Leading with passion Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

Patty Brisben’s career in adult relationship enhancers began in 1983 when she saw a show about women who sold the products through home parties.

Brisben, a divorced mother of four, was so intrigued with the concept that she quit her job as a medical assistant to pursue this new career.

During her first year selling for Fun Parties, she was named top salesperson out of 3,000 consultants.

“I knew from the start that this was the perfect position for me,” Brisben says. “I did my homework and carefully observed the women attending the home shows. They represented all walks of life but had one thing in common — a genuine desire to learn more about intimacy and their own bodies. I knew the home party settings provided the ideal forum.”

Ten years later, Fun Parties folded, and Brisben opened the doors to Slumber Parties, which she later rebranded as Pure Romance Inc. “I decided (Slumber Parties) did not represent what we were about,” Brisben says. “It left the impression of a bunch of girls instead of mature women. The company name is a critical first impression.”

The company had retail sales of more than $60 million last year.

Smart Business spoke with Brisben about why training is vital and the importance of surrounding yourself with good people.

Q: How important is training to growing a business?

Successful businesses go below the surface and do not simply sell a product. It is about the entire experience, which involved more than sales. Uneducated consultants can do a lot of harm to our business, so we focus on training.

Untrained consultants can easily make the buyers uncomfortable, which is the last thing we want to do. Training is a challenge but not one we can afford to shortchange.

Q: How important is it to consult with others?

Owning a company does not mean you must have all the answers. It’s wise to maintain close ties with experts and really listen to them. I have advisers at many levels, including medical doctors and experts on the trends that affect our business.

Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with great people.

Q: What qualities do you look for when hiring?

There has to be a shared vision. We consider negative stories about former employers to be a big red flag.

We look for hungry, ambitious employees who are passionate about what our company stands for. They have done their homework and truly believe in the concept of promoting women’s sexual health and knowledge.

Q: What can bring a company down and/or prevent growth?

It starts at the top. I never underestimate the impact my passion and vision have through the entire operation. I am always positive and continually work with the company’s president and other key managers on where we are moving next. They need to grow along with me because I will one day pass the torch to them.

CEOs need to believe in their dreams, take risks and delegate. They also need to get their hands dirty. I am by no means an expert at every aspect of the business, but I have been exposed to each function. I have ordered products, packed them and shipped them.

There are times when every leader becomes discouraged and experiences a dip in confidence, along with sleepless nights. The key is to push through these low times and remind yourself that your company is making a positive difference.

Q: How do you measure success?

Your employees need to be growing and maintaining their enthusiasm and commitment in your product at all times. That is one indicator of success. It cannot be defined solely in material terms.

I consider one of my greatest accomplishments to be empowering women to be more successful both professionally and in their personal lives. Giving back to the community needs to be part of the success formula.

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