Name: Peter Strydom
Title: President of Amway Japan G.K. (since September 2015)
DOB: Feb. 14, 1967
Hometown: Cape Town
Years in Japan: 2.5
For many industries, it has become increasingly apparent that the way up is through Asia. This is especially true for Amway Corp., the global direct sales giant based in Ada, Michigan.
The privately held company reported global sales of $8.8 billion for 2016. Of its top 10 markets, all were in Asia except for the United States and Russia. China was the biggest market, at $2.57 billion.
Behind China is a trio of nations with sales of about $1 billion each, namely Japan, the United States and South Korea.
Asia is also the way up for longtime Amway employee Peter Strydom.
“The owners of the company said that if I wanted to move ahead, I needed to have Asian experience,” said Strydom, who became the president of Amway Japan G.K. in September 2015.
As Amway Japan, which commenced operations in May 1979, approaches its 40th year, the country remains “one of the jewels in the crown of Amway,” Strydom said in an interview last month with The Japan Times at Amway Japan headquarters in Tokyo.
This is Strydom’s first time working in Asia. The native of South Africa started at Amway when operations began in his home country in 1997. He and his wife later lived in Barcelona and Munich before deciding to come to Japan.
Amway provided cultural training, and Strydom was confident that having worked in the multicultural and multinational environment of Europe he would be prepared, but working in Japan “has taken some adapting,” he said.
“I’ve learned that we can’t impose our way of working on the business here. We have to respect Japan’s way of working,” Strydom said. “At the same time, in as gentle a way as possible, we try to open people’s minds to the fact that there are also other ways of working. In order for us to really compete, we have to become more internationally minded.”
One of Strydom’s main tasks as president is to grow the business. Though China continues to be Amway’s leading market, sales there have fallen. Meanwhile, Japan has grown for six years in a row, and Strydom believes there is still room for growth.
Strydom cites demographics as a reason for optimism. According to Amway figures from October 2016, women make up 72.7 percent of its distributors in Japan.
Another major task is “living our values,” Strydom said. This comes in the form of corporate social responsibility efforts through the Remember Hope project for the Tohoku region, which was devastated by the disasters of March 11, 2011. A fifth Amway Community House is scheduled for completion this year in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture.
Perhaps Strydom’s most important task is to “make a difference in the image of Amway,” he said, adding that Amway — and the direct selling and multilevel marketing industry in general — has a “mixed image in Japan.”
“I think people have a lot of misunderstanding about what we do because maybe they heard something, so they get this image in their minds,” he said. “I want us to try and ensure that people have a very transparent view of what we do.”
To that end, Amway Japan has been training its distributors to make sure they help others and uphold ethics and principles, he said.
Whether working on sales, corporate social responsibility or corporate image, teamwork will be the key to success.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together,” Strydom said, citing an African proverb.
“I learned very early on in my career that I have limitations,” he said. “The only way I can move forward or achieve anything is to surround myself with very strong people.”
This philosophy of teamwork also applies to his personal life.
“The best reflection of teamwork is my marriage,” he said, adding he has been with his wife since they were 17 years old. As the couple have no children, they have lived a global life since Strydom started working for Amway.
He and his wife have been rewarded for their belief that “we will grow here in Japan in more rich ways than we would if we had stayed in Europe.”
“All of the preconceived ideas we had about coming to Japan kind of didn’t materialize, and we were surprised and delighted by things that were unexpected,” he said. “The experience here in Japan has over-delivered on so many different levels, on a deeply personal level.”
One experience that touched him deeply happened at a dinner in Tokyo late last year to recognize Amway achievements. Strydom had the chance to talk with a couple from Okinawa who have a disabled 12-year-old daughter. They became Amway distributors a few years ago to make some money to give their daughter 24-hour care. The dinner was the first time they had left Okinawa in 12 years.
The father told Strydom that “for the first time in his life he’s been able to take his eyes off the ground and look up at the horizon.”
Strydom calls meeting the couple whose life Amway managed to touch and make better his greatest achievement.
As for the future, Strydom’s advice is not to plan, but to focus on now and do one’s best. Most of all, be humble.
“I’m always aware of the fact that wherever I’ve gone in the world, I’m a guest,” he said, so it’s best to “be humble and respectful of the community and the culture.”
Extensive experience offers wide-range view
Peter Strydom became the president of Amway Japan G.K. on Sept. 1, 2015.
His career at Amway started in 1997, the year Amway started operations in his native South Africa. He soon became the general manager and served through July 2004.
From 2004 through 2007, Strydom was in Barcelona as Amway’s director of Southern Europe, covering Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Strydom then moved to Munich in 2007 to become Amway’s vice president of European sales, overseeing more than 20 markets in Europe. From 2012, he became the managing director of Amway Europe, remaining in Germany until moving to Japan in 2015.
He is a graduate of the former University of Natal in South Africa.
Amway Corp. was established in the United States in 1959.
The Big Questions is a Monday interview series showcasing prominent figures who have a strong connection to Japan.