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John Parker: Never a dull day for the Amway chief sales officer

John Parker: Never a dull day for the Amway chief sales officer

He Facebooks. He Tweets. He sings karaoke. He grinds out time on a stand-up paddleboard and keeps a surfboard in his office. He is a die-hard fan of the University of Notre Dame. A passionate golfer. And a devoted family man.

He’s also chief sales officer for Amway, responsible for the company’s entire global sales operations.

Meet the other John Parker, who’s just as comfortable in a wetsuit as he is a business suit, eager to drive his vintage Land Cruiser to the beach so he can “shred some waves” (surfer language for surfing aggressively).

“You might say that I’m just not afraid to do things I’m not necessarily good at,” he says. “I’m a terrible surfer. And no one’s ever been known to say ‘Boy, I’d love to hear John sing another one!’”

Born in California near the Pacific Ocean, Parker finds both solace and inspiration in the natural world, especially the saltwater waves that he sees as metaphors for living.

Like Amway itself, Parker says the ocean represents a restless entity with perpetual challenges that prompt sailors and surfers to explore their limits and constantly re-define their best.

“What draws me to surfing is putting yourself in a place that’s a little scary, but has an energy about it, too. It’s overcoming the obstacles, the fear, and pushing yourself to do a little more.”

Parker grew up in Claremont, California, near Los Angeles. He attended the University of Notre Dame, where he played varsity golf and earned a degree in 1988 in business administration with a concentration in finance.

Five years later, he landed at Amway, first serving as a sales manager, and later, director of sales and vice president of sales and marketing for Amway North America.

In 2003, Parker was named chief marketing officer for Amway, and in 2007, president of Amway Japan. He and his wife of 23 years, Elizabeth, and children Madeline, now 17, and Jack, 14, lived in Japan for nearly four years.

In 2012 he returned to Ada as vice president and chief sales officer.

Parker’s personal life is equally impressive, especially if you measure a man by how well he balances elements like faith, family, friends and fun.

He’s a loyal friend, and that extends not only to boyhood chums in California, but friends he’s made all over the world, largely through Amway.

And Parker is just as eager to elevate family, and unashamed about publicly describing his love for Elizabeth, Madeline, Jack and extended relatives.

His heart is big for those in the Amway family, too, as demonstrated by the steps he took in 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami destroyed lives in Japan. Some Amway Business Owners (ABOs) lost not only people in their sales groups, but members of their own immediate families.

While many American senior executives fled Japan after the disaster, fearing radiation exposure from the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant and the possibility of more earthquakes, Parker himself chose to remain and participate in recovery efforts. Working with ABOs and Amway employees, he helped raise more than $4.4 million to assist in the healing process.

Among the projects are Remember HOPE Amway Community Houses, social and event gathering centers for communities affected by the disasters, built with the funds raised by ABOs. Construction began on the first House while Parker was still leading Amway Japan. The second of the 8-12 planned Houses opened November 26, 2014.

That experience reinforced for him how Amway is so much more than a corporate giant – that it is a community of people who care about one another and will go to any length to demonstrate that commitment.

“If the Amway™ business were a sport, it would be a team sport, not an individual one. The way our business works is very much like a community – Amway Business Owners are of like minds and similar interests, bonded by the collective desire to do more, achieve more.”

“While ABOs own their own business, they’re in it with a group of others who are dedicated to their success,” Parker said. “It’s not selfish, but rather generous. If you sponsor me, it’s in your best interest to support me and my success. For you to succeed, I must also succeed.”

Parker also emphasizes that there are profound layers to the Amway™ business that make it more than just selling products. “We sell certain products, like vitamins and supplements and skin care products. But we advocate for something bigger – optimal health, for example – which includes getting the right amount of sleep and exercise, and eating healthy. Things that we don’t sell, but that we believe in.

“The same thing is true from a business perspective. We offer an opportunity, but we also are advocating for free enterprise, which is a far bigger idea than just what we sell. So we’re not just selling vitamins or getting people to start an Amway™ business. We have strong values that reflect who we are, and transcend what we sell.”

Parker is adamant about establishing partnerships among ABOs, and between ABOs and the company. “There’s no scenario under which we succeed and they don’t,” he says. “Our success is tied to their success, and the theme of partnership is very foundational to our business.”

Those partnerships transcend boundaries and cultures. In Japan Parker partnered with thousands of ABOs, whose success makes Japan one of the five largest Amway markets.

True to his nature, Parker and his family immersed themselves in Japanese society, tackling issues like transportation, language and all the other personal challenges that go hand-in-hand with assimilating into a different culture.

But he always viewed living overseas as a positive: “It’s a lot more enriching,” he says, “when you treat each new challenge as an adventure.”

By focusing his energy on others, Parker has come to define ABOs as “the backbone” of Amway, explaining that their passion drives him to be a better player and collaborator.

“What surprises me – and this is everywhere I go around the world – is how our ABOs are committed to our values: freedom, family, hope and reward. Those bedrock fundamentals haven’t changed, and they’re literally carved into stone in front of our world headquarters.”

“Wherever I go, people bank on that foundation. It trumps all cultures. And it reflects our ABOs’ commitment to the company.”

Parker finds true joy in “wanting to see people succeed, and playing a small role behind the scenes in making that happen.”

He counts as his mentors Amway founders Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, reveling in the fact that they predicted China would one day emerge as a major free market.

“They were visionaries,” he says. “ They could see the future, and they could see it differently than what it is today. And that’s what we want for our ABOs. It’s what we want for our kids.”

“I guess that’s what hope is.”