, my work and my family. He'll offer sincere encouragement: "Is there anything you need? Any way I can support you and pray for you?" Then he'll close with an uplifting word: "Well, Pat, you're doing a terrific job. We couldn't do it without you!"

Whenever Rich and I are together with one other person or with thousands, he never fails to acknowledge the role I had in helping to launch the Orlando Magic. He'll always say, "Pat Williams started all this. Without him, we wouldn't be here. There wouldn't be a team without him." He has said that literally dozens of times to countless people, and whenever he does that it makes me feel ten feet tall. While many bosses steal the credit for what people around them do, Rich loves to spread the credit around and acknowledge the contributions of others. That's one reason why I always feel inspired and energized after a few minutes with Rich DeVos, the head cheerleader and chief life enricher of the Orlando Magic.

Cartwheels and Handsprings

When Rich calls himself a cheerleader, it's not a figure of speech. "It's literally true," says his high school friend Marvin Van Dellen. "Rich was actually a cheerleader for the basketball team at Christian High—and you should have seen him! He would do handsprings and cartwheels the length of the court and get the crowd all stirred up. I guess that's why he's been a cheerleader ever since."

Rich's wife, Helen, recalls one incident from Rich's cheerleading career. "One day, in front of the whole student body," she recalls, "Rich did a cartwheel and ripped the seat of his pants out! He turned red and walked off the court backwards—but he didn't let that stop him. He loves to get the crowd worked up. He loves to get the team fired up. Cheerleading has carried over to the rest of his life. It's one of the biggest reasons for his success."

Dr. David Nicholas, senior pastor of Spanish River Church in Boca Raton, Florida, told me how much Rich's cheerleading has meant in his life. "Rich is the most encouraging man I've ever met," said Pastor Nicholas. "You'll never hear a negative word from him. He'll always put a positive spin on every situation.

"My wife left me when I was in seminary, and she took my three sons with her. As a result, my sons didn't grow up with me. That was very hard on me, and it was difficult to maintain any kind of relationship with my boys. When I was at a point of real discouragement, Rich put his arm around me and said, 'Be aggressive! Call your boys—don't wait for them to call you. Love them, pursue them and talk to them. Don't let anything come between you and your sons.' I did what Rich said, and today I have the best relationship I've ever had with them. Rich's encouragement and positive reinforcement are a big part of that."

D. James Kennedy, senior minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, recalls a commencement speech Rich gave at the church's Westminster Academy High School. "That year, the school had an extraordinarily high percentage of students who were on the dean's list or the honor roll, or had received honors from national academic societies. As I recall, some 60 percent of the students were mentioned, and some of them collected as many as seven or eight tasseled cords, which they hung around their necks.

"When Rich got up to give the commencement address, he said that when he graduated from high school, he won no honors at all. Then he proceeded to focus his attention on the other 40 percent of the students, those without honors, without tasseled cords. He encouraged them and told them that every member of that graduating class could accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God.

"The students who won no honors had probably entered that ceremony feeling like nobodies. Thanks to Rich DeVos, they went out believing that they could conquer the world. It was a marvelous demonstration of Rich's unique gifts of compassion and encouragement."

Dr. James Fahner, chief of pediatric hematology and oncology at DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, is also grateful for the cheerleading of Rich and Helen DeVos. "They are such an inspiring and energizing couple," he told me. "They make you believe in yourself so strongly, and they make you want to be the best you can be. Let me tell you a story about the way they have been cheerleaders in my life.

"To honor Helen for her support of our children's cancer program, we established an annual lectureship—the Helen DeVos Distinguished Lectureship in Pediatric Oncology—that has become nationally recognized and applauded. Each August, that event attracts a major leader in the field of children's cancer research to speak at a formal dinner.

"One year, when our children's hospital was still fairly new, a world-renowned children's brain-tumor surgeon from New York was the guest speaker. He was chatting with Rich and Helen over dinner. I was just within earshot when he said, 'Mr. DeVos, you've got quite a facility here. Just wait—in a few more years you'll be able to attract the best and brightest young physicians from around the country to practice here.'

"Without missing a beat, Rich proudly replied, 'Just take a good look around these tables tonight! A lot of the best and brightest are already here!'

