Q&A with Al Bala, President and CEO of Mannatech
In 2005 a class-action lawsuit was filed against Mannatech for alleged violations of the Securities Exchange Act. Mannatech settled this lawsuit by agreeing to pay $11.25 million in 2008.
After an investigation by the Texas Attorney General for alleged violations of state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the company settled the complaint too, in 2009 and paid a total of $6 million. In addition, CEO Sam Caster agreed to pay another $1 million civil penalty and not to assume any type of leadership position or employment relationship with Mannatech for five years.
Mannatech’s business was in a downward trend a while ago. It seems it has changed direction and company has been posting positive results both in sales and profits lately. In Direct Selling News magazine’s DSN Global 100 list, Mannatech ranks the 73rd with $190 million sales in 2014. The company now offers nutritional products and a skin care line in 25 countries.
Let’s see what the current CEO Al Bala has to say about himself, the company and where he plans to take Mannatech in the coming years.
Could we start with knowing more about your educational background and work experiences before joining Mannatech?
My background is in engineering; and before coming to Mannatech, I served as Chief Operating Officer of Britt Worldwide, LLC, one of the largest independent Amway network marketing organizations. While with Britt Worldwide, I was heavily involved in the launch and re-launch of more than 60 international markets. Before that I served as manufacturing plant manager for Bose Corporation from 1987 to 1992.
In total I have more than 35 years in the direct sales industry, with 28 of those years working in the field. So I’ve learned a few things over the years about direct sales and what people in the field have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Regarding education, my philosophy is that you need to constantly be learning and improving yourself. Personal development is one of my favorite hobbies, and that is why we stress it for our Mannatech Associates. My own experience is that if you are not learning, you are going to fall behind and not be able to compete in the direct sales marketplace.
What made you join Mannatech?
Having been in direct sales for years, I knew about Mannatech long before I joined. The company’s products were and remain some of the most unique and effective in the supplement industry. I have seen how Mannatech’s products really impact and change people’s lives. The other thing that attracted me to Mannatech was its unique global, seamless compensation plan which enables an Associate to start their business and automatically be able to operate in 25 countries.
You have been with the company for more than eight years now. In your opinion, what were the major accomplishments in this period?
Two things. Firstly, opening up Mannatech to a wider global audience is something I’m very proud of. During the time I’ve been here, we’ve expanded into 15 additional countries, including South Africa, Mexico, Scandinavia and soon, Colombia.
Secondly, Mannatech has long been known as having powerful, life-changing products, supported by science. I’m proud of the changes we’re currently making to ensure that we’ll also be known for how Associate-centric the company is. That is, providing our Associates with all that they need to build safe, long-term businesses with unique and potent products. We are leveraging our scientific legacy to become a strong, marketing company. Our leadership works every day to ensure our Associates are the company’s top priority and that their success is paramount.
In October 2015, you were promoted to CEO role, retaining the title of President. Having been so familiar with the company, what priorities did you set for yourself and for Mannatech?
A couple of years ago the company began down a path that, in 2016, will come to fruition to create a whole new Mannatech. This includes a whole new brand, back office system and a set of consumer friendly products that will facilitate a massive customer acquisition. But the priority for me personally is to build an entrepreneurial culture that is fully realized by all of our Associates and mirrored by our corporate staff. We can’t succeed if only a handful of our Associates are driven and have the tools to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit, and equally so, our corporate team will share in that spirit to ensure Associates achieve their dreams.
We are working to create greater opportunities for our Associates, and with a powerful culture supporting those efforts, we are a force to be reckoned with.
As it has been only months, it might be early to ask this but have you been able to make achievements in any of these high-priority areas?
18 months ago the new brand, back office and products were just a dream, and now we are just a handful of weeks from unveiling all of those initiatives to the world. I’d say that has been a huge undertaking by the company and we are going to shake up the direct sales industry with the changes we’re making.
The focal point of the evolution of Mannatech will be at MannaFest 2016 in Dallas. At this global event, thousands of our Associates will witness and be a part of our transformation. It is an exciting time for Mannatech.
Mannatech generated year-over-year revenue and profit growths in 2013 and 2014. Do you expect this to continue or are there any challenges ahead?
We’ve spent the last few years building an infrastructure to support global expansion and improved support of our Associates. Mannatech continues to support its 2020 vision that by the year 2020, it will be in the top 20 companies within the industry and operate in more than 50 countries. We will continue our growth and touch more lives around the globe. There are always challenges to face, but I believe we have built a platform for success that will take us forward for many years.
What else do you have on your desk for Mannatech for 2016?
As if transforming the company isn’t enough, we have just opened operations in Colombia this month, the golden door to Latin America, and we have a strategy to increase our engagement in Asia, with expansion plans into China.
And once we reveal our new back office, product and brand, we’ll take that momentum and turn it into wins for our Associates. I feel like 2016 will be a landmark year for Mannatech and that we will be the place to be if you are in the direct sales industry.
One last question about the health claims issue: Critics say Mannatech’s success has been boosted by unverifiable product claims. Would you like to comment on this?
That is ancient history. Today we have a compliance program that is the model for the nutritional supplement industry. We work every day to ensure we are compliant and that we meet all regulatory mandates. The challenges in our past are just that, and today you will find a Mannatech where our Associates can build a safe, sustainable business anywhere in the world.
Mannatech makes a promise of wellness through its products, and much of what Mannatech promises is backed by science. Currently, 17 human clinical trials have been published, 13 of which were double-blind, placebo-controlled studies — the gold standard for product validation. In addition, Mannatech’s quality assurance program complies with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s current Good Manufacturing Practices for dietary supplements, and many of Mannatech’s core products are certified by NSF International.
With more than 100 patents in major global markets, the company has established itself as a leading, worldwide developer of unique, high-value, quality health and wellness technology. Our belief in this way of doing business is why we have committed millions of dollars to research and development. It is why we tirelessly seek to patent our technology in major global markets.
Would you like to add anything to what we have covered so far?
I am so proud to be the leader of a company like Mannatech. It is an exciting time to be part of this great company and all of the transformational efforts we are about to unveil. I am proud of the spirit and excitement I feel every day from our Associates.