There’s a reason why Avon has become such a well regarded household name. For 130 years it has been making a difference throughout the world and empowering its representatives to do the same.
For a company founded on the values of trust, honesty, integrity, respect, and belief, it’s no surprise that Avon will celebrate 130 years of global operation this year. Effective in over seventy-five markets and 100 countries across the world, Avon makes its name as a well-respected and trusted leader in beauty product sales. The business is considered one of the world’s largest direct sellers, with more than six million independent sales representatives.
As an integral part of the team for twenty-seven of those years, CEO Sharon Plant possesses key insight into how the business has grown to meet with such wide success today. Prior to her current position managing operations in Australia and New Zealand, Sharon has worked in various global markets, including the UK and Europe. This personal experience has allowed her to act as a role model for her associates and representatives, and assist them in improving their business each and every day.
“Our representatives are our most important asset,” she says. “They absolutely remain at the centre of everything that we do, and certainly the heart of every business decision we make.” Accordingly, Sharon finds that the best way to support her representatives is to take a walk in their shoes. “Personally, I’m always a representative for every market that I work in, because it is important to experience first-hand our business from her eyes — not make assumptions.
There are sayings such as, ‘you can’t teach what you don’t know,’ but in my book, you can’t improve what you haven’t experienced.”
Honouring this view, Sharon assumes an open communication style and aims to be approachable and transparent as a leader. Avon enables flexibility and cultivates innovation by granting each representative the freedom to make her own decisions about how to run her business. Better yet, there’s no barrier to join — the company ensures that the great earning opportunity is easy and accessible to any individual. Despite this independence, though, each and every representative contributes to Avon’s prosperity. Sharon attributes this collective success to one main concept.
“It’s all about our people, our passion, and our belief,” she says. “It’s about the connections and the common goal that we share. We have a genuine desire to make a difference — it’s our legacy — and as a direct selling company, I would say that is what makes Avon stand out above our competitors.”
Consequently, by instituting this ideology, Avon has made significant strides in the realm of community engagement over the years. “As a company, we’re leaders in giving back to the communities that we live and work in, and that is really a part of our heritage. The values the company was founded on are as relevant today as they were back then.”
More specifically, Avon has invested a considerable amount of time and energy into three causes: Avon’s Campaign against Domestic Violence; Healthy Forests, Beautiful World; and most notably, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.
The first, Avon’s Campaign against Domestic Violence, encourages individuals to speak out against domestic abuse while raising money for two different organisations: White Ribbon Australia and Shine New Zealand. While the former provides domestic violence awareness, education, and prevention, the latter provides men education and training programs, research funding, and support for individuals exposed to domestic violence.
The next, Healthy Forests, Beautiful World, is an initiative committed to ending deforestation through fundraising and encouragement of environmentally conscious practices. In compliance with this belief, Avon is focused on reducing the amount of paper used in the business, and promotes a shift from printing on paper to digital technologies.
Lastly, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade functions both locally and globally to increase awareness of, and raise funds towards, the breast cancer cause. To date, Avon has just topped over an impressive $800 million raised worldwide.
Thanks to the efforts of Avon’s customers and representatives, the company has raised around $13 million from the sale of breast cancer products. This year in particular is significant, as it marks Avon’s twentieth year of collaboration with the Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group, which funds research and clinical trials aimed at finding a cure. Other organisations supported include the YWCA Encore Program, and the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.
Looking to the future, Avon is bound to continue to make an impact both within the company and in the community. One of the company’s most important ideals, according to Sharon, is empowerment.
“Everything that we do involves looking at our business through the eyes of the representative and what we can do to empower our representatives, sales leaders, and associates so they can continue to make a difference. Inspiring and enabling thousands of women across Australia and New Zealand to achieve financial independence is really important.” This empowerment of women is especially evident within the corporation itself. “I am really proud to work for a company that leads the way in terms of a gender balance in senior roles. We’ve got approximately a fifty-fifty split between males and females in senior and board-level roles in the organisation, and I’ve been in a senior role for over ten years.”
For Sharon, every small accomplishment contributes to Avon’s overall success. “Through the simplest of actions or steps, whether that just be making sure a lady has the right lipstick, we have a chance to change peoples’ lives,” she says. “I personally get an opportunity to work with so many different people to empower women to make a difference, and that is my passion. People are my passion.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of DSA