First, we can’t create a great culture, we must discover it. We need to look within, understand ourselves, our values and our purpose as this forms our authentic culture. We cannot fake it. It’s important to not confuse what we think the company out to have — but does not — with the legitimate reality of who we are. We always want to avoid the “Are they kidding me?” response. Rather by deeply acknowledging who we are and even who we have been, but might have forgotten, we use culture in its most effective role, to guide and inspire.
As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alisa Marie Beyer, CEO of LemonTree Partners, a boutique strategy company specializing in helping executives and companies effectively manage leadership transitions, team alignment, and growth strategies.
Alisa has been helping executives, companies, and organizations for more than 20 years effectively manage executive transitions, team alignment and growth strategies. Her clients have included Nestlé, Estée Lauder, Mary Kay, Avon, DuPont, Galderma, L’Oréal, wet ‘n wild, Proactiv, Meaningful Beauty, StriVectin, Dow Personal Care, Murad, GlamGlow, L’Occitane, Fresh, Bath & Body Works, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, KAO Brands, Osmosis, and more than 100 startup and small companies. The hallmark of Alisa’s success has been the ability to grow and successfully transition and grow her own companies as well as her client companies and organizations.
Alisa knows how important it is to effectively define clear and powerful strategic priorities and how to align and mobilize the team to deliver on the action plans designed to achieve them. In 1996, Alisa founded The ProMarc Agency, one of the fastest-growing and most respected business marketing and public relations consulting firms. While driving The ProMarc Agency’s growth, she acquired, developed, and sold Globescope Internet Services, Inc., a website development consulting company. In 2001, WPP/Hill & Knowlton (H&K) acquired The ProMarc Agency. In 2003, Alisa founded AXM Swimwear, which designs and manufactures designer swimsuits for women and was chosen for inclusion in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and Vogue magazine. In 2005, MODE PLAYA, the largest swimwear manufacturer in Mexico, bought AXM Swimwear. Then, in 2006, Alisa founded The Beauty Company (TBC), which made its imprint on the beauty industry by providing a unique set of consulting services that intersected the spheres of beauty branding and business. While at TBC, Alisa created and pioneered a joint venture with CBS/Sony to bring to life Jabot Cosmetics — the fictional cosmetics brand from the award-winning CBS daytime soap opera, The Young and the Restless. In 2015, Alisa started Coastal Salt & Soul, a luxury bath and body company. Within 24 months of the launch, the brand was being sold in more than 300 luxury boutiques, had the fastest beauty sell-out on The Today Show, and launched on QVC, where the brand was named the “consumer’s next new obsession,” as well as one of the “top three brands of 2017.” The company was sold in late 2017 to Beauty Partners, LLC.
A frequent guest lecturer and speaker, Alisa has spoken at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), Cosmoprof North America, Beauty Industry West, HBA Global, Society of Cosmetic Chemistry, Mazur Group, Face & Body Advanced Education Conference, Natural Beauty Summit, and numerous corporate events. She has been a top-rated speaker at annual Mary Kay company events.
Currently, Alisa sits on the advisory board of GCI and the Women Entrepreneurs Exchange Network. She is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and the International Association of Women (IAW). She is also a member of Hera Hub in San Diego, California. Previously, she served as a board member of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, the Boarder Baby Project, Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers & Distributors, and the Health and Beauty Association. Alisa also earned her membership in the Young Entrepreneurs Organization at the age of 31. In 2018, Athena Pinnacle Awards nominated Alisa for the Individual in Service award.
A magna cum laude graduate of Wilson College with degrees in economics and English, Alisa, with her husband Thomas, has three children, Maximilian, Megan, and Benjamin; two dogs, Beau and Bean; two bunnies, George and Birdie; and a growing number of horses. They have lived in Washington, DC, and Stuttgart, Germany, and now reside in sunny San Diego, California. Alisa proudly hails from Liberty, Pennsylvania.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Alisa! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 1996 I decided to leave my corporate position at a top consulting firm in Washington, DC and go get my MBA. While taking a vacation in Florida, I met my husband, got married after 7 dates and missed my chance at an MBA. Well, 23 years happily married, three amazing kids and way too many dogs later, I’m thrilled with the twists and turns. It also propelled me to become an entrepreneur. I started my first company in 1996 and I’ve never looked back!
