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When a headhunter called Candace S. Matthews about an opportunity at Amway, she initially scoffed at the idea. “Were they even still around?” she thought. “Would [the role] be bigger than what I’m doing now?” After all, she was already president of Soft Sheen-Carson, a consumer products division of the cosmetics giant L’Oreal USA, and she had held a series of top marketing positions at some of the world’s leading corporations, including Procter & Gamble and The Coca-Cola Co.
What Matthews didn’t realize at the time was that the family-owned, multilevel network marketing business had grown beyond offering a line of cleaning products. Encouraged by the recruiter to re-examine the offer, Matthews became receptive, even enthusiastic. “I had no idea of the company’s global scope,” she says of the enterprise that operates in more than 50 countries, employs 13,000 staffers, and at the time grossed roughly $7 billion in revenues. “It was huge, and totally under the radar.”
Matthews would soon discover how she fit into Amway’s growth equation. In 2007, the board, led by co-CEOs Steve Van Andel and Doug DeVos, decided that the company needed transforming. The direct sales leader lagged behind its competitors in connecting well with American consumers. In the company’s early stages of growth, 80% of its revenues came from the United States and 20% from international markets. Now those percentages were reversed. Expansion was happening rapidly in areas such as Russia, India, and China, its largest market, with only marginal growth in the U.S. Amway’s bruised reputation here also contributed to flat domestic sales. Matthews, 50, who came aboard at the end of that year, says, “They [knew] they needed to transform and laid out three main pillars: growth through innovation, consumer orientation, and performance driven.”
Amway needed a strong chief marketing officer who understood how the pieces came together and who could infuse a new level of dynamism into the organization. Matthews was the executive for the job.
She was tasked with moving the company from a multilevel marketing business model to a consumer driven model; creating the strategic direction for the five lines of business; and establishing a process for new product development and consumer insight, as well as developing global positioning for Amway products and brands. She wasted no time tackling this audacious mission. Matthews, who controls a budget in the hundreds of millions, has launched a fully integrated marketing program, which her 600-person global team executes in support of 3 million distributors who sell five categories of products: beauty, nutrition, home care, personal care, and durables.