Dr. Rich DeVos, the Amway co-founder whose company has created millions of entrepreneurs around the world, began his chapel address at Palm Beach Atlantic University with words of advice for students poised to enter the workforce in challenging economic times.
"At this stage in life if you're looking for a job, you don't always have to just get a job. Think in terms of starting something of your own," Dr. DeVos said, speaking to a capacity crowd of students, alumni, faculty, staff and invited guests in the DeSantis Family Chapel.
"Everybody says, well, these are tough times, these are good times. It doesn't matter. It's your time. This is the only time you have. And you'd better decide to do something with the time you have now, because this is it," the 84-year-old owner of the NBA's Orlando Magic said.
During the chapel service, one of the highlights of this year's Homecoming Week, Dr. DeVos shared several life lessons as well as excerpts from his fourth book, Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People. He also spoke about his first business venture, a flying school that he and a partner started that was a precursor to Amway. At the time, neither he nor his partner knew how to fly, he said.
"You don't have to know everything to do something," he said. "In fact if you wait until you know everything to do something, you won't do anything."
After starting that business and later taking a sailing trip to the Caribbean and South America, Dr. DeVos started the groundbreaking direct sales company Amway Corp. in 1959 with his late partner and lifelong friend Jay Van Andel. The company now operates in more than 80 countries and territories and enables more than 3 million people to own independent businesses.
"I marvel at what God has done through us," he said.
He said his book came about when he decided to write down all of the phrases he had used in encouraging and enriching others over the years. The resulting phrases were deceptively simple yet powerful, such as "I'm sorry," "You can do it" and "I'm proud of you."
He said he always remembered the words that a high school teacher, Dr. Leonard Greenway, wrote in his yearbook: To a clean-cut young man with talents for leadership in God's Kingdom. "I never forgot that word of encouragement when I needed a word of encouragement," he said.
Dr. DeVos and his wife, Helen, support hospitals, colleges and universities, arts organizations and Christian causes both in their hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., and in Central Florida. He said he prays with the Orlando Magic players on a regular basis.
"That's why we bought a team, so we could do that," he said, "and I hope that they would influence others."