The Christopher file Featured

7:16am EDT October 31, 2003

Born: June 2, 1945, in Chicago

Education: B.S., home economics, University of Illinois, 1967

First job: Sales assistant, Marshall Field's, downtown Chicago

Career moves: High school home economics teacher and adult education instructor at University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service. Full-time homemaker after the birth of her first child in 1972.

Boards: America's Second Harvest and Better Business Bureau of Northern Illinois executive committee

Lives: Western suburbs

What has been the greatest business lesson you have learned?

One of the things that I have found over the years is that your intuition and your instincts about a business are seldom wrong. If I have to work too hard to sell myself on an idea, it's probably not a good idea.

If people are trying to force fit something into the culture of the business, it's probably not going to work. If the business is healthy, strong and vibrant, it's very important to stay close to the culture of the business.

What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in business, and how did you overcome that?

Growth actually. I'm a teacher by training and a home economist, so growth was a challenge many times during our history.

Having people aligned with the mission and vision; knowing if there were difficulties that they understood why, and that it was short-term. Knowing that we were moving forward and we were going to get to a better place.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

There are a couple of people in my industry who have been remarkable role models. One of them is Mary Kay Ashe and the other is Mary Crowley. Both of them are deceased. Both founded direct-selling companies that focused on the well-being of the people in the company.

The legacy that they left behind is creating not just a business that sells products, as good as the product is, but the point is it's more than just selling the product; it's also about developing people to use their skills and talents in a way they never thought they could.