March 06, 2014
The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling
by Beth Douglass Silcox
President, Rodan + Fields
In many ways, Lori Bush and the social commerce company Rodan + Fields are synonymous. She’s been there from the beginning, when its founders repurchased the company from Estee Lauder and relocated its products from prestige retail to create a brand-name direct selling opportunity.
There’s an advantage to that kind of continuity, but Bush is well aware of its challenges, too. Fire in the bellies of 10 people and a vision to get it done grew the company, but there are organizational and cultural differences between a startup and a mid-market company. As Bush likes to say, “Scrappy isn’t scalable, especially in this world of direct selling.
“It’s really easy to be thrown off because of an emotional response from the field, as well as internally, when you try to build and change,” Bush says. “Being open enough to receive feedback, being certain that you understand the difference between what has made you successful and the chains that are holding you back, and strengthening the great while cutting the chains is a huge part of where we are right now in our business trajectory.”
Alongside the company, she too must transition, refocus and continually grow to lead Rodan + Fields through a 2014 expansion beyond the United States. The company’s build-out of a global platform, Bush says, calls for an operational focus, which will include cultural and technological components as well as the building of a positive corporate middle management.
No stranger to getting her hands dirty, Bush often takes on proxy or surrogate roles when there is a void or a risk to the company. “I learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss. You really need to at least understand some core fundamentals of every aspect of the business,” she says.
When Bush realized she was unable to have crucial conversations about her company’s IT challenges, she reached beyond the direct selling industry and into Rodan + Fields’ own community. “Silicon Valley is right here!” she says. “So I joined an alliance of primarily technology companies so that I could assimilate myself into not just that discipline, but more importantly the community here so I could tap into it. I never take anything at face value in that area anymore.”
As a female CEO, Bush understands there are hard-wired cultural differences between men and women. She says, “For women, there’s a narrower window in terms of behaviors that are effective in an organization and when building a career. There are still aspects of command-and-control style leadership—sometimes necessary to run a company effectively—but they are not considered especially feminine. They are even considered unattractive or off-putting when coming from a female executive.” It’s a fallacy that Bush remedies by making herself present and visible, engaging and connecting with people, inspiring true belief and working very, very hard. “So when I do get tough, it is clear it’s without any kind of personal agenda.”
Engagement and connection is part of the fabric of the company. Bush relishes teachable moments for both employees and the sales organization, so the company creates cognitive learning opportunities based on core values in an effort to quickly on-board employees. But the desire for engagement runs so deep, Bush says, that the company’s new headquarters with a view of the Bay Bridge at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, incorporates “huddle spaces” and “idea paint” on walls to encourage impromptu discussions among staffers and visiting members of the field.
Lori Bush on personal development…
“I’m a business book junkie. I read. I read. I read.
When I read something that resonates, I always try to put it into action.”
Lori Bush on networking…
“I believe in this idea of independent partnering, knowing who you can pick up the phone and call when you have an issue or need another perspective. Innovation comes from diversity in thinking, so I make a point to extend to a lot of people.”
Rodan + Fields
Rodan + Fields was the first prestige skincare line to exit the department store for the world of direct selling. The company was founded in 2008 by world-renowned dermatologists Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields, the creators of Proactiv® Solution.
What the pair did for acne, they are now doing for sun damage and anti-aging skincare. The patent-pending MACRO Exfoliator™ and AMP MD™ System make real results possible at home without injections or other invasive procedures.
The company’s demographic continues to lean toward affluent consumer groups, while their business opportunity attracts and empowers tens of thousands of personal enterprises, and in the process defines the future of social commerce. Consultant growth (compound annual growth) is up 105 percent from 2008.
Rodan + Fields has earned several Direct Selling Association awards for product innovation and excellence in salesforce development, as well as the 2010 Rising Star. Direct Selling News ranked the company No. 83 in its 2013 Global 100, based on $108 million in sales reported in 2012.
Cover Story | Women’s History | Sheryl Adkins-Green | Claire Bancino | Meredith Berkich | Lori Bush | Dr. Oi-Lin Chen | Doris Christopher | Angela Loehr Chrysler | Kathy Coover | Shelli Gardner | Jessica Herrin | Wendy Lewis | Candace Matthews | Sheri McCoy | Cindy Monroe | Kay Napier | Joani Nielson | Meg Sheetz | Pam Sowder | Jill Blashack Strahan | Connie Tang | Heidi Thompson