Carson Products
How can an established company infuse new life into its vision?

Nearly a century ago, Carson Products, a hair care and beauty products manufacturer and supplier, opened for business. Within the past several years, Carson had experienced a drop in productivity, rising worker dissatisfaction, and increasing management constraints. In the fall of 1995, a group of venture capitalists recognized the company's long history of excellence and potential for growth and invested, acquiring the controlling interest. Old hands within the company were skeptical of the investors' intent. The challenge lay in appreciating the diversity of the organization and recreating its proud heritage and vision. How could the "we/they" atmosphere change to an "us" power?

The new investor/owners decided the first step would be a DesignShop® event. In October of 1995, employees from all levels and geographic areas of the company came together to craft not just a vision, but an action plan to bring their "there" to "here" with the investors. Together, they developed previously unthinkable strategies to increase domestic market share, rapidly expand into international markets, and improve working conditions. By the end of the three days, the participants warmly referred to each other as "family." They made commitments to return to the workplace and carry their mission forward.

One year later, both productivity and markets had increased. Carson has gone public on the New York Stock Exchange—12 months ahead of schedule—and investors have seen a significant return on their investment. In partnership with AM Cosmetics, Carson Products is now increasing its presence in the global market. Personnel from both organizations recently participated in a joint DesignShop event in January 1997 to develop plans to again move their joint organization forward by quantum leaps.

"The DesignShop event results were so dramatic that Merrill Lynch said 'no, we don’t have to wait three years before an initial public offering — we could do it in thirteen months.'" —Vince Wasik, MorningSide Capital, recounts Carson Products 1995 DesignShop® experience

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