The World of Direct Selling comes up with quite a few novelties in 2017 and one of them is the “Executive Q&A” series. With this new series, we will be getting to know more about direct sales industry’s corporate leaders as persons.
Could you tell us about your education?
I had the great opportunity to live in different parts of the world while growing up so my education was accomplished across three continents: Asia, America and Europe.
I majored in Economics and Business with a undergrad degree in Economics and a master’s degree in Business (major: marketing, minor: finance) from University Paris Dauphine and a post-master in marketing from the University of Val de Marnes Business School in France.
What was your childhood dream?
As a child, I always loved traveling, foreign languages and had a keen interest for different cultures. At first, I wanted to become an airline stewardess as I thought they were the luckiest people in the world being able to travel to so many countries. Then, I wanted to become an international interpreter as I was fascinated by my cousin’s job who spoke five languages fluently and constantly traveled around the world attending prestigious conferences.
But what I enjoyed the most as a child was being around people. I loved organizing events and rallying friends around doing special projects. My father told me once that I could combine all these things that I loved so much and look into an international management field of work. He knew my passion well before I realized it and am so thankful that he and my mom helped direct my studies towards what led to my current career.
What were your past experiences before your current role at Take Shape for Life?
I have had the great opportunity to work in the direct selling industry since 1998. I started my career in global marketing with some of our largest industry leaders and gradually grew from product development, marketing and branding strategy to international market expansion to country management and general management.
The incredible opportunity to develop products in health and beauty category from concept to market, to create global brands and to expand portfolios around the world, to open and/or re-launch growth in more than 70 countries and to work closely with the field have given me a wide perspective on some key aspects of our business. The best part of all my experiences has been the incredible people I got to team up with, learn from and grow with; with each expanding my horizons and stretching my learnings.
What do you attribute your career success to most?
Several key elements were fundamental:
– The genuine belief, love and passion for our industry and our ability to transform and touch so many lives as well as my perspective that what I do is not just a job but a life mission.
– The openness and eagerness to always grow and learn all aspects of the business – beyond just my primary job, from everyone I worked with and for and from the field, fully understanding their unique perspectives by trying to put myself in their shoes when making decisions.
– The preference of always working as part of a team and giving as much priority and importance to achieving the financial goals as to developing and growing people.
What has been your most inspiring moment?
There are so many of them as what we do is all about inspiration.
One specific instance that stands out for me is about one of the top leaders of a $1.9 billion company that I worked for who shared her extraordinary life-changing experience as an independent contractor who lived in the Amazon. With her business, she was able now to own a beautiful house in one of the largest metropolitan cities in Latin America. She sent her children to some of the top US universities so they can get the quality education she had always dreamed of and had never had herself. Speaking in her local dialect with a Spanish translator at the top Leadership Recognition Trip I was hosting that year, she emphasized the fact that not only her life has forever changed but she has been able to spread this opportunity across many members of her family and community in the Amazon. At that moment, as tears were coming down my face I realized deep down that not only what I did for a living had a direct impact on individuals, but it could become a catalyst for positive transformations around entire societies, giving opportunities to those who never thought it could be possible.
This story also inspired me in moments of fear of failure to remember how this amazing woman had been able to build a multi-million-Dollar beauty business in the Amazon with creative logistics and incredible resilience. Throughout my career, field members have been and continue to be the biggest source of inspiration and motivation for me.
I used to do a lot of non-profit activity in California, centered around women and children. But as I relocated to the East Coast two years ago and became recently a mother for the first time, it has become more challenging to continue my community involvement. I still try to travel to a new place in the world every year and keep up my reading while my love for music and dancing continue to be a great “escape” from my super-busy life.
How would you describe being a direct selling executive to an outsider?
This has always been a very interesting conversation. Very often people don’t know exactly what the term “direct selling” means or that it’s a multi-billion-dollar global industry. So, whenever asked what I do for a living, my answer is: “I help transform lives, what do you do?”
As they look at me shocked and inquisitively, I then explain that my job is to run the support team, resources and infrastructure that help tens of thousands of independent business owners to be their own CEOs in their businesses of helping others transform lives while creating a strong and mission-based community of world-changers. This extremely fulfilling job is not your typical corporate function but a true life mission that can have an enormous impact on both individuals and entire communities. I also explain that it’s a challenging job as it’s based on people and the fluctuations of their energy, emotions, motivation and engagement. So, it requires skills beyond just your classic business experience.
What is your biggest achievement at Take Shape for Life?
We’ve had so many great successes with the team over the past 2+ years. The fact that we turned around TSFL from a double-digit decline in 2014 to a double-digit growth in revenue in public results from Q3 2016 is a huge accomplishment. But what stands out the most for me is the incredible trust-building and collaboration achieved with our field leadership and our internal TSFL team.
I believe that my biggest achievement was when on stage at our National Convention last July, I was recognized by the field leaders as “one of them” – a first for a corporate executive to be accepted as a fully integrated member of the field community, ending a long history of field-corporate polarized relationships and giving place to a new era of collaboration as “one team”. I feel so honored and touched, knowing a lot of work, tireless efforts, personal and team growth took place for this great synergy to be created. This is certainly at the basis of our amazing growth this past year.
And your biggest challenge at a direct selling company executive role?
My biggest challenge has also been the greatest area of opportunity and stretch for me. It’s about a constant balancing act both internally and externally.
– Internally: Making sure that our corporate decisions and plans don’t impact our field in a negative way and keeping the right balance between honoring our financial obligations to our share holders while providing the right kind of resources and support for our field members to grow their businesses.
– Externally: In this environment of heightened sensitivity around our industry and its ethics, to be an active voice and advocate for strict ethics and keeping the integrity of our business by showing the outside world our true value and potential by creating awareness and insights to our successes while ensuring full compliance of our rules within the company and the field operations
What would be your best advice to those who are thinking of joining a direct sales company at a corporate role?
Here are a few that have been important for me:
– Make sure you are passionate about what your role is and that you fully believe and embrace the mission of the company.
– Spend enough time listening, learning and absorbing as much as you can both from the internal team and the field members and not just the leaders, but across the board.
– Don’t be too quick to bring changes and plans that have worked elsewhere. While some concepts are valid across the industry and functions, each company has its own culture and ways of doing and being. So, make sure you fully understand that before being the catalyst for change.
– This is a people’s business so you need to make personal growth, relationship-building, communication and soft skills as part of your core competencies in parallel to your hard business skills.
– Remember at all times that more than often change is a constant and the balancing act of fulfilling your obligations and creating simultaneous success for all stakeholders like the field, clients, employees and shareholders requires patience, resilience, laser focus, agility, authenticity and a big heart filled with humility and compassion.