Perfumer. Beautician to the stars. Retail queen. Entrepreneur. Television star. Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. 2010 NatWest everywoman Ambassador Award winner. Jo Malone’s CV has no shortage of inspirational titles.
And now, with the publication of My Story, she can add international bestselling author to her résumé. Documenting her impoverished childhood, early struggles in business and her gruelling battle with breast cancer, Malone’s book is a masterclass in personal and professional resilience, and is chock-full of career lessons everyone can l learn from.
CREATIVITY CAN’T BE FORCED
As an entrepreneur, Malone’s success hangs entirely on the strength of a great product, borne of brilliant ideas. But ideas rarely spring forth while sitting at your desk, willing them to come – an early lesson Malone learned from her amateur artist father, who allowed himself the space to “sit there for hours without picking up his brush” as ideas germinated. This lesson would stand Malone in good stead time and time again as she faced branding and production problems while building Jo Malone London. “Creativity needs to be respected. It is not a tap that can simply be turned on; it comes when ready, not when forced or unfelt,” she writes. “Let inspiration come to you. Don’t chase it.”
WHO’S ON YOUR ORGANIC MARKETING & PR TEAM?
After taking the agonising decision to break free from the family business – a choice which left her estranged from her parents and sibling for the rest of their lives – Malone faced re-building her beauty service with just a handful of transferring clients.
What she soon realised, was that those loyal customers (featuring former Olympians and members of the royal family) weren’t just her founding clients, a means to an income – they were her “organic marketing and PR team”. In sharing with them her hopes for the future – while providing them with a first class service – they would help spread her message to other potential clients, and slowly her business would take shape.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or navigating the corporate world, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the sponsors in your environment.
Who are they? Why might they sponsor you? What can you share with them to make their role as sponsor that much easier?
REFRAME YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS
Malone admits to giving herself more than her fair share of negative self-talk. Even after becoming a household name and selling her business to Estée Lauder for undisclosed millions, she admits to questioning whether her success had been a fluke. Could she really start out and build another brand from scratch? And every time she received a notification of winning an award – not to mention an MBE – she questioned whether it was a practical joke being carried out by a prankster in her inner circle.
Yet, at the same time, she possesses an extraordinary ability to give herself a good talking to and reframe her mindset to enable forward momentum. Utterly determined that her future was in fragrance making, she consciously quieted the voice in her head telling her that the big perfume houses would never take notice of someone with zero relevant experience.
“I felt bold enough to walk up the gravel driveway of an industry, approach its French doors, pull back the big brass knocker and ask its experts to show me the way.
“Instead of asking ‘Why me? Who am I kidding?!’, I prefer to switch it around and ask, ‘Why not me?’” What might you be able to achieve if you took your own internal monologue and turned it on its head?
YOU ARE YOUR OWN, 24/7 BRANDING MACHINE
Malone always believed that her products belonged in the luxury beauty category – a highly competitive market place that required spot on branding. In the early days of scrabbling about for every bit of publicity she could get, she and her husband, understanding the power of visual merchandising, would carry empty Jo Malone gift bags with them down high streets, on aeroplanes - wherever they went.
You may not be promoting an upcoming product line, but what if you applied Malone’s principles to your own personal brand. What might change if you saw every action, every appearance, every word you spoke, and behaviour you demonstrated as an opportunity to reinforce to those watching who you are and what you’re all about?
MAKE YOUR TO-DO LIST WORK FOR YOU
Most of us work from to-do lists we methodically create and spend our days checking off. Malone avoids feeling like a slave to hers, by simultaneously keeping “feel-good lists” – a mood-enhancing approach she credits with getting her through the darkest days of her chemotherapy treatment. The list contained such actions as “Think twice today of something that makes you happy”, “Imagine two places in the world you’d like to go on holiday when fully recovered”, and “Go to Barney’s and have its sausage pasta with green peas”.
A simple but effective counter to stressful times, how could a feel-good list give you a break from the hamster wheel and ensure you’re rewarding yourself for hard work completed?
THREE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF AT ANY CROSSROADS
Fear, panic, melancholy and self-doubt – as Malone navigates the ups and downs of entrepreneurship (including the unexpected and devastating sense of loss she felt after selling her eponymous brand), she’s no stranger to the debilitating emotions that can have a reductive affect on inner resources. But as the intensity of feelings diminish, she brings herself back to clarity and focus by asking three questions: “Who am I? How can I reinvent myself? Where do I begin?” And as she embarked on the launch of her new brand, Jo Loves, the answers to these questions gave her the confidence to take the leap into the unknown.
“First, I may no longer own my old brand, but I remained Jo Malone the person; that’s who I am, a creator a fragrance. I had sold my name, not my instinct, my nose, my creativity, or the future. I had started with four plastic jugs and a saucepan at the very beginning. I could do it again.
“Second, I reinvent myself by tapping into the creativity that served me before. I was a different person now and that difference will be reflected in the product I make. Change. Keep evolving. Trust in the one thing you’re good at.
“As to where I begin, that was easy: today, right now – you seize the moment and physically get back to work. And I knew what we had to do – we had to get back to basics.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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