Lesson #1: Live by the Golden Rule

“I can say unequivocally that every decision we make at Mary Kay Cosmetics is based on the Golden Rule,” said Ash. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

On her rise to becoming one of the most successful businesswomen in America, Ash strove to create a corporate culture that brought out the best in everyone. She believed that the Golden Rule should serve as a practical guide to conducting one’s business affairs. She tried not only to live by this principle herself, but to encourage the people around her to make a similar kind of effort.

Ash’s business philosophy was grounded in her strong religious beliefs. She was a proud Christian and believed that her faith in God was what kept her grounded. “God didn’t have time to create a nobody – just a somebody,” said Ash. “I believe that each of us has God-given talents within us waiting to be brought to fruition…Each person is unique and special.” It was thus on the basis of her religious faith that Ash created a corporate culture that embodied the Golden Rule.

“I have learned to imagine an invisible sign around each person’s neck that says ‘Make me feel important,’” Ash said. “I never cease to be amazed at how positively people react when they’re made to feel important.” Ash thought that there was a certain dignity of selling as a profession, and along with this came a certain dignity with which everyone was meant be treated. “Everyone wants to be appreciated,” she said. “So, if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret.”

However, Ash’s goodwill towards others was not just as a result of her religious upbringing. Rather, Ash understood that the Golden Rule also made for a golden principle in business; treating people well simply made good business sense. It was to this end that Ash created a company that came to be known as a ‘people company’. “Mary Kay Cosmetics is known for ‘praising people to success,’” said Ash. “We think this is so important, we base our entire marketing plan on it.”

Ash believed that her people were her company’s greatest asset. “It doesn’t make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics,” she said. “A company is only as good as the people it keeps.” In addition to creating a corporate environment of encouragement and praise, Ash also used material incentives to reward her workers. The pink Cadillac was the most well-known of these, but Ash also gave out other such rewards as diamond bee pins. “We treat our people like royalty,” she said. “If you honor and serve the people who work for you, they will honor and serve you.”

To this day, the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, which works to supports efforts in the fight against women’s cancers and putting an end to violence again women, continues to embody Ash’s belief in the Golden Rule. In its fundraiser information form, the organization specifically outlines its Golden Rule Philosophy, whereby “a fundraiser should be just that – a fundraiser benefiting a specific charity or organization. A fundraiser should not be used as a device to market the Mary Kay opportunity or share the marketing plan.”

She may have been breaking all the business rules, but in practicing the Golden Rule, Ash was gaining the respect and dedication of all those around her. “Some might consider the Golden Rule corny and old-fashioned, but no one can deny its simple truth,” she said. “Imagine how much better our world would be if everyone lived by this creed.”

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