The Pathway To Profit

Want to know what makes or breaks a business? CEO of BLC Cosmetics Nikki Somerset shares her insight and experiences.

Three years ago Nikki asked herself – ‘How hard can it be?’ when she took up the helm at BLC Cosmetics. Tasked with transforming the business by modernising and driving a high-performance culture. She reveals what’s been so illuminating is the reflection process and discovering how absolutely universal the experiences of change are to owners, operators as well as distributors and manufacturers.

We chatted to Nikki about what makes or breaks a business.

I’M DRIVEN and sometimes like a woman possessed! My sheer conviction is underpinned by a insatiable appetite to make a difference and a positive contribution. Profit is the goal, but it’s also strangely the by-product. But profit doesn’t just naturally happen on its own, and even with bucketloads of drive and passion, it’s not enough.

IT CAN BE DISHEARTENING to look at the P&L when you’ve got a vision but are not where you want to be yet. I empathise with every owner out there striving to achieve balance while running a business, a life, a home and a family. I realised that even though I run a distribution business, I have faced the exact same problems as our clients. Coming out the other side of transformation, I was trying to work out what the common threads were in the mindset to “keep on keeping on” and what has not only kept me sane, but enthusiastic and fulfilled.

THERE ARE FIVE MAIN UNIVERSAL TRUTHS that I have discovered through a bit of soul searching, which contribute to this growth mindset:

Purpose

People

Process (ie priorities and a plan!)

Product

Perseverance

The net result is that this is the pathway to profit, but each of these topics plays a role in getting you there.

PURPOSE IS ALL THE RAGE RIGHT NOW but it’s for very good reason. The first universal truth is that purpose connects you to why you do what you and is an exceptionally powerful and empowering process. I’ve always had this insatiable inner drive for change. Not change for the sake of it, but empowering and enduring to make a positive impact to our team, our clients, our clients’ clients, our brands, our industry and our planet. It wasn’t until recently that I understood this part of myself and how it’s given me the courage to take sometimes ridiculous risks, make some epic mistakes and (most importantly) forgive myself for those mistakes.

PURPOSE GIVES YOU A REASON TO GET UP IN THE MORNING but there’s virtually no point it you’re doing it all on your own. It’s no secret that the second key universal truth is that people are the single greatest asset to a business. But as an owner, manager or leader it’s hard going and it’s tantamount to herding cats some days. You’re playing a cast of roles – boss, coach, friend, counsellor – and it can be lonely all on your own at the top. I had some sage advice recently to squash all of these roles into one and approach my team as though I’m a parent. Reeling from the thought, I realised it’s not as patronising as it sounds and I’m truly invested as a guide, with the best intentions for each of my team.

CONNECTING YOUR PURPOSE TO YOUR PEOPLE IS CRUCIAL to bring them on the journey. You can never explain enough, because sometimes it all makes perfect sense in your head, but your team are not clairvoyants (reminder note to self!).

THE CONCEPT OF ‘ACES IN PLACES’ IS POWERFUL and there is no room for passengers in a high-performance culture. You need to know where there isn’t an alignment between a person and your purpose, and then be brave enough to call time. No-one intentionally shows up to do a bad job, but sometimes they do and you just have to deal with it – what you tolerate you endorse. The nature of our industry is that we are fixers, nurturers and healers and this same ethos applies to the way we treat our teams. But there may be some that you just can’t fix and you have to be okay with that. You need to be on your own team too and to be able to call bullsh*t on yourself. No blaming, no excuses and no putting your head in the sand. It only works for a short time. Be the master of your own destiny.

THE THIRD UNIVERSAL TRUTH IS that as we seek balance in our busy lives, the panacea for stress is a combination of process, priorities and a plan. It’s a bit of a boring topic, but consistency and simplicity of a process sets and manages expectations to ground you in security day-to-day. Your process and priorities drive 80 percent of the business activity to gives you a little bandwidth to roll the big rocks that will make a big difference. Micromanaging people will kill a business, but micromanaging the definition of the process that the people use can revolutionise and deliver exponential results. This can only be done if you don’t try and do it all at once, all the time. Pick the “fewer, bigger, better” things that will make a difference because strategy is more often what we choose not to do.

YOU KNOW YOU’VE CHOSEN WHAT TO DO so that you’re not overwhelmed and your plan is specific and achievable. The only thing left to do is to just to do it!

ALL OF OUR BUSINESSES CAN’T OPERATE WITHOUT PRODUCT however the fourth universal truth is that your product isn’t the brand on your shelf, it’s the value that you create to your customers. Get out of transaction mode – your client can buy “stuff” anytime. What they want is an experience. To be valued. The reason they’re coming to you is for a result and sometimes that result is just to have an hour to themselves. I’m fascinated that we focus so much on product in our industry, since the touch you provide in the treatment means you become closest person to them other than their partner. That’s an incredible privilege and responsibility. So get busy being a partner with them to achieve their goals. You don’t have a crystal ball, so ask them what they would like! And don’t let your own thoughts get in the way because you don’t know what the client is thinking. You’ll be waiting a long time to find out what they’re thinking if you don’t ask.

THE LAST AND FINAL TOPIC IS THE SHORTEST because it’s the simplest. The fifth universal truth is that nothing happens without relentless perseverance. Change the way you think about perseverance because it’s not hard – it’s the journey, so manage your own expectations.

It’s a pure numbers game – the more time you spend doing the right activities, the higher the likelihood of success. So plan your perseverance and give yourself time (and honour that time) to invest in your own professional development and planning. Your own self-accountability is crucial, and the key to managing your self-accountability is often managing your self-doubt. Tap into yourself, trust yourself, push yourself, forgive yourself and very importantly celebrate yourself.

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