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Martha Stewart as a Business Leader Essay

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Updated: Apr 6th, 2022

Martha Stewart is a lifestyle maniac, media personality, author and notable American business mogul. Martha was born in 1941 and at age 13, she worked as a model and appeared in several fashion shows and visual advertisements. In 1962, she graduated from Bernard College with a degree in European and architectural history. While studying at Bernard College, she had met Andrew Stewart and they married in 1961. In 1967, Stewart was hired as stockbroker for a boutique firm at Wall Street until 1973 when the family moved to Connecticut.

After the family had renovated an old farmhouse they had bought in their new residence, Martha Stewart focused her attention onto cooking, an art she had learned from her mother and from various cookbooks. The couple took up the renovation themselves and this was the earliest indication of Stewart’s elegance at restoring and restoring things. In 1976, she established a catering business with a friend. The business was very successful, but dipped when the two owners clashed.

Stewart bought her part of the venture and continued to develop it, registering the business under the name Martha Stewart, Inc. Ten years after it was established, Martha Stewart, Inc. had grown to unimaginable proportions with a total asset of $1 million and serving a number of companies and celebrities. She also entered the publishing business when she wrote her first book, Entertaining. The book phenomenal success and she capitalized on this with other publications such as Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus, Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres, Martha Stewart’s Christmas, and Martha Stewart’s Wedding Planner. The success affected Stewart’s life and her marriage ended in divorce in 1990 (Biography.com, 2011).

In 1991, Stewart’s business changed names and became Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., this coincided with the release of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, published by Time Publishing Ventures. The magazine’s circulation peaked in 2002 with more than 2 million copies per issue. Stewart’s lifestyle business soon expanded to two magazines, a checkout-size recipe publication, a television show, newspaper column, book sequels, radio show, and close a quarter million dollars in annual revenue.

On October 1999, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc., was listed at the New York Stock Exchange and at the of the first day, the 72 million shares had almost doubled their initial prices. Stewart has a 95 percent stake in her business that is worth $1.2 billion. In July 2004, Stewart was imprisoned for five months and fined $30,000 after she was accused of engaging in insider trading back in December 2001.

She had received information from her broker that the ImClone Systems shares would fall due a pending ruling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Stewart sold all her 3,928 shares and the following day, ImClone Systems shares fell by 19%. She was released from prison in October 2004 and finished her sentence by serving a 5-month house arrest at her home. Martha Stewarts business empire continues to grow and even included publications by other authors such as Everyday Food, Body + Soul, and the now-defunct Blueprint (Biography.com, 2011).

Martha Stewart has shown excellent leadership skills since establishing her business back in the 1970s and this is evidenced by the businesses’ phenomenal growth from a mere catering business to a billion dollar empire encompassing several units. Under her leadership, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia has perfected the art of synergy, with her television shows, website and magazines selling her products.

At a time, it seemed that the MSLO empire was falling: Kmart, the empire’s largest outlet for selling household products, was closing hundreds of its branches, its magazines were being challenged by newer magazines, and major television stations were cancelling Stewart’s shows. The worst part of this downturn was that MSLO’s boss was headed to jail. After serving her sentence, Martha made a turnaround and the various branches of the business have grown tremendously, and new ones have been added. This demonstrates Martha’s leadership ability of never giving up even when conditions demand so.

One of the most important functions of a leader is integration, and in this area, Martha has excelled. She has made sure that all parts of the company are working towards a common, integrated goal, which is to improve lifestyle. For a company that mainly focuses on design and lifestyle, this implies that, it must first have a unique style, aesthetic, and ‘voice’, i.e. a distinctive way of corresponding with both the readers and viewers.

Fortunately, Martha has succeeded in this area and has successfully created a unique style and level of quality that is steady across the large array of the MSLO empire, from one magazine to another, and to books, to TV shows, and to the internet. Martha leadership abilities have enabled her to establish and maintain a consistent style, voice and level of quality across various forms of media and other products at differing price levels. In way, we can say that integration and setting standards has been Martha’s most important skill, or achievement (Tracinski, 2004).

Stewart has established working relationships with various businesses such as Kmart and various television channels, spurring her company to higher echelons. Even when Kmart filed for bankruptcy, she remained loyal to the company and this helped Kmart come out of the financial crisis. Stewart has also exercised self-discipline through her undivided focus on the products under the MSLO business. Stewart has embraced creativity and this has seen her come up with various products that have enjoyed positive public reviews.

I admire Martha Stewart due to her embrace of hard work, determination and loyalty, traits that have enabled her business to grow to unimaginable proportions. Martha has led with her heart as well as her head and this has seen her create networks with several firms and bodies, these connections have significantly led to the rise of the MSLO empire. Stewart’s determination saw her make a turnaround in her business after many people dismissed the company as a dying horse. Upon finishing her sentence, she worked hard and the company surpassed its previous glory as revenues grew by more than 50 percent and the television shows received wider viewership as more television stations aired her shows (Weaver, 2011).

Conclusion

In order to survive the cutthroat competition that exists in today’s corporate environment, a person has to possess certain skills and competencies that will make him/her be seen as a leader and not just as a manager or boss. It is through the possession of these qualities that a person will have a chance to climb the corporate ladder, or run a venture and enable it to meet its targets and fulfill its goal. Although business leaders are associated with a certain set of traits, there is no single set that will be exhibited by all leaders, rather, there are basic rules that have to present in a person so that he/she may be readied for the tasks that are in store for them. This is what defines leaders and enables them achieve success at business dealings that they engage in.

In this topic, I learnt the traits that make us to recognize a person as a business leader, the five most important of which are good communication skills, motivation, creativity, power, and vision. These traits are vital in moulding an ordinary person to achieve unmatched success in a business field of their choice. This was quite evident in the study of Martha Stewart who, despite being a normal person earlier in her formative years, has risen to become one of America’s most influential women.

Stewart was able to manage her company single-handedly right from scratch up to a level at which she employed a number to assist her. Exercising her leadership skills, Stewart manages to turn the tiny catering business into a multi-million dollar business with networks in various sections of the economy. And when numerous news media predicted the end of her business empire, she comes out and manages a turnaround that sees the MSLO surpass its earlier success.

A business leader bears a heavy responsibility in ensuring that a business, whether a start-up or established, small company or a multinational, based locally or abroad, achieves its objectives, and even surpasses projections. This is made possible by a meticulous application of leadership skills. This business leadership assignment enabled me to have an understanding of the basic traits required by a business leader, and how these qualities have been applied in real-life scenarios.

References

Biography.com. (2011). . Web.

Attacks on Stewart Depend on a Cultural Blindness Toward Business Achievement. Web.

Weaver, R. (2011). . Web.

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