#217 Est‚e Lauder

Summary Notes


In this episode, the host passionately discusses the autobiography of Estee Lauder, emphasizing the significance of persistence, passion, and the power of visualization in achieving success. Estee Lauder's relentless drive and innovative strategies, such as her "tell-a-woman" word-of-mouth campaign and the transformative "gift with purchase" concept, are highlighted as key factors that propelled her cosmetics empire. Despite initial rejections, Lauder's unwavering commitment to her dream and her hands-on approach to product demonstration and customer engagement are cited as instrumental in securing her products' presence in prestigious stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods. The host also draws parallels between Lauder's entrepreneurial spirit and the insights of investor Bill Gurley, reinforcing the idea that success in any field requires a deep passion, continuous learning, and the courage to pursue one's dreams against all odds.

Summary Notes

Memory Formation and Personal Catalysts

  • Memories are often formed without realizing their significance at the time.
  • Strong memories can be unexpected and linked to one's future.
  • Small moments can have a lasting impact and constantly tug at one's memory.

"You never realize that you're making a memory at the moment something's actually happening."

This quote emphasizes the spontaneous nature of memory formation and its unpredictability.

"Momentous happenings can lie buried in the past, while tiny, needlesharp split seconds sometimes stay with you forever."

This quote highlights how seemingly insignificant moments can become enduring memories.

"Maybe I wouldn't have become Estee Lauder if it hadn't been for her."

Estee Lauder suggests that the negative encounter with a woman at a beauty salon was a pivotal moment that shaped her determination and future success.

The Power of Determination and Self-Promise

  • Negative experiences can fuel one's determination and ambition.
  • A promise to oneself can be a powerful motivator for success.

"Never, never will anyone say that to me again. I promised myself, someday I will have whatever I want."

Estee Lauder recalls a vow she made to herself after a hurtful encounter, demonstrating the motivational power of self-promise.

Influence of Bill Gurley's Talk

  • Bill Gurley's talk on YouTube, "Running Down a Dream," influenced the host's approach to founders.
  • The talk discusses the importance of pursuing a career you love and the rarity of achieving it.

"Be obsessive about learning in your field. Hone your craft constantly."

The host quotes Bill Gurley's advice on the importance of dedication and continuous learning in one's field, which resonates with the host's own values.

Estee Lauder's Traits and Approach to Business

  • Estee Lauder exemplified traits of obsession with her craft and continuous learning.
  • Her autobiography, "Estee: A Success Story," is a testament to her dedication and can serve as a learning resource for modern entrepreneurs.

"She ran down a dream. She is one of, by far, one of the most formidable individuals I have ever come across."

The host admires Estee Lauder's relentless pursuit of her dream and her formidable character, suggesting she is an example to learn from.

Bill Gurley's Methodology and Estee Lauder's Alignment

  • Bill Gurley's five-point methodology for success aligns with Estee Lauder's life and approach.
  • The methodology includes having passion, being obsessive about learning, developing mentors, embracing peer relationships, and being gracious.

"Pick a career about what you have an immense passion."

The host relates Gurley's methodology to Estee Lauder's career, noting how her passion for beauty played a crucial role in her success.

The Timelessness of Beauty

  • Estee Lauder recognized the ancient and enduring nature of the beauty industry.
  • She understood that beauty transcends cultural and economic barriers.

"Beauty has always commanded attention... It has always been so. It will always be so."

Estee Lauder reflects on the universal and timeless appeal of beauty, which she built her business around.

Early Influences and Passion for Beauty

  • Estee Lauder's passion for beauty was evident from a young age.
  • Her mother's beauty and the act of making others look pretty were formative experiences.

"Even at eight years old, being fashionable, being feminine, being different was a raison d'etre for me."

Estee Lauder's early memories reveal her innate passion for beauty and fashion, which later became the foundation of her career.

Lessons from Estee Lauder's Father and Merchandising

  • Estee Lauder applied lessons from her father's hardware store to her own business.
  • She had a knack for merchandising and understood the importance of packaging.

"My special job was creating windows, blades that would attract customers."

Estee Lauder's early experiences with creating appealing store displays foreshadowed her future success in merchandising her beauty products.

Early Business Lessons and Passion for Sales

  • Estee Lauder reflects on lessons learned in her father's hardware store.
  • Understanding aggressive sales tactics was crucial, regardless of the product.
  • Lauder honed her sales techniques and wedded them to her love for the "merry ring of a cash register."
  • She emphasizes the importance of being a perfectionist and providing quality in business.

