Fi caught up with Byron John Johnson, the newly appointed chairman of International Alliance of Food/Dietary Supplement Associations (IADSA) and nutrition industry relations director for Access Business Group/Nutrilite, a subsidiary of Alticor and Amway Global. We spoke with him about his deep roots in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Fi: Your Swedish grandfather, Nells John Johnson, played a significant role in your upbringing. One might say he helped you carve out the ideals and principles that guide your life today. What can you tell us about him?
BJJ: My grandfather migrated to this country from Sweden. He first landed in Louisiana, but the weather was too humid and hot for his Swedish blood, so he settled in the Upper Peninsula (UP) in Michigan. He first worked in the iron mines, but was injured and lost a leg. From then on, he worked as a sawyer, a lumberjack with a special talent for selecting and cutting lumber. I inherited his love for timber and chainsaws (I own six chainsaws). My family and friends say I have sawdust in my veins. After any storm, my phone rings off the hook from neighbors who need help with tree clean-up."
Fi: Other than an affinity for chain-saws, what lessons did your grandfather teach you that help in your business life today?
BJJ: For the time, my grandfather was a large man — 6 feet tall. His imposing height was hard to miss in the small UP community of Ironwood, Michigan. But it was his honesty that stayed with people. His nickname, Honest John Johnson, reflected his integrity and his stature in the community. My father, my son and I all proudly share his middle name, and it serves us all as a reminder that honesty and integrity go a long way in life. Honest John taught us that your actions reflect in your business and on your family.
In my new role with IADSA, it is imperative that the organisation represents this sense of trust and integrity, especially when discussing policy for dietary-supplements regulations and GMPs. My grandfather knew as a sawyer, and a miner, not to cut corners. He always asked me, 'Do you like to sleep at night? If so, then always try to be a role model.' The IADSA is that role model for the industry.
The other lesson he taught me was patience. For as long as I can remember, my grandfather whittled every chance he got. He carved a wooden flail (ball and chain) from a single piece of wood. I cherish it as a reminder of his persistence and patience, which are the foundation of any great man and an organisation like IADSA.