BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING
Whatever women do they must do twice as well
as men to be thought half as good, Luckily, this
is not difficult
CHARLOTTE WHI TTON
* * * * * * * * * *
F RIDAY THE 13TH IS A VERY LUCKY DAY FOR MARY KAY ASH BECAUSE she opened the doors of her cosmetics company on Friday, September 13, 1963. After working for twenty-five years in direct sales, she had retired earlier that year and intended to write a book about sales to help younger women. She had been frustrated in her own career because she had hit the glass ceiling—the artificial limits placed on a woman’s career in the male-dominated world of business.
Mary Kay started her business in a 500 -square-foot store in Dallas, Texas. She stocked nine beauty products that were displayed on a shelf purchased from Sears Roebuck and Company . Her first eleven employees were her twenty-year-old son, Richard, nine beauty consultants, and a secretary. Mary Kay’s initial assets were her life savings of $5,000. her dream of building a company that was run by the Golden Rule, and her years of sales experience.
In 1991 the retail value of the company’s sales topped $1 billion. How did the retired saleswoman with a little store become a cosmetics giant? She tapped into an enormous resource: housewives and other women who were never let through the door of corporate America. She made them into sales consultants who bought products from the company and sold them to other women. Today, 1993, there are approximately 300,000 Mary Kay Cosmetics sales consultants in nineteen countries on five continents. Remember her accomplishments when artificial barriers are placed on you.
I interviewed Mary Kay in Dallas , Texas, during a meeting for Mary Kay Cosmetics sales consultants and managers called Awards Seminar ‘93. While many people think a sales meeting with 500 people is a big deal, a Mary Kay Cosmetics Seminar means tha t 40,000 people—mostly perfectly coiffed women dressed in pink or red business suits—take over a city in four waves of 10,000 each. It was a scene that would warm the heart of any red-blooded capitalist.
If you’ve been reading this book carefully, you’ll notice that Mary Kay is the only person who declined to list her age. Actually, she wanted me to list it as “thirty through:’ Also, with the exception of “Victoria,” everyone is called by their last name. Somehow, using Mary Kay’s last name, Ash, didn’t seem right. She can only be Mary Kay.
WOMEN IN THE SIXTIES
IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MARY
KAY COSMETICS, YOU WON’T BE SUR-
PRISED TO FIND OUT THAT A SALES
CONSULTANT’S EARNING POTENTIAL OR
POSITION IS NOT LIMITED BY GENDER.
THIS POLICY IS A DIRECT RESULT OF
MARY KAY’S EXPERIENCE IN THE
I worked in the corporate world for twenty-five years. In my last position I was the only person on the road for my company, doing the recruiting and training . I needed an assistant in the worst possible way—if you divide forty-three states into fifty-two weeks, you see that I didn’t get to a state but once a year.
I took a man, an ex-tablecloth-salesman, out on the road with me, who I thought was going to be my assistant, and I spent nine months teaching him everything. When I went back to the headquarters in Dallas, I found out that the president of the company had hired a firm from Chicago to find out why we weren’t growing faster.
Here is what they came up with: Mary Kay was so powerful that she could take the company away because customers didn’t know who the president of the company was. Then I found out that the man I had been training for nine months was going to be my boss at twice my pay . That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I went home and cried all night—which is strictly a female thing to do [sarcastically] It was probably one of the saddest days of my life, because I had worked for that company for eleven years----sometimes eighteen to twenty hours a day. If the owner had called the next day, I would have gone back. Being told that I could leave the company and take all its customers with me hurt my feelings because nobody was more loyal than I was.
For several weeks I sat at the dining room table trying to clear my heart of the very bitterness I felt. To do that I took a legal-sized pad and wrote down everything good the companies I had been with had done. After two weeks of writing down everything good, I had cleared my heart of the bitterness. Then I took another legal pad and wrote down all the problems the companies had.
For example, when I asked the question, How do I get from here to there? the answer was, You are in the wrong body. in the early sixties women were not even considered for executive positions—people assumed that because you were a female, you could not do it. They never gave any consideration to your ability, your talent, or anything like that.
Then I thought, If you are so smart, what would you do if you had the opportunity and the responsibility to solve these problems? I wrote what I would have done, and then I read both pads in preparation for writing a book that would help women overcome the obstacles I had encountered. When I read the pads, I realized that I had written a marketing plan that would give women an open-ended opportunity. One day I thought, Wouldn’t it be great if somebody did something with this plan. Instead of just writing about it? So the book didn’t get written for twenty years.
STARTING MARY KAY COSMETICS
MARY KAY INTENDED TO START HER
COMPANY WITH THE HELP OF HER HIJS-
BAND. SHE WAS GOING TO HANDLE PRO-
DUCT DEVELOPMENT, RECRUITMENT, TRAIN-ING,
AND SALES. HE WAS GOING TO HANDLE
ACCOUNTING AND ADMINISTRATION.
UNFORTUNATELY IT DIDN’T OUT THAT WAY.
One month to the day before we would start, my husband died of a heart attack at the breakfast table. We had spent or committed every penny to the business, so on the afternoon of the funeral, I met with my two sons and daughter and sought their advice. My son Richard, who was twenty at the time, said, “Mother, I’ll move to Dallas tomorrow to help you.” He had a brand-new bride of two months, and she screamed all the way from Houston when he quit his job to do this stupid thing with his mother.
How would you like to turn your life savings over to your twenty-year-old? I saw Richard as a kid fresh out of school. I thought he could pick up the boxes I couldn’t. I wasn’t sure he would even be able to ftll an order, but he was the only thing I had. My other son, Ben, was the kind of kid you couldn’t get up in the morning, and if you got him up, you couldn’t get him dressed. If you got him dressed, you couldn’t get his breakfast down him. If you got his breakfast down him and sent him to school, the school would send him home.
He heard Richard say he’d move to Dallas to help me, and he said, “I’d like to come and help you and Richard one of these days when you need me.” I thought, Heaven forbid! In the meantime, he reached in his breast pocket and pulled out a savings passbook with $4,500 in it and said , “Mom, I think you can do anything in the world that you want to do . Whatever you want to do with this, you can have it” ----this is from a child who has been put down all of his life because of his antics. That’s the day I forgave him for all that stuff’. [Laughs.]
My attorneys sent for a pamphlet to tell me how many cosmetics companies went broke, to discourage me. My accountant told me that I could not give the large commissions I was proposing—50 percent instead of the usual 30 percent—and that we’d go broke in six weeks. I handed my daughter a sample case and said, “You start in Houston—do something with this.” People told me, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t have “a snowball’s chance in hell.”
So Richard, myself, and a secretary and nine consultants—well, they were just friends of mine who didn’t have the heart to say no—started the business in 500 square feet of space in Exchange Park. I don’t think the consultants intended to stay around. That was our crazy start.
MARY KAY HAS A LOT TO SAY ABOUT
SELF-CONFIDENCE, MAKING IT FROM
SCRATCH, THE GLASS CEILING, AND
OTHER PROFESSIONAL ISSUES. SHE’S
ALSO ONE OF THE NATION’S TOP
BUSINESSWOMEN. HERE ARE SOME
WORDS OF WISDOM FOR WOULD-
lf you want to build a company, go work for somebody who is already doing what you want to do, and learn from their successes and their failures before you invest your money. As I drive to work I see signs along the highway: Grand Opening September 10th or something. Sure enough, they open after they spent $100,000 on the decor. Three months later, they’re out of business. Why? Because they didn’t thoroughly investigate where they were putting their business.
My ace in the hole was that I had twenty-five years of experience in direct sales. I knew how to sell, how to train, and how to do everything except the administrative end—that is where Richard came in. What do you have to have to start a really good direct-sales company? First of all, you have to have a product that is so good that people will hunt you up to buy it, because in direct sales, people can’t buy it in a department store or drugstore.
Secondly, you have to have something that your salespeople can believe in so much that they can sell it. At the time we started, our saleswomen did not believe in their own God-given ability. They would say , “If I can..... I hope,,... Maybe ,,,,
Cosmetics was an ideal product for me to start with for two reasons. First, it is something that women all feel they are experts in at age twenty. Second, I had been using a local woman’s cosmetics products for ten years, and I thought they were the best thing I had ever had on my face. People I met would say, Mary Kay, what are you doing to your face? Did you have a face lift? What’s happened?
The woman who made them never really got the thing off the ground because she sold them out of her little home beauty shop at the wrong end of town, and, as we say in Texas, “That dog won’t hunt.” So I went out and bought the formulations from her heirs after she died. I took the formulations to a man here in Dallas who had forty years of experience in producing cosmetics. He thought so much of my idea that he turned it over to his young son and said, “Make this stuff for this woman. We’ll never see her again.
PRAISING PEOPLE TO SUCCESS
MARY KAY TRIES TO RUN HER COMPANY
LIKE A FAMILY. SHE ATTRIBUTES MUCH
OF HER SUCCESS TO USING PRAISE AND
UNDERSTANDING TO MOTIVATE HER
Mary Kay Cosmetics stands for an opportunity to give women an equal chance. The lesson I learned is that if you establish your philosophy as God first, family second, career third, you can succeed. Women understand that. They want to be a good mother and a good wife, but they want to have some success in their lives. They want a career.
It’s been estimated that more women have cumulatively earned over one million dollars from Mary Kay Cosmetics than from any other career. Our top national sales director will probably earn over one million dollars in commissions this year alone. The eighty national sales directors average commissions well into six figures a year, and we have hundreds of other sales consultants earning over $50,000 a year.
We have done this by giving women confidence and self-esteem. Sometimes women come to my office, and I’ll say, “Tell me your name.” They go whhh [mumbling] They have such a lack of confidence that they can’t even tell you who they are. Three to six months later, the same perso,n comes back, and she’ll say, “Mary Kay, I’m so and so.” I think to myself, Could this be the same woman I met three months ago?
This is accomplished by praising people to success. We give them a ribbon after they attain their first sales goal. They pin it on, and they probably wear it to bed! Then we give them another ribbon when they meet a second, higher goal. We applaud them. We applaud everything they do right.
We call our meetings success meetings—not sales meetings. The directors are taught to applaud their people to success. This is like giving encouragement to a baby as it learns to walk. We develop self-esteem. We teach them to sell. In the meantime we are teaching them to be experts at makeup. All these things added together give them confidence.
When I have to criticize somebody—which is seldom—I never do it behind a desk. Instead, I sit with her or with him on the couch. First I tell them something they did that was just terrific, and then I say, “By the way, would it be better if we did such and such in another way?” Then I praise them for something else, and the woman or the man walks out of there—not with their feathers all melted down, but with a good feeling—thinking that it might be a good idea and maybe they should do that. And like it was their idea.
MARY KAY IS ARGUABLY ONE OF
THE BEST SALESPEOPLE IN AMERICA.
WHAT ARE HER SECRETS?
First of all, if you can gain the trust of the person you are selling to, your sale is half made, and you have to know your product to be able to gain the trust of the buyer. If you know your product well enough, you can present it correctly and with integrity.
Second, you need to be able to express yourself, so take a Dale Carnegie course or something like that. Learn how to express yourself in front of people. We start off with people having a training week in which they book five of their close friends so they are not so inhibited. They hold these sessions to get confidence so that when they book somebody who is not a friend, they’ll have the confidence to stand up in front of them.
JUGGLING SPOUSE, CHILDREN, AND CAREER
MOST MARY KAY COSMETICS SALES
CONSULTANTS ARE WOMEN WHO
ARE FILLING MULTIPLE ROLES AS
MOTHER, WIFE, AND BUSINESSWOMAN.
MARY KAY TEACHES THEM HOW TO
AVOID BEING STRETCHED TOO THIN.
Men don’t spend dollar time on penny jobs. They don’t stay home and iron the shirts and vacuum the floor and all that foolishness. They have enough sense to let somebody else do that, but women have a terrible time doing this . It doesn’t matter who scrubs the floor as long as it gets scrubbed, right? So I try to encourage them to hire somebody to do all those things so they have time to spend on their career.
We try very hard to get our consultants to organize themselves. The best way I have found is a little pad of paper we issue called “The Six Most Important Things.” I teach consultants to write down the six most important things they have to do the next day every night before they go to bed. I suggest that people organize things by priority. First, put the thing they most don’t want to do at the top. Then write down the six most important things—not sixteen, because this is frustrating, but six.
Most sales consultants hold one class [a meeting with potential customers in one of their homes to learn how to use Mary Kay products] a day at most, and it takes two hours to put the class on. If you have the class at ten o’clock in the morning, you are home before the first child gets out of school. I encourage sales consultants not to run themselves into the ground by working on weekends. This time belongs to their family, so they should try to cut Mary Kay business off until Monday and~ give their time to their family over the weekends.
Besides, papa gets really interested when lots of money starts coming in. You’d be surprised how his attitude changes when she starts making five, six, seven hundred dollars a week even in the beginning. I even had a man write me recently to thank me for the fact that he had been able to get to know his children—since his wife has been holding her Mary Kay classes at night, he’s come to know his children. It sounds crazy, but these things happen.
THE PINK CADILLAC
AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY KAY WOULD
BE INCOMPLETE WITHOUT HER HIND-
SIGHTS ON THE USE OF PINK CADILLACS
AS A SALES INCENTIVE.
The pink Cadillac has probably become the best advertising gimmick that anybody has ever thought of. If you live in Kalamazoo and you don’t know a thing about Mary Kay Cosmetics, when that pink Cadillac drives by, you say, “That’s a very successful Mary Kay person!”
We now have more than 6,000 cars worth more than $90 million on the road, and pink Cadillacs have become a Mary Kay trademark. It began about three, or four years after we started the company.
I really needed a new car, and by that time I could afford to buy a Cadillac, so I went down to the dealer and told him I wanted a new Cadillac, and I wanted it painted pink—the color of our lip and eye palette.
He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Oh, Mary Kay! You don’t want to do this. Let me tell ou how much it is going to cost you to get this thing repainted when it gets here and you don’t like it.” I said, “Please, I want it painted pink.” He said, “OK, I’ll paint it pink, but don’t forget I warned you!”
Needless to say, when the car arrived, I loved it! I had been driving my husband’s black Lincoln; you could sit at an intersection until death do us part, and nothing would happen . When I drove up to an intersection in that pink Cadillac, people let me go! That is still true today. If I let you borrow a pink Cadillac, you would not believe how the world changes.
Copyright @ 1993. (Pgs. 27-37)
Published by: Beyond Words Publishing, Inc.
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© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993