When entrepreneurs set up shop for the first time — often in their basement, kitchen or garage — do they dare imagine that one day their business might be an enterprise employing tens of thousands of people and serving customers around the globe?
As I mixed creams by myself in my tiny apartment just 15 years ago, I was confident that if I could help others see my vision of what is possible through professional skincare, I could build a thriving business. I won over a few customers and then started doubling, tripling, even quadrupling sales year after year. Today, IMAGE Skincare is represented by a network of more than 20,000 skincare professionals in more than 50 countries, and we distribute products in 60 countries through online channels.
The key to managing this growth — from its entrepreneurial stage through the mega-growth years and into the global corporate stage — is never letting go of the vision that inspired you to start. Your individual passion becomes a collective vision that enables you to grow your business beyond your loftiest goals.
Here are some things to remember as you grow:
Be tenacious. Whatever you want to produce, market and sell, be so deeply passionate about it that that no one can stand in your way. In the beginning, you’ll get many more noes than yeses; keep pushing! Throughout my career, people — even family members who believe in me — would say “That’s not going to work” or “In this crowded space of skincare, why do you think you can do this?” I conquered that negativity by holding on to my vision and resolving to always be the hardest-working, most tenacious person in any room.
Never lose sight of your customers. When a company is new, the focus on customers is a clear priority. As time goes on, though, it’s easy to get wrapped up in a hundred other priorities that require your attention. Remember: No matter how large you scale your business, you should never be spending more time in meetings than with your customers. Knowing your customers — their needs and expectations — is the foundation of your success.
In the beauty business, we deal with a wide net of consumers, from teenagers with acne issues to women in their 80s and 90s who are still concerned about wrinkles. We make it a priority to understand and appreciate all of these customers and to be nimble enough to get products to market quickly to meet their needs. We are able to accompany our customers on their journey through life, from teenager to great-grandmother, because we stay in touch.
Keep your culture intact. I often say that culture doesn’t happen by accident. It is built through thoughtful, methodical leadership and vision. Who do you want to be? What do you want to achieve? What values do you embrace?
Whether you are in the entrepreneurial, mega-growth or corporate stage of development, make sure your people have the opportunity to get to know you and your vision for the company, and help them understand the guiding principles that serve as its foundation. Be transparent and authentic, and commit to their development and success. Many of the people I hired years ago to fulfill the duties of a single position now manage 30 or 40 people and hold responsibility for millions of dollars in revenue. Why? Because our culture inspires them to always go the extra mile and, as a leader, I do the same for them.
Invest in people. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that investing in your people and the intellectual capital they bring to the mix is as critical as investing in your product. (If I had recognized this early on, we could have grown even faster.) In addition to seeking candidates who share your values and embrace your vision, make sure you bring in subject-matter experts willing to share their knowledge and insights. Keep an open mind to fresh ideas and solutions. Evolve from doing it all yourself to growing a strong team and spreading the wealth.
Leverage technology to its fullest. Technology has been a tremendously positive force in growing our business. If I were starting out today, I would say I’m a tech-driven company and, by the way, I have the best skincare products on the market. Technology gives you access to more markets and customers than you might ever be able to reach with boots on the ground alone. For us, social media has been the most instrumental technology tool, affording us the opportunity to inspire people virally by letting our happy customers speak about our products and brand. Again, hiring great people — with outstanding PR/marketing talent — has been vital to the success of our technology push.
As you grow from a small entrepreneurial company into a global corporate presence, stay true to your roots. Lead and motivate with vision and passion, surround yourself with smart people, and remember that as long as you continue to learn and remain humble, anything is possible.
Written By: Janna Ronert
Janna Ronert, CEO and founder of IMAGE Skincare, has been a member of C200 since 2013.