"Rich's spontaneous words of pride and confidence were like a huge pat on the back for me. I was deeply touched and encouraged. To this day, I have never told Rich that I heard his words that night or how much they meant to me—so when you read this, Rich, thanks from the bottom of my heart!"

Another person whose life has been profoundly affected by Rich's cheerleading is Alticor pilot Rick Fiddler. Rick told me a fascinating story. "On September 14, 1983," he said, "I was a young pilot in my late twenties, flying a Sikorsky S76 helicopter from Chicago to Grand Rapids with four Amway executives aboard. We had a problem with the tail rotor and ended up crashing into Lake Michigan. It was near sunset, and we were floating in life jackets in fifty-four-degree water. After about an hour, the Coast Guard picked us up and took us to the Chicago station.

"While all this was going on, Rich was in his Florida home getting ready for dinner when he got a call informing him of the crash. Rich called the Coast Guard to find out about us and insisted on staying on the line until we were safe. When we got to the station in Chicago, someone told me, 'There's a phone call for you—the man has been on hold for an hour, waiting for you.'
"I took the call, and it was Rich. He said he had been praying for us, and he was relieved that we were safe. The next day he flew back to Michigan. I was at the hangar when a call came in saying, 'Mr. DeVos wants a helicopter ride. Pick him up in front of the company headquarters.' I was still shaky from the crash, but I climbed into the company's other helicopter and took off. When I got to the headquarters, Rich was waiting for me. I let him in and said, 'Where do you want to go?' He said, 'I don't care. Let's just go for a ride.'

"He just wanted to show me—and show everyone else—that he had confidence in me. At that moment, he had a lot more confidence in me than I had in myself! But by taking that ride right away, he sent a message of encouragement, loud and clear. Later, he had me get up and tell the whole story in front of a meeting of Amway independent business owners, and he praised me for ditching the helicopter on Lake Michigan without any loss of life. Whenever I hear Rich DeVos talking about being a 'cheerleader,' I think about how he cheered and encouraged me, and got me right back into the air."

Bill Boer is Rich's senior business advisor. "It was a few days before Christmas," he recalls, "and I was driving to inspect some property we had recently purchased for the DeVos family. My cell phone rang, and it was Rich. I assumed he was calling to ask me about the property and the development plans, so I immediately began filling him in on all the details about the property. He listened for a few minutes, then he said, 'Well, that's all very nice, Bill, but I was really just calling to say, 'Merry Christmas.' He paused, then added, 'I love you, Bill.' I was at a loss for words. Never in my life had anyone I worked for told me, 'I love you.'"
Are you a life enricher and a cheerleader like Rich DeVos? If not, then you can become one. Cheerleading is a skill we can all acquire and cultivate.

Imagine how much more successful your organization would be if you would become the head cheerleader. Imagine how much happier your family would be, how much stronger and healthier your family dynamics would become, if you decided that—starting right now, today—you would become the chief life enricher for your spouse and kids.

And what about your own spiritual and emotional needs? Do you have cheerleaders and life enrichers in your own life? Do you have people around you who encourage you and root for you and motivate you to be the best you can possibly be? We all have enough well poisoners and lawn mowers in our lives. We have all too few life enrichers.

Where do you find cheerleaders and life enrichers for your own life? You'll find them in your church, at the office, in your neighborhood, at your university or on your team. The best way to find a life enricher is to be a life enricher. Positive, encouraging, cheerleading people tend to gravitate toward other positive people. If you go out of your way to encourage other people, then they will seek you out and encourage you.

The word "encourage" is derived from the French cour, meaning "heart." Life enrichers are big-hearted people who devote themselves to strengthening the hearts of others. I believe one of the reasons Rich DeVos is such a great encourager is that he has such a big heart for people—and for God. He is totally dedicated to living out his faith. His Bible tells him, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV). If you call yourself a Christian but you are not an encourager, then you are not practicing your faith!

If you want to be like Rich, then have a heart! Be an encourager!

What Stops You from Being a Life Enricher?

Many people have mental objections that keep them from becoming life enrichers and cheerleaders. If you want to be successful, effective and influential like Rich DeVos, then you need to overcome these obstacles and objections.

