Pillars + Values

Two years ago I Marie Kondo’d my home, and pulled a number of books from my bookshelf that I had not read. I committed to reading them all.

This week, I picked GROW by Jim Stengel from that pile, and the timing could not be better. Alchimie Forever is growing, and growing fast – and this book is reminding me to stay close to our mission and ideals.

“Great businesses have great ideals,” Stengel says. Our big ideal is to improve people’s lives by improving their skin.

Self care through skin care.

Looking good, means feeling good, means doing good.

Specifically, Stengel challenges businesses to clarify pillars (values) that will guide every aspect of the business. Here are our five, which guide everything we do from product development to distribution partnerships to caring for our employees and customers.

Clean. We focus on the safety and efficacy of our ingredients rather than the source. We are paraben-free, vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free.

Read more here.

Clinical. We are dermatologist-formulated. We believe in science. We believe professional skin care treatments are a necessary complement to home care.

Approachable. We believe in making products that are available to all, in price and place. We like to think we are aspirationally accessible.

Responsible. We are fiscally responsible. We are environmentally responsible. We are humanly responsible.

Transparent. We work with integrity. We say what we do and do what we say.

On Sales

“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” Estée Lauder. 

Belief in my product is (also) at the core of why, and how, I sell. And belief, supplemented with sales methodologies and frameworks, can only yield even better results. 

I attended sales training last week, and here are the three most important things I learned, and re-learned. 

1. When walking into a potential account “cold.” 

Three easy steps to make an in-person cold call easier:

  • Who: Introduce yourself; name and company name. 
  • Why: Address the reason for your visit; incorporate a compliment whenever possible. For example: “I saw your Instagram account and love it and wanted to see more in real life” or “Congratulations on the great press mention in last week’s issue of XXX, the article made me want to stop by.”  
  • What’s in it for me: Address the benefit associated with your visit, for example, free products to try. 

2. When walking into an existing account for a followup visit. 

Here, the relationship is established, and it can sometimes get easy to treat a followup sales visit as a social call. To help make sure you are making an impact, and to ensure good note-taking and follow-up post-visit, use this framework: 

  • Situation: Who, where, when.  
  • Pain: What pain points were discovered? How can you further improve the relationship? 
  • Impact: What are the followup actions to ensure a positive impact from the visit? 

3. When negotiating a sale. 

First, replace the word “negotiate” with the word “trade”, which is both less aggressive and more positive. 

Second, here are the trading steps to follow: 

  • Get all negation items out (figure out the list of “asks”). 
  • Repeat what you heard (active listening). 
  • Prioritize the issues (so you know which “asks” to focus on). 
  • Qualify the decision-maker (don’t waste their time or yours talking to the wrong person). 
  • Make the office, be clear and concise.
  • Listen and repeat their counter-offer. 
  • Confirm the “expiration date” of your offer. 
  • Agree to consequences. 
  • Confirm all with email and contract. 

WWD Beauty Summit Highlight: Warmth & Competence

Yesterday, I saw a (self-proclaimed) cold-hearted German economist tear up. It was the highlight of the Women’s Wear Daily Beauty Summit!

Organized by the brilliant Jenny B. Fine, this conference brings 400+ beauty executives together to listen to leaders, explore the state of the industry, and network.  

Markus Strobel, President of Global Skin & Personal Care, Procter & Gamble and said cold-hearted German economist, presented a case study on the turnaround of SKII in China.

Any brand, he explained, needs two complementary aspects to be successful:  

  • Warmth. Meaning “what are your intentions?” This is the humanity of the brand.
  • Competence. Meaning “what is your ability to deliver on your promises.” This is the efficacy of the brand.

SKII, he explained, was all competence and no warmth. Indeed, consumers in China perceived the brand’s intentions as “selling us as much products as possible.” Not what the marketing team was going for…  

The team thus set out to bring emotion back into the brand, to relate to the humanity of the consumer, specifically targeting the “leftover woman,” who in China, is a woman over 27 years old and is not married.

The intention of the brand became to give a voice to this “leftover woman,” to see her, to listen to her, to elevate her. And thus, the Change Destiny video campaign was created. With millions of views on YouTube, in China and around the world, this emotional video changed the trajectory of SKII in the Chinese market.  

Yesterday, as the audience watched this video, many teared up in empathy, including said German economist – who admitted: “this one gets me every time… even after watching it 100 times.”

And thus, we were all reminded that we are human, that we crave emotion. Strobel left us with the following insightful question and marketing challenge: “How do you all find the humanity in your brand?”

The Power of Hand-Written Thank You Notes…

I love to send handwritten notes. Birthday cards (yes, even to adults); “random” notes (sometimes with an article I think will be of interest;) and of course, thank you notes.

One of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received was from my girlfriend Heidi Kallett, former owner of the Dandelion Patch. She gave me 365 thank you cards and envelopes, and the book 365 Thank yous by John Kralik. The cards are long gone, the book is on my bookshelf as a reminder to keep at it.

If you don’t write thank you notes, try it. A hand-written thank you note is an overt act of gratitude, something the world needs more of.

