This week on the Modern Direct Seller Podcast, we’re joined by three fabulous leaders from Color Street and the Modern Direct Seller Academy VIP: Anita Westlake, Toni Dolinka, and Bethany Vargas. Leadership can look seamless from the outside, but behind the scenes, it comes with its own challenges, changes—and of course, rewards. Listen in to hear how these three are empowering their teams and adjusting to meet new needs as they grow not only their own businesses, but the businesses of those around them.
Time based notes:
- 1:54 Anita Westlake introduction
- 2:13 Toni Dolinka introduction
- 2:40 Bethany Vargas introduction
- 4:34 Balance business and leadership
- 8:36 Consistent personal development
- 14:50 Self-work and leading by example
- 19:26 Empower sellers and leaders
- 21:16 Prized private chats
- 23:03 Easily accessible information
- 25:34 Support from Academy VIP
- 33:17 Favorite office supplies
Leading, Engaging, and Growing a Team with Color Street
Leadership can look seamless from the outside, but behind the scenes, it comes with its own challenges, changes, and of course, rewards. Recently on the Modern Direct Seller Podcast, we were joined by three fabulous leaders from Color Street and the Modern Direct Seller Academy VIP, who shared how they’re empowering their teams and adjusting to meet new needs as they grow not only their own businesses, but the businesses of those around them.
So, for all of our listeners that have not yet met you, why don’t we just kick things off and share a little bit about yourselves, maybe where you live, what your title is, how long you’ve been with Color Street—all that good stuff.
Anita Westlake: I am a founding stylist with Color Street, so that means I’ve been with the company for six years. And, I’ve been in the direct sales industry for 27 years, and I’m a gold executive leader.
Toni Dolinka: I live in Ellicott City, Maryland, but grew up in New York. I have been with Color Street since December of 2017, but I do not have as much experience in direct sales. I couldn’t sell anything to anybody, except for Color Street.
And, look at you now! I love it. Bethany?
Bethany Vargas: I live in Goldsboro, North Carolina, which is literally in the middle of nothing. But, it’s an Air Force town, and I grew up as a military brat, and then I ended up marrying into the military. So, here I stay! I’ve been with Color Street for five and a half years, and I have been leading a very large team for about four and a half years of that. And I, too, had no direct sales anything before this. But, I do have a diary entry from when I was six, where I wanted to own my own store. So, it started young. Just took a while to get there.
It starts early, entrepreneurship. So good! Well, when it comes to leading a direct sales team, I’d love to hear a little bit of real talk here. Sometimes when we think about leadership, especially from on the outside, it looks like it’s so easy, and it’s so seamless. And, especially if you’re new to direct sales, you look up to your upline and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, they have it all together.” So, I’d love to hear a transparent, honest response on what you find most challenging as a leader, and how you’ve overcome or navigated that challenge.
Toni Dolinka: I find that, for me, it’s the most difficult to balance my business and my leadership role. It’s hard to give 100% to both, and you really do want to give 100% to both. So, I’m going to have to plug Becky a little bit here; she has totally helped me with prioritizing, picking three things and working on those three things as opposed to trying to do everything for everyone. If I pick those three things and can focus on them, then I’m doing enough for everyone and not overwhelming myself or feeling that loss of balance.
I feel like, when you step into leadership, you’re balancing two different jobs. There’s your personal business that you want to keep going and keep afloat, and then you also have your team, and you want to love on them and support them and train them. And, sometimes we have seasons that things are really off-balance, and other times, they’re more evenly balanced. And so, it’s tricky to figure out what that looks like on a day-to-day basis.
Bethany Vargas: I think that’s a challenge for all of us that are leaders, especially those that have been with Color Street for as long as we have. We didn’t really have resources or coaches to help us at the very beginning, so starting off was hard. And, getting into leadership was hard. I was really off-balance, trying to figure out, “Okay, I’ve got 75 personalities now thrown at me. How do I work with all of them and give all of them what they need?”
