2020 brought a new company structure, better communication and a clear roadmap.
Founded / 1963
Headquarters / Taunton, MA
Top Executives / Lynne Coté
Products / Home Goods
The events of 2020 forced every company, both within the direct sales industry and outside of it, to adapt to meet the new-overnight-needs of their pandemic-impacted customers. For Princess House, the 2020 chaos was the perfect atmosphere to rethink, restructure and reorient the company, shifting course from several years of declining sales and scattered focus. This clean slate breathed new life into Princess House, inspiring a new generation of consultants to create a healthier and more beautiful future.
An Aligned Vision
When Lynne Coté was asked by Princess House owner Ray Chambers to join a consulting team formed to advise on new strategies for the company, she saw the frustrating financials and alignment challenges that everyone else could clearly see. But she saw something more.
“I didn’t know anything about kitchenware. My whole background has always been fashion,” she shares. “But when I stepped in for those couple of weeks, it was pretty apparent to me that there was a strategy to be had here. [I felt] if we get all of our arrows aligned and get the field aligned with us, I felt like there was a huge opportunity.”
Lynne officially joined Princess House as Chief Executive Officer in January 2020 and hit the ground running, knocking down long-standing silos and dreaming up a complete reorganization that would better serve the company. In a two-day offsite, Lynne walked leaders through a “journey vision” that both honored the company’s legacy and history while charting a course for the future. Together they decided the principles they wanted to stay true to, which new paths to consider and took a critical look at the mission of the company.
“We looked at what our mission is, and then we had to decide if that mission is still appropriate for today,” she explains. “We changed our mission to, ‘The mission of Princess House is to make life healthier and more beautiful,’ because one thing that has always been true about Princess House products is that they’re beautiful, yet just as important is our continued evolution of supporting healthier lifestyles.”
With a new company structure, better communication and a clear roadmap for Princess House’s next act, Lynne and her team were aligned and ready steer the company in a fresh direction. They had no idea they would end up clinging to this new plan as 2020 shifted course as well.
“Lynne had a laser focus on business strategy when she joined the company,” says Stefani Shea, Associate Vice President, Marketing and Communications. “We’d been going down a road of trying too many new things without the alignment needed to make any of them a likely success. With her leadership, we took a long hard look at these various projects and decided which paths to continue pursuing. She elevated the importance of communication and partnership with our field, and that turned out to be a critical factor in our ability to navigate so successfully through the pandemic.”
Out of Chaos, Opportunity
The challenges of 2020 only sped up the plans Lynne and her team had created together.
“Fortunately, under Lynne’s guidance, our Executive Team had already created a strategic blueprint for the company, and we stayed true to those priorities throughout the pandemic,” shares Kelly Harte, Vice President, Strategic Sales. “On a tactical level, Lynne empowered us to make decisions quickly to ease the concerns of our field and allow them to focus on learning new virtual ways of doing business. We introduced the field to the concept of ‘crisis creates chaos, but out of chaos comes opportunity.’ When the field saw our optimism combined with the tangible actions we were taking to partner with them, they became more confident and willing to go well beyond their previous comfort zones, particularly in the use of technology.”
Princess House has long been known for beautiful housewares, ranging from cookware to dinnerware, small appliances, home décor and more, typically sold at in-home presentations and cooking shows. The pandemic changed all of that, shifting to virtual parties, and the field was ready—not simply ready to learn how to function in a new virtual business model, but ready to embrace all the changes Lynne and her team were rolling out just before the pandemic hit.
“This was an opportunity where they were going to be more open-minded to learn technology,” says Lynne. “We started getting thousands and thousands of people on these Zoom calls teaching them how to do social media, how to sell this way, how to get their families who were home, their kids, to help them learn technology, make it a family thing. And we started getting double-digit gains in week four. The regional sales managers who used to be on airplanes all the time were now reaching thousands more people. And they had a willingness to learn and to do it.”
The field doubled in 2020 from 14,000 to 28,000 consultants, expanding geographically to areas the company hadn’t reached before.
“We’re seeing the map of the U.S. fill in more than it had in many years,” says Stefani. “Our field’s adoption of social selling, something they’d previously had little interest in, removed the boundaries of geography from their recruiting efforts. Where they’d struggled to find new people in their own backyards, they were now comfortable recruiting and training across the country and using digital tools to make those efforts succeed.”
Transparency and Trust
The field felt empowered by their newfound virtual selling skills but also felt supported throughout the challenges of 2020, as a key component of Lynne’s strategic plan was improved transparency and communication across every aspect of the business. This new level of transparency was quickly put to the test as Princess House endured shipping delays and inventory challenges.
“I think the pandemic helped us to get them to say, ‘I’m going to follow you. I trust you,’ explains Lynne. “We’ve been really transparent because one of the challenges of growing this fast is your lead times are nine months. And you don’t all of a sudden have double the amount of inventory in your warehouse. We had to explain that to them and say, ‘We are going to go on back order and here’s why.’ They felt like information is power because they can manage that as long as they know. That’s how we really built up trust.”
Today, consultants in the field are not only supported but also heard. Lynne and her team launched working committees to involve consultants in various areas, such as product development, field incentives and leadership.
“Every decision is looked at from the perspective of our Field,” explains Kelly. “We have a CEO Advisory Council plus multiple Field Working Committees advising us and supporting company decisions. We have many employees and field members who have been affiliated with Princess House for decades — and we share both personal and business successes and challenges.”
Tomorrow at Princess House
As Princess House and the rest of the world emerge in an incredibly unpredictable time, Lynne and her team are optimistic about all the future holds. The company is eager to introduce a number of technology enhancements this year, including a new online learning platform, improved back office for consultants and an updated e-commerce platform. Leadership has plans to expand in new markets, both here in the U.S. and possibly abroad. And this June, leadership hosted over 1,500 consultants and their guests on the company’s first incentive trip since 2019.
But with all the exciting developments Princess House has on the horizon, Lynne is most excited about the growth, commitment and resiliency of the field.
“The consultants in the field could have become our opponents. Instead, they became our partners,” she says. “I now feel we’re at this point where we can conquer anything together. They have become a culture of figuring things out; they’ve become very innovative. I think unleashing that power can bring us to do and try anything we want to try.”
From the September 2021 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.