An Enterprising Life

Tags: An Enterprising Life, Jay Van Andel, Richard de Vos, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

An Enterprising Life



An Enterprising Life is the autobiography of the other cofounder, septuagenarian Jay Van Andel. He is the quieter of the two, and is thought by some commentators to be the financial and management expert behind the direct sales giant. Readers curious about the true nature of Amway and the principles behind its growth, however, will be disappointed by his report. Only four of the 21 chapters deal with the company (offering little new insight), while five others mechanically recite Van Andel's life from birth to age 25.

Most of the balance is more animatedly devoted to essays on his political and philanthropic activities, as former chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and director of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, among other posts. Details of each project are interspersed with philosophical asides about Calvinist theology and conservative Republican politics, and with family reminiscences. Clearly and simply spun, Van Andel's prose has a rhythm that sustains interest in the absence of drama. A less sincere and humble person might have written a more exciting autobiography, but it is unfair to blame the book for being true to its subject.

Along with partner Richard de Vos, Van Andel founded Amway in 1959. Its success worldwide has made De Vos and Van Andel together among the 10 richest people in the U.S. Although avoiding the spotlight, Van Andel has always been a strong voice in support of Christian and conservative values. As he approaches 75, he offers this personal look back at how Amway got started and grew into a company with three million distributors and $7 billion in sales. He also offers his views on politics, government regulation, multiculturalism, the medical establishment, taxes, the environment, and the responsibilities of the wealthy. What Van Andel seems to relish the most of all Amway's successes is its "vindication" after attacks in the media and investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. He recounts his relationships (and influence) with political figures such as Presidents Bush and Reagan. Van Andel concludes with a rightfully proud account of his 46-year marriage and the medical research being funded by his Van Andel Institute; and throughout is his emphatic acknowledgment of the role that God and the Bible have played in his life.

AN ENTERPRISING LIFE is a prime example of the opportunities that are open to everyone; most people just don't even consider doing or even trying anything that would be a step beyond what they are doing now. VanAndel describes building a life and businesses around moral, integral, and ethical principles. He mentions many advantages that Americans have compared to the rest of the world, most of which are overlooked, taken for granted, and not used fully to their potential.

Plus he exemplifies how every opportunity/decision/action comes with both consequences (good and/or bad) and responsibility to those whom are affected. This is a great book for everybody to read, especially: business people, entrepreneurs, students, distributors and non-distributors.

This is a book which exemplifies true leadership & courage. It brings out the lost values in the current society. A business built on a strong foundation of honesty, Integrity and Godly principles will continue for generations to come. I agree with compassionate capitalism fully, and urge everyone to evaluate opinions--but always get the facts for yourself--read the book for yourself!

Few large American companies are as controversial or, reportedly, as secretive as Amway. Some previous books laud the American monolith as an inspirational organization that has helped hundreds of thousands of people to financial independence by putting the right products and sales know-how in their hands. Others have indicated that the company is a cult, pyramid scheme or fraud. And still more have been written by or about flamboyant cofounder Rich DeVos, who is credited with the drive that built the company.

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