Skincare for a Selfie World: Rodan + Fields

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“Early in my career, one of my managers pulled me aside and said, ‘You have to think about if you want people to respect you. It doesn’t matter if they like you.’ I think that’s hard, especially for women, because we want to be liked and respected.” — Diane Dietz, CEO and President, Rodan + Fields

Rodan + Fields is the number one skincare brand in the U.S. with $1.5 billion in sales, all from independent consultants selling directly to customers. CEO and President Diane Dietz recently spoke to SheReports about the importance of innovation, raising her daughters and her sensitive Irish skin.

How has your strong background in marketing impacted your career?

I majored in marketing and economics in college, which I think is right brain and left brain all combined. I started with Proctor & Gamble (P&G) out of undergrad in sales and after about six years, I interviewed to get into the brand management side, which really is marketing. That led my career up to different positions of leadership at P&G. And then I moved to be the CMO at Safeway.

Marketing is all about connecting. It’s about communication. It’s about finding that unique insight that can touch someone’s heart and really ignite intellectual curiosity. In any job, it’s important to be able to connect with employees and customers and in the case of Rodan + Fields, with independent consultants. It’s about really trying to communicate in a way that is relatable and to establish an emotional connection. When you have independent workers, they’re on their own. It’s really our job to motivate them and inspire them. And I think that’s the discipline of marketing.

Who is your role model?

I have a couple of role models. In the business world, Susan Arnold has been a role model of mine for a long time. She was the highest ranking female at P&G and somebody who I still admire, respect and consider a friend. She was very authentic and very caring but also no-nonsense and direct. She was all about being respected, not necessarily being liked, which was a big learning for me.

Early in my career, one of my managers pulled me aside and said, “You have to think about if you want people to respect you. It doesn’t matter if they like you.” I think that’s hard, especially for women, because we want to be liked and respected. Sometimes you have to have conversations that are tough. And at that moment, someone may not like you.

My parents are definitely role models. My dad passed away a few years ago, but he just was a really smart, really caring person. He was a coach for me on several of my sports teams. He taught me a lot about life and leadership and how to treat people. My mom was a stay-at-home mom who was very caring and fun and, again, also always taught me to treat everyone you meet with respect. All three of them probably have played a major role in my life and in my thoughts on leadership.

She [Susan Arnold] was all about being respected, not necessarily being liked, which was a big learning for me.

How did you arrive at Rodan + Fields?

When I left Safeway, I really thought I would just stick on the traditional path of going to another big company. And then I got a recruiter call. They said, “I really want you to meet Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields.” And I didn’t even know of the brand at that point. There’s a very low awareness, even though we’re so big, and we’re the number one skincare brand in North America. But I had never really heard of it.

I said, “I don’t know. That’s a small company. I’m not sure I’m that interested.” And the recruiter kept pushing and said, “This is a really incredible company. I know how much you care about empowering women. I just think this is your sweet spot. You would really love it. Just go into the city and meet up. What’s the downside?”

So, I met the chairman, one of the board members and the founding doctors. I started doing research online, and I watched the videos of some of the consultants and heard their stories, and I started trying the product. I was so enamored with this business model, with the brand and, of course, with the founders. I had never worked in a female-founded company. Everything came together for me. And it just really got me so excited.

How do you think about staffing?

Rodan + Fields was probably the first time I’d ever been in a company with so many female leaders on the executive team. We are still probably more like 60 percent female leadership, and I had heard from a few different people that it should be an all-female team. Then I started talking about it as I was scoping out my team. I said to one of the recruiters, “We need some more men.” And she said, “Diane, you’re the first person who’s ever said that to me.” And we both laughed. And I said, “For me, a diverse team is the one that wins.”

I was so enamored with this business model, with the brand and, of course, with the founders. I had never worked in a female-founded company. Everything came together for me. And it just really got me so excited.

If it’s all men, it’s not diverse. If it’s all women, it’s not diverse. We definitely have the added diversity across the board, not just gender but also race. There are just so many objectives of diversity. When I have had the privilege to be on a diverse team and walk into a room and hear different languages being spoken — those are the teams that win because they’re more inclusive of the consumer that they’re trying to serve. I want to make sure that as a brand that we are inclusive of all.

Any examples of failure in your career that you can share with us?

We had a rough patch last year. We were trying to move our tech platform from an old back-end platform to an upgraded platform with a lot more bells and whistles. And we had such aggressive goals to do the big bang launch approach. So, we make all these changes, all these upgrades, all these improvements, flip the light switch, and ta-da! A whole new platform.

We definitely have the added diversity across the board, not just gender but also race. A diverse team is the one that wins.

We did that, but we ended up having a lot of issues. We just didn’t do enough to think about any changes in a process that consumers and consultants were used to. Even if on the outside it looked like an improvement, for them it was confusing and time-consuming.

It was a really tough thing to go through because we were so optimistic that we were making it better for them. In the end, we actually caused a fair amount of frustration for both. At one point, I had to literally shut our website down because we had so many calls in the call center with questions on different screens. I now say never waste a crisis because from that crisis we actually learned a lot. And we are working through it in a completely different approach. I think in the end we’ll have a much better result, but it was certainly painful to go through that.

What is a beauty trend you embrace?

One of the things that is really near and dear to my heart is feeling confident in your own skin. The tagline for our brand is “life-changing skincare.” For us, it’s all about helping women feel confident with the skin they have. Obviously, if you want to wear makeup, that’s great. But if you have really great skin and our products can help in that process, you don’t necessarily have to wear makeup. I wear makeup so I’m not against makeup, but I’m all for women feeling confident in their own skin anytime of the day and not always feeling like we have to cover up who we are to be ourselves.

What is your favorite product?

Well, I’ve loved the SOOTHE Regimen. I’m Irish, and I have light skin; it’s pretty sensitive. I’ve used the SOOTHE Regimen since I started here, and I’m so hooked on it. It’s probably my favorite because it’s the core product I couldn’t live without. But there are so many that I love.

One of the things that is really near and dear to my heart is feeling confident in your own skin.

What are some things that are up next for the company?

One of the big areas of focus is innovation. And what we have really recognized is that there’s this whole area of dermatology-inspired results and solutions.

We live in a selfie world with constant photos anytime, anywhere. And we know that younger consumers also want to keep great skin. So even though they may not be dealing with the fine lines or some of the signs of aging, they are much more aware that what harms your skin today, you’ll pay for later. So, innovation has been a really big part of my focus. And as you mature as a brand, it’s important to keep bringing new news and new areas of benefits to your customer population. You’ll see more in the coming years of us entering more geographies.

As a female CEO, what are you especially mindful of as you are raising your daughters?

I’m a mom of two little girls, an eight-year-old and a five-year-old. Near and dear to my heart is thinking more about how we can all make a better impact and give our children, especially our daughters, a feeling that the sky’s the limit. Every day, I read more and more about the lack of female Fortune 500 CEOs and lack of female leadership in boardrooms. So, I’m extremely passionate about those topics.

Something that’s been really fun in this job is that my daughters have been able to come to work with me. One of them went to our annual conference. And to see so many women on stage in leadership roles, I think, has just been really eye-opening.

And it’s funny because my eight-year-old daughter — I don’t think she even knows what it means to be a CEO — will often meet people and say, “My mom’s a CEO.” I think it’s really cool that my daughters see me in a leadership role. I don’t know what they’ll want to do when they get older, but they can see that anything’s possible for young girls.