I have a friend that recently completed an MBA and is starting a niche lifestyle brand. She has traveled internationally to establish relationships with other brands similar to hers, created marketing strategies to promote her brand and gain a following, develop a website, and planned events to create her own platform. I am super proud of her and know that she will be successful. The one thing that is always in the back of my mind when I think about her education which includes her many years of experience in the cosmetic retail world not only as a sales person but also as a manager, and as an MBA holder is why the company that she works for hasn’t tried to snatch her up and place her in a corporate position?
Another woman that I know who is now an account executive shared with me about a month ago that she used to work for the same company decades ago, and while she was completing her MBA she shared some ideas she had with upper management but felt ignored and dismissed because she was a sales associate.
In my own experience I have become friends with some of the most educated, articulate, experienced employees. When I was a full time sales associate at MAC I worked with a staff where about 85% had at least a bachelors degree. My peers came from all walks of life and had degrees in everything from education to chemistry and electrical engineering. So here is the big question. Why In the hell do companies ignore the larger talent on their sales floors? The answer is ego, pride, laziness, ignorance, fear, sexism, and in some cases where applicable racism.
The same way my friends who work for the government complain about having to fight for a seat at the table is the same way folks in retail have to. Unfortunately retail companies do not have an open door policy like Facebook where any employee can walk into the COO’s office to provide a solution to a problem or suggestion for how to make the company better. Retail also does not operate like our US government where you can go from being a real estate tycoon and reality television star to the president of the United States either!
Instead the same executives are recycled from one company to another and typically when they land at a new company, they implement the same ideas , protocols, and procedures they shared with the last company they worked for. If you happen to have worked for several brands that one of these recycled execs came from, you might be able to predict what they do because you have experienced it so many times! Another thing that I notice is that instead of promoting people from the retail side into the corporate side, companies hire recent college grads with little no experience in any field especially as it relates to the cosmetics industry. I have witnessed this first hand many times than I can count. When I have come face to face with these folks I limit my conversation because I always end up talking over their heads because of the information disconnect.
On the exciting side of things, there are new cosmetic companies popping up everywhere that are started by ex retail workers who once did not have a voice! These companies are creating niche brands selling everything from skincare and fragrance to liquid lipsticks and eyeshadow palettes, and they are literally giving these old companies a run for their money honey!!
Anastasia of Beverly Hills has grown from waxing eyebrows and selling products for brows only to a full blown cosmetics company complete with categories for every part of the face! Their social media following is insane, and they have every influencer eating out of their finger tips! The most amazing thing is that the creator of the company credits her young daughter for all of the expansions!
Melt cosmetics, another company started by two ex MAC employees has also done extremely well. Dana Bomar and Lora Arellano started with shocking matte lipstick shades and eventually expanded to cool looking uber pigmented eyeshadow palettes and are killing the game right now! Of course it did not hurt that one of them was one of Rihanna’s makeup artists, but they have still managed to create an amazing social media following and a cool cosmetic brand.
I could go on and on, but I would rather stop here and address some elephants in the big room of cosmetics execs. The millenials have come along with the internet and social media and changed everything that we thought we knew about everything. For many cosmetic executives that are in the baby boomer generation, those realities must be scary. Instead of holding on to old ideologies and slowing the progress of the companies these execs work for, my advice would be to accept and embrace the changes, and to go out and find people in your companies who have the work ethic (retail workers are some of the hardest working people in the world),experience, educational background, passion for the business, and let them work!! If these companies don’t switch things up, these young driven fearless folks will continue to eat them for breakfast!