When to send

  • Anytime you open a gift in absence of the giver. Really, anytime you receive a gift.
  • Anytime to are invited to someone’s home for a lunch, dinner, or party.
  • As soon as you can possibly write the note is the most opportune time to send them.
  • Keep in mind it is worse to never send the note than to send it 6 months after receiving a gift. While more timely is better, the time for a thank you note never has lapsed. Not sending a thank you note is always worse.
  • The most memorable thank you notes are thank yous for random acts of kindness, because those are the most unexpected.
  • Anytime you question whether you should or should not send a thank you note, you should send one.
  • There is never a wrong time or occasion to send a thank you note.
  • Always send a thank you note to a prospective employer who has taken the time to interview you.
  • It is always appropriate to send an immediate thank you email, but only in addition to the hand-written note that will follow.

What to say (and what not to say)

  • Always mention something specific about the gift, preferably how or where you are going to use it; this specificity is particularly important if you received a gift card.
  • Remember that even if you do not like the actual gift, you are thanking someone for his or her thoughtfulness and for the fact that they put time and effort into the gift.
  • Never say you won’t enjoy the gift, have a duplicate of the gift, or will never use it. (Yes, this seems obvious, but you would be surprised…)

Modern day rules

  • An email thank you is never a replacement for a hand-written thank you note.
  • Because of the prevalence of email, actually, a hand-written thank you note will have even more of an impact.

Start today. Send one thank you card to someone, just because. And then sit back, and enjoy how it makes you feel, and how it makes the recipient feel. 

Business Books

The Business Books That Make Me Smarter

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about the email newsletters that make me smarter. Today, I want to share some of the business books I have read and loved, and learned from.

Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

An oldie but goodie, this book was published in 1Roger Fisher981 and is almost as old as I am. It is still the best book on negotiations that I have read, I go back to the five propositions on a weekly basis:

  1. “Separate the people from the problem.” (watch out for emotion, make sure the negotiation builds the relationship, instead of destroying it)
  2. “Focus on interests, not positions.” (what are they really asking for?)
  3. “Invent options for mutual gain.” (grow the pie)
  4. “Insist on using objective criteria.” (commit to a real conversation)
  5. “Know your BATNA.” (best alternative to a negotiated agreement)

Love Is The Killer App by Tim Sanders. 

Other than the amazing title (the world needs more love), I return to this book almost daily for the way Sanders suggest we treat others in the workplace. Every day, I try to be a “lovecat.”

How? By sharing my knowledge, my network, and my compassion and love. Because, “Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.”

Good To Great and Built To Last by Jim Collins.

From Good To Great, I go back to the idea of the bus: get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to drive it. Not necessarily the other way around. “First who, then what.”

From Built to Last, I go back to the acronym BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I ask myself, is my BHAG big enough? It is clear and compelling enough?

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg explains habits as cue, routine, reward. He also explains that you can’t stop or extinguish a bad habit, but you can work on the cue and the reward, and thus change the routine, change the habit.

The concept of keystone habits (the habit that makes every other good habit easier) is also eye-opening.  

On that same topic, on my reading list next is Atomic Habits by James Clear.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

I love lists. But am I using my various lists in the most impactful, efficient manner? This book is about how to create the right checklists, and how to use them to save lives (in hospitals or in the airline industry for example) and make businesses work better. I read it twice, and still feel like I would learn more by reading it a third time.

The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma.

There are so many lessons from this book, I wrote a separate blog post on it after finishing it. It is a reminder to think about our thinking. Indeed, as Sharma puts it, the “one thing that makes us fully human is our ability to think about our thinking.”

Think about your thinking. And read books that help guide, improve, challenge, grow your thinking.

What are your favorite business books?

Seasons… of the Land, and of Business

I have had the privilege of hearing Seth Mattison speak at various industry conferences and have always come away from his presentations feeling inspired, energized, and motivated. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity of hearing him speak once again, in a more intimate setting over breakfast, and what I came away with was inspiration, energy, motivation – and calm and faith (in the process).

Having grown up in a farming family, Mattison spoke of the seasons of the land and drew parallels between the rhythm of farming and that of business. “When you are close to the land,” he reminded us, “you are close to the seasons of the world.” And “seasons,” he continued, “are relevant not only to farming, but also to business and to life.” As I remember working at my great-uncle’s farm harvesting corn when I was a young teenager, the connection between the cycles of the land and the cycles of business resonated particularly strongly with me.

“Winter is a season to rest, reflect, look back, and recharge.” Indeed, this is very much the symbolic of the months of December and January – months governed by analysis and planning.

“Spring is a season to plant and put seeds in the ground. Diligently, faithfully, every year.”

Summer is a season for monitoring growth and making adjustments to changing (weather or industry) conditions.

Fall is a season for harvesting, the season during which the year’s planning, planting, and labor yields fruit.

I have a love-hate relationship with January. I love the “newness” of it – a blank slate, the ability to start fresh. And I hate the “virgin-ness” of it – all (or most) of the business metrics I measure start back at 0. I don’t like 0s.

Mattison helped me understand that January can never be September, as that would just not be natural.

He helped me understand that I should love January (and winter) for what it offers, and work with the rhythm of nature, not against it.

He helped me understand that in business as in farming, there are many things we cannot control (the weather and the markets for example).

And finally, he helped me understand that while we must “surrender the outcome, we simultaneously must diligently work on the controllable.”