What I Learned from Anita Roddick

anita roddick Entrepreneur extraordinaire Anita Roddick (1942 – 2007) enthusiastically embraced the ironic title for her memoir: “Business as Unusual.” But she wasn’t as sure of the subtitle. At one point The Body Shop founder suggested “Management by Falling Apart at the Seams,” because, she wrote on a postcard to her publisher, “that’s what I feel like at the moment!” In the end, the first edition was happily subtitled “The Triumph of Anita Roddick.”

I like Roddick’s sense of humor, and her fearless honesty. It comes through in her book, where she does indeed recount the triumphs (and tribulations) of building a trailblazing business that embraced both profits and principles and business and activism. She and her husband founded the cosmetics company in 1976, and in 2000 she was still on the cutting edge of business thinking.

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By then, “reinvent for survival” was the company’s mantra. “We could have stayed as we were and gone down the tubes in 10 years’ time, or we could have reinvented ourselves to prepare for the next two decades.”

Roddick’s 11 lessons-learned from the company’s mid-life Do-Over! are still relevant to today’s entrepreneurs:

  1. Be quick.
  2. Be creative about different ways of selling.
  3. Forget identikit [cookie-cutter] brand.
  4. Interpret the product broadly.
  5. Build partnerships with communities.
  6. Stay human and measure success differently.
  7. Be open.
  8. Makes ethics part of your heritage.
  9. Be different and tell stories.
  10. Remember that people aspire to more than money.
  11. The most important quality in a leader is that of being acknowledged as such.

What Roddick reminded me in Business as Unusual is that, if we, as entrepreneurs, can learn from our past, it will guide us through the future!

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