Leading with Empathy: A Conversation with Frank VanderSloot, CEO of Melaleuca

Frank VanderSloot has etched his name as one of the leading figures in the corporate landscape. But beyond the numbers and company acronyms, his leadership narrative rests on the unique foundation of empathy. This is a look into how Frank VanderSloot, CEO of Melaleuca, translated his empathy into actions that saved an industry and advocated for the voiceless.

The Savior of Eastern Idaho Dairies

The repercussions were palpable in the late 90s when Kraft Foods decided to shut down a cheddar factory in Blackfoot, Idaho. Over a hundred family-operated dairies stood on the brink of bankruptcy, and hundreds were about to lose their jobs.

But as the community grappled with this impending catastrophe, two dairymen, Gaylen Claysen and Merlin Morgan, refused to bow down to adversity. Their quest to save the factory led them to the doorsteps of Frank VanderSloot. Not only did VanderSloot rise to the occasion by donating a hefty sum, but when mismanagement jeopardized the facility once again, he went above and beyond, buying out the factory, investing millions in it, and ensuring its sustainability.

The result? A community was saved. In 2013, Glanbia Foods, the world’s leading producer of American-style cheese, acquired the factory, and the dairies thrived. But at the heart of this revival story was Frank VanderSloot, a man whose investment was rooted not in the promise of financial returns but in the well-being of his community.

A Legal Defense Fund Against Medical Debt Collectors

But VanderSloot’s philanthropic endeavors didn’t end there. The CEO, in recent times, has been actively fighting against dubious medical debt collection practices in Idaho. After discovering that an employee of his was charged exorbitantly over a minuscule bill, he delved deeper into the issue. The result was the creation of the Idaho Medical Debt Legal Fund, a defense system against predatory debt collection practices.

The initiative has made a tangible impact, with almost 500 people reaching out to VanderSloot for assistance and over 35 debt cases settled in favor of the defendant. Furthermore, VanderSloot’s firm stance against these agencies has ignited a conversation about transparency, ethics, and fairness in debt collection.

Frank’s crusade against what he deems a “scam” hasn’t been without its challenges. He has been met with resistance, as epitomized by the reactions of Medical Recovery Services, one of the agencies at the center of this maelstrom. Despite this, VanderSloot remains undeterred and is working on legislation regulating these questionable debt-collection practices.


Frank VanderSloot’s journey underscores a vital lesson for leaders across the spectrum – empathy isn’t just a trait; it’s an action. From saving an entire industry to fighting for the underdog against questionable debt collection practices, VanderSloot’s story is a testament to how empathy-driven leadership can create ripples of positive change. It is a powerful reminder that true leadership often places community above commerce and people above profits.

Karen Wilson

Karen Wilson brings a wealth of knowledge in HR and talent development. Her articles are rich with insights on company culture, executive coaching, and the dynamics of building a successful team in the modern workplace.