Friday, September 14, 2007

Changing the World one Shampoo at a Time. Anita Roddick dies age 64.

More than 10 years ago I published a monthly movie magazine for young grown ups (18 - 35 y). Although we were relatively small we always tried to find a way to talk to the real 'stars'. When we changed the magazine into a 'broader' magazine, covering all aspects of the daily life of the young grown ups we had to look for 'stars' outside the movie firmament. One of the first names we went after was Anita Roddick, the woman behind the Body Shop. A young writer, Philip Dumalin, chased her management for months before achieving in what was considered impossible, that we, the boys and girls of Teek Magazine, would be able to have a long private interview with Mrs. Roddick. I will never forget the eyes of Philip Dumalin when he came back from England after the interview. Only sheer happiness was to be found in his eyes. He was proud of his achievement in having been successful in reaching her personally, he was proud of the exalting visit, he was proud of the article he wrote and the picture he took. He also said she made a big, very big impression on him. Now Anita Roddick is dead. She died on Monday September 10, 2007, age 64. Her family said in a statement she suffered "a major brain hemorrhage" at St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex. She was already weakened by Hepatitis C, a blood-borne, viral disease she contracted from a blood transfusion in 1971 after giving birth to her youngest daughter. She had been taken to hospital on Sunday evening after she collapsed complaining of a headache. Her husband, Gordon, and daughters Sam and Justine were all with her when she passed away at 6.30pm. I will be publishing a few management lessons from 'Dame' Anita Roddick the coming days.

Changing the World One Shampoo at a Time: How The Body Shop Became a Success

“If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just,” says Roddick – a phrase that could very well be her company motto. She has taken her $6,500 loan and turned it into a successful multi-million dollar corporation that continues to not only make popular cosmetic products but also push the boundaries of corporate social responsibility. She may no longer be the driving force behind the company, but her influence on the business world is undisputed. How did she do it?

Social Change: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito,” Roddick used to say. Perhaps she had too little knowledge about the business world to know that it couldn't’ be done, but Roddick set out not only to meet the needs of her stakeholders, but also “to courageously ensure that our business is ecologically sustainable, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future.” In doing so, Roddick not only turned a profit but garnered a large and dedicated following of consumers who were onside with her vision.

Vision: Roddick used her creativity and imagination to come up with both a unique product line and corporate philosophy by which to operate. She also understood the importance of cultivating this spirit throughout her company, inspiring the free thought of others around her. It was in looking at the world through a positive and creative lens that Roddick was able to see the solutions ahead.

Experience: “If you can shape your business life or your working life, you can just look at it as another extension – you just fulfill all your values as a human being in the work place,” says Roddick. “If you are an activist, you bring the activism of your life into your business, or if you love creative art, you can bring that in.”
Roddick used what she knew best to inspire and inform her business – her own experiences. Whether it was working in her mother’s café as a child, or bathing along side indigenous tribes in Brazil, Roddick brought in her own past to chart her future.

Survival: “For myself, I needed to earn money, to look after the kids while my husband was traveling for two years across South America,” says Roddick. Born out of a need to stay alive, The Body Shop has been infused with a survivor mentality since day one. It continues his trend today, making the most of every opportunity it can and remaining unsatisfied with the status quo.

Passion: “It’s not really work for me because I have no idea what work is anymore,” says Roddick. “It is so much a part of my life.” Since she was a little girl, the entrepreneurial instinct was cultivated within Roddick. The passion and determination with which she approached her business not only made up for her lack of business knowledge, but actually helped her in achieving her dreams. “I hadn’t a clue,” she recalls of her early days in business and that is what propelled her to the top.

It was while Roddick was running her first store that she learned the true nature of business: “It’s about creating a product or service so good that people will pay for it. Now 30 years on The Body Shop is a multi local business with over 2.045 stores serving over 77 million customers in 51 different markets in 25 different languages and across 12 time zones. And I haven’t a clue how we got here!”(Evan Carmichael)