Obstacle no. 1: childhood barriers
If you grew up in a home where encouragement was scarce, where criticism and sarcasm reigned, then the idea of being an encourager and a life enricher may be foreign to you. If you never had a good parental role model of a cheerleader, then you probably didn't even know that people should encourage one another. If you were subjected to judgment and criticism throughout your formative years (or worse, verbal or physical abuse), then how could you know anything else?

Now that you are an adult, however, you must retrain your mind and reprogram your behavior. Encouraging others is a deliberate choice you must make. It's time to break through old childhood barriers and become the person you want to be. It's time to consciously decide to become a life enricher and a cheerleader.

Obstacle no. 2: insecurity and self-centeredness
Some people, out of a deep sense of insecurity and inferiority, find it difficult to encourage and affirm other people. Over the years, they have developed behavior patterns of building themselves up by tearing other people down. They look for faults and failings in other people in order to feel superior.

If you feel blocked from encouraging others because of your own insecurity and self-centeredness, it's time for you to grow up. It doesn't cost you anything to encourage others. You don't lose anything by affirming, praising and inspiring other people. In fact, you gain—big-time! When you become known as an encourager and a cheerleader, you are the winner. People who tear others down only diminish themselves; people who build others up build themselves up as well. Authentic greatness is demonstrated by the choice to become a life enricher and a cheerleader.

Obstacle no. 3: thoughtlessness
Some people simply don't take the time to enrich someone else's life. We all know it doesn't take much time or effort to say a kind, encouraging word or to send a note of encouragement—but we think, I'm busy right now, and there's always tomorrow. In our casual thoughtlessness, we fail to realize that this isn't necessarily so—sometimes, tomorrow doesn't come. That person you've been meaning to encourage may not be here tomorrow. Or you may not be here tomorrow.

So don't be thoughtless. Stop putting it off. Be an encourager now, while there is still time.

"Rich DeVos is one of the most thoughtful people I know," says Jill Grzesiak, Rich's executive assistant. "You can imagine the incredible volume of requests and invitations he receives. I remember one request he received from an unpublished poet in Michigan who wanted help finding a publisher. The man had written a book of poems dedicated to his late son. He wanted to sell the book locally and at his church, with some of the profits going to charity. He had been turned down by publisher after publisher. Finally, he sent the manuscript to Mr. DeVos, who read it and was very moved by the dedication the man had written to the memory of his son. Mr. DeVos sent the manuscript to his own publisher, but they weren't interested. So he helped the man get the book printed locally. Most people would have told the man, "I wish I could help you," but Mr. DeVos went out of his way to help the man honor his son's memory with a book of poems. That speaks volumes about the thoughtfulness of Rich DeVos."
Obstacle no. 4: ignorance
Another common obstacle is that some people simply don't know how to encourage other people. They don't know where to begin, what to do or what to say. Here, then, are some steps to take that will make you a life enricher to the people around you:

How to Be a Cheerleader

Step no. 1: be cheerful
How can you be a cheerleader if you have no cheer? Many people think that cheerfulness is the result of an emotional high or happy circumstances, such as winning the lottery. In reality, cheerfulness is a choice. It's an attitude that we choose. No one can be on an emotional high all day long, but anyone can choose to be cheerful. No one has cheery circumstances all the time—we all have to pay taxes; we all lock our keys in the car sometimes; we all get bad news in the mail every now and then; we all get headaches, colds and stiff backs from time to time. Yet even when our circumstances are less than cheery, we can choose a cheerful attitude.

Cheerfulness comes from adopting an optimistic outlook on life. It doesn't mean that we pretend that bad days don't happen. It means that we choose to maintain a positive disposition even on days when things don't go our way.
Cheerful people energize the people around them. Cheerless people are an emotional drag. They suck the life and enthusiasm out of you. So in order to be a cheerleader, you need to be cheerful—and you need to spread that cheer around.

Step no. 2: give verbal encouragement
Visit or call the person you want to encourage. Ask how he or she is doing—not in a glib "Howzit goin?" way, but with genuine interest. Tell that person you are praying. That's the kind of encourager and cheerleader Rich has been to me and to countless other people, both in one-on-one encounters and in large groups.