"I honed my techniques as I played with the wares at my father's store. I wedded my appetite for the merry ring of a cash register."

Estee Lauder describes how her early experiences in her father's store taught her the value of aggressive salesmanship and quality, which she later applied to her own business.

Love for Work and Authenticity

  • Lauder speaks about the advantage of genuinely loving one's work.
  • Authentic passion is contrasted with those who fake their enthusiasm.
  • She suggests that those who are not authentic in their passion are likely to be outperformed.

"Talking about the advantage that you have if you actually love what you do, because so few people actually do that."

This quote underscores the competitive edge gained from truly loving one's work, as opposed to merely pretending to have passion.

Drive and Persistence

  • Estee Lauder reflects on her childhood and the early signs of her drive and persistence.
  • She questions whether she would have been as successful in another field, but her belief in her beauty products was strong.
  • Lauder connects personal love for a product to the ability to sell it effectively.

"My drive and persistence were always there, and those qualities that are essential for building a successful business."

Here, Lauder identifies drive and persistence as foundational traits for success in business, highlighting their presence in her character from an early age.

Mentorship and Career Choice

  • Estee Lauder credits her uncle John Schotz, a skin specialist, as her mentor.
  • She dreamed of being a skin specialist and making women beautiful.
  • Lauder emphasizes the importance of seizing life-changing moments and making one's own luck.

"When I dreamed in my private universe, I dreamed of being a skin specialist and making women beautiful."

Lauder shares her long-standing dream of enhancing beauty, which foreshadows her future career path and success.

Product Development and Dedication

  • Lauder's first experience in the beauty industry involved her uncle's secret cream formula.
  • She was dedicated to learning and practicing the craft of beauty product creation.
  • Lauder's self-confidence and trust in her instincts were nurtured by her uncle's mentorship.

"It was a precious, velvety cream, this potion, one that magically made you sweetly scented, made your face feel like silk, made any passing imperfection be gone by evening."

This quote illustrates Lauder's enchantment with her uncle's cream and her dedication to the product, which would be a precursor to her own creations.

Practicing and Self-Confidence

  • Lauder discusses the importance of practice and self-confidence in her journey.
  • She stresses that self-confidence must be developed personally, despite initial encouragement from others.
  • Lauder's confidence allowed her to stand her ground in the face of intimidation or patronization.

"After school, I'd run home to practice. Being a scientist, I began to value myself so much more."

The quote reveals Lauder's dedication to practice and the resulting growth in her self-esteem, which was crucial for her business success.

Building a Business Empire

  • Lauder gave away most of her products for two decades, indicating her passion over profit.
  • She started her business in 1946 with modest revenue, which grew to billions over the years.
  • Lauder's commitment to her products and willingness to give them away helped establish her brand.

"I gave away gallons of cream to friends."

This quote exemplifies Lauder's strategy of generosity in the early stages of her business, which helped to build her reputation and customer base.

Overcoming Obstacles and Marriage

  • Lauder faced societal expectations to be a traditional housewife, which delayed her dreams.
  • Despite challenges and a failed business by her husband, Lauder remained focused on her passion for beauty.
  • Lauder and her husband faced divorce but eventually reconciled and grew the business together.

"We were struggling so hard to be independent. And sometimes things were not easy."

Lauder reflects on the difficulties she faced in balancing her personal life with her growing business ambitions.

Product Demonstration and Sales Techniques

  • Lauder believed strongly in the power of product demonstration.
  • She used her products to win over her first business opportunity in a beauty salon.
  • Lauder's tenacity and refusal to accept "no" for an answer were key to her sales success.

"Nothing could have induced me to leave my bounty without a demonstration."

This quote highlights Lauder's insistence on demonstrating her products' effectiveness, a critical aspect of her sales strategy.

Gift With Purchase Strategy

  • Estee Lauder innovated the beauty industry with her "gift with purchase" technique.
  • She gave samples to encourage trial and foster customer loyalty.
  • Lauder's intuition and lack of an advertising budget led her to this successful strategy.

"A woman would never leave empty handed."

The quote captures Lauder's revolutionary approach to sales, ensuring that every potential customer had an opportunity to experience her products.

