The Last Word: Elizabeth Arden
She never told her age.
It was only when she died in 1966 that the world discovered Elizabeth Arden had lived for 88 years.
This Canadian-born entrepreneur almost single-handedly launched the modern day cosmetics industry.
In the early 1900s, lipstick was associated with prostitutes. But Arden changed that, making cosmetics popular among the masses.
Innovation was the key – using scientific formulations, full beauty makeovers and co-ordinated eye, lip and facial makeup.
Arden’s hard-nosed approach to business fuelled what would become a $1 billion enterprise.
“I only want people around me who can do the impossible.”
Arden knew 100 years ago that people are the key to building a great business, regardless of the product or service. It wasn’t enough to have people who were good at what they did. Arden hired people that pushed the envelope on excellence.
“It is remarkable what a woman can accomplish with just a little ambition.”
To be innovative, one must be ambitious according to Arden, whose core team was made up of people who wanted to be the best. The lesson? Hire for attitude.
“I’m not interested in age.”
Arden was perhaps the first person in business to run a flat organization where ideas trumped seniority. It’s not how long you’ve been around, but what you can bring to the table.
“Our clients are coping with the stress of financial loss by soaking in a hot bath scented with my Rose Geranium bath crystals.”
Always the innovative marketer, Arden used the stock market crash of 1929 to give people something to feel good about – a luxurious bath. Make people feel good about themselves and your business will thrive, in good times and in bad.
Born in the Toronto suburb of Woodbridge, Elizabeth Arden moved to New York at a young age to open a beauty salon on Fifth Avenue. That one salon became many.
Her legacy: if you’re going to be in business, be the best.
Cory Galbraith is a former journalist turned entrepreneur. He is CEO of Ottawa-based Webcast Canada, a leading online streaming company.