She immediately went after management, which was not a surprising move; given that her vision of Avon was a company built on the success of its army of small business owners. In fact, "she eliminated eight levels of management and cut costs by $300 million" (George, 2007).
While cutting costs and eliminating management positions was hardly a revolutionary position for an executive faced with falling sales and stagnant growth, Jung's next move was significant. Rather than concentrate on increasing profits in her established markets, Jung took Avon into the Chinese market. In retrospect, every current market leader would suggest entering the Chinese market, but it was actually a visionary position in 2005, when not all industries were willing to try their hands in China. That move proved very successful; the Chinese market has become a large part of Avon's business. By 2007, Avon was once again experiencing double-digit sales growth and its stock price had rebounded from its 2005 low (George, 2007).
One of the most innovative things that Jung did was to adopt a new vision for Avon. As a cosmetics company, Avon had long been driven by a female customer base. Moreover, because its sales format was largely an at-home entrepreneurial business with women small business owners, Avon was always a female-friendly company. Jung did not try to reimagine Avon as something different or try to reach out to an underserved male audience. On the contrary, Jung capitalized on Avon's image as a company for women and officially called on Avon to become "The Company for Women" (George, 2007). She stressed that Avon was a way for women to achieve economic freedom. Of course, by the time Jung was pushing this vision of Avon, women had had years of economic opportunities, but Jung offered something different. With Avon, women could achieve economic freedom, and they could do it without having to enter into a traditional 9 to 5 work environment with all of its hindrances for working mothers. In this way, Jung became a wonderful leader for the rank-and-file in Avon, by supporting their efforts at self-sufficiency. She strengthened this position when she eliminated management positions when faced with a financial crisis, rather than making decisions that would have weakened the financial positions of the sales reps.
Jung's creation of Avon as the Company for Women also had an impact on her customer base. Rather than simply focusing on cosmetic sales, Jung took a bold step and made Avon synonymous with two important causes: breast cancer and domestic violence. Obviously, breast cancer and domestic violence impact women at disproportionate rates, and Jung's choice of those two issues showed a strong commitment to women and a strong commitment to philanthropy. Avon became the corporate sponsor most strongly associated with pink ribbon campaign to eradicate breast cancer. Given that Avon gives women who cannot work in traditional environments, which includes many domestic violence victims, the means to become financially self-sufficient, the decision to support domestic violence awareness was brilliant. Not only did she gain support from customers committed to those causes who may not have previously used Avon, she branded Avon as a women-centered company. Because the domestic sales force for Avon is still largely composed of previous customers, by increasing her loyal customer based, Jung also increased her base of sales reps.
Jung may not be the most effective leader in America; after all, it is difficult to imagine the type of leadership that Jung has exhibited at Avon translating into success at some other businesses. However, that does not make Jung any less effective as a leader. She tailored her approach specifically to Avon to turn it into an industry leader. She made the product current and modern, and used Avon's familiar feminine image to make it a feminist company. Would those same changes have been effective at Citibank? It is doubtful that they would have. However, Jung is not in charge of Citibank, she is in charge of Avon, and she made the changes that Avon needed to be successful. That is the mark of a successful leader.
Andrea Jung. (2008). Retrieved February 4, 2009 from Business Reference. Web site: http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/biography/F-L/Jung-Andrea-1959.html