Kathy Ireland urges retailers to link vision and strategy for business and personal success

Kathy Ireland, a onetime model who has become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America and the head of a $1 billion global business, enthralled more than 650 people Friday morning at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas 2005 with tips for business and personal success.

In a 70-minute keynote address filled with personal anecdotes (including severe injuries and the bankruptcy of a major client), Biblical references, stories of achievers like Ray Charles and Eunice Shriver who overcame obstacles to achieve success, and quotes from such successful people as businessman Warren Buffet and legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, Ireland told her audience how using brands can build a retail jeweler’s business.

Ireland, a self-described “PTA mom, Sunday School mom and CEO of a family and a business,” has built her own business empire on products catering to working mothers. “Men buy products, but women buy brands,” she said. “Having the brands they need and want will enhance your retail jewelry business.”

Develop “strategic partnerships” with the brands that you carry, she said. “Select those that will support you, that don’t conflict with your values and will enhance your relationship with your customer.” But she warned, “don’t mistake a celebrity endorsement with brand equity. Choose one that “reaches out to your needs as a retailer and provides more than an autographed picture. If it wants to partner with you in your business, it needs to provide such things as an excellent price-to-value ratio, fulfillment, customer support, and advertising and marketing support.”

Work with brands, she said, that will support your business. For example, can the brand provide a jewelry collection exclusive to independent jewelers, which won’t be sold to chains? (That way, the jeweler can benefit from the millions a chain spends on advertising the brand name, without competing with their discounted product.) Or, can they charge the big chains more than the small independent for the same product? Or, can the brand provide more support tin advertising and marketing?

Ireland gave her attentive and enthusiastic audience what she called “six keys for success,” tips based on her values of “faith, family, and service to others” that are geared as much toward personal fulfillment as they are toward business success.

1. “Change is the only constant in life.” Change forces us out of our comfort zone, and how we deal with change—competitors, the Internet, market changes—affects how successful our business will be, she said.

2. “Live beneath your means and you’ll always have enough money.”

3. “Success is achieved by experience and conquering challenges.” Citing examples such as blind musical legend Ray Charles, Ireland urged her audience to “become the change you wish to see.” And, she added, “Success comes from finding your passion [in work and life], making a bold investment in it and living it.”

4. “A strong family foundation will influence you and your loved ones for life.” This applies as much to the business family as to one’s own family, she said. “A vision without a strategy is just a dream,” she said. “You should be able to share that vision with a team who are strong in areas where you are weak, support your vision, and are fully informed. For example, when you commit to a brand, your business family needs to know why.” Success, she said, depends on connecting with people and people connecting with each other.

5. “Powerful question come from powerful questions.”

6. “We are all capable of living our lives with great joy.” But, she cautioned, “We can have it all, but not all at once. It all comes in its season.”

Ireland’s genial, self-effacing manner delighted the audience—she even led them in singing “Happy Birthday” not once, but twice, to one of her executives and to a Canadian retail jeweler. The appreciative audience gave her a standing ovation at the conclusion of her talk, to which she responded with an impromptu question and answer session.