This eloquent and energetic leader talks about winning awards, secrets to success, the future of the beauty industry, and global distribution.
Harlan Kirschner is the owner and CEO of The Kirschner Group, Inc., the largest global sales force in the beauty industry by far and one of the few companies capable of launching a brand or product on a worldwide basis. This year he takes on a new challenge, having won the City of Hope “Spirit of Life Award” and spearheading the fight against cancer.
What does winning the 2014 Spirit of Life Award mean to you?
“Receiving the “Spirit of Life” award is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, as I have served on this committee for over a decade and attended almost 30 of these events over the years. This is the beauty industry’s best networking event of the year and I invite all who are attending Cosmoprof to come and enjoy the City of Hope gala.”
What difference do you hope to make in the world through the Spirit of Life Award?
“Cancer will affect one out of every three men and two out of every three women in their lifetime. Some forms of cancers now have cures and this dinner gala will be “celebrating cures” and focusing on all the great achievements that have been made. It is my hope that the support our industry gives City of Hope will make a difference and help save the lives.”
How do you continue fueling your passion for the beauty industry alive?
“I love this industry, the people and the products. We make people feel better about themselves, increase customers’ self-esteem. The creativity our industry develops and the opportunities to affect people’s lives in a positive manner are endless. I often speak to other business people at airports or hotels about the industries they are in, and I am convinced we are in one of the best.”
What is your recipe for success?
“Treat employees, sales team and educational staff with respect and dignity, while inspiring them to be the best in the industry. We endeavor to guarantee the utmost customer service for the brands we represent with integrity. We are always striving to adapt to an evolving business environment and create new opportunities for our customers and manufacturers. The only other important ingredient for success is just a diligent effort to provide world class service and work hard to make the most out of what we have been given.”
Tell us about your view on the current situation of the Hair & Beauty Industry in the US.
“I see very successful years ahead for the beauty industry. The acquisition era is almost over and the industry will regenerate as enterprises expand and grow. I believe we will see more innovative products now with the recession behind us and investment funds now available. I also believe the existing distributors will be expanding as the demand for professional goods increases and salons get stronger and open multiple locations. We do have some regulatory and government issues like deregulation and reciprocity, but we have strong organizations like the Professional Beauty Association. An industry is only as strong as its trade associations and it is important that we all fully support them.”
Tell us briefly about the Kirschner Group.
“We have 37 professional sales members in the United States and 21 sales representatives internationally, as well as 52 licensed cosmetologists who provide education to our customers and a strong infrastructure to support our manufacturers’ needs. We represent many of the top selling brands in every aspect of the beauty industry, from liquid goods and sundry products in the Hair, Nail, and Skin Care segments. Throughout the United States and internationally we do business with virtually every major customer in the beauty category.”
What are some key differences between your US Sales and International Sales teams?
“People in Europe respond differently than customers in Asia, Latin America or the Middle East so it takes a special skill set to nurture trust and respect as well as develop business. We are a global company that handles each market regionally with unique marketing plans customized for each specific distributor.”
How do you promote US companies on the global market?
“The truth is that globally, people like to buy what is “Made in America” as they perceive the quality and innovation is better than anything available made in their own countries. We have very high governmental food and drug standards, along with exceptional quality control. So people trust what is made in the United States. Additionally, trends most often start in the United States due to Hollywood movies, New York fashion trends, and celebrities who are closely watched worldwide.”
What does The Kirschner Group have in store for the near future?
“Our five-year plan is to strengthen our services and relationships with our customers by supporting them with more education, better marketing ideas, innovations and customized business strategies by distributor. We hope to support international trade associations better and add some of our most talented people to their committees or boards. I also want our company to be more involved in charitable events and support our international distributors with charities that are near to them.”
What is the best way to inspire others?
“I attempt to inspire and lead by example, along with maintaining high standards and expectations. I often tell our team that we do not want to be the best sales agency in the beauty business, we aspire to be the best global sales agency in all businesses. Somebody will be the best, so why not us? We take pride in the fact that we are the most technologi-cally advanced group in the industry and work to be first to create new techniques and sales tools.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
“We are in a relationship business and it is important to network, communicate and understand what drives the professional stylist or retail customer. Knowing and understanding the business from product development to the cash register is very important. Other good advice I received is “treat others as you want to be treated”, because it makes business fun and enjoyable.”
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
“I started at the very bottom, sweeping warehouse floors, shipping and receiving orders along with unloading trailers of merchandise for a master beauty distributor. I was able to work my way up in the company, then start our own sales agency, and ultimately build the largest sales organization in the world of beauty. Lastly, my daughter just had our first grandchild, so I am thrilled to have a new addition to our family!”
More than 850 salon industry executives and supporters attended City of Hope’s National Professional Salon Industry (NPSI) Spirit of Life® Award Gala on July 12, 2014 at the Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas to honor Harlan Kirschner, president of The Kirschner Group, Inc. “Celebrating Cures,” – the theme for this year’s event, celebrated the hope of new treatments, even cures, for cancer and other diseases.
The celebration featured a joint cocktail reception with the Professional Beauty Association, a silent auction, MINI Cooper giveaway, and a special performance by Grammy winner Michael Bolton. To date, the “Celebrating Cures” campaign has raised more than $850,000 for City of Hope. The special guest speaker, Chris Crellin, who is also Kirschner’s son-in-law, highlighted the importance of ”Celebrating Cures.” Crellin lost his father to the disease when he was a small child and, as a 15-year-old, battled for his own life against Hodgkin lymphoma.
Kirschner accepted The Spirit of Life Award from his children, Jeffrey Kirschner and Bethany Kirschner Crellin.