Build It and Give It Away
Written by Frosty Rose
When I was deep in the Pink Fog, I spent a lot of time at the feet of the “great” Linda Toupin. Her stories of work ethic, of grit and tenacity, and of doing things “the Mary Kay Way” were inspiring. She had built a national area, she knew all the secrets. All I had to do was listen to her and I could do it, too!
I remember one training that she offered for DIQs about how to grow your unit as clearly as if it happened five minutes ago. She said your only job for your entire Mary Kay career is to “build it and give it away, then build it again and give it away.”
As a consultant, you were to have a series of parties, build a customer base from those parties, then recruit someone from that group and give her those customers as a kickstart. As a director, you grew your unit by working with your consultants’ customers, recruiting them under her, and then she would take them as she launched her own unit; that’s how you grew yourself to a national sales director. “Build it and give it away.”
It all sounded so pure, so “go-give,” so simple. But even in that training there were the seeds of Linda’s true mercenary nature that she learned at the feet of Mary Kay Wagner Rogers Eckman Weaver Louis Miller Ash.
“Worst case scenario, the consultant fails and you get to take all those customers back. Or the director ‘chooses to step down’ and you get all those consultants back in your unit.”
Wait, what? Nobody ever fails in this business! It’s the best opportunity out there for women, so how could anyone ever fail? Especially with a ready-made base of customers? And why on earth would any director “choose to step down”? Isn’t that the greatest job conceivable, short of NSD? Ah well, the pink fog is great at blurring out inconvenient rough edges. So I overlooked that part and clung to her advice. Here are two stories from my personal experience about how that worked out.
That time I tanked my customer base
*Disclaimer* I was an outlier when it came to sales in Mary Kay. I made really good part-time money with my sales business, I skilled myself up in that area, and I worked hard at it. My results were not typical, as I could see even then.
I had a really successful sales business as a consultant. I knew my stuff, I knew what women wanted/needed, and I was masterful at the individual close. I had one particular group of customers that had at least 2-3 parties every quarter, loved seeing the new products, and several were using the entire line of skin care. That group typically ordered $600 or more every month. More around the holidays because they all knew I knew what the others liked, so they would buy a bunch of Christmas gifts.
I loved that group of customers, but I was desperate to build a unit and become a director, so I tried relentlessly to recruit one of them—it was an incredible start to a strong business, and I just couldn’t see why none of them wanted to do what I was doing (I see now!). But, finally, one of them recruited. She did a $600 initial order (which I sold for her), and then nothing else. You see, she wasn’t as motivated as I was, she wasn’t as educated on the product line as I was, she didn’t hold parties, she didn’t show them the new products (because she didn’t have them). Instead of earning roughly $700 per quarter from sales before expenses, I earned a one-time payment of roughly $100, including a $50 bonus because her initial order was “qualified.”
While she was a consultant, her friends and family weren’t being exposed to the new products or getting good customer service, so they all moved on to different brands. When she “failed as a consultant” and finally washed out, those customers did not come back to me. The reality was, they probably got used to not being hounded about their purchases on a monthly basis. They discovered better products at a better price that didn’t come with happy, smiling bulldozer me.
“Build it and give it away” had failed me. Even still, it must have been my fault. Linda Toupin wouldn’t lead me astray! So I did it again. And again. And again. With the same results.
That time I tanked two units
Well, surely the concept couldn’t be completely flawed, right? Surely, what didn’t work on the consultant level must work on the director level. My senior director certainly thought so. And so did I.
So I set off on the journey of DIQ to prove it. My director worked hard with me, helping me recruit to get into DIQ, helping me identify the right women to bring into my budding unit as I was going through qualifications. “Training” those new recruits to begin recruiting immediately so the new unit would have enough consultants and production to complete qualifications.
The defining moment of my DIQ process was the end of September. You see, my director hadn’t qualified for a career car yet, despite being a director for over ten years. Clearly, she wasn’t working hard enough and it was all her fault, but I digress. The production and new recruits brought in during my DIQ process actually put her in car qualifications. She finally had enough momentum to get her own trophy on wheels, her own “free” car.
So at the end of September, with just days to finish and a little over $2,000 wholesale to go, she called me. She had me beg my team/developing unit to place orders so she could finish car qualifications. And it worked. My team production was almost $8,000 that month. I was in car qualifications, she earned her car, and the next month I finished DIQ and debuted my own unit. Success, right? Well, in the moment, sure. But what happened in the months following?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that if two units together were barely making the $6,500/month production required to earn a car, when you divide those units, they’re not going to be sustainable.
To no one’s surprise, my unit failed. My director clung to her car long enough for my unit to come back under her umbrella, by which point she was almost making minimum car production again. But the same cycle that I saw with my new recruits and customers happened with the unit.
When I failed as a director, my unit was tied to me. Those consultants no longer felt any loyalty to my senior director. So they quit at the first opportunity. Or they ghosted us both. They saw the reality of this business in a way that their leaders, blinded by the Pink Fog, could not. And they fled.
“Build it and give it away” sounds great. But if you scratch the surface of the “go-give” mentality, what it creates is not sustainable. In fact, what those words really mean is “grind, grind, grind, and it never stops.” Until you do. You pause, take a breath, and it all collapses like the house of cards it is.