And again, Becky has helped a lot with that, just because all of her systems work together and flow, but then with the VIP Academy, we are able to come together as leaders and share all the things that we do. So, I’ve really gained a lot in the past, like, four months just from listening to everybody and taking it all in and saying, like, “Okay, this can be applicable to my team.” And, “Oh, I see the need here. Let me go ahead and fill that need.” Or, “Oh yeah, these five people have this personality trait”—because we took that little test, and I was like, “Oh, I know what that is now.” And, I was able to actually fulfill certain things for them. And, I mean, that’s huge.
Anita, what comes to mind for you?
Anita Westlake: Well, it’s learning as you grow, right? Like what Bethany said, and Toni. And so, I’ve been in the industry since my kids were, like, one. But, I’ve never been a leader before. And so, to add to what Bethany said, all of a sudden, Color Street launched. it was like I was handed a bunch of teenagers and told, “Now, figure out what to do with them.” So, we did have to create all of the systems and things, because Color Street was so tiny and new.
And so, what was really big for me was getting our team members to believe in themselves get rid of all of that fear-based thinking that comes when we start to do stuff scary, and we get afraid, and we let that stop us. So, it’s working with them on being consistent with personal development, and showing up, and it’s something that you need to do every single day.
You know, being in this industry, you get asked, “What do I need to do? How do I get to where you are?” People are looking for that one answer. And, this is our campaign this year with our team, that there is not a silver bullet, but there are hundreds of golden BBs. And, when you use those, you will get to where you need to go. And so, we work on that coveted golden BB, and it’s being consistent. It’s showing up.
Yeah, that consistency is huge. And, I agree that, here in 2023, there are so many ways that you could run a really successful business. Back in the day, it was like, you create a system, you follow the system, and you duplicate. That’s what everyone trained on. And now, it’s more about authenticity, and putting things in your own voice, and doing it your way, and having your business fit into your lifestyle. And, there isn’t one silver bullet. There isn’t one answer that’s going to skyrocket you to leadership, right? It’s all about finding your way in the midst of the structure that you’re given. And, I think that that’s really added a lot of complexity as a leader, to help people navigate that.
Toni Dolinka: It’s so funny, as you all have been talking, I keep thinking about my kids, and how everything that works for one of them doesn’t work for the other one. Anytime anyone asks for advice, I say, “Well, this worked for one. This worked for the other. Good luck finding what works for you.” And, I think that’s true in our businesses, too, that what works for somebody might not work for somebody else. And, it does make it really hard. Every time you think you’ve figured it out, you’re like, “Nope, this time, it’s different.”
Anita Westlake: And going with that analogy, too, Toni—because Becky, your son plays baseball, right? So, you know this, and growing up, my boys played as well. And, you would go to different hitting coaches. And, one would get them in the batter’s box and change every single thing about their swing. And then, they’re so confused. They don’t know what they’re doing. And then, the other coach will get the kids in the batter’s box and say, “Hey, show me what you’re doing. Show me that swing. Well, what if we tweak this, or we could tweak that?” And so, it’s still keeps them within their comfort zone, but it encourages them to step out of it just a little bit to try something different without trying to change who they are.
And really, that’s what it looks like when you’re a leader and you’re coaching your team, right? There’s a lot of times that a small tweak or a small shift that can be made to see incredible results. But, it’s creating that belief and that willingness to make that tweak, and try it, and just see how it goes. And, that takes a lot of patience sometimes. It takes a lot of coaching and encouragement, and as the leader, that’s the role that you’re playing. You’re the coach. You’re the cheerleader. You’re the mentor. You’re leading by example. I mean, you’re really wearing all the hats. You’re literally juggling it all, and trying to figure out all the things, and it’s a lot. It’s a lot of work.
Bethany Vargas: But worth it.
So, let’s talk about what’s working right now. We’re coming off of the summer months, rolling into the fall season, and I would love to hear from all of you what’s working when it comes to leading, engaging, and growing your team.
