Zurvita: Successful Simplicity
October 6, 2014 Leave a comment
by Courtney Roush
Headquarters: Houston, Texas
Executives: Mark and Tracy Jarvis
Products: Health and wellness
After a rocky start, Zurvita chose the road less traveled—and built a salesforce determined to make the world a healthier place.
Though Houston-based direct seller Zurvita originally launched in 2008 as a service business with everything from cell and video phones to tech support, electricity and gas, the company arrived on the wellness scene in 2011. It was then that Zurvita introduced a suite of powerhouse products that, above all, were designed to simplify the pursuit of wellness. The company’s growth since then has been nothing short of spectacular. Annual revenue grew from $3.6 million in 2011 to $15 million in 2012 and $63 million in 2013. Revenue for 2014 is expected to fall between $80 million and $90 million. The company of 55 employees, with manufacturing operations in Dallas and Phoenix, has spent the last year greatly enhancing its information technology infrastructure to be able to support that incredible growth, and better serve the 30,000-plus independent consultants who represent the Zurvita brand.
Currently, the Zurvita independent salesforce is concentrated in the United States and Canada, primarily in small towns. According to Zurvita leadership, that surprising phenomenon is likely due to the fact that word-of-mouth travels faster in places like McAllister, Oklahoma, one of the most successful Zurvita towns, where you’ll hear the stories of farmers-turned-ambassadors (currently the highest level of the independent salesforce). And while Zurvita is working to spread the word of those powerful testimonials into larger North American cities, the company also just celebrated its expansion into five new international markets on July 1, 2014. For a direct seller that’s still a relatively new kid on the block, these milestones are impressive, indeed.
During the early years, however, the company’s own journey to wellness was challenged with more than a few hurdles and a major detour, all of which make its present success perhaps that much more remarkable. This company is unrecognizable from where it was just six years ago.
When Zurvita launched in 2008, the company’s co-founders, Mark and Tracy Jarvis, were already power players in direct selling, having achieved seven-figure success as distributors with another direct seller. They’d taken an enormous leap of faith to walk away and attempt to build a company from the ground up, but they considered it a calling to start a direct selling business based on philosophical principles they shared: faith, humble leadership and plenty of opportunities for “wins” at every level.
But the maiden voyage wasn’t smooth sailing. Serving as an online shopping mall of sorts, “we were an unfocused, struggling company,” says Mark Jarvis, who also serves as Co-CEO and President. After losing an average of $300,000 a month during its first 42 months, it was time for the fledgling direct seller to make a radical change; the “all things to all people” approach simply wasn’t working. “By 2011, we were looking for an identity,” Mark says. “We made the decision to regroup and start over again with a single focus.”
Why wellness? Mark’s wife, Tracy, had always had a passion for the subject, but the choice was based more on the profound and tangible impact the couple knew that good health could have on people’s lives—and the power that such transformations have to influence others. “When you give people something that changes their lives in a tangible way, they’re going to stick with you,” Mark says.
Make no mistake: The transition from 11 products to one was anything but easy. “It was a courageous move on our part,” says Co-CEO Jay Shafer. Inspired by the book Good to Great by Jim Collins—who stated that behind every successful company was the pivotal decision to take a bold risk—the company reinvented itself. Quite telling was the fact that “our consultants in the field respected our decision to streamline and stayed with us,” Jay says.
With that in mind, after extensive collaboration with scientists, physicians and researchers, the company launched Zeal Wellness, its flagship product, in 2011. Designed as an all-in-one formula of whole-food concentrates in a powder to be mixed with water or juice, Zeal is intended to deliver the body’s daily nutritional needs, promoting optimal health, a strong immune system and enhanced energy stores. Calling those days back in 2011 “a combination of faith and chaos,” though it wasn’t developed as a weight-loss product per se, Zeal Wellness was providing just that result for some, along with increased energy and, quite simply, a zest for life. Corporate leadership believed not just in the integrity of the product but also in the bang for the buck. “Above all, we wanted value for the customer,” Jay adds. “I don’t believe you can find a product that delivers what we do for less than twice the price.”
Zurvita later added three additional products: Zeal Advanced Formula Protein Shakes; the herbal and probiotic Zeal Cleanse for digestion; and a thermogenic fat burner, Zeal Burn. Consumers may purchase all four products bundled as the Zeal Weight Management Program. Those who want an extra shot of motivation during the program have the option to participate in the Zeal for Life Challenge. This support group of sorts includes regular conference calls on a variety of topics that, collectively, promote a holistic approach to wellness—one that extends far beyond mere numbers on the scale.
Product convenience is of paramount importance to the company. Every Zurvita product was designed to offer no-hassle, easy-to-take-and-share nutrition. Having witnessed the company’s exponential growth after streamlining its product line from 11 to just one, the Jarvises and Jay Shafer were committed to promoting a simple message everyone could understand: simple, convenient, economical.
