Thursday, April 2, 2009

My capitalist dream isn't based in capitalism

Mary Kay Ash started Mary Kay Cosmetics with one thing in mind: the Golden Rule.
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
This socialistical* mantra is the basis for the most successful cosmetics companies, (and the number 3 brand overall) in the country. This free market, capitalistic, every-man-for-himself country. That a company like Mary Kay Cosmetics was even able to get off the ground amazed a lot of people; that it controls a full 10% of the market today speaks very highly of this socialistical ideal.
What's funny about this ideal though is that it levels out the playing field. Everyone starts at the same place with the same thing: a starter kit and many resources from the company (including what to say, how to say it, and lots of other education about the products) that help consultants to book classes, sell product, and share the opportunity with others. Now, the playing field isn't completely level from the start because everyone has different gifts -- some are good at talking and turning on the charm, some have more money for inventory, some have more motivation -- but because we all treat each other the way we would like to be treated, everyone is as successful as they want to be.
So weird that people whose careers are based in such utterly liberalistic*, socialistical nonsense could actually be successful. My god, it's like capitalism with manner! And we all know there's no room for manners in capitalism! It's every-man-for-himself! Only I am entitled to that profit!
Only I am entitled to that profit... that's what most companies are based on. Strangely, people who think like this also decry what they like to call "entitlement programs" like Social Security and Food Stamps which help people who have retired, or hey, haven't managed to yet pull themselves up by their bootstraps (usually because they don't even have feet let alone shoes!); yet they continually scream about how corporations are entitled to make profit. When you think about it, that's what this whole Wall Street bailout garbage is. People didn't do the work necessary, they did the wrong things; they put their own needs first and they didn't abide by the Golden Rule so that by the end of it for every dollar in capital they "owned" there was $30 in debt. Now, if one of these executives at one of these Wall Street firms had known Mary Kay Ash and thought "well, I sure as hell wouldn't want someone dicking around with my money like this, maybe I shouldn't do it to someone else" or "gee, I wouldn't want some lender to trick me into getting a loan that I couldn't afford on my salary even if I worked 100 hour weeks, maybe I shouldn't do that to someone else" instead of chanting this mantra about being entitled to profit and huge golden parachutes given for driving a company into the ground; we wouldn't be in this situation.
If more companies were run according to how Mary Kay Ash set things down when she started Mary Kay Cosmetics, our economy would be doing a lot better. As it is, Mary Kay Cosmetics (and the huge independent sales force) have proved over and over again that cosmetics and skin care are recession-proof, but the basis of this company makes it even stronger. We strive to make people feel special, and it's that "Go-Give" (as opposed to "Go Get") spirit that sets us apart. Yes the products are fantastic, but when your consultant will drive to your house and hand deliver your product, with a thank-you note, and then sit down with you and help you make a wish-list for an up-coming vacation -- are you really ever going to use another brand again? Unlikely.
But, you know what I love most about being a Mary Kay consultant? I can go as far as I want as fast as I want, and the only thing determining my success is me. I can live the capitalist American dream as a consultant (and someday a director) and there's no one to stop me; there's no one to tell me that someone else has to get that car before I can have a turn with it. There's no one to tell me that someone else has to go on that trip before I can take it. There's no one to tell me that someone has to die or retire before I can move up -- all because the structure of this very successful capitalist venture is not based in capitalism. It's based in community. Greed doesn't propel me up the Ladder of Success, leadership does. Greed isn't going to put me in a pink cadilac, leadership will.
In order to be rich, you have to enrich the lives of others. That's another mantra we have in this business -- this capitalist venture that isn't even remotely based on capitalism. In the rest of America, if you want to be rich you have to fight. I don't have to fight, all I have to do is make people feel good about themselves -- and you know what, all of those people who say "making people feel good about themselves doesn't pay the bills" don't know what they're talking about. I haven't seen a cent of my unemployment insurance, but I've still been paying my bills. While making other people feel special and valued.
Even still, people look for a catch. For some reason, certain people want to believe that the Go-Give Spirit is just all talk and no action. It's not possible for everyone to abide by the Golden Rule, they think, and that may be true, but we do it. People in Mary Kay do it because the people who initially exposed us to the company and the culture treated us the way they would want to be treated themselves, everyone who joins pays that forward. If you don't, you won't be very successful at this business. It would be nice if people couldn't be successful in business at all if they didn't live by the Golden Rule, this thing that seems to be so against the rules of capitalism.
Now, maybe Mary Kay, Inc. is a fluke. Within a pluralistic society all things are possible, right? But think about it for a second, if we painted the world pink and everyone treated others the way they wanted to be treated and instead of retaliating when someone was less than nice, saying "well, maybe that person isn't having a very good day" or "maybe that person isn't feeling well"; wouldn't we all be just a little bit happier?
Don't you think we could all be a little richer (financially speaking) too? I do.
*"socialistical" is not a word, neither is "liberalistic"; for our purposes here today, however, these are the embodiment of everything feared by conservatives and right wing free-market asshole-lunatics who decry fairness in the market place and think that companies based on the Golden Rule can't work.

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