PBA Forum Hosts Huffington
It isn’t often that the beauty industry benefits from the insights of a media mogul, but such was the case at Cosmoprof North America. The 11th annual event was held July 14-16 in Las Vegas. The Professional Beauty Association’s Business Forum, held in conjunction with the trade show, featured keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of the online news site The Huffington Post. Huffington treated the audience of several hundred to a talk entitled “From Politics to the Boardroom: Fearless Leadership.”
You might wonder about the connection between a media icon and the beauty business, but from the moment the 62-year old Huffington kicked off her shoes from behind the podium and started talking, it was clear that she had a lot to offer, beginning with her thanks for beauty products and techniques that helped her to regularly tame her “frizzy, Greek” hair, and her statement that she has made a conscious decision to “age gracefully” and abstain from surgery. She also cited the importance of quality skin care and regular facials in managing her own aging process!
Huffington said that one of the hardest elements of trying to build a business is learning not to constantly judge oneself, and that no one who has succeeded in life has not failed at something along the way. She added that it’s important to talk about and recognize failures. “Successes are obvious, but failures are forgotten, and they shouldn’t be—they’re the stepping stones to success,” she shared.
Huffington noted that business owners need to be able to deal with challenges without internalizing the accompanying stress; women in particular are susceptible to this. The Huffington Post was launched in May 2005, and one of the reviews written about the site that day was scathing. However, a year later that critic writes for Huffington. And HP has 850 employees with offices in 9 countries.
Huffington is a big fan of sleep, and our need to get enough. The publication’s NY office has two sleep pods, and as they are always booked they now need to add a third. The new offices in Washington, D.C. will feature dedicated yoga and meditation areas. Huffington cited Steve Jobs’ remarks that his best ideas came to him after Zen meditation, and emphasized that we need to prioritize well-being to be more effective employees and leaders, and “take care of our human capital.”
According to Huffington, today’s society tends to define success as “money and power”; she recommends we augment that definition to include health and well-being. This applies to the beauty industry; we are well-positioned to teach clients how their personal activities affect their health, and address the fact that 75% of healthcare costs in America rise from preventable disease. She emphasized getting in touch with our capacity to wonder, notice the world around us and create a daily time to disconnect from technology. The mogul admitted to owning four Blackberrys, but even as the CEO of a 24/7 media company, she has turned her bedroom into a technology-free sanctuary and does not charge phones near her bed. No one at HP is expected to answer email after hours or over the weekend, and Huffington advises a 5-minute “re-entry ritual” in the morning: meditation or a walk around the block. She noted that the beauty industry is in the business of teaching people to build new habits, and we can do more for our clients and ourselves in this realm. Business-care and self-care are connected, and allow us to be more able to create and innovate. HP’s website offers a free app called “GPS for the Soul,” which gives the user a proxy for your stress level and acts as a guide to help him/her course-correct.
Huffington stressed that today’s leaders need the ability to “empathize, and to give back.” The more we can empathize with clients and staff, the more successful we can be in our businesses. She advised “moving from struggle to grace; don’t push the river, it flows,” and building more trust in our lives. She shared the personal story of her first love, a well-known liaison with a man which lasted 7 years, but in the end she ended the relationship because he didn’t want to marry and have children. So, she says, “All of these good things in my life have happened to me because a man wouldn’t marry me.” This underlined the importance of patience and wisdom in what seem like dark moments.
In media, one current business trend that affects all consumer businesses is the changing relationship with our clients; we’re moving from presentation to participation. “People don’t want to be talked to, they want to talk themselves. HP is all about engagement and creating a platform for that conversation.” HP has had 260 million comments since it launched. And of course, Huffington believes that social media is here to stay, will continue to change business and the world, and will be a factor in how we live our lives and build our businesses for the next 50 years.
In closing, Huffington urged us to look ahead, because “the way we are living now is not working for men, women or polar bears.” She feels that one reason more women are not “at the top” is that we “don’t like how things are set up, so we need to change the world in which we are competing.” The corporate world uses too many war and sports metaphors (“we’re killing it”; “we’re winning”) and we need to change that language and reduce stress levels. HP now has 18 lifestyle sections under the umbrella of “less stress, more living.” Huffington recently visited the offices of General Mills, located in America’s heartland, and encountered executives coming out of a yoga class. She noted that, the more these activities become mainstream, the better it will be for our stress levels. Finally, she advised that we “Use our power to be positioned for an amazing century,” by practicing gratitude and grace, more acceptance of things as they are, and getting more sleep! These components add real value to lives, and real value is what sustains business. —Lisa Starr