When you’re a person who holds passionate political beliefs and strong ideas about social and civic policies, it helps to be a billionaire. That makes it easier to exert a certain sway and exert key influences in areas that can result in positive social and business advancements.


Such is the case for Michigan’s Dick DeVos. His father was a co-founder of the Amway corporation, the multilevel marketing giant that changed the way Americans purchases home care and personal wellness products.


Dick DeVos is often identified as “the heir to the Amway fortune” by media observers. That’s unfortunate since it makes DeVos seem like he’s just another born-with-a-silver-spoon kind of frat boy who has enjoyed a life of advantage and privilege.


However, a closer look at the career of Dick DeVos makes him appear more like a self-made man who made his mark as one of America’s hardest working and savviest businessmen. It’s true that DeVos went to work for his father’s company after earning a degree in business administration at Northwood University, but nothing was handed to him.


DeVos started as a bottom-rung manager. Through sheer hard work and grit, he worked his way steadily up the ranks and eventually achieved the position of vice president of Amway’s foreign operations. When DeVos took over the job, foreign sales accounted for just 5% of Amway’s revenue. Eight years later, under the leadership of DeVos, that grew to 50%.


Dick DeVos would later serve as president and the CEO of Amway. He left his duties for a while to take over as CEO of the NBA’s Orlando Magic after his family acquired the team in 1991. Just in his early 30s, DeVos earned respect and high praise within the sporting industry for his constructive and even-handed management of the team’s affairs.