Making scrapbooks might seem like an innocuous hobby to many, but struggling single mom Cheryl Lightle and her partner Rhonda Anderson turned Anderson's passion for scrapbooks and Lightle's leadership and guidance into a $500 million direct-selling business. In Creative Memories, Lightle recounts the history of their company, Creative Memories, while highlighting the principles that helped it become a direct-sales empire.
One day in early 1987, while Lightle was finishing her first year of transitioning an acquired printing company, Holes-Webway, out of bankruptcy and into her employer's company, The Antioch Co., she received an after-hours call. It was Anderson, a Montana homemaker and mother of four, and she was looking for 40 copies of a photo album Holes-Webway manufactured. Intrigued by Anderson's ideas and enthusiasm for her craft, Lightle invited her to the home office to give a scrapbook presentation.
The response from employees of Holes-Webway was positive, as was the response from employees of The Antioch Co. Many presentations later, Lightle asked Antioch's CEO Lee Morgan if Antioch could pursue the idea of scrapbooking. With the goal "that someday every household would have safe, meaningful keepsake scrapbook albums," Morgan agreed.
Five months later, after Anderson had conducted numerous classes on scrapbooking and Lightle had researched the concept of direct selling, the two created a direct-selling business model. Next, they built their independent sales force of consultants, starting with another longtime fan of the Holes-Webway photo albums who jumped at the chance to start a new business. When Carol Ramke signed her consultant agreement in July 1987, Creative Memories was born.
By 1988, the company had nearly 100 consultants and was beginning to receive some national media attention, which helped it bring in an additional 500 consultants. By the end of 1990, sales were over $1 million wholesale. Its first million-dollar month came in 1993, and in March 1997, Creative Memories had its first million-dollar day.
Currently, the company has more than 90,000 consultants in nine countries, as well as more than 1,200 employee-owners who fulfill its printing, packaging, manufacturing and distribution needs in four facilities. In 2003, sales were approximately $400 million.
Ten Guiding Principles
Lightle explains that the three key components of Creative Memories' corporate culture are its mission statement, its values, and its guiding principles. Although she writes that those guiding principles continue to evolve out of necessity, here is how they stand today:
- Operate from least to most. Implement change in steps, measure results, adjust accordingly, and act again. Do not implement too many changes at any one given time so you don't overwhelm customers and yourself.
- Embrace the abundance mentality. Know your competition, but don't compete. Sell to your strengths and believe in who you are.
- Keep the promise. Holding true to your word preserves and strengthens relationships and preserves business credibility.
- Make it easy. Placing orders, obtaining materials, and learning about new products should be as simple as possible.
- Communicate clearly and concisely. Provide timely, accurate and appropriate communication to stakeholders. Set clear expectations.
- Protect the relationship. We need each other.
- Respect personal choices. With the changing faces, hearts and minds of our society, we cannot afford to be exclusive within markets we want to reach.
- Go for the good of the whole. You can't please everyone, even in a small group, so do the best you can to support the greatest number of people.
- Don't knee jerk. However things turn out, don't be paralyzed by the fear of negative opinion. Let change run its course to see if it is effective.
- Ensure sustainability. Be true to your mission, vision, and guiding principles. Be true to your brand. Commit to having the right processes and people in place to carry you forward.
Why We Like This Book
Creative Memories presents an inspirational memoir about a company that rose from the passion, enthusiasm and vision of people who saw an opportunity and went for it. The lessons they have learned along the way provide valuable strategies and inspiration for any businessperson who wants to turn a great idea into a successful venture. Copyright © 2004 Soundview Executive Book Summaries