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Lucky for me they are almost all exciting. I spend about 75% of my time with middle to large companies and about 25% with start-up to small companies. For the larger companies, I primarily work on creating clarity and solutions around vision and execution, executive transitions, team alignment, and values and culture. For the smaller guys its focuses exclusively on driving growth strategy development. So, I’ll give one of each. Small personal care company, doing about 1 million in revenue after 2 years, needs to aggressively grow to get funding, show a bit of profit, or he will have to fold his cards. We develop a growth strategy, which included connecting him to one of the largest e-commerce companies in his space and BAM, deal done, and he is off to the races. That feels great. He’s relived, and we are, well, fulfilled. Second example is about a $25 million dollar company, great products, broken culture. Sad, really. After doing an assessment and crafting a plan with the in-house team and the CEO, we have driven the satisfaction numbers from 42% to the 60th percentile in 5 months. Not great, but so much better!
Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
Oh, that number is terrible. How awful to get up, go to work, and not love what you do, at least most of the time. There are two main drivers of this unhappiness. First, we have a lot of people working in the wrong job, at the wrong company. Not every company, is for every employee.
Few companies fail because there wasn’t a good vision; they fail because they did not execute on the vision and get concrete business results. That lack of execution is often embedded in a company’s values and culture.
The key is creating a vision, building the shared values and culture needed to deliver it, getting everyone to understand their role in it, and then execute like crazy.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
From low productivity to turnover, knowing if your culture is just bent or broken is huge in mitigating the impact. You can really begin to define your culture by simply and truthfully acknowledging who you are as a company, what you expect from your employees, and how it plays out in the day-to-day. It’s important to talk about who you are, not who you think, wish or should be, but who you are now. This reality will help drive up productivity, profitability and overall employee satisfaction.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- First, we can’t create a great culture, we must discover it. We need to look within, understand ourselves, our values and our purpose as this forms our authentic culture. We cannot fake it. It’s important to not confuse what we think the company out to have — but does not — with the legitimate reality of who we are. We always want to avoid the “Are they kidding me?” response. Rather by deeply acknowledging who we are and even who we have been, but might have forgotten, we use culture in its most effective role, to guide and inspire.
- Second, culture needs to be meaningful and inspirational only to the people inside the organization, not outside of it. This is because it’s the people within the company that needs to be committed to the culture. A clear and authentic culture importantly attracts the right people whose personal values are compatible. You can’t buy culture. You must find people who share the values and purpose which are core to the culture; increasing the likelihood of attracting and retaining the right staff. Importantly if well defined, it helps to weed out those who are not the right fit.
- Third, culture must be articulated, but not perfectly. Articulating the organization’s values and purpose is the essence of culture. We can all have the same values but use different words. Focus on capturing the understanding and intent of the culture, versus an emphasis on a well-articulated statement that is just pinned to a bulletin board.
- Fourth, don’t confuse culture with competencies. Culture is who we are, not what we do. Competencies define what we are good at, while culture highlights what we stand for. Clearly, we need to be aligned with who we are and what we do, but know culture should not change over time, but competencies surely will.
- Fifth and final, once you are clear on the culture, be diligent is getting rid of anything that no longer applies to it. If something is not aligning with the values and purpose, change it. Make no excuses; if it’s not core to our culture, say good-bye!
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
Rather than change culture, we need to make sure we have the right culture for the right person. Listen, this is hard to swallow for most executives when I work with them, but we can’t fake culture. We can’t create a great culture, we can’t buy a great culture, we need to discover it. We need to look within, understand ourselves, our values and our purpose as this forms our authentic culture. It’s important to not confuse what we think the company out to have — but does not — with the legitimate reality of who we are. We always want to avoid the “Are they kidding me?” response. Rather by deeply acknowledging who we are and even who we have been, but might have forgotten, we use culture in its most effective role, to guide and inspire.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I had to work really hard to hone my leadership style to be effective. The word I developed to guide me is consistent! Staff really want to be able to count on you, to know this is how you see things, how you react and how you will engage with them. Initially, I was pretty erratic in my style, and it was horrible for anyone working for me. As I matured, and my businesses matured, so did my leadership style.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Too many to even count for sure. However, my husband has been the most important person in my personal and professional life. He sold his car to help me get my first company started, he is my sounding board, my confidant, the smartest person I know and the one person who tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m fortunate, of course, to have been able to support causes I believe in. But I hope my legacy or what I offer to the world as well has been inspiring others, men and women, to become leaders in business as executives, but also as entrepreneurs.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Several years ago, I saw a sticker on the back of a car that said, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” I love it, I relate to it, I live it. If my cup is empty, whether emotionally, physically or any other way, I have nothing left to give my family, my staff, my clients or my company. So, I take care of myself. For example, I love to play tennis and I do it often with friends and on a league, I eat right and take longs walks alone and sometimes just binge watch TV. I always feel re-charged and full, and then I have more to give.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m not sure my kids would agree with the “person of great influence”, but it is a nice idea! There is so much I care about, but if I could help inspire anything it would be to help empower and equip the next generation of women in business to realize their potential and reach new heights.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!