Pure Romance Inc trains its next leaders Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2008

If you’re a newly hired management-level employee at Pure Romance Inc., you’re going to be spending a lot of time with Chris Cicchinelli.

 “I typically have them shadow me for three to four weeks,” says Cicchinelli, president of Pure Romance. “They sit in the different meetings. Even if they’re from IT, they sit in and understand the financial pieces of the business, how the actual business works with the consultants.”

Cicchinelli says developing leaders is essential for the long-term survival of any business, and if you are leading a growing company, the impetus for developing new leaders must start with you.

That strategy has help Cicchinelli — and his mother, Patty Brisben, who founded the company — grow Pure Romance into an $80 million company, with thousands of sales consultants in all 50 states holding in-home parties to sell relationship enhancement products.

Smart Business spoke with Cicchinelli about how to develop the next generation of leaders to help your business continue to grow.

Identify future leaders. A leader needs to be able to have good judgment skills, someone who can communicate and deliver a precise and clear message.

I want someone who is going to be challenging, as well. A lot of people don’t like to be challenged at the top level, but I like my leadership asking me why we are doing things. They’re not just questioning me personally, they’re questioning me because they might face that same question out in the field. We like people who will challenge and ask why we’re going in a certain direction, people who want a little bit more information.

The final piece to this is loyalty. Loyalty is a huge part of being a leader. Those are the criteria. It’s not always your top salespeople, it’s not always your top recruiters, it’s not always the people that wear all the corporate logos. It’s the people who have all the factors I listed.

At Pure Romance, we identify new leaders in a couple of different ways. The first one is a voluntary piece. You have to write in, talk a bit about your background. We look for people who have been in sales before, people who have the passion for the business, who can deliver the message of the business.

We look at how they write, then we interview them. Patty and I sit down, she interviews the candidate, then I interview the candidate. We interviewed200 people to get down to where we are right now with75, and we both have to agree on them, though we agree to disagree on some of them. We sit down, talk about the pros and cons, we go through the line list of where we think the strengths and weaknesses are.

Set a leadership example. The biggest thing is to listen. So many people at the top, we dictate and don’t listen. You need to listen to the concerns of the different departments and hear both sides of stories, not take one side.

You have to sift through the roadblocks in some of the departments. That has been our biggest attribute here. We don’t just fly off the handle. We hear both sides of the story.

We meet monthly as a total company. We bring everyone together; we talk about the initiatives from the prior month and how we did. Then we talk about the previous month and what we expect. [We] let them know about the calendar of events that are taking place.

From the CEO of the company all the way to the janitorial people, we let everybody know exactly what is happening, who is coming to the facility, what to expect for that month with business volume. We share that information; we don’t hide any of that information.

We talk about what is going to take place and what is going to transpire for that month.

Formalize your training. When we were a smaller company, it was easier because Patty or myself could fly around the country, take that time out of our day and go visit our consultants in various markets.

But as we started going from a Cincinnati- and Detroit-based company to 50 states and 25,000 consultants nationwide, we had to devise a plan. What we really started doing was working with leadership and putting a leadership program into Pure Romance, and taking our message, our values of the company and continue to pass it on to new consultants. We have 75 leaders that we bring in every year, twice a year, and work with them on what do we see for the upcoming year, how do we want to run our business, how do you train our consultants. Then what they do is hold training sessions every other month in markets throughout the United States.

The biggest thing I’ve found in doing this for eight years: If you don’t develop leadership, you will never grow your company. You will stay in the exact same position, or you will find yourself behind companies that do develop leaders. Leadership in our mind — why we’ve done it and why we continue to do it — is the simple fact that if you’re not doing it, you’re doing your sales force and company an injustice.

Working with our leadership— not only on conference calls and bringing them in twice a month, twice a year, but making sure they’re updated on a weekly basis on any given change — is the most crucial and critical part of growth.

HOW TO REACH: Pure Romance Inc., (866) 766-2623 or www.pureromance.com