The Importance of Risk-Taking

  • Lauder emphasizes that taking risks is essential to building empires.
  • She took a chance by investing in her products rather than traditional advertising.
  • Her meticulous attention to quality and customer experience was a hallmark of her business.

"Risk taking is the cornerstone of empires."

This quote encapsulates Lauder's philosophy that embracing risk is a necessary step towards achieving great success in business.

Divorce and Remarriage

  • Divorce is too easily pursued in America, leading to repetitive cycles of the same problems with different partners.
  • Estee Lauder speaks against divorce, suggesting that often second and third marriages do not resolve the underlying issues.
  • She remarried Joe, deciding to work together in business as equal partners, emphasizing the importance of complementary skill sets.

"In so many cases, when women marry again, they only change the face, not the problems."

This quote highlights the recurring nature of problems in subsequent marriages, suggesting that changing partners does not necessarily solve underlying issues.

The Importance of Sales

  • Estee Lauder emphasizes the critical role of sales in business success.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger's aggressive approach to selling his movies is highlighted as a positive example.
  • Peter Thiel's quote from "Zero to One" suggests that superior sales and distribution can create a monopoly even without product differentiation.
  • Estee Lauder and Joe had complementary skills, with Joe managing finances while Estee focused on sales and product development.

"Superior sales and distribution by itself can create a monopoly, even with no product differentiation."

This quote, repeated from Peter Thiel's book, underscores the power of effective sales and distribution strategies in achieving market dominance, even when products are not unique.

The 'Tell a Woman' Campaign

  • Estee Lauder's 'Tell a Woman' campaign was a word-of-mouth strategy that proved essential for building a durable company.
  • Despite discouragement from friends and family, Estee never considered giving up on her business.
  • She utilized telephone, telegraph, and her unique 'Telewoman' method to spread her message before the era of television and high-gloss advertising.

"Nothing happened fast, so think about word of mouth as her base."

This quote reflects on the slow but steady growth of Estee Lauder's business through word-of-mouth, highlighting its importance as a foundational marketing strategy.

Product Packaging and Detail

  • Estee Lauder placed significant emphasis on product packaging, understanding its impact on business success.
  • She conducted meticulous research to ensure her jars would not clash with customers' bathroom decor.
  • The packaging had to convey luxury and harmony, and Estee personally visited bathrooms to match jar colors to wallpaper.

"The new jars would be a decision of detail that could affect my entire business."

This quote reveals Estee Lauder's understanding that even seemingly minor details, like the color of a jar, could have a major impact on her business's success.

Breaking into Saks Fifth Avenue

  • Estee Lauder was determined to have her cosmetics line available at Saks Fifth Avenue, a symbol of elegance and exclusivity.
  • She used the 'Tell a Woman' campaign to generate interest and eventually received an order from Saks.
  • The initial success at Saks was a pivotal moment for Estee, marking the official beginning of her cosmetics company.

"Breaking that first mammoth barrier was perhaps the single most exciting moment I have ever known."

This quote captures the thrill and significance of Estee Lauder's breakthrough into Saks Fifth Avenue, a milestone that validated her persistence and hard work.

Personal Appearances and Customer Engagement

  • Estee Lauder made personal appearances at counters to engage directly with customers and train sales staff.
  • She recounts a story in San Antonio that taught her never to underestimate a customer's desire for beauty.
  • The story illustrates the importance of treating every potential customer with respect and attention.

"Never underestimate any woman's desire for beauty."

This quote encapsulates Estee Lauder's philosophy of recognizing and respecting every customer's pursuit of beauty, regardless of their appearance or perceived buying power.

Persistence in Business

  • Estee Lauder considers persistence to be the most important trait for success in business.
  • She criticizes the advice to be realistic, which she equates with giving up on one's dreams.
  • Despite warnings about the high failure rate in the cosmetics industry, Estee persisted and invested everything into her business.

"It's the immovable stubbornness that will not allow you to cave in when everyone says, give up."

This quote defines persistence as the unwavering determination to continue striving toward one's goals, even in the face of widespread doubt and opposition.

Starting Late and the Advantage of Maturity

  • Estee Lauder started her business at the age of 40 and saw her later start as an advantage.
  • She believed that older entrepreneurs can focus more steadily on their interests and are less easily distracted.
  • Estee suggests that women may be more successful in business with the advantage of years.

"I started late. I didn't have the time for waiting, nor against the disposition."

This quote reflects Estee Lauder's perspective that starting a business later in life can be a strength, as it instills a sense of urgency and focus.

