Visionary business leader and President & CEO of Princess House, Connie Tang joins DirecTech Labs to discuss her leadership style and diversity as a crucial dimension for productivity, innovation and growth opportunities. Under her direction, Princess House underwent a brand refresh focused on the understanding that diversity and inclusion are not a “nice to have”, they are just good business.
What was your experience growing up in New York City, daughter to immigrants? How has it shaped you into the leader you’ve become today?
Connie: Growing up the daughter of immigrants in New York City has entirely shaped who I am today. When I was 10 months old, we moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Moreover, we were the only the Chinese family in the neighborhood. That’s where I grew up for the first eight years of my life, and that is also where I learned to speak Spanish.
Everyone in my family was dual income earners. When my parents needed somebody to take care of me, they knocked on our neighbor’s door. She was from the Dominican Republic and didn’t speak English. So every morning I would go to my neighbor’s place and stay there until about 7:30 pm. Lots of times, especially as I got a little bit older, I remember going back and hanging out with my Spanish babysitter after dinner. My public school was also diverse. I would say that those experiences would lead me to develop the skills to adapt, to communicate and to interact with people who were different and who didn’t speak the same language as I did. Being trilingual has helped as I worked in global internationalization in my former roles. I didn’t choose to be trilingual. It happened, and fortunately, it ended up shaping a lot of my career opportunities and the path that would end up evolving into the life that I have today.
You’ve been a big advocate both for women and diversity in general. How has this become an essential subject for you?
Connie: Diversity is a passion point. I see myself as a walking talking example of the American dream. Time and time again, studies have shown that organizations that have a diverse workforce, diverse executives, diverse boards are more productive, more innovative and more strategic in their business development opportunities.
The reason for that is because the world is globalizing in terms of the stakeholder base. The old geographical barriers are disappearing because of technology. You no longer have the obstacle of prohibitive costs to connecting with diverse audiences because you now have technology that facilitates it. It is good business because there are many more tools that allow you to overcome what once were barriers to doing business. It also is strategically smart because it allows for different experiences, different cultures, and different mindsets to inform your overall development of business planning and execution. So diversity to me means understanding that difference in gender, religion, culture, language, geography, political orientation and, sexual orientation.
At DSA, you worked for the Diversity Empowerment Council. Can you share a highlight of what came out of that?
Connie: Absolutely, I was the founding chairperson of the Diversity Empowerment Council. The Council enabled a core group of individuals to gather information, research and opportunities for our member companies to learn about the effect of diversity in their business development.
We can prove that there’s financial and economic impact in our direct selling industry. Princess House has a high majority Hispanic consultant and customer base. In my current demographic, they are primarily first-generation immigrants which also means that they have a limited level of education and limited access to technology. Direct Selling has been an enabler in bridging some of those gaps that education might pose an obstacle for as well as access because of household income and the diversity Empowerment Council was able to bring to light through research projects in collaboration with the Direct Selling Education Foundation.
We had Primerica come in and talk about what the development of the women’s segment in their business and their contribution to their total sales growth over the past decade. It’s pretty phenomenal because they had a male-dominated sales force base. So they spoke about what they did to help women embrace the opportunity Primerica had.
Tell us about why you wrote your book Fearless Living: 8 Life-Changing Values to Breakthrough Success.
Connie: It was a project where I wanted to take my lessons learned from my days as a student to my professional career and to highlight how particular values are identified, harnessed, practiced, mastered and applied for overcoming fear. Fear for me was important to stress because that’s a common denominator that binds us all. It is a common denominator that every single one of us at one point in time will experience and fear also elicit some real physiological reactions from any individual. And, if you think about them as choices, then you have to choose and decide what to do in the moment of fear. Those eight values that I talk about are Respect, Collaboration, agility, determination, results driven, Compassion, passion, and accountability. What we do, what we decide to do, how we respond to moments of fear has an impact on the world. It isn’t just my story; it’s the story of women I’ve had the honor of meeting that demonstrated examples of how they’ve utilized and harnessed these values to overcome fear.
What can we do as direct selling companies to make sure that more people in every different type of community have more positive experiences with our brands?
Connie: It starts with embracing the diversity that exists within your base and finding the common denominator. So when you find it, you give your sales field the opportunity to understand where somebody is coming from. “Meet them where they’re at.” It means meeting them where they are but not settling for where they are. Training sales field for personal development means equipping them for success. Success breeds success and confidence. It’s a very cyclical reference. Additionally, we’ve successfully integrated high tech to support sales. So it’s a balance between people and technology that allow us to expand our reach.
You are into technology to better understand people and support sales. How are you doing that right now? Why is it so important to you?
Connie: We’ve been on a multi-year development project to build a new backend infrastructure. We have uncoupled some critical systems from there. The first piece for us was CGI also called “Commission’s Genealogy and Incentives” was severed a few years ago.
With the new backend this summer we separated the peace of order entry and CSR. And our next phase will be looking at the warehouse management and finance operations. It’s been a very evolutionary path.
We are adopting a new age of infrastructure support and technology. Our WOW moment was when we were able to see the makeup of our sales force base and customer base. It’s been enlightening because we’ve only begun looking at data points and developing strategic plans around that demographics. Another part that we are also looking at are true levers that move the top and bottom needle of a company. It’s no magic, and I’m sure everyone else looks at their distributor account. You look at their activity; you look at their productivity. We dig even more in-depth, and we start looking at what did they do in the first month there with us. What they did four months later. And that’s where we can strategically start to pinpoint our opportunities. We start we had to start with a benchmark to understand what are they doing when are they doing it. What are they doing and when do they stop doing so that we can maximize investments that every company makes to acquire and keep people and keep them longer. So those have been some critical factors for us and data points not only that have informed our strategies but also inform where we invest.
What are the elements of culture that you try to create not only in the field but inside corporate as well?
Connie: We recently worked on a brand refresh. It was an opportunity for us to look deep into our heritage and the essence of who we are. And what we ended up with a new focus on the people that makes up this company. It required us to adopt a new business model based on compassion, passion, and respect for corporate and field.
What’s on the path for you what are you most excited about?
Connie: I am excited about a new platform that will allow us to engage the end customer further and amplify our reach. I’m excited about being able to execute, implement, and go live in those next pieces that we’re holding. I also see us in the next few years continuing to diversify the demographic makeup of my sales force base, which also requires diversification of our product and how we train, interact and engage with our future customers and consultants. We are poised to be in a place where we can build upon that and deepen that foothold in the marketplace with that demographic.
In the past few years, we often talk about this idea of giving people experiences with your brand based on the experience they are looking for versus the experience the company wishes everyone would have. What does this concept mean to you?
Connie: Each company’s going to find themselves in a unique position based on their sales model. It relates to monitoring, engaging and segmenting your communications and marketing to customers. Let’s use Princess houses for example. We feel very strongly that our most viable opportunity for independent business owners and consultants is through a party plan model. So identifying the end customer determines how we develop programs for the different levels and layers of customers and consultants. So for us, we have a methodical process tailored for these different audiences.
What has been your ROI on segmenting your base and communicating with them differently?
Connie: It’s part of what’s fueled our growth. It’s very critical to being able to attract and retain a sales force base because of what we promote as the best way for them to build the business and to maximize the time that they decide they want to dedicate to Princess house.
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