For Kay Zanotti, CEO of skincare and wellness company Arbonne, leadership has always been one of her strengths. Prior to joining Arbonne in August of 2009, Kay was the Vice President of Procter & Gamble, where she spearheaded the Corporate Women’s Health and Vitality platform. She was also the key commercial architect of Actonel, an osteoporosis drug, which she helped launch into the fastest growing brand in the company’s track record. Most recently, this ambitious and bold entrepreneur served as the Senior Vice President of McDonald’s, where she led marketing efforts to promote healthy lifestyle initiatives for women and families in the U.S. and Europe. Kay holds a bachelor’s in Fine Arts and Economics from Georgetown University, and an MBA from Xavier University in Finance and Marketing.
Kay Zanotti Courtesy of Arbonne
Currently, Kay is CEO of Arbonne, dedicating her efforts to not only propelling the company’s success, but also to bringing health and beauty to the Arbonne community. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for this resourceful businesswoman, however; Arbonne went through a rough patch of bankruptcy – a dip that Kay masterfully helped rescue. She harnessed the skills she learned from Procter & Gamble to build Arbonne back into the powerhouse it is today – the company is now worth close to $600 million, and is sprawled across seven countries.
How did you make the transition from Proctor & Gamble to McDonalds Corp? They would appear to be on opposite ends of the industrial spectrum.
It was certainly a big cultural change in multiple ways. I tried to find where the common ground was between the two companies while learning the new culture. The culture of McDonald’s was much more about relationships with the franchisees than data and research. It was also still in an evolution from a local geography doing the marketing versus a global or regional approach. Procter & Gamble by this point was much more regional and global. In the end, the greatest learning experience that has served me well in running Arbonne was twofold: There are many ways to accomplish a healthy, growing company — at P&G, we are taught the best, textbook approach to marketing products, whereas McDonald’s was more relationship-based and operationally focused. There are more similarities than differences between the two companies on what makes it a great business (e.g, fair treatment of employees, focus on the strength of the brands, and passion).
What spurred your move to Arbonne?
I had “retired” from full-time work, and was serving on multiple public boards where I was interacting closely with CEOs. I kept getting asked: if the CEO gets run over by a bus, would you consider taking over? It made me think that maybe I could do this. I got a call from an executive recruiter whom I knew and trusted, and the rest was history.
How did you handle the difficult task of taking Arbonne through a bankruptcy, and then begin the rewarding task of building back the business?
Most of what made me capable of doing something I had never done before was my P&G experience, where we were always challenged with new categories, issues and opportunities. You had to become used to difficult situations to survive and ultimately thrive. Having made the transition to McDonald’s also gave me the courage that I could move into unchartered waters and survive. While we were preparing to go through bankruptcy, I had the challenging task of building trust with our Arbonne independent sales force, who were acutely aware of the need for the bankruptcy. We were able to get through the bankruptcy in 37 days, which helped build their belief back, as well as our 800 plus employees. We then set about building our five-year strategy, which gave us the glide path to our sustainable business growth, which is now approximately a $600 million dollar business in seven countries.
How did you grow Arbonne’s customer base?
Most of our growth to date has come from our own independent sales consultants reaching out to their contacts and making new contacts. We have over 100,000 of them. They use their own social media with content we often provide to build their network. We also have a well-developed company website that anyone can order product from, and join our loyalty club as a preferred client. As a company, we are very active on all major social media channels, with a focus on our brand and our products. Increasingly, we partner with our sales force to reach out to new people, whether they have an interest in buying Arbonne, or ultimately selling our products.
Arbonne Protein Courtesy of Arbonne
How do you see the beauty industry right now - is it overly competitive or do you have a niche in the market?
The beauty industry is overly competitive, but frankly we don’t fret over the competition too much. We believe we fill a need that is unique to us. We provide a range of products that are pure, safe and beneficial, formulated without animal byproducts, gluten free, and vegan.
Yet, our clinical data indicate we are as effective or more effective than best-in-class traditional beauty products that contain ingredients like chemicals that are on our ‘No” list. To top that off, Arbonne products are available from brand experts that only have your best interest at heart. Our sales people are great, knowledgeable people, who do not oversell. We believe the products sell themselves after a few applications or less.
What makes Arbonne different from other brands?
The fact that we live up to our promise of pure, safe and beneficial products, combined with a very savvy and high-quality sales force.
Name 3 qualities you believe it takes for a female to become a V.P.
1. Be yourself, and don’t apologize. Your assertiveness in your own skin will shine and make others respect you.
2. Persist on making a difference on the most important things for which you have responsibility for – don’t get hung up on what others are doing or not doing to achieve success.
3. Don’t be afraid of being unpopular; seek to be morally sound in your behavior to others, and have an overall goal of being respected (and in the end you will likely be popular, too).
SWAAY'S QUICK 10
1. What app do you use the most?
My photo app.
2. Briefly describe your morning routine.
Get up, have an Arbonne Essentials Vanilla Protein Shake Mix [$74 at Arbonne.com] with fruit and almond milk. It gives me energy and a sound mind until lunch. I also walk on most days.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
The founders of Zara; Amancio Ortega and Rosalia Mera, because they broke all of the rules to become the largest fashion retailer globally.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
Zara — I love fashion and love that they make an affordable option for people. My daughter is an artist and fashion designer and studied at Parsons, worked for Michael Kors and now has her own business. I live vicariously through her.
5. What is your spirit animal?
6. What is your life motto?
Family first—be the best version of yourself to help others.
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
Arbonne Essential Energy Fizz Sticks [$52 at Arbonne.com] and walnuts.
8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?
9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?
10. If you were stranded on a desert Island, name 3 things you would bring.
My husband John, water, and sunscreen.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.