Relentless Networking and Promotion

  • Estee Lauder was relentless in promoting her products and making connections.
  • She used every opportunity to talk to potential customers and influential people in the beauty industry.
  • Her hands-on approach to opening stores and training staff was a testament to her commitment to her business.

"To this day, I still receive mail from women I met all over the world, met, touched, and made up during spontaneous moments."

This quote exemplifies Estee Lauder's personal touch in business, showing that her efforts to connect with people on a personal level left a lasting impression.

Positive Business Outlook

  • Estee Lauder believed in the nonexistence of bad business times.
  • She emphasized the importance of pursuing business opportunities actively.
  • Lauder's philosophy was to give full effort in every community, regardless of its size.

"There is no such thing as bad business. Business is there if you go after it."

The quote encapsulates Lauder's optimistic and proactive approach to business, highlighting the importance of persistence and effort in finding and capitalizing on opportunities.

Value of Peer Relationships and Networking

  • Building relationships beyond one's field can be educational and beneficial.
  • Estee Lauder valued allies and believed in the power of networking.
  • She took immediate action on tips from peers, which contributed to her success.

"Never underestimate the value of an ally."

This quote underscores the importance of forming strategic partnerships and alliances in business, which can lead to opportunities and mutual benefits.

Relentless Resourcefulness

  • Entrepreneurs should be relentlessly resourceful.
  • Visualizing goals can help in achieving them in reality.
  • Making the most of available resources is key to success.

"Relentlessly resourceful, which comes from another Paul Graham essay. I think that's the clearest description of how he would describe the art of entrepreneurship."

The quote highlights the importance of resourcefulness in entrepreneurship, suggesting that a key characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is their ability to persistently find ways to overcome obstacles.

Learning from Others' Successes

  • Estee Lauder studied other pioneers in the beauty industry, including Coco Chanel.
  • Chanel's business deal with her perfume company serves as a historical example of a lucrative business decision.
  • Lauder's success with her product "Youth Dew" may have been influenced by Chanel's success.

"She never says anything bad about Coco Chanel, quotes her at least twice in this book."

This quote indicates Lauder's respect for Coco Chanel and suggests that she may have drawn inspiration from Chanel's success when developing her own products.

Market Expansion Strategies

  • Estee Lauder aimed for the top retailers when expanding to new markets.
  • Persistence and media attention were strategies she used to enter difficult markets.
  • Lauder's personal involvement and unique selling approach were key to her success.

"So this is about how she gets into Canada. She's good. She does everything I'm about to tell you she did."

The quote reflects Lauder's hands-on and strategic approach to entering new markets, emphasizing her dedication and the diverse tactics she employed to establish her brand internationally.

Selling and Packaging

  • It's crucial to not just have a great product but also to be able to sell it.
  • Packaging can play a significant role in attracting customers to try a product.
  • Lauder stresses the importance of both product and packaging quality.

"It's not enough to have the most wonderful product in the world. You must be able to sell it."

This quote emphasizes the importance of not only creating a high-quality product but also having the skills and strategies to effectively market and sell it to consumers.

Business Philosophy and Style

  • Entrepreneurs should develop their own business philosophy and style.
  • Observing successes and failures helps refine one's business approach.
  • Lauder's business philosophy included a focus on quality and resisting the trend of diversification.

"Each business person must find a style, that voice that grows clearer and louder with each success and failure."

The quote encourages entrepreneurs to find their own unique voice and style in business, which evolves through experiences of both success and failure.

Visualization and Goal Achievement

  • Visualization is a powerful tool for achieving business goals.
  • Great achievers often visualize success before it happens.
  • Lauder believed in visualizing every step of a successful business deal.

"Visualize. If in your mind's eyes, you see a successful venture, a deal made, a profit accomplished, it has a superb chance of actually happening."

This quote highlights the technique of visualization as a method for setting and achieving goals, suggesting that envisioning success can lead to actual success.

Determination and Work Ethic

  • Estee Lauder believed in the power of determination and hard work.
  • She felt that success required focusing on one's goals without distraction.
  • Lauder's philosophy was that anyone could achieve their dreams with the right mindset and effort.

"I always believe that if you stick to a thought and carefully avoid distraction along the way, you can fulfill a dream."

The quote reflects Lauder's belief in the importance of focus and determination in achieving one's dreams and goals in business and life.

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