Gotta get out of this job… gracefully

Super Bowl’s over and you know what that means, Readers? Spring training’s coming soon! Why not get your career in shape with one of the jobs above (and if those jobs aren’t for you, change your preferences.)

It’s a great issue we have for you this week, folks…

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, (yeah, that’s next Tuesday, guys, don’t forget) we’ve got Interview with Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of high-end luxury store bluemercury, below. Marla’s been a personal friend for years, and she shares her thoughts on turning her $100k+ corporate job into an entrepreneurial career, and what $100k+ positions she’s looking to hire.

Don’t forget to buy your spouse a Valentine’s gift at her store! Marla recommends lemon and sage body creme for the Mrs., and black pepper bodywash for the Mr. Or if any of you ladies who read want to feel sorry for your, alas, very single weekly career correspondent, Marla suggests the Molton Brown shaving cream for me. 😉

We also learn How to leave your job with grace from our good friend Bill Arruda, founder of Reach, the world’s first human branding consultancy (now for those of you who find that too highfalutin, I gotta tell ya, Bill’s insights into managing your career, and understanding the way your success is perceived, are good, smart words of wisdom.)

You know, it’s common for folks to forget that departing well is just as important as arriving well–and I suppose we at are as guilty of that as anyone–so it’s wonderful to have Bill around to remind us!

Now let’s go find you a job you can say goodbye to!

Interview with Marla Malcom Beek, Founder and CEO of bluemercury, inc.

Just this week, we grabbed a few minutes with Marla Malcom Beck, Founder and CEO of bluemercury, inc. Marla is the entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “cosmetics junkie” behind bluemercury, one of the nation’s fastest growing luxury apothecary and spa chains. Read on to hear what our own Marc and Jennifer learned from Marla about starting a business, finding success, and what to get your valentine…

TLC: What were you doing before bluemercury?

MMB: I started out as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, straight out of undergrad and, after doing that for a couple years, decided to go back to business school. After business school I had the opportunity with a DC-based investor and entrepreneur; I joined his team as VP, Strategy and Ops. When he decided to retire, rather than look for a job, I decided to start my own company.

I’d always been a skin-care junkie so I started bluemercury, a retailer of luxury cosmetics and spa services. I was and am truly passionate about the products. When I started the company, it was with a spa and retail cosmetics store in Georgetown. We now have 12 locations, and are scaling to 25 at the end of this year, and 45 at the end of next. Obviously, we’re in super growth mode and looking for qualified staff.

TLC: How did you end up with bluemercury doing high-end women’s cosmetics?

MMB: I’ve always loved cosmetics and it’s a huge industry. Up until very recently, cosmetics didn’t have many channels of distribution. It was mainly department stores and shopping in a department store can be an uncomfortable process, because the stores are set up brand by brand, not by type or product.

Our staff at bluemercury are trained in all brands, so we look at it from a true customer perspective. This is a revolutionary change in the industry — products are now sold based on what the customer wants, not brand.

TLC: Your brand is very exclusive and high-end, but also based on personal recommendations. How do you select the products your feature?

MMB: Most of the brands we work with have entrepreneurs behind them. For example, Laura Mercier, who was painter in Paris, experimenting with painting faces and decided that she didn’t like the current makeup. So, she created her own line! The brands we work with are smaller and have real people behind them.

TLC: Did your time at McKinsey and a successful investment company prepare you for the role of an entrepreneur?

MMB: Working at McKinsey gives you key analytical skills, such as how to model cash flow and project out your company’s revenue given different strategies. When you first start a company you don’t have a lot of extra people around to do those sorts of things! Also, because bluemercury is dealing with a lot of industry change, the strategy planning helped. The other thing I learned at McKinsey was how to manage projects. Especially with bluemercury’s growth, project management is a huge skill we require in all employees, regardless of job title.

What McKinsey and professional services don’t teach you are the day-to-day nuts and bolts of running a business. For this, I really needed to leverage the experience and knowledge of other entrepreneurs.

TLC: You actually started off online, then moved to brick and mortar?

MMB: We realized pretty quickly that, in our industry, to be successful online you needed tremendous scale and a way to attract people to website. While our competitors could raise $10 million dollars for advertising, bricks and mortar was an inexpensive way for us to get traction. The sale of skin products, makeup, and hair care is also very touchy-feely. People want to see and feel the products before they make the first purchase. The category leant itself to retail.

TLC: Valentine’s Day is next week — what should our audience be thinking for gifts as they look at bluemercury?

MMB: Think about what the person they’re buying for is like. If someone loves baths, we recommend the Fresh baths. Who doesn’t need a break in their life these days? If you’re buying for someone hip and edgy, bliss is a spa in NYC that does fantastic product development — like the lemon and sage body cr’e8me. We also have Molton Brown, which is a great gift line. They have a black pepper body wash that’s beautiful, and a shaving cream that’s phenomenal. We also do heavy-duty gift consulting on our 1-800 number on the website.

TLC: Who are you hiring this year at the $100k+ level and what kind of people do you look for to work for you?

MMB: One position we’re focusing on this year is a VP of Marketing, with direct mail and database management experience. We’ll also be looking for a VP of Construction to help us construct new stores and manage the process from start to finish. There’s also a CIO — we’re looking for a lot of positions! Not just yet, but by end of year, we’ll be actively trying to fill them.

We’re looking for people that are entrepreneurial and hard-working, with a high energy level. A passion for the products also helps to make it fun. If you have an affinity for it, you’ll quickly ?get? it. We’re also looking for great project managers, people who have experience taking something from start to finish. This is not a company full of meetings and committees, we’re a company full of entrepreneurs.

TLC: That’s great stuff. What advice would you have for our readers on achieving their own success in life and finding their perfect role?

MMB: They have to find an industry that they love first and foremost, even before job function. Some people say it’s the other way around, but that wasn’t the case for me. I found an industry I adore and laugh because I don’t feel like I’m going to work.

Also, be an expert at something, whatever that is. If you’re interviewing for a job, show that you’ve been an expert at it already. And it doesn’t happen overnight, you build that expertise over time. This is true for individuals and companies — bluemercury tries to be an expert at giving skin care and personal care advice, and that’s how we view our company.

Thanks Marla!