One of the most interesting aspects of this company’s story is that its fastest-growing demographic comes from small-town America. “Zeal Wellness has had almost an immediate impact in these smaller towns,” Jay says. “I would love to say that was our strategy, but it wasn’t—it just happened.”
Even while Zurvita embraces its small-town growth, however, company leadership is thinking beyond borders. Effective July 1, Zurvita entered the Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore. Corporate team members have partnered with Zurvita ambassadors (independent distributors who have achieved the highest level of success in the salesforce) to gain traction in each of these markets.
A new representative can start her Zurvita business as a sales consultant for a minimal amount, then move up to the managing consultant level after adding her first three new team members. From there, a managing consultant can progress to the senior, regional and executive consultant levels, then national and presidential director levels, followed by ambassador. The pinnacle of success is the level of crown ambassador, which takes five ambassador organizations to reach. Although nobody’s reached it yet, Mark estimates it to be just a matter of time.
Zurvita has embraced a grassroots approach to its growth strategy, entering each market slowly, deliberately, and with one product—Zeal Wellness. Then the company introduces additional products after it has established a loyal following in that market. “There’s no fanfare at the beginning,” Mark says. “We just get people on the product. It’s a conservative approach.”
The company’s training and educational initiatives are based on helping new consultants to hit the ground running, before the dust can settle, so to speak.
The Zurvita Success System is designed to teach consultants how to achieve a quick win—earning a bonus during their first 30 days in business. During their second month in business, they’re shown how to repeat those earnings—and establish a success story as early as possible that they can share confidently and enthusiastically with others. Monthly promotions and contests are designed to encourage the maintenance of that early momentum. One such promotion is “Destination Success,” in which all consultants who move up in rank qualify for a cruise.
Zurvita’s high performers also may qualify to earn the use of cars; the company’s options include Mercedes, Cadillac and BMW, giving prospective and new team members a glimpse of the potential of this business opportunity.
To better serve its consultants and support the company’s growth, Zurvita began developing a new IT infrastructure last year. Now equipped with more data and flexibility, plans are underway for the company to introduce additional technological tools that will help develop consultants’ business acumen and product knowledge and, ultimately, drive additional recruitment. In the meantime, consultants take advantage of company-provided, personalized websites, where their customers can shop around the clock. Some 50,000 people have liked the company’s Facebook page, where the news feed contains pointers for health and wellness and consultants relay their personal success stories.
Zurvita utilizes SMS technology to send a quick and easy offer that consultants can share with potential team members. After texting “Do you have a minute?” to their prospects, consultants text an informational video link to those who agree. The video includes the opportunity for prospects to try a Zurvita product sample pack. The intent is to blend the convenience of technology and the personal, grassroots approach for which Zurvita has become known. No matter how many technological offerings it rolls out, the company remains mindful of the fact that in many of its most successful markets, parties, personal testimonials and individualized service will never go out of style.
Celebrating Wins at Every Level
The spotlight is big enough for everyone at Zurvita events. “You don’t see the same people on stage at all of our events. We showcase the next man up, so to speak,” Mark says. When you consider that Zurvita’s typical consultant has had no prior experience in direct selling before starting a Zurvita business, each win is justifiably reason to celebrate. The company strives to help new consultants realize their first win right out of the starting gate—and that tangible success can empower them toward a succession of more wins.
“Our job is really to build relationships with up-and-comers,” says Tracy. “We pull them in and make them feel totally connected to the company. We just love on these people and make them feel appreciated. It keeps people engaged and moving forward.” In fact, corporate leadership is so committed to empowering “the next man up,” they join Zurvita sales support staff to work the phones until midnight during every month-end close, reaching out to representatives who are on the cusp of promotion and offering that extra shot of encouragement.
Based on the philosophy “The higher you climb, the more you serve,” the company maintains an eye on succession within the independent salesforce, teaching Zurvita ambassadors to raise up their replacements. “We’re replacing our army, so to speak,” Jay says.
Giving to Others
Zurvita’s corporate social responsibility initiatives are relatively recent, having spent its first few years as a struggling company in search of an identity. Now beginning to reap the rewards of its hard-fought success, Zurvita is in a place to share with others. In January 2014, employees and independent salesforce members ventured on a mission trip to Nicaragua to build two water wells—an experience they’ll repeat in Nicaragua in January 2015 under the name of “Zeal for Life.” On Aug. 23, 2014, Zurvita kicked off its “Feed 500” program, which challenges employees and independent salesforce members to feed at least 500 hungry people in 24 hours. During the inaugural event in Houston, volunteers packed lunches and delivered them everywhere they identified need, whether it was a homeless man on the street or an inner-city homeless shelter. It’s an experience Zurvita plans to replicate each month in various locations throughout the United States.
Three years after relaunching on a platform of wellness, the company is reaping the rewards of its deliberate, strategic approach to market expansion and brand marketing. Whether the results are seen in Zurvita’s revenue—potentially reaching $90 million for 2014—growth of its 30,000-plus independent consultants through a small-town network, or expansion already into five new international markets, the company plans to stay around for the long term, bringing wealth and wellness to an eager audience.