what every leader can learn from kris jenner.
It’s been five years since I’ve started my own business. Leading a big company, I’m always trying to learn new things from people who inspire me. Kris Jenner is one of those people (yes, that Kris Jenner, the mother-leader of the Kardashian-family).
One of my favorite quotes from her reads as follows: ‘If somebody says no, you’re talking to the wrong person.’ The 63-year-old mother of six is not just ‘famous for being famous’, as many still believe. In fact, over the years, she has built an empire that is worth millions and millions of dollars, switching naturally between being a mom and a manager to make sure all of her kids thrive in the things they do.
Looking at Kris Jenner I can only reach one conclusion: she is a brilliant branding and businesswoman. She’s intuitive and self-made, and she will never let a negative comment bring her down. ‘I like everything a certain way. I’m not somebody who can just lay back and let it happen,’ she responded in 2015 to being called a control freak. Moreover, being in control has brought her to where she is in life right now.
Her success took off with the reality show Keeping up with the Kardashians, which aired for the first time in 2007. But her career started earlier when she decided to start managing her at-the-time husband Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. ‘I saw this incredible potential,’ she explained in a podcast about this housewife-to-careerwoman switch she dug into. ‘Nobody was booking him for speeches. (…) I thought, wow. You should be this incredible public speaker.’
Jenner became Kris’s first project. Starting with only 200 dollars in the bank, she managed to book him speeches at companies like Coca-Cola and Visa. Soon enough, she was able to provide for her family (she already had four kids when she met Bruce and had another two with him). ‘I just got so much joy that I was able to feed my kids and send them to the school and be able to get them what they wanted,’ she told a journalist about this time in her life.
Now, it’s over two decades later. Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and Rob Kardashian, as well as Kendall and Kylie Jenner, are all grown up. To say that Kris is still ‘providing for her kids’ would be quite an understatement. In 2018, Kendall (only 23 years old) was named the highest paid model of the world, earning over 20 million dollars a year. ‘Little’ Kylie (20) has her own cosmetics company, which is said to be worth as much as 800 million dollars.
‘There’s a lot of people that have great ideas and dreams and whatnot, but unless you’re willing to work really, really hard, and work for what you want, it’s never going to happen’
And then there’s the oldest four. Kim, who also has her own cosmetics line and owns three retail stores together with her sisters Kourtