Sunday, May 27, 2007

Laura Nixon

Laura Nixon:

A True Lover of People

By: Joseph W. Norman

Laura Nixon, a dynamic Mary Kay business woman, community leader, wife, and mother, is a person of incredible character and optimism. Her passion for leadership and making a positive impact on people has brought success in her Mary Kay business and has made her a respected figure in her community, Broome County, New York. A self-proclaimed, “true lover of people,” Laura is constantly motivating others to achieve more. Also, a voracious reader and connoisseur of a good biography or autobiography, Laura’s life changed when she picked up the story of Mary Kay Ash. Since that time, she started her own Mary Kay business and rose to the distinguished level of Sales Director, planning one day to be National Sales Director, a heralded position.

She claims that a quote from Morrie Schwartz in the acclaimed novel, Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom, explains her “in a nutshell.” Morrie states, “The meaning of life: If you are trying to show off for people at the top, forget it. They will look down on you anyhow. And, if you are trying to show off for people at the bottom, forget it. They will only envy you. Status will get you nowhere. Only an open heart will allow you to float equally between everyone.” This way of living is what has brought Laura success. She believes that attitude is a choice and that “attitude determines your altitude.” An intense focus and her desire to balance “her faith, her family, and her career,” a Mary Kay Ash slogan, is what keeps Laura moving in the right direction.

Laura grew up in Windsor, New York, in a loving family, but was “very sheltered,” she said. As a child she loved education, but it was not as big of a priority in her family. In Elementary School she remembers being passionate about her studies, but a comment made to her in second grade traumatized her and has stuck with her since then. She was demeaned for not saying the correct answer out loud and this caused her to become petrified about speaking up in class. A focus for Laura now is on the power of language and how much of an impact our words have on people. She frequently speaks on this topic at her weekly Mary Kay training sessions and other public speaking engagements.

As Laura progressed through Middle School, she thrived because she was very social. However, having been placed in the accelerated courses, she was a little overwhelmed by her studies, she said, “I was not strong enough to stand up for myself and ask for help.” High school for Laura brought some of the same trials but near the end of her senior year she was guided in the right direction by her former teacher, and now long time friend and mentor, Gerry O’Donnell. Laura was not planning on attending college, having never been guided in that direction. O’Donnell questioned her desire to “work,” and said that she can do more for herself. In the fall, she began at Broome Community College and would be forever changed by the life lessons she learned there.

One of her philosophies on education comes from her experience of not having any goals in high school. “I think it is so important for kids to understand that school is not just for getting up and going because your parents say you have to,” she states. “You need to know that you have a purpose in life.” She urges students to question what their purpose is because young people do not hear that advice enough. Laura’s entire formal education career was hindered by her struggle to find her purpose.

At Broome Community College she studied to become a Dental Hygienist. She worked hard but realized almost immediately that she did not like it. Sticking with it was important to her though, because she did not realize she had other options. “I never asked and nobody ever told me,” she said. Now, she gives this advice from her experience, “You need to go for what you want,” she said, “Because you can get what you want if you really want it bad enough.” She continued, “You have to have the courage and the faith to do it.”

Near the end of her tenure at Broome Community College, she met her to-be-husband, David Nixon. What first inspired her about him, and continues to move her to this day, she said, “Is his positive attitude and his ability to visualize success.” David, a classmate of hers and wrestler at Windsor High School, utilized visualization techniques to become a better competitor. This was Laura’s first experience with an attitude like that and it captivated her. “He thought bigger than everybody else,” Laura said. They have been happily married ever since.

Another role model in Laura’s life was her father. She reflected, “My father taught me that people are more important than things.” Rarely, if ever, did Laura leave Windsor before she was eighteen. Her family was tight knit and protective. In addition, her father taught her a lesson she remembers to this day, when they were out to eat as a family at a local truck stop. Laura was only about twelve years old but she described the scenario in great detail: “There was a man being physically abusive to his wife…I will never forget this, my father got up very quietly and knocked the guy out cold. It may sound harsh, but he showed respect for women with that act.” She also stated about her father, “He taught me patriotism, which is very important to me. I think you need to respect your country, community, family, and home.” These lessons continue to be an important part of how Laura carries herself in all of her pursuits.

Family is an essential part of Laura’s life because, she stated, “If you can’t take care of it on the home front, then you can’t take care of it on the outside.” She describes the birth of her daughter, Katie Scarlett Nixon, as one of the most important parts of her life. “She is just a great gift,” Laura stated. “Children are gifts.” Her advice on motherhood is as follows, “You need to respect children before they will respect you back.” David and Laura’s daughter is named after Katie Scarlett O’Hara in Laura’s favorite novel, Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.

Continuing to work as a dental hygienist, Laura knew she was meant for more. Having dabbled in a few direct sales companies, like Amway and Aloette Cosmetics, she found limited success but met some great people. Through Amway, she had the opportunity to meet Zig Ziglar, whose story continues to inspire her. She highly recommends his book, Over the Top. Then she read about Mary Kay Ash, and she knew that her business was one that she needed to get involved with. Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. is a highly esteemed company, boasting businesses in over twenty five countries. Laura stated, “Her ethics and integrity holds you to a higher moral standard.” This is a consistent philosophy throughout the company, and the backbone for its incredible success.

Mary Kay Ash said, “Every person wears a sign around their neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’” This is one of the principles Laura uses to motivate her clientele and sales team members. “If I can make them feel better about themselves, then I have succeeded at my job,” Laura said. “You will get paid by how many people you help.”

Reflecting on her start, Laura said, “People laughed at me when I started this business, but I was out there to really provide a service.” She continued, “My job is to make women feel good, by the products they use or by the products they can provide other people. I sell the products and the career opportunities.”

Laura takes her role seriously and has risen into the top 2% of the company’s consultants, reaching the position of Sales Director. She holds a meeting every Tuesday night to educate, motivate, inspire, and recognize her Mary Kay team. As a Sales Director, her job is not to boss her team around, but rather it is to ask them, “How can I help you?” All people in Mary Kay are independent sales representatives. Laura’s job is to mentor people and to pass on the integrity of the company and what Mary Kay stood for. There is no better person for that role than Laura Nixon, future National Sales Director of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc.

It is important to look into the little things that make Laura Nixon who she is. She describes her strengths as her empathy, her public speaking skills, and her true love of people, while a weakness is her impatience. However, the latter is something she works on improving constantly. Her favorite candy bar is Snickers, while her favorite movies are an uncommon duo of Ben-Hur and Dirty Dancing. Laura’s favorite food is chicken, a fact she shares with her daughter. They enjoy eating grilled chicken salads together. Her mantra is “Your life is a choice; Everyday you need to wake up, have gratitude, and make choices that are good for you.”

Laura’s hobbies include reading books because as a child she said, “I think it gave me vision and dreams. I could go all over the world and not even leave my bedroom.” She also enjoys dancing, going on long car rides, and getting lost, so she can find her way back. What is unique about Laura is her simple nature. Although she has achieved much success in her business ventures, she continues to live humbly. “I do not need a lot to be happy,” Laura said. “The first time I had a Cider Mill donut you would have thought it was a million bucks.”

Laura recommends a few books as must reads. The first is by Hal Urban, a long time friend of hers that travels the world and lectures on character education. His book, Life’s Greatest Lessons, “is a book every person should have,” she said. Another must read is, Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck. This is a book Hal Urban told her to read, so she did. Its message continues to inspire her. Reflecting her passion for people, she said that if she could have everyone in the world practice one thing it would be, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Laura has a few lessons on leadership that she often speaks about publicly. She believes that attributes of a good leader are commitment, courage, faith, servant-hood, and communication skills. It is important to consider these questions as well, she said. “Where are you taking everybody? Are they excited about getting there? And, are you portraying that excitement and that vision of what is going to happen when the goal is accomplished.” She models these attributes consistently in her own efforts.

Laura Nixon is a woman whose presence is felt immediately as she walks into a room. Her keen ability to empathize and make people feel important is a key component of her business success and community impact. She recently made her mark on the Broome Leadership Institute and described her speaking engagement at the Windsor Scholastic Awards Night a few years ago as one of her fonder memories. Both endeavors are signs of how far she has come from that second grader who was petrified to speak.

Laura has overcome a variety of hurdles that previously prevented her from reaching her potential as a person. Now, in large part because of her Mary Kay experience, she has found happiness and fulfillment in her pursuits, but she is not done yet. As she likes to state, “Everyday is a choice.” Her consistent positive attitude and desire to help others will continue to influence those she interacts with. That is Laura Nixon, a woman whose attitude is infectious and impact is incalculable.

Laura Nixon

Independent Sales Director

Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc.

P.O. Box 25

Windsor, NY 13865

Phone: 607.655.2536