March 06, 2014
The Most Influential Women in Direct Selling
by Beth Douglass Silcox
Founder and Interim CEO, The Pampered Chef
When Doris Christopher founded The Pampered Chef, she wanted to make it easier for families to sit down to dinner together, for Mom and Dad to engage in lively conversations with their children and for kids to feel they could share.
Today, stepping back into an interim CEO role, Christopher not only wants families, but also the thousands of people within The Pampered Chef family to talk amongst themselves as well.
Energized and happy to be back at the helm of a company that’s forever been in her heart, Christopher says, “I’ve been delighted to find that our vision is as relevant as it ever was, and the people here at the home office are eager to build and grow the business as we go into the future.”
Her focus during these months she sits in the company’s leadership role is to highlight and hold up the importance of communication. “It’s the importance of listening to those people—our salesforce—who are the frontline to the customer. I think there is a lot of wisdom to learn from them, and sometimes it’s a matter of just really understanding what they see as their opportunities and challenges. They are our very best window into what’s going on out there and opportunities that we are not tapping into,” Christopher says.
Leadership transition can be challenging, but Christopher brings history and perspective into her role, as well as connections to leaders in the business and not-for-profit worlds whom she respects and admires. “These people have been able to lead organizations through times of change and times of turmoil, through times when they have just accomplished amazing things. I know people like that. I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with them and talk to them and listen to the strategy and the things they have used to move their organizations forward,” she says. To be part of a supportive Berkshire-Hathaway family also provides incredible strength.
While Christopher’s collaborative leadership philosophy hasn’t changed since she last held the CEO role, the tools at her disposal are vastly different. They allow for such speed and clarity in communication, as well as provide remarkable visual elements, which Christopher believes make the job easier. “The technology that we have allows us to connect with light speed and in ways that are very satisfying and very rich,” she says.
With tools like these, Christopher says this is a time for The Pampered Chef to sharpen its ability to get feedback and interface more effectively with customers, the field salesforce and the home office team. “Clearly what I need to do is collaborate with the many, many talented people that we have in our home office and in our field organization to understand what they know, interpret that and help our team to interpret that for a positive impact on the business.”
Doris Christopher on being female…
“In my position, either starting the company or running the company or now coming back in a role that is once again leading the company on an interim basis—in every one of those things—I have felt that I had an advantage by being a woman.”
Doris Christopher on gender balance…
“I remember in the very early days, at one point we were probably 90 percent female. I always felt like, ‘I have to attract a few good men!’ One of the things that I really think is important when running a business is to have both perspectives. I felt that as we started to attract men to be in some of the roles in our business and we had a good mix of gender, we were more effective.”
The Pampered Chef
In 1980 Doris Christopher, an educator, home economist and mother, launched The Pampered Chef, which is now part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of businesses. The Addison, Illinois-based company develops and sells multipurpose kitchen tools, provides expert cooking tips and creates simple recipes that enhance shared mealtime and suit busy lifestyles.
The company’s product line includes more than 500 offerings from entertaining to cookware, cutlery to cookbooks, and stoneware to pantry products. More than 60,000 Independent Consultants market The Pampered Chef products at in-home cooking shows and serve the needs of some 12 million customers.
In 2013, for the first time in company history, two independent consultants celebrated company milestones: a career achievement award for reaching $3 million in sales and another for recruiting 300 independent consultants into the business. Facebook proved a more than effective tool as The Pampered Chef page surpassed 500,000 likes.
The company’s Round-Up from the Heart campaign has donated nearly $24 million to Feeding America since 1991. They also contributed more than $11 million as part of their Help Whip Cancer campaign to benefit the American Cancer Society since 2000.
The company ranked 28th in the Direct Selling News Global 100 for 2013 with 2012 revenues of $500 million.
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