Orville & Heidi Thompson: That Scentsy Spirit

2020 Bravo Leadership Award Winners

At Scentsy, there is a spacial, hard-to-define quality that characterizes the company’s leaders, consultants and employees. It’s a common spirit that exists among the people of Scentsy and is defined by their aspirations and values in kind. It’s an infectious ethos that calls them to succeed and grow to their utmost potential. This enchanted essence is sometimes referred to as “Scentsy Spirit.”

“Scentsy Spirit is important to us and to our consultants,” says Orville Thompson, Scentsy CEO. “Our Consultants say Scentsy Spirit is hard to define, but easy to feel. It means something to them, and we really try to protect it.”

What anchors this spirited culture is the husband-and-wife tea of Orville and Heidi Thompson, owners of the direct selling giant, Scentsy, and the recipients of this year’s Bravo Leadership Award, an honor that recognizes those whose exceptional leadership qualities have propelled their company to extraordinary new heights.

Ranked at No. 22 on the Direct Selling News 2020 Global 100 list—with revenue of $472 million in 2019—Scentsy is the industry-leading direct seller of scented products, including wax warmers. The home-and-personal-fragrance market leader boasts nearly 134,000 consultants and more than 1,000 employees who work out of the company’s home office on a campus of 73 acres in Meridian, Idaho, or in other facilities around the globe. On average, Scentsy manufactures 238,000 products per day, including fragrance and décor for home and travel; wax warmers; essential oil diffusers; scented plush toys; laundry and cleaning products; personal care; and pet care.

“It hasn’t always been easy, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but we have always been anchored by our culture,” says Heidi Thompson, Scentsy Co-CEO. “A key aspect of great leadership is to see yourself as the steward of a culture, not the owner of a business. We see ourselves as stewards of Scentsy-ness.”

Scentsy Spirit sometimes manifests as the Thompsons’ intuitive approach to decision-making, always with the ethos of contributing more than they take. “Often, Orville and Heidi purposefully bypass conventional business strategy in exchange for opportunities for the greater good,” says Christopher Johnson, Scentsy Chief Technology Officer. “Their positivity and creativity instill hope, aspiration, and belief in all of us.”

A Category Creator

More than 15 years ago, before Scentsy was officially launched by the Thompsons on July 1, 2004, Orville and Heidi were cash-strapped and looking for a business opportunity. Earlier that year, they met two ladies who had just founded a fledgling company named Scentsy at a home and garden show.

“The real brilliant idea of Scentsy was taking two things that existed—candle wax and potpourri warmers—and bringing them together under a single brand and sold as a system,” Orville says. Heidi and Orville give credit for that idea to Scentsy’s Founders, Kara Egan and Colette Gunnell, the ladies from whom they bought the company.

By 2004, the Thompsons had bought Scentsy—on a wing and a prayer, and a promise of future royalties—and the rest is history. Today, the Thompsons are known and loved as category creators for their innovations in both the direct-selling and fragrance industries. What began as a bright idea—combining wax and warmers together in a single system—evolved into a unique line of scented products, many of which have been copycatted by big box stores and other retailers.

“We were the first to use innovative materials, the first to use glass, the first to use terra cotta, the first to use sandblasted porcelain,” Orville says. “We’re always trying new techniques and materials to fulfill our mission to sell creative, artistic, high-quality products.”

“The real brilliant idea of Scentsy was taking two things that existed—wax and warmers—and bringing them together.”
—Orville Thompson, Scentsy, C0-CEO

As the market-leading design innovator, Scentsy stays one step ahead. “We don’t look at others for inspiration on how to design our products,” Heidi says. “We always look to innovate; to be authentic.”

For the past several years, the Thompsons have led Scentsy to new growth through product licensing, partnering with household names like Major League Baseball, Mossy Oak, Jelly Belly®, Disney, Marvel and Star Wars. “We want to be the sought-after company in our category for brands like Disney to partner with,” Orville says.

Lindsay Randolph, Scentsy Chief Creative Officer, whose professional career includes serving in positions at industry-leading companies such as Mattel, Disney and now Scentsy, says Heidi and Orville have been exceptional role models for her personally as well as professionally.

“As partners in life as well as business, they bring a complementary perspective to every situation,” Lindsay says. “The successful outcome of this ideal collaborative partnership is like nothing I have experienced throughout my professional career.”

The Rudder and the Sail

As a couple married for almost 30 years, Heidi and Orville Thompson have a harmonious way of being in the world. The two seem to function as one. Their easy banter back and forth, their way of finishing each other’s sentences, and their utter lack of affectation, make them well-loved leaders in the direct selling industry.

Although they do not have separate functions—they both make decisions in all areas of running the company—Heidi tends to be naturally more cautious and circumspect. At the same time, Orville gravitates toward a forward-looking vision. Together, they make a harmonious whole.

“I’m the rudder, and he’s the sail,” Heidi says, referring to her husband. “I’m the realist, and Orville’s the optimist. We’ve worked together every day for the last 15 years. It has brought us closer together and melded us into one very well-rounded individual.”

As leaders at the helm of Scentsy’s ship, Orville and Heidi take their responsibilities seriously and with great respect for the people who depend on them. “I think that executive leaders have the responsibility of flow—money flow, people flow, product flow, idea flow,” Orville says. “We manage all of those different flows, and that empowers others to actually move the company forward.”

One of the wise ways Heidi and Orville protect Scentsy and its people has been to plan for a “black swan”—an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected and has potentially severe consequences, according to Investopedia. Of course, the black swan came to the world in the form of the coronavirus pandemic—an event that rocked many businesses to their core. The Thompsons, however, were prepared at a time when many businesses weren’t.

“We see ourselves as stewards of Scentsy‑ness.”
— Heidi Thompson, Scentsy, Co-CEO

“One of the principles we go by is we never spend this year’s money,” Heidi says. “When coronavirus came, we did not have any question about whether we would be able to pay our employees. That’s because we have all of last year’s profits and the year before that’s profits still in the business.”

An Inspiration too Others

Heidi and Orville motivate and inspire Scentsy’s consultants in the field and employees at the corporate office, simply by being who they are and mirroring the qualities of great leadership to those around them. “We are committed to contributing more than we take,” Heidi says. “When people realize that, they want to reciprocate.”

At a company event, the Thompsons are the kind of executive leaders who will spend hours of their time talking to consultants, taking pictures with them, and listening to their stories. The real-life proof of their leadership is captured by the sentiments others use to describe how the Thompsons inspire people to achieve their best.

“I think that executive leaders have the responsibility of flow–money flow, people flow, product flow, idea flow.” – Orville Thompson

“Heidi and Orville Thompson consistently affirm the worth and potential of those they lead,” says Deb Bowden, Scentsy Vice President of Consultant Development and Training. “They inspire us to see it in ourselves and, as a result, achieve better results.”

It’s this kind of selfless giving that characterizes Orville and Heidi Thompson and ensures Scentsy will lead the industry for years to come. “To truly have a great direct selling company, those who run it need to have a deep capacity to love others,” Orville says. “It is difficult to run a direct selling company if it is about you.” DSN