Saturday, July 29, 2006

That's not quite how I remember it

I got this in an email from the DeVos campaign the other day:
I've been a part of turnarounds before. When my hometown, Grand Rapids, was stagnating in the 1980s and 1990s I brought together a team of leaders and community members to help turn our city around. Now there are jobs, people are moving downtown.
Now I'm not native to Grand Rapids, but I have lived here about 22 years. Beginning in the late 60s, downtown GR was indeed stagnating, and the turnaround he's talking about began, I believe, in the 70s, when the DeVos and Van Andel families refurbished the old Pantlind Hotel downtown.

Well, Dick DeVos was probably barely 20 years old when this started, and though he is a member of one of the families that helped spearhead the building boom in GR, his father Rich and partner Jay really have been seen as the powers behind it. When this point came up earlier in the DeVos campaign, Rich, it seemed to me just kind of publicly shrugged his shoulders. Whatever will help get the son elected, so be it, is what it seems he was thinking.
When Alticor, the company I led for 10 years, was faced with competitive challenges and a new global reality, I transformed our business into a global powerhouse, insourcing work from other companies to fill our manufacturing lines and selling our own Michigan-made products all over the world.
This is another point where my memory and his diverge. If I remember correctly, Rich and Jay officially handed the reins over to the next generation in the early- to mid-90s. In 1996 the business tanked in the U.S., their primary market.

Between 1996 and the end of 1999, a lot happened: Dick left the business, Dave Van Andel took over as chief, then Doug DeVos and Steve Van Andel emerged as President and Chairman, respectively. Given this timetable, it doesn't seem to me that Dick DeVos could have been regarded as company chief for 10 years. Still, he carefully chooses to say "the company I led." And since as a family member he was part of the company's governing board at the time, I suppose he can use this phrase, however misleading.

Also during this time, "globalization" happened in waves, with the much-reported layoffs in U.S. operations and the opening of manufacturing in China. North America launched an internet business under a new name, which would soon replace the old business entirely (in name, if nothing else). Then, sometime after 2000, the company reorganized, with the parent company DeVos names above as the umbrella over the sister companies, one of which is the manufacturing component he's talking about. That part he got right. One of the smartest things the company has done over the last five or six years was to spin off its manufacturing division so it's no longer making products only for the distributor force, but using its vast R&D resources and manufacturing capacity to make private label home care and personal care products for other companies.
We can make change happen if we bring people together, set clear goals, and take action. I've been there, I've done it.
And so you can see why I'm not altogether sure he has a valid claim to make when he says "I've done it."

When he spoke on the Huge show a couple of weeks ago, DeVos expressed amazement at the number of people who weren't aware of his connection to what we know is his family's business. Seems to me that in this email and in his campaign he is taking advantage of that. And of people's short memories. That's why I wish I had some documentation on all of this that's better than my memory. It's the kind of thing that shouldn't go unrefuted.

Update: DeVos left the family company in 2002 according to MLM Survivor. I stand corrected.


Anonymous christine said...

I was going to run a Dick Alert on that letter, but I couldn't bring myself to do it ... there were ... so ... many ... lies ... I couldn't figure out where to start!

12:36 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Well, as you might be able to tell, I have some history with his company ... not that it has anything to do with my "anti" stance. Still, it does compel me to speak up.

7:13 PM  

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