Bethany Vargas: The biggest thing for my team has been exactly what we’ve been talking about: me shifting into a better version of the leader that I’ve been. I’ve always shared everything that I’ve done with my team. I’ve always led from the front. But, doing it from a place of openness and vulnerability and consistency, maybe, was not my strong suit. So, I’ve had to really dig deep and do some personal development, and then take a lot of the systems that I use in my personal business and apply it to a bigger scale. Like, if I were to go Live in my team space before, now I’m holding an actual workshop where people are invited based on their PV level, and I have been increasing it to where they’re at that business-builder level, where they are investing in their business, they’re working their business, they’re showing up in their business, just like I would. And so, for me, having that space where I’m showing up every single week, and they’re invited and encouraged and have that belief to show up for themselves every single week, has been a huge game changer.
Two things stand out to me in what you just shared there, Bethany. One, I see you every day in the Academy VIP, and you’re amazing at saying, “Hey, this is what I’m doing today. And, this is what I’m getting done.” And, having that accountability and transparency of sharing openly with the group like, “Hey, take a look at my team training page,” or “Take a look at how I set this up.” I think that’s huge.
But, the other thing I heard you say is you’ve created workshops that are essentially invite-only, right? There’s a certain sales threshold that people have to reach to be able to access you and learn from you and receive that training. I think oftentimes, as leaders, we want to provide the same level of love and support and encouragement to every single person on our team. But, when you’re able to focus on those that are serious about their business, and give them more attention and support, then they’re going to grow further, and others are going to strive to be at that level, right? So, I think it’s important to separate things out rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach.
Bethany Vargas: And, that’s really where I needed to take it, because I still do the working Zooms with everybody once a month. I still do the team calls, where I can provide recognition. But, having that time that’s almost a weekly accountability meeting, where they’re actually learning and talking and engaging and growing together in that space, and not just saying, “Oh, I checked off this list,” but “What can we do based on what you’re already doing,” that’s taking it to that next level.
Anita Westlake: I’m over here taking notes like crazy, Bethany.
I do a weekly meeting, and it’s a group coaching call, and they do have to be qualified to be on the Zoom with me. And then, I post the recording on the team page for everyone to learn from. So, they get that chance. And then, everybody can answer a question. And, if they’re not on Live, or if they didn’t qualify, then they can at least see that answer during the recordings. And, I don’t know if you’re going to talk about the Charm Club, Toni? But, that has just been amazing.
Toni Dolinka: Go ahead.
Anita Westlake: This was Toni’s idea, but my team also works every month to get a charm. And, by the middle of the month, they have to hit a certain sales goal. So again, it’s meeting a goal. And, these people are crazy about it. And now, some of them are kicking themselves for missing some. So now, I kind of need to go back and do a “How can you earn when you missed” review.
Toni Dolinka: I love that.
Anita Westlake: And, just one other thing that I really like that we’ve been doing is that I have a couple of private chats going. And, one is for the Top 10 contributors on my page. So again, rank doesn’t matter. Your PV doesn’t matter. As long as you’re a top contributor, you get to be in a month-long chat with me and our other leaders and the other nine sellers, and we keep it positive. We keep it for growing and building team culture and relationships. And, I have a Rising Stars chat, too. So, each leader picks several people to go into that chat, and it’s those people who are working on the daily, who are committed to growing their business, and who want to help the team as a whole. So, we’re all in there. And, of course, I’m proud of my relationship with my leaders. I’m so happy with what we’ve grown over the last six years.
That is incredible. You know, sometimes we think about rewards or prizes as charms and other fun things. But, I love that that access to leaders and being part of those personal chats and conversations is truly a reward or a prize in itself. It’s like, how do we create communities and side conversations to mentor and share and encourage? And, how special do they feel that they get to be a part of that conversation, and they have a seat at the table? It’s pretty awesome.
Toni, how about you? What’s working in your world?
Toni Dolinka: So, Color Street has come out with so many amazing things. We’ve got great launches. We have incredible incentives—like, incentive overload. And, the one thing I’ve been hearing from my team—because so many of them do this part time—is that rather than getting excited about all the things, they’re getting a little bit overwhelmed. And, when people get overwhelmed, they tend to shut down instead of lean in.
