Incentives, Rewards, and Pink Cadillacs: Know more about the unique business strategies of this female entrepreneur! [Monday: Marketing Marvels]
Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more.
A Note from Miles Everson:
We hope you’re having a great day so far.
Let’s start the week vigorously and with inspiration from a “Marketing Marvel.” Each Monday, we feature these kinds of people and talk about their work, insights, experiences, and contributions in the world of business and marketing.
Today, let’s focus on a phenomenal female entrepreneur who opened doors of opportunities for women and broke stereotypes in the industry.
Know more about her humble beginnings and learn empowering business insights from her own brand of cosmetics by reading the article below.
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute
Gender discrimination comes in various forms for today’s working women.
According to a 2017 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 4 in 10 working women in the US say they experience unfair treatment in their jobs because of gender. Their experiences range from earning less than their male counterparts to being passed over for important assignments or promotions.
Fact: Today’s “Marvel” also experienced discrimination early on in her career… but instead of giving in or giving up, she turned her failures and frustrations into a billion dollar success by establishing her own business.
To let the whole world know that women are as capable in the workplace as men!
Mary Kay Ash (May 12, 1918 to November 22, 2001) is the founder of beauty and make-up company Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. She was born in Hot Wells, Texas and was raised by her mother who first worked as a nurse and later became a restaurant manager.
Photo from Entrepreneur
Ash entered the workforce and joined a direct sales company while she was a teenager—she eagerly wanted to contribute to her family’s meager income. As a teenage working professional, she trained thousands of men and became the company’s National Training Director.
However, her job wasn’t without its fair share of prejudice…
Many times, Ash was overlooked for senior roles despite having a wide range of experiences and the right set of qualifications. In 1962, when the company promoted her male trainee to be her supervisor—and for double the pay—she decided it was the last straw for her.
Disgusted with the prevailing inequality at her workplace, she took an early retirement and set out to write a guide to help other women avoid the pitfalls she faced in a male-dominated corporate world.
Ash wrote two lists in the guide. In the first one, she outlined her negative experiences. In the second one, she detailed the qualities she thought would constitute an ideal business. A “dream company” that would:
- Treat everyone equally
- Base promotions on merit
- Choose products based on sales performance and marketability rather than profitability
After creating the list, Ash realized she created a feasible direct sales company and thought,
“Why am I theorizing about a dream company? Why don’t I just start one?”
… and that’s exactly what she did.
The Beginning of the Company that Pioneered Women Empowerment in the Business World
Coming out of retirement in 1963, Ash used her USD 5,000 personal savings (USD 47,000 in today’s currency) to establish her own direct sales company that specialized in selling beauty products—the Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc.
Her first instruction to her sales team was to show consumers how Mary Kay products could help improve their overall appearance instead of using high-pressure pitches. She said no other company had ever tried this technique before.
True enough, the marketing strategy paid off!
Photo from Byrdie
In just 3 months, Mary Kay products’ sales totaled USD 34,000 (USD 319,000 in today’s currency) and by the end of the first year, the number rose to a whopping USD 198,000 (USD 1.9 million in today’s currency). After the second year of the company, its sales quadrupled to USD 800,000 (USD 7.5 million in today’s currency) and its workforce grew to over 3,000 employees.
Today, Mary Kay Cosmetics is one of the largest direct sellers of skincare products in the US. The company is not only loved by consumers, but also recognized for its kind and equal treatment towards its employees.
Here are some of the lessons you can learn from Ash’s experiences and how she built her company:
- Innovation contributes to success.
In the beginning of her business, Ash treated her sales representatives as “beauty consultants” to enhance their profile with an increased sense of importance.
She also managed her company differently compared to other businesses in her time—she believed in rewarding her employees with incentives and bonuses rather than tiring them out with unattainable sales quotas and slashing their profit percentage.
Ash created innovative strategies to sell more of her beauty products! These included throwing at-home parties and other events during product sales and setting up the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation.
These strategies let consumers know that Mary Kay Cosmetics is not all about gaining profits; the brand is also about providing genuine and memorable experiences for both workers and customers.
- Incentivization is important.
Ash introduced a new system of profit sharing for all her employees—each worker was entitled to a percentage of the profits Mary Kay Cosmetics earned over a year.
According to Ash, this motivated her workforce to work harder and smarter, considering a portion of their income was dependent on the firm’s overall performance and not only on their performance.
That’s not all!
Aside from profit sharing, Ash went above and beyond to recognize talented and hardworking employees. She held an annual competition among her sales representatives and gifted the winners with brand new pink Cadillacs.
Photo from Mary Kay News Hub
At that time, no other business had ever done that for their top-performing employees!
Ash always requested that the cars she would give as a reward be painted in pink because she believed the color symbolizes women’s superior strength and gentle nature.
- Respect for both employees and customers is a must.
Ash was an ardent believer of the Golden Rule:
“Treat others like you would want to be treated.”
This motto helped foster a culture of respect and dignity in the company, and women employees felt comfortable knowing that Ash has got their back.
Meanwhile, the Golden Rule also helped put Mary Kay Cosmetics on the business map. By showing respect to consumers, the company earned their trust and loyalty, which led to more people buying beauty products from the brand.
Ash was one of the foremost women entrepreneurs during her time. In fact, Lifestyle Television recognized her as the “Most Outstanding Businesswoman of the 20th Century.” She also received the Horatio Alger Achievement Award, an award given only to those who rose from humble beginnings to high levels of success.
It wasn’t only in the business and marketing industries that Ash inspired millions of people. As a writer, her first book, “Mary Kay on People Management,” drew wide acclaim and eventually became a Wall Street Journal bestseller.
She also invested much of her time in charity work through the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. She donated to victims of domestic abuse and supported women who are aspiring to be entrepreneurs.
Last but not the least…
Ash was admired all over the world for the goodness she carried in herself and the same goodness she sought in every person she met.
She saw the invisible “I’m important” sign on everyone and made them feel respected and valued.
… and because of that, she not only forged her own path but also created better opportunities for others, especially women, in the workplace.
Get inspired by Mark Kay Ash’s remarkable contributions in the industry!
With a “can do” and “never give up” attitude, you can also contribute to making the business world a better place and uplift your employees and customers through genuinely kind interactions.
“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember you can achieve.”
– Mary Kay Ash
(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Monday Marketing Marvels”
Too often, industry experts and the marketing press sing the praises of some brand or company’s marketing strategy.
… only for the audience to later find out that its product was a flop, or worse, that the brand or company went bankrupt.
The true ROI in marketing can’t be separated from the business as a whole.
What good is a marketing case study if one can’t prove that the company’s efforts actually paid off?
At the end of the day, either the entire business is successful or it isn’t. And the roles of marketing and communication are always paramount to that success.
Every Monday, we publish a case study that highlights the world’s greatest marketing strategies, marketers, and communicators.
However, the difference between our articles and the numerous ones out there is that we will always make certain that the firm really did generate and demonstrate earning power worthy of study in the first place (compliments of Valens Research’s finance group) in keeping with a person’s leadership skills in the area of marketing and/or communication.
We’ll also study the greatest marketing fails and analyze what they did wrong, or what they needed to improve. We all make our mistakes, but better we learn from others’ mistakes—and earlier, rather than later.
Hope you found this week’s marketing marvel interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next week’s Monday Marketing Marvels!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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