Retired Amway employee Tom Michmershuizen recalls the early days of the company. "Rich's verbal encouragement was a big part of the meetings for independent distributors and the meetings for employees. He would always arrive early and stay late, talking with people, encouraging and motivating them, signing keepsakes, patting people on the back. Everyone wanted to be around Rich because he was such a source of inspiration.

"Each month we had an employee meeting, and Rich would get up and tell us the latest on where the company was going. Then he would have each new employee get up and talk about her job and what her hopes for the future were. And Rich would always have some word of affirmation for the great job each person was doing. The meetings were fun and filled with excitement and enthusiasm. Everybody looked forward to them.

"Rich would even conduct a special meeting for the corporate truck drivers. He would show up in denim overalls, and he'd just be one of the guys—shaking hands, swapping jokes and stories, and telling the drivers how much he valued the work they did. He wanted everyone in the company to know that they were valued and appreciated, and that their work mattered."

Step no. 3: send cards and notes
Send notes of appreciation, encouragement and inspiration. Rich DeVos says, "For years, I've been sending letters of congratulations out to people for things they do in the community. I may read about it in the paper or someone may mention some good deed someone has done. I'm often inspired to just drop that person a note. It only takes a few minutes to write a note, but it can be a powerful act of inspiration and encouragement."

Step no. 4: offer your time
Would you like to be a life enricher for a friend, a neighbor, your pastor, your coworker or your boss? Then go to that person and say, "I have so many hours that I want to give you. Let me serve you. Let me wash your windows or organize your files or watch your children so you can have an evening out." The gift of your time can be a powerful encouragement and life enrichment for others.

Step no. 5: give a gift
It doesn't have to be expensive. Give something small, thoughtful and encouraging—some token of your kindness and encouragement.

Step no. 6: celebrate for no reason at all
How about inviting a friend out for dinner and a show? Or a home-cooked dinner at your house? Or a party? A round of golf or a few sets of tennis? Or a night together with no agenda except a lot of laughs and a closer friendship? One of the best ways you can be a cheerleader and a life enricher for others is to celebrate special moments, milestones and events—or celebrate for no reason at all!

Step no. 7: accept and affirm people when they fail
Lift people up when they fall. Allow people to be human and make mistakes. If you see someone drop the ball, encourage that person to get back into the game.

Step no. 8: defend reputations
Do everything you can to put an end to gossip, criticism and character assassination. Nothing is more discouraging than being the target of a rumor mill. If someone comes to you with gossip, say, "I'm not going to listen to this. If you have a complaint against someone, you need to go directly to that person. Don't bring it to me and don't spread it around." Life enrichers stand up for people who aren't present to defend themselves.

Step no. 9: pray
Prayer is a powerful source of encouragement. As you pray, let people know that you are praying for them. Pray specifically about that person's spiritual, emotional, health, family and financial needs.

Step no. 10: be a mentor
A mentor is an in-depth life enricher. Mentoring is a one-on-one relationship of teaching, guiding, sharing and cheerleading. (The issue of mentoring is so vitally important that we will devote the entire next chapter to it.)

Meanwhile, if you want to be a life enricher like Rich, then you'd better practice your handsprings, cartwheels and cheers. Look around you. Everywhere you turn, there are people in need of a cheerleader. Go tell them that they matter to you, that you believe in them, that you're cheering for them. Make a difference in just one life every day and see how your life changes!

¬2004. All rights reserved. Reprinted from How To Be Like Rich DeVos by Pat Williams. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

What People are Saying About This

Gen. Alexander Haig

"Rich DeVos is a marvelous speaker who inspires people with his words.
He's a remarkable salesman who knows how to move an idea in the marketplace.
He's as patriotic a citizen as I have ever known. He has always believed in doing the right thing for the American people and the nation at large Every aspect of Rich DeVos's life emanates from an adherence to his Christian faith and principles."

Gerald Ford

"Rich DeVos has a simple business philosophy: If you are successful, then you give something back to your community. He is a classic example of what it means to be a good citizen. He is a man of tremendous integrity, unbelievable energy, and great speaking and leadership skills."

Edwin Meese

"Rich DeVos is an example to us all—an example of generosity, caring and compassion. He typifies all that is good about America, both in his success and in the way he uses his success to improve the lives of people everywhere.
He has made an enormous amount of money through good judgment, hard work and inspiring others to achieve their dreams, and he uses his money to help others

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