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Jun252012

2 Tips From Steve Jobs That Helped Me Grow PartyLite Worldwide

To reduce something complicated to its simplest form is one of the most difficult, but most intelligent exercises one can do.  Steve Jobs was known for doing this, in his famous quest for focus.  The two most important things he believed one must do to win in business is assemble a great  team, and act like a startup.This is great advice for any startup, but very apt for extending your business internationally.  

This is exactly what I did when extending PartyLite's businesses into new European countries.  Quite simply, this became my key strategy in successfully turning PartyLite into a leading worldwide business. 

I treated every country like a startup.   When you do that, you force yourself and your team to think outside the box.  You force creativity.  What worked in Germany may not work in France.  And what worked in Finland may work exceptionally well in Australia.  This forces you to re-think every strategy and tactical play, justifying it all against the costs.

 

ASSEMBLE A GREAT TEAM

You really need two key people to make the opening work.  First, you need a "maniac on a mission".  The person you hire to lead the opening of a new direct selling company should be just a bit of a maniac for sales and new salespeople, and clearly a missionary for the opportunity and the brand.  That person is the "North" for the entire small team and organization.  General management, or leadership of office staff experience helps greatly, but it is the former that will make the sparks fly.
Second, you need the right financial person, leading the back office, making sure everything runs smoothly or if not, at least the right way, while the sales and marketing people are busy getting and taking care of new business and people.   The finance person must be strong enough to stand up to the general manager, in the interest of the company.  At PartyLite, the country controllers always had a dotted line responsibility into the European controller, so that there was always a line open to discuss correct policy and procedure.
Now, truth be told, the general manager will probably look for someone he/she can control.  But resist the urge to "hire down", to save money, with someone who will not challenge the thought process of the general manager.  They have to get along, but they must also mutually respect and trust each other.

 

ACT LIKE A STARTUP

Acting like a startup means that you have already written a Business Plan, and have not only shown how you are going to spend the investment and break even, you have also outlined how you are setting up the company with the sales, marketing, supply chain and legal/financial strategies.  Then, you are going to aim to beat expectations as in that well turned phrase, under promise and over deliver.
Most important, most of the allocation of funds should be against getting sales people, advocates of your brand, and proponents of your opportunity.  Testing ways to obtain this is critical.  Silly expenses like cell phones should be avoided by going to Google Voice.  There are too many technological leverages one can use these days instead of being saddled with high software costs. 
If your finance person is not a dog with a bone on lowering/eliminating expenses and overhead, you do not have the right person.  Everyone should feel that, even when momentum is lifting you above your margin goals, they are on a shoestring budget, and that creativity in eliminating waste and expense should be rewarded.

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