And, I collaborate with my leaders, as well. I love, love, love, love the leaders on my team. And, one of them pointed that out. Like, this is my full-time job. I can spend hours looking for things, or trying to figure out the details of different things, and they just can’t. So, I created a one-stop shop website for my team, where they can get all their information in one easily accessible place. And, it’s fun to look at. It’s easy to read. So, rather than get overwhelmed, they can take it one page at a time, one thing of information at a time, but they know where to find it if they’re looking for it. And, I’ve gotten really incredible feedback from my team about how much it’s helping them to lean into these exciting things rather than shut down from overwhelm.
I love that! And, I know it was a labor of love. It took a little bit of work to get that set up. But now, you have that system and that infrastructure set up that’s going to pay off for months and years to come. So, I think that’s absolutely incredible. I wish that I would have had that when I was in the field, because I totally know the wild goose chase of trying to track down all the things that are happening, so having it in one place is pretty incredible.
Okay, we’re shifting gears a little bit, because, we’re going to talk for a quick second here about Academy VIP. We really value community and collaboration and connection, but I’d love to hear, in your own words, how Academy VIP has supported your leadership journey over the last few months.
Anita Westlake: It’s been huge. And Toni, I want to talk first, because I need to give you so much love, because you have such a caring heart. You share. And Bethany, too. You guys are sharing your links, and you’re so open and vulnerable and open to feedback. It’s all been so wonderful. And, you let other people use your labors of love. And, I really get that out of the Academy, too—all of the vulnerability and the sharing in the world of Color Street.
But, people outside of our direct sales company are also right in there. They’re like, “Hey, I saw my Color Street stylist did this. You might really like doing this, too.” They’re sharing ideas. And, it’s just such a selfless community. Egos are checked at the door. It’s just people helping people, you know? It’s a collaboration of great ideas.
I love seeing that. And, sometimes I see it on our Zoom calls, or in our Voxer conversation, but sometimes I don’t see it, and then I hear about it later. And, I’m always blown away by how these connections are created, and I’m not in the middle of them sometimes. It’s really cool to see all of that happen around me.
Bethany Vargas: I’ve messaged a couple of people that aren’t in Color Street that have shared things in Voxer, or in one of our Zooms, and I did not think it would be applicable to Color Street. But, when I actually looked at it and started asking them questions, like, “Why did you choose that format for this?” Or, “Why did you decide to share about this in this way,” like doing a class or a video or whatever? Picking the brain of someone that’s in a different service or product, and then hearing all of their feedback, and how they would apply it to your product—it’s mind-blowing. And, I’ve really pulled a lot from some of the Pampered Chef girls, and some of the Paper Pie girls, and Lemongrass Spa. And so, some of the things that I see them doing, I message them immediately. I’m like, “How did you do that?” Or, “Why did you do that?” And, it’s just been so helpful to be able to figure out how it would make sense for my business or for my team.
Toni Dolinka: VIP truly has been a gift to me. And, there’s so much I want to do, and so much noise, and Becky and VIP have been able to focus me, and help me prioritize, and take away all the extra noise, and let me zone in on the important things that need to be done. Because, there’s not enough hours in the day to do everything. But, if you can figure out what those top priorities are and focus on them, you can accomplish so much more. And so, that’s really, really been huge. And, one of my favorite sayings is “A rising tide lifts all ships.” And, I know that everyone in VIP has similar goals. We’re all like-minded in that we really just want to rise everybody up.
I love that. And, just to brag on you three for a quick minute. I mean, I know you just came back from conference, but speaking on stage, and top sales by state, and team growth, and awards, and trips to home office earned… You guys are killing it. So, I know you’re being humble and talking about all the amazing collaboration and things inside VIP, but you are just incredible shining stars as leaders, and such role models, and your teams are so lucky to have you. You’re out there every day accomplishing really big things. So, I’m so proud of you!
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