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  • Writer's pictureJoel Onyshuk

Episode #04 - Beautiful Leadership Principles Ft. Cory Jensen - Show Notes

Join Joel in his coversation with Cory Jensen, COO of Marianna Beauty, a leading developer and manufacturer of hair and beauty products for cosmetology schools, salons, retail, and brand owners. Cory discusses the value of getting frontline employees focused on winning and problem solving every day, reversing his 400% turnover, and the criticality of having great daily huddles with your frontline teams in our fourth episode.

Tell us about Marianna Beauty.

Marianna Beauty is a custom formulator of beauty products, think shampoos, conditioners, men's styling. We serve prestige industry mass and direct retail and direct to consumer as well. 53-years old, privately owned for the first 43 years of it.

How does a former manager at Blockbuster go on to be the COO of a multi-site, rapidly growing, nationally recognized manufacturer in the beauty industry?

I was fortunate to hear an enterprise-level VP at Blockbuster tell us they weren't worried about Netflix and that wasn't their competition. That was the writing on the wall, I needed to find a new opportunity. I was an assistant store manager at Walgreens, it wasn't a good fit for me. I had a young kid. My wife showed me a job posting, they needed a help desk coordinator at Marianna. I went to the interview, they asked if I knew how to do this - that and I did. I was really clueless, but I was really good at googling stuff, so I ended up getting hired there. Started as the help desk coordinator getting everyone's systems set up, making sure everyone's printers worked, connecting people to the network. My first day there they were like, "We have these huge stacks of paper that print out every day, it's everything we need to order, you have to go through and rip apart by buyer, and deliver to the buyer." I thought it was really inefficient but I did it.

I've been in 9-10 different roles at Marianna, asked "how". The "how part" was having great mentors. I worked in IT then I went to sales, I started working with our largest national accounts and started utilizing technology and the things I learned growing in the IT world. Then went to our planning department and with the help of the IT team, rebuilt our planning system from the ground up. From planning went to operations management. Went back as a VP of strategy, that was the first time I got into introducing new technology into the infrastructure and ran our supply chain for a year and a half and then went back to the operations side after that, running the full operations. 18 months ago they said they wanted me to run the supply chain as well, they were looking for a COO. That's how a guy that had a rough start with college is now a COO.

In summary, it sounds like there are two things you'd attribute to the career trajectory: good mentors, and the mentality of "Just say yes".

Absolutely. I've had 8-10 positions and I've never once applied for a position or promotion. Multiple times I've had a CEO or enterprise-level VP walk in and say, "Congrats, here's what you're doing next." You just say, "Cool, tell me what you need fixed and I'll go fix it." It's been fun, it's been a lot about the people and the absolute willingness to just say, I'll figure it out.

What is an important attribute of a leader or supervisor?

You have to have an attitude of, "We'll figure it out." It's easy to look at a problem and say we can't figure it out. I really challenge my leadership team to find reasons why we can, and if there's obstacles let's identify them and how we can eliminate them, not just say no. Let's find a reason why and not a reason why not.

How does that mentality translate down to the frontline employees?

It's one of the big things that's happening in the labor market now, how do you get employees to do more than just show up? At Marianna it's been about engaging them, explaining the important things that matter: let's talk about safety, quality, productivity, how do I have a great day today. Let's break it down into bite-sized, winnable increments and help them set a goal that makes sense.

Sometimes that obsession doesn't resonate with a frontline employee, how do you translate that obsession or goal?

You have to spin it around and ask yourself what's in it for them. I talk to our group a lot about, "You have to explain the why and make it into something they care about and is tangible." One of the things we talk about is how do we accomplish the schedule of the week without having to be here on Fridays. How do we give people the balance they want in their lives and give them the ability to control whether they can get that or not.

Omaha Nebraska has had extremely low numbers of people looking for jobs. You had a 400% turnover and you went down to about 0% in a short amount of time.

We went to a really controllable number, I don't think we went to 0%. But we went to a place where I don't feel like we were losing people we didn't want to lose. Coming out of COVID, we're seeing numbers that are climbing rather quickly again. Omaha is incredibly difficult; it's one of the lowest on unemployment, there are highly seasonal businesses that are affecting us. I'm sure a lot of your listeners have heard of Omaha Steaks and they essentially quadrupled their workforce overnight in December. When we were on the beginning of this journey 4 years ago, most of my line leads, operators, and most of my maintenance staff are the same as they were back then. We now have a core group of people that understand what we want every day, how to drive our business.

"When you get everyone on the floor, pulling in the same direction, and focusing on how do we win today, you create a culture for success and problem solving." You are a huge proponent of daily does that play into your culture of creating the environment you know you need to have?

This goes back to something we started a few years ago, it has evolved a ton over the course of time. It started with once a day we're going to do huddles and we're going to set our goal. Just by setting a goal people were more likely to achieve it. If I set a goal 2 hours into my shift and I don't follow up until the end, sometimes you can get really off track in the middle and not realize you're not going to hit it. So we changed from one huddle a day to two huddles a day.

We started incorporating different topics into our huddles. We added a topic around safety, quality, and that was all going well. I had one of our assistant production supervisors and suggested we add an end-of-shift 2-minute huddle where they check if they accomplished their last goal. People started to hit their goals just by having to go back and report if they did or didn't hit their goal.

Then we had a coach come in and asked us to talk about the people that are helping to accomplish more. So we added a celebration prompt. We wanted to talk about something positive that was happening. We spent more time focusing on the positive things that happened because bad things happen all the time and it can drag you down. That's one thing that has really improved how people feel working at Marianna, seeing a peer give you positive recognition in front of the entire group...

What's something you believe, that if everyone else believed too, would make the world a better place?

The world could be a better place if everybody just gave the other person the benefit of the doubt in what they are doing. It's so easy to look at a situation and jump to the conclusion that fits your narrative, rather than trying to think about why someone would have done this.

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