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Tom Cutler walks through the corporate training room preparing for his evening sales meeting, pausing for a moment to fiddle with the flowers on the front table. The 33-year-old businessman is most at home here, surrounded by a buzz of new clients and suited sales folks.
Cutler is no stranger to the sales business. He spent a decade in Silicon Valley, both running a software company and as a marketing vice president for another computer firm.
But now his interest is focused on a table of customers captivated by an array of new products. They are the bread and butter of the new career that allows him to do business from home. A lot of business. Cutler has amassed a client list of more than 500 customers. Each gets careful, full attention.
"To just see what happens when they go from before to after never ceases to amaze me," he adds with the passion of an artist discussing a great work. His Scottsdale apartment is a veritable shrine to salesmanship. The living-room walls are decorated with framed covers of the company's in-house magazine. His kitchen cabinets are full of the products he sells.
Sporting gold and diamond pins on his lapel, a blue silk scarf draped around the neck of his large frame, Cutler is nothing if not enthusiastic about what he does for a living, and the woman who changed his life. "Mary Kay came into my life at a time when I wanted to do something for other people. I am obsessed, and I love it."
Tom Cutler is, indeed, in the pink.
Literally driven by success, he recently became the first man in Arizona to win the coveted Mary Kay car by selling cosmetics.
"I'm having sooo much fun," Cutler says, laughing. Cutler is one of an emerging group of men, weary of corporate America, who have found happiness and prosperity in the formerly all-female pink society of Mary Kay Inc. Mary Kay men now number more than 2,000 nationwide, still a tiny minority of the company's 325,000-person sales force. But Cutler intends to continue breaking new ground all the way up the Mary Kay sales ladder. Three years ago, Mary Kay issued its first pink Cadillac--the company's top sales award--to a man in Chicago. Cutler, who won a Pontiac Grand Am for recruiting 12 new salespeople and leading a team that sold more than $4,000 of products for four consecutive months, plans to be the next.
He's quick to laugh and joke, the kind of jolly guy who gives the immediate impression that he's really having a ball with all of this. That he is the only man among women in red jackets (a sign of admittance to the first level of management) is just fine with Cutler. He's seriously committed to Mary Kay. Cutler expects to post $70,000 in sales this year. Pointing at the framed faces of pink-suited sales directors at Mary Kay's north Phoenix training center, he says his picture will be there soon.
And he says it with the determination of a Little League player preparing for the Big Game.
Visitors to the company's training center are greeted immediately by a large portrait of her majesty, the queen of cream, Mary Kay Ash. The octogenarian is, to say the least, well-preserved. Now chairman emeritus of the company she founded 31 years ago, Ash still keeps office hours four days a week.
Her son, Richard Rogers, is chairman of the board. But it is Ash who commands unyielding devotion from the masses of perfectly made faces. Her speeches leave the sales force misty-eyed. They quote her words like scripture. Every year, more than 30,000 disciples flock to the company's Dallas headquarters (home of the 3,000-square-foot Mary Kay museum) to convene with their leader. In times of illness, she has led them from her sickbed via closed-circuit television.
The Mary Kay "praise to success" method of motivating sales consultants with gifts and money originally was designed to give women a boost in business (Ash, once a saleswoman for Stanley Home Products, reportedly was passed over by her male colleagues). The same goes for her company creed--faith, family and career, in that order.
Most of the sales force is made up of independent consultants who operate their own businesses, and tailor their work schedules around raising a family or working another full-time job.
Got a conflict? No problem. Sales consultants can sell a booking to a colleague for a 15 percent commission. There are no territories and no quotas. Requirements for moving up the ladder are spelled out and non-negotiable: You sell this, you get that. Mary Kay consultants make 50 percent of whatever they sell, and 4 to 12 percent of whatever is sold by consultants they recruit. As consultants climb the ladder by bringing others into the fold, the percentage they earn from recruits increases. For varying amounts of sales and recruits, Mary Kayers earn cars, trips, jewelry and higher commissions.
But the pink brigade is quick to deny the firm is engaged in multilevel marketing, a form of pyramid scheme that occasionally attracts the attention of attorneys general. Mary Kay executives point out that commissions are paid directly by the company, not from someone else's cut of the profits.