It was not long ago that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) seemed doomed to failure. Kmart, its largest outlet for licensed household products, was in Chapter 11 and closing hundreds of stores. Its magazine was being challenged by the new upstart competitor by rival Rosie O’Donnell. Major television stations were canceling their daily show and critics were saying the show wouldn’t finish the season. Their company leader was ordered to resign by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Yet most devastating, Martha was headed to jail.
With plunging sales, vanishing profits, and stock prices falling, few gave the domestic diva’s business much chance of survival.
Fast forward to 2007. No longer do we see a company on the brink of eradication. The revamped daily television program is getting such respectable ratings and advertisers that it has been renewed through 2008. A second show, specializing in food, is seen on PBS and a radio program has been added debuted last week. Her single magazine has grown to six specialty magazines, each among the top in their genres. In addition to the continuing Kmart product line, MSLO has agreements to expand its product line to upscale retailer Macy’s and craft-marketer Michael’s. New ventures include furniture and flowers, and even Martha Stewart housing developments.
Most important of all, this now-admired company’s revenues are up more than 50%.
Ben Franklin once said, “What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens.” Despite the bevy of unfortunate events, Stewart continually looked at the future. She saw the company as a thriving entity with tremendous growth and maintained a public persona equal to her vision of success. Never pouting. Always smiling. Martha looked to the distant future overlooking what she saw a temporary inconveniences.
Things began to turn around for Martha while in prison. She learned Susan Lyne, head of then-slumping Disney/ABC Entertainment, had been fired by the ABC brass. Their chief complaint about her was that she had pinned the recovery of the network on two yet-to-be aired shows for which they had little hope: “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives”.
During a visit to Martha in her West Virginia prison, the two would immediately become friends. Martha admired Lyne’s 25 year work history and decided she was the right person to lead the company into the future. Lyne took over as MSLO president and soon would gain incredible recognition: Advertising Age would name her “Executive of the Year” and The Wall Street Journal would call her the “top woman to watch in corporate America.”
Five Essentials of Leadership
Top business leaders like Martha Stewart are known for five essential qualities:
1. Pursue your purpose with passion. Anyone that knows Martha knows MSLO is the very purpose of her life. No two breathes are taken without thoughts of her business.
2. Practice solid values. Not every aspect of a great leader is based on a solid value, however all great leaders have one or more solid values upon which they focus. For …