- December 6, 2013
Pat Burki doesn’t let things stop her. She didn’t let being shy keep her from taking a sales job, and now she doesn’t let being in a wheelchair stop her from running a successful business.
Burki, based in Fort Myers, is an independent sales director for Mary Kay, the well-known beauty brand with direct sellers worldwide.
Burki, 74, started with Mary Kay in 1982 as a way to make extra money and come out of her shell. “I was very shy and was hoping maybe my confidence level would grow,” she says. It worked. Her success also helped pay for both of her daughters to go to college, one daughter’s wedding and Burki’s house in Florida.
In addition to financial rewards, Burki has learned a lifetime of entrepreneurial lessons, from how to personalize motivating team members to the difference between being a leader and a manager.
Burki has built a team of 77 women across the U.S. who she trains and guides to achieve their goals. Her work with Mary Kay has also led to several accomplishments, among them earning 20 Mary Kay cars and leading her team to $300,000 a year in wholesale production. For Burki, being a leader in Mary Kay isn’t about managing her team. It’s about coaching and motivating.
“It started with me, and then I grew a personal team, and then those personal team members would recruit others, she says. "And that’s how I became a director and we became what’s called a unit."
“Probably the biggest thing as an entrepreneur has been for me to learn to coach consultants because the more I help others be successful, the more it helps me be successful.” — Pat Burki, independent sales director, Mary Kay
She communicates with her team by phone, email and video conferencing as well as in person. Burki trains them on how to run their business, talk to customers and work with existing customers to get reorders. She also trains them on how to build confidence. Burki learned these skills herself through training the company offers and through experience.
Her leadership is rooted in coaching. “Probably the biggest thing as an entrepreneur has been for me to learn to coach consultants because the more I help others be successful, the more it helps me be successful,” she says.
She’s learned about coaching partially by reading books from people such as John Maxwell and company founder Mary Kay Ash.
Burki says the difference between coaching and managing is that managing involves telling people what to do. With coaching, it’s different. “First, I ask them what they want — because it has to be what they want — and then I might have them set a small goal first, so it stretches them to the second step, and then we set another goal that will stretch them to the third step,” she says.
After Burki discusses the action plan to achieve the goals, her work isn’t over. Then comes the motivation aspect of her job. “I’m an encourager,” she says. “I do a lot of that.”
She motivates her team in several ways, including monthly emails that recognize people for specific achievements. But she has found not every type of motivation works for every person. “Usually in the very beginning, when they first become a consultant, I ask them what motivates them,” Burki says. Some tell her recognition, and others say prizes. She drills even down further by asking them what kind of prizes would motivate them most. “Lots of time I will gear my recognition or prizes toward what each person wants,” she says. “A lot of it is personalized.”
Burki's own motivation? A Mary Kay car, a well-publicized reward for achievement within the company. “When I earned my first car, it felt really good,” she says. For Burki, the reward is based on her success and her team’s victories. “I can’t climb any higher and earn any more if I’m not reaching out to my consultants and saying: ‘Grab a hand. I’ll take you where you want to go.’”
Her coaching has paid off, with her team doing $300,000 in wholesale production in a year twice. “Our goal is to do $300,000 again and higher,” she says.
Burki’s own customers are in upstate New York, where she previously lived, and in Florida. She used to go out daily and meet people to gain customers and team members, but now she’s in a wheelchair, and she’s had to adjust her routine. Burki uses technology to her advantage by serving customers and her team over the phone and computer.
She’s working around the challenge. This year, her daughter drove her to a Mary Kay conference in Orlando. “When I was there, in a wheelchair the whole time, I was up on stage for some recognition, and I had so many consultants — people I did not even know — who came up to me and said, ‘You have been an inspiration to me.’”