Decisions are a major part of any business model. Learning to make them effectively is extremely important, but developing staff with the ability to make decisions is too.
In business, it is important to set trends and keep an eye to future development if you want to experience growth. But, it’s also important to always remember where you came from and be able to go back to basics when you need to.
A lot of us want to be different things as kids. For me, I was always really into sports and dreamed of being a professional athlete. I played everything; basketball, baseball, football—you name it and I probably played it at some point. Dreaming of being a professional athlete is something a lot of adults can probably say they did when they were younger.
As I grew up and sports became a larger part of my teenage life, I decided that I wanted to be a coach. I realized that I’d probably never be a professional athlete, but I enjoyed working with a team toward accomplishing a goal. I liked being a person who could be put in a position or asked to perform a task and knowing that the team could depend on me to get the job done. It made sense to me that I’d want to translate my love of teamwork into a career where I could teach others what I knew about being a dependable role player, so that’s what I set out to do. By the time I found myself wrapping up my college years, I’d played on several teams that won National Championships and I was learning more and more each year about what it took to run a winning team.
Everything changed for me in the summer of 1997 when I got a job working for my father. That job opened my eyes to a whole new world. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by high-powered businessmen. I was traveling to cities I’d never been to before. I saw Charleston, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia for the first time. Furthermore, I saw how these guys were living—the cars they drove, the jets they traveled in, and the clothes they wore. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to be a part of that world. It was a summer that completely shifted my perceptions.
When I left college, I went to work with my Dad for a few years pursuing my newfound dream. I was thrown into many unfamiliar situations, including moving to Chicago to run 28 carpet stores. I’d never run a store and the only experience I had in the flooring industry was from my summers working at Color Tile to earn “summer fun” money. Fortunately, what I lacked in experience, I made up for with my enthusiasm, hunger, and drive to succeed. I knew how to play a role and be dependable.
As much as I learned from that job, it wasn’t until I moved back to Cincinnati to work with my Mom that I was truly able to combine my newfound passion for business with my lifelong passion of being a coach.
My job at Pure Romance puts me in front of thousands of people each year, whether that’s on stage, leading conference calls, or at our events held around the world. Now, I haven’t always been good at it. I remember when Mom first put me on stage in New Orleans to review the new packaging concepts for products that I’d been involved in developing. I was not very confident the first time I got up in front of a crowd.
It was our big awards banquet. I remember getting up in front of all these Consultants and saying “um”, pausing, and stuttering over and over again. When I got off stage, I took off my shirt and you could have wrung it out and filled up a bucket—that’s how sweaty I was. But you know what? I did it—and I practiced and I got better.
Dale Carnegie once said, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get,” and I think about that quote when I look back on down the path my life has taken me. As important as it is to be able to play a role and be a dependable person while doing it, you have to want to play that role to truly experience happiness in your success.
I haven’t always listened to other people’s ideas. But what I’ve learned is that encouraging people to bring ideas to the table is a very good thing. Creating a work environment where your employees can do that is vital to the success of a business.
Although I’ve been Pure Romance’s President for 12 years now, my education in direct sales and how this industry works began a long time before that back when I was still a kid.
I can remember being annoyed watching my Mom work her business. We would go out to dinner and when the waitress brought our check, Mom would say something like, “Hey, you know Susie, thanks so much for the great service. Listen … Have you ever thought about having a Fun Party?”
This happened all the time. I’d just sit there thinking, “Come on, Mom! Can’t you just give it a rest? Can’t we go out to eat just once without having to sit through this?”
Sometimes Mom would try to open up to women about the opportunity to own their own businesses. It was never ending. It didn’t matter what we were doing, whether we were at the supermarket, going to a movie, or sitting down as a family for dinner—Mom was always talking to other women about her business.
Fast forward to years later, after I’d gone to college and come back to Cincinnati to start working with her—that was when it all became clear.
We were out holding events to teach women about our business and had pulled into a hotel late one night after a long day of driving. I dropped Mom off at the front counter so she could check us in and went to park the Uhaul. As I’m schlepping the rest of our baggage inside, I come up to Mom at the front desk and she says, “Chris, I want you to meet Darlene. Darlene, this is my son, Chris.” I said hello and then Mom proceeds to tell me all about Darlene; how she’s been working at the front desk for about 5 years, how she loves her job, and how she’s tired of working the late night shift because she has 2 kids at home. It turns out that Darlene would really like to be able to spend a little bit more time with them.
Basically, Mom knows Darlene’s entire life history after just 5 minutes with her.
As we were headed to the room, I asked Mom, “How the hell did you get all that information from her? I was only gone for 5 minutes and you already knew everything about her!”
She stopped me, grabbed my arm, and said, “Because I tell everybody, Chris. Let me make something very clear to you: you would not have a job right now if it wasn’t for me telling everyone I meet what it is that we do. We have to tell everybody. Maybe they won’t buy something from me now. They might not ever schedule a party with me or call to find out more about the business opportunity … but they might tell someone about me. They might run into someone who wants to have a party. They might know someone who needs a job. I want to be sure that if they do, they’ll say, ‘You know … I met this woman who might be able to help you out. I met her at this restaurant and she was really nice. I think you should talk to her!’ The more people we tell, the bigger our business will get. We’re in a relationship business, Chris. It’s a person to person thing. We don’t just sell relationship enhancement products, we build relationships. People buy relationships.”
It was like someone flipped a switch for me. I suddenly understood that working in direct sales meant the rules I’d learned working in corporate America didn’t necessarily apply. I couldn’t go around thinking that TV or radio advertisements would ever be able to take the place of our person to person interactions. In order for people to fully understand the potential of what we were selling, whether it was improving their relationships or giving them a way to support their families, it would never work unless we were willing to approach them enthusiastically.
My Mom’s Tell Everyone philosophy is something that’s always stuck with me. It’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to be so successful over the past 20 years. Far too many people underestimate just how powerful going out and personally interacting with your customers and Consultant base really is.
The direct sales industry has been around for many, many years. I’ve only been involved with it for the last 12 and while its core values remain the same, technology is changing the way we do business.
Working for Pure Romance has always felt like a privilege to me and one of the reasons is because it’s allowed me to travel to some amazing places and experience a lot of fantastic things.
Public speaking wasn’t always something I was good at, but when you are trying to motivate a voluntary sales force, it’s an important skill to develop.