Mary Kay Ash (Part 2)

By Amber Middleton

Mary Kay Cosmetics is not a traditional cosmetics company, as it sells its products directly to consumers through a sales force rather than in retail stores.  Each member of the Mary Kay sales force is an independent contractor with the company.  Mary Kay Cosmetics is a company known for providing women with exceptional opportunities for professional achievement and economic success and rewarding women for their success. Mary Kay Cosmetics uses several programs to motivate, recognize, and develop its beauty consultants, which include recognition in a monthly magazine, annual events, gifts, and prizes.

One of Mary Kay’s most effective strategies is incentives for consultants.  Mary Kay Ash realized in the early 1960s that that her female sales force was highly motivated by what she called “Cinderella gifts”, items they would not be likely to buy for themselves.  These gifts included vacations, fur coats, and jewelry.  The highest achievers received Mary Kay’s signature prize, a pink Cadillac. 

Mary Kay “Career Cars”, then and now.

Consultants earn rewards by selling products and recruiting other consultants.  To date, more than 130,000 consultants have qualified for a “Mary Kay career car”, and the company spends more than $50 million annually on rewards and prizes for the independent sales force.  Although recognizing employees in this manner is costly, Ash, who passed away in 2001, believed it was worth it.  “We treat our people like royalty.  If you honor and serve the people who work for you, they will honor and serve you.”

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Mary Kay Ash (Part 2)

  1. Eric Davis

    The whole concept of the consultant is interesting! After reading this, I realize just how much effort is put into making the consultants feel valued. I agree that it is important to make your sales force feel important and it is great to see that some organizations do make that a priority.

  2. Rachel Hodges

    My mom used to be a Mary Kay consultant back in the ’80s and I’ve purchased Mary Kay products in the past, so I find this post particularly interesting! I love the idea of giving your independent sales people “Cinderella gifts” and I think that pink cadillac is fantastic. It makes me wonder about what kind of incentive programs other independent sales companies, like Scentsy, offer their consultants.

  3. Julie

    I always wondered who Mary Kay was and how she got started! Back in the late 80’s when I was a stay at home mom, I considered joining the company! I never did, but the pink car is really cool! Great post and pics!
    Julie

  4. I’ve read Mary Kay Ash’s book Mary Kay on People Management, and being from the Dallas area, the home of the Mary Kay headquarters and “empire”, I thought it would be apropos for me to comment. I had the opportunity to visit the corporate headquarters and take the tour that includes a stop at the office of the late and great Mary Kay Ash. It looked like I expected, or I guess maybe what I had imagined, but it wasn’t all pink. It was decorated in a sophisticated sheik manner fitting of the southern lady that built the company from the ground up. I was also able to attend the annual convention of Mary Kay’s independent sales force, and truly what a force to be reckoned with for sure. Talk about a room full of self-made women who love what they do and the company that they work for as well.
    Mary Kay managed by the golden rule which says a lot about her character and about how she ran her company. Professionalism is paramount in appearance and conduct. In the world of business casual and jeans on Fridays, Mary Kay employees were still wearing suits every day to work…and pantyhose! If you are a woman from the south, you know not only that pantyhose are a pain, but that the summer heat melts them to your legs! Mary Kay also believed in simple practices such as being honest and firm when necessary. She believed in the impossible and building character so that striving for the impossible was a daily goal. That is why Mary Kay always wore a gold bumblebee pin and the symbol of the bumblebee is still strong in the Mary Kay culture today. Mary Kay would say that according to the build of a bumblebee, it should be too heavy to fly, however no one told the bumblebee that it couldn’t fly – so it flies anyway. What great philosophies!

    By: Tara Johnson Knight

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