Mary Kay

5 Strategic Business Lessons You can Learn From Mary Kay

Mary Kay Ash was a dynamic woman. Her unique business idea began one week after she retired. She wasn’t content to sit around relaxing. Her get-up-and-go energy was too strong to ignore. Mary Kay assessed the experiences she gathered over the years. During this thinking period, she made a life-changing decision.

Armed with a wealth of knowledge from her direct sales background, she established “Mary Kay Cosmetics” in 1963.  It’s now one of the largest direct sellers of cosmetics and skin care with a sales turnover of $4 billion in 2015.

How did one woman create such a successful business? Mary Kay had specific strategies she created. They are still being used today to grow her company. One of her biggest passions was “to see women become much more than they ever thought they could be.” She had a desire to help them overcome the hurdles she encountered during her career. On top of that, Mary Kay was an expert at facing and solving problems.

Her enthusiasm for supporting women is evident in the motto she created for Mary Kay Cosmetics, which is “You Can Do It”.

“God didn’t have time to make a “nobody.” As a result, you can have, or be, anything you want. Every one of us is important and necessary to God’s plan. If someone else will just believe in you – you will be able to do great things. I know this because someone once believed in me.” ~ Mary Kay


  1. Start your business with what you have

Mary Kay had 25 years experience in direct sales. During her career, she was faced with many obstacles as a woman. She worked in a business world controlled by men, which produced a lack of equality. Outdated practices of how far a woman can progress on the career ladder held her back from developing. She saw many men at her workplace receive promotion, while she was left behind.

When she decided to set up her beauty and cosmetic business, her competitive spirit drove her.

I have learned that it becomes most powerful when you compete with yourself and when you learn from your failures.” ~ Mary Kay

Therefore, with her competitive mindset and experiences, she was in a good place to help other women overcome the challenges she had faced.

One of the first things Mary Kay did was to write down all the lessons she learned. She used this method to organize her thoughts. It helped her recall all of the opportunities she missed, because of her gender. Writing the list also allowed her to let go of past bitterness experienced in the workplace.

The list shaped her dream company. She used it to define the golden rules of Mary Kay Cosmetics. She did not believe in limiting women who had the skills and determination to succeed.

Mary Kay employed her youngest son, who had a sales representative background, to lead the business. Her oldest son donated funds (his life savings) to the company. He eventually left his job and joined Mary Kay Cosmetics. Later on, her daughter also joined as the first director. Together with her family, the company was ready to start operating.

Over to you: What experiences have you gained over the years? What burning passions do you have to help others succeed?  Use the answers to create a plan for your business.

Who do you know with the right skills and experiences to help you shape your business? It must be people you can trust. And people who are prepared to support, encourage, motivate you and help you achieve your goals.


  1. Time management and the to-do list

Time management is crucial to the success of any business. Nevertheless, you need a strategy; otherwise, you will run from one task to another without achieving much.

During the beginning stages of her company, Ivy Lee, a leading efficiency expert, challenged Mary Kay. He worked with executives from a struggling steel company for 15 minutes. He told them to do a simple task every evening for three months.

Their task was to make a list of six most important things they had to do the next day. And rank them in order of importance. Every morning the executives had to begin the day with the first item on the list. Then, work down the list crossing off each item as they complete it. If any task wasn’t finished, it went on the list for the following day.

The executives succeeded beyond their target. Efficiency and sales increased at the end of the three months. This impressed Mary Kay. She used an old envelope and started her first list.  From then on, she used the list method every day throughout her life. This helped her keep on track. Ultimately, she believed the result of using a list put more money in her pocket.

Over to you: Make your list, but keep it short. Six is a manageable number. If you put too much on your list, it could overwhelm you. However, as you progress, you can always add to your list.

The list will help you prioritize the important tasks. Also, writing them down physically will make you take the jobs at hand seriously. It also reinforces the tasks in your subconscious.

“The way time is managed can make the difference between success and failure.” ~ Mary Kay Ash


  1. Plan your life, like you’re planning a vacation

Going on a vacation is fun, but it’s also hard work. The most important job before leaving home is planning the vacation. You have to decide where to go, a method of travel, accommodation, what clothes to take, etc.

On the first day, you leave home with your luggage. Then you travel to a new country or location by airplane, car, train or coach. You may have to get used to the change in climate, new language, eating different food, driving on a different side of the road, new traditions and possible do lots of walking when you’re used to taking a cab.

You happily step out of your comfort zone because you’re on a vacation. You’re keen to learn new things and add to your knowledge. Therefore, you might even attempt to climb Mount Everest. Why? Because it’s an adventure.

However, when you come back home from your vacation; don’t fall back into the same old routine.

Over to you: Do you put your all into taking a vacation? Have you considered putting the same amount of adventure, fun and hard work into your business? Increase your knowledge, try new challenges and step out of your comfort zone.

Plan your business with the same enthusiasm you use to prepare for your vacation. Don’t float through your days, weeks and months because of lack of planning. If you want to be productive and successful, have a plan.

 “There are four kinds of people in this world: Those who make things happen. Those who watch things happen. Those who wonder what happened. Those who don’t know that anything happened.” ~ Mary Kay


  1. The three keys to a successful business

Most successful business owners have similar personalities, intentions and abilities. They are intentionally enthusiastic, disciplined, determined, appreciate people and are eager to work and serve others. Also, they love learning.

On top of that, to build a profitable business you need:

  • A desire to succeed. If you Lack motivation and determination, especially when you face challenges, you might easily quit.
  • Knowledge is certainly power. When you possess this it gives you zeal. When you have zeal you will work towards succeeding.
  • Apply the skills above and combine them with hard work. Otherwise, having desire and knowledge without application won’t get you far.

“People who do succeed are set apart by their personalities, objectives and abilities. Specifically, this means they have: enthusiasm (with a purpose), discipline, willingness (to work, to serve and to learn), determination, appreciation of others.” ~ Mary Kay


  1. Appreciate your customers

Mary Kay Cosmetic consultants flourish on praise and applause. The company also awards them prizes for achieving sales targets. Each consultant’s achievement is encouraged by praise. They thrive on it. It boosts their confidence and makes them feel important.

Mary Kay’s magazine “Applause” lists the names of outstanding sales persons each month. Their photos and achievements are published when they reach important milestones in the company.

Over to you: How can you make your customers feel important and appreciated? Doing this builds a strong loyalty.

Don’t presume you know what they need. Ask them. Send out surveys to find out. Speak to your customers directly. Moreover, remember to thank them.

Show how much you value your customers by writing about them in your newsletters, blog articles, magazines or other company materials. Share their stories in case studies. Give loyal long-term customers freebies, special gifts or discounts.


Don’t ever let your dream die. Mary Kay said, “ Sadly, most people live and die with their music still unplayed. They never dare to try. Why? Because they lack self-confidence.” Therefore, if you want to start a business, gain as much knowledge as possible. Surround yourself with inspirational and motivational people who are keen to support you to succeed.

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