Long before the rise of Kim Kardashian or Jeffree Star, there were veritable armies of direct sales people going door to door selling their wares by telling stories and using their personal passion for the products. What happened to that model in the age of the influencer and with a pandemic that seems to never end? To understand direct sales today in health, beauty and wellness, I spoke with Tyler V. Whitehead, new CEO of Arbonne, about how his work and life, embody the principles of the Reboot Chronicles.
To understand the influence of direct sales today in health, beauty and wellness, I spoke with Tyler V. Whitehead, the new CEO of Arbonne, about how his work and life, embody the principles of the Reboot Chronicles: some of which are being nimble, adapt to what life throws at you and always be leading with agility. Arbonne is owned by Groupe Rocher, the French beauty company, with an estimated annual sales revenue of $847 million in 2020, ranking #22 in the Direct Selling News Global 100 list of top direct selling companies in the world.
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DD: You don’t have a traditional CEO path in the Beauty and Wellness Sector. What led you here?
TM: My personal journey has included rebooting a couple of different times, I was formerly an attorney in private practice, mergers and acquisitions and IPOs, and rebooted myself into direct sales about 18 years ago, first as general counsel, running risk management and compliance issues then segued to the sales and operations side. More recently, I left a large public company, that was a New York Stock Exchange-traded company, and moved into a private family-held business, from sales and operations focus to CEO, which is a different level of breath. I’m really taking some of the things that I've learned over a few different major leaps into this. I try to make every day about what can I learn and focus on potential and opportunity while keeping the tactical execution fires burning heavily.
DD: You've got a whole group of I call them gigsters, your consultant group, out there selling your products around the world, which is a tremendous asset. But you're now competing with even Walmart and Amazon which have jumped into this creator influencer trend. How do you win in this arena?
TM: You’re right, we have hundreds of 1000s of people who are passionate advocates for our brand, and we need to be able to leverage that in the marketplace through digital scale. It's really taking what has historically been a one-to-one model, a single consultant talking with a single customer, and transforming it. You start bringing in a heavy dose of data and analytics, which leads to the digitization of decision making.
One of the things we're looking at is how to focus the current articulation of the story of our brand. And then how to make sure we maintain that continuity of the one-to-one personal side of the business, but scale it on the-one-to many, which is the art of what I call the convergence.
DD: How is the social commerce expansion going? And a related question: How are you transforming your consultants into more creator influencer types?
TM: A few years ago, Arbonne would have an event in person, and they might have 800 people that would attend. Forced by the global pandemic, we can now have a virtual meeting with 100,000 participants. So we’re just reinforcing that scale.
We’ve realized we have a legacy of leaders who have been with the brand for decades. And they're powerful, in the influencer game and have a large voice, so they tend to continue to want to do what they understand leads to success. We’re working on changing the mindset into a digital framework for what might be Baby Boomers, and then transitioning to Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha.
We have our leaders who may not be as technology savvy, or may not have the social technology chops, and have them find somebody on their team that does have it. It's reverse mentoring so we have these very intelligent, powerful leaders who have executive and relational skills and are good leaders, and they are mentored by Gen Z.
DD: How do you compete with the Amazon’s and Walmart’s of the world in your space?
TM: Most of the pressure we feel is on the logistics side. It's, table stakes things like do you have free shipping, two-day shipping, one-click checkout. We've invested massive amounts in the last two years in the commerce platform. We have the highest level of SAP commerce that that can be provided. But the experience from a checkout perspective is not personal. So that’s where our opportunity is, Our focus is not about how how transaction-based we can be, and we’re not competing head-to-head on price per ounce. There's so much value-add in that sales experience and in that coaching. So one of our most popular products today is our “30 days to healthy living system. It comes with a coach, someone who does a person-to-person assessment and helps understand what your goals are. Personalization is critical. We use digital tools to help the personalization experience, whether it's aided or unaided by a consultant, but the stickiness of a real conversation, “this is how this product helped me,” is what’s truly powerful.
About the Reboot Chronicles Podcast
Hosted by Dean DeBiase. The Reboot Chronicles is a popular no-holds-barred podcast on iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and YouTube that has been bringing together CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, and global leaders, for over a decade, to discuss how organizations are rebooting their leadership-competitiveness of everything from growth, innovation, and technology to talent, culture, and governance. Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts or at https://www.revieve.com/rebootchronicles.
About Dean DeBiase
Named a Growth Guru" by Inc. Magazine, Dean DeBiase is a Faculty Member at Kellogg School of Management and Silicon Valley serial CEO, where he has served in chief executive and chairman roles of more than a dozen emerging growth companies, CEO of Fortune 500 subsidiaries, and a director on public, private, family-enterprise, CVC, PE and VC boards. He is a Technology Fellow at Northwestern University, a Board Leadership Fellow at The National Association of Corporate Directors, and an Advisor to the National Science Foundation. A Forbes Contributor and co-author of the best-selling book The Big Moo, Dean, is working on his next book, Dancing with Startups. Connect with Dean here:www.linkedin.com/in/FollowDean.