Coming to work is an absolute pleasure for Herbalife President, Des Walsh. Why? Because he knows that, through Herbalife, he has a positive impact on people’s lives. Walsh is responsible for the growth of the business. He works closely with Independent Herbalife Members and Herbalife corporate teams to ensure that the business opportunity for Members is built on a solid foundation. He’s made a difference by listening to and learning from Members, developing the company’s Gold Standard in consumer protection and promoting a culture where new ideas are embraced. Des recently sat down to talk about his history with the company and his goals for its future.
You’ve travelled and met with Herbalife Members all over the world. What important lesson have you learned from them?
I’ve learned the importance of our Member’s role in terms of people achieving results they desire. Whether it’s people whose goal is to attain a certain weight, to have better nutrition or improve their financial situation, that journey is made easier by having support, training and mentorship. I see this constantly reinforced all around the world and it’s one of the things that make Herbalife unique. We have that support infrastructure and it differentiates Herbalife Members and the business opportunity from so many other companies who may offer excellent products and services, but don’t have the advantage of personal, one-on-one encouragement of an Herbalife Member.
Herbalife has implemented the Gold Standard in consumer protection. What is it and why is it so important?
The Gold Standard originated when we looked at some of the criticisms we were hearing in the marketplace and realized that those criticisms didn’t reflect the Herbalife we know. So we set out to change people’s perception and when you want to change a perception, you have to do something that resonates with people. The phrase “Gold Standard in consumer protection” rings true with people and we now hear this term used all the time.
We always knew that we had the best buyback program in the industry – a 90-day money back guarantee on the Herbalife Member Pack and the ability to return any product purchased in the prior twelve months. But we wanted to add to that an additional level of disclosure and protection which requires that any new Member has to sign an acknowledgement confirming that they are aware of our buyback program, that they are aware of the average income earned by an Herbalife Member and know that our products are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. And so the concept of the Gold Standard is really to do two things: one, to put a name around the program that helps to underscore the fact that we have the best consumer protections in the industry and two, to add written acknowledgements of each element in a way that clearly explains the program to prospective members, the media and regulators.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Without question, the thing I enjoy the most is interacting with our Members because it is so gratifying to hear their stories that reinforce for me why Herbalife is such a force for good in the world. When you meet somebody who has had a life changing experience because they have lost weight and are now living a happier and active life, there’s just nothing better. It makes you feel really good about what you do every single day. And similarly, when you hear stories of what earning a supplemental income has meant – one that facilitates being able to rent a two bedroom apartment instead of a one bedroom, owning a car or taking a family vacation, you realize a seemingly modest supplemental income can be a life-changing event.
When you’re out with Members and you hear their stories and realize the impact that Herbalife has on people of every culture, of every background, of every education level, and you realize how universal our impact is, it’s truly gratifying.
How do you live a healthy lifestyle?
I’m a product of the product. Since joining Herbalife and having two Herbalife shakes a day, as well as a range of other products and, practicing good eating habits, the quality of my physical activity and my energy level have increased. I’ve always been fairly athletic and I run on the weekends, typically five or six miles. Once a month I do a 20-mile run, once a year I run a marathon, and I run a marathon faster now than I did 25 years ago. To me that’s a true testament to the power of Herbalife products and good nutrition. And I believe that good nutrition is important not just in terms of physical wellbeing, but also in terms of mental wellbeing.
What has been your most memorable experience with Herbalife to date?
One of my most memorable experiences came during my first month at Herbalife. I was encouraged at the very beginning by my mentors Rob Levy (Executive Vice President, Worldwide Sales and Marketing) and Jonathan Liss (Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales) to spend as much time as possible with Members because that’s really how to learn the business.
And so I went to a Member meeting in Northern California and I ended up meeting a native Spanish-speaking Member there who was speaking very good English and I congratulated her on that. She told me that three years ago when she first joined Herbalife, she spoke no English at all. She had come to the United States and unfortunately she and her husband split up. She was working as a housekeeper, but the stress of trying to support her children caused her to gain weight. Eventually her employer recommended Herbalife® products and she was able to lose weight. Her transformation led to her building an Herbalife business. She soon realized that the friends of her employer could be great customers for her, so she decided to learn English to expand her business and sell to them. That month I met her, she told me that she had stopped working as a housekeeper, she was now selling Herbalife® products full time and that she had earned $3,000 from Herbalife. She burst into tears of joy as she told me her story. She said that above all, she was happy for her children because now they see her as a businesswoman and have a different perspective on life and what they can accomplish.
That story has stayed with me for the past ten years because that woman had not just significantly improved her well-being, but she had built a business while improving the well-being of people in her community. Her self-esteem had grown and she and her children had a better life because of it. That one experience embodies all that we are about at Herbalife. When we talk about changing people’s lives, it’s not just a slogan, it’s the reality of what we do through our wonderful Members every single day.
Where do you see Herbalife in the next 10 years?
I see more lives changed and more people impacted in a very positive way. The reality is despite the extraordinary success the company has enjoyed over the past 35 years, we are, in Mark Hughes’ words, “just getting started.” When we look at Iceland, a country with about 400,000 people, where we know that we generate eighteen Volume Points per person per year in sales, and realize that around the world the average is still only about one Volume Point per person in sales per year, it just indicates the huge growth potential that we have. The need for weight management products and nutritional supplements, such as ours, and a viable business opportunity, whether part-time or full-time, has never been greater. As we identify better ways to bring our products to market faster, improve product access and support our Members in building their business, the opportunity for Herbalife, our Members and employees will become even better.
Many of the best ideas that are driving our growth today come from Members. We have about a half-a-million Supervisors or Sales Leaders who are actively involved in developing and building an Herbalife business. Every day they come up with ways to do a better job of supporting their customers with ideas like Nutrition Clubs, Weight Loss Challenges and Fitness Camps – all of these are ideas that didn’t exist ten or twelve years ago, but have had a huge impact in driving the demand for Herbalife® products and the growth of the company. And just as those ideas didn’t exist before, in the next ten years there will be other fabulous ideas that come from our Members that can help propel future demand and growth.
Many companies have stagnated because of the absence of new ideas or the presence of a culture where new ideas are suppressed because they threaten old ideas. At Herbalife, we have the opposite culture where we encourage and embrace new ideas. When you couple that with some of the wonderful things that Herbalife is doing, such as event sponsorship, our Casa Herbalife programs and our Seed to Feed strategy , then you have this magical combination of great entrepreneurship from our Members and great support from our company, that creates tremendous synergy and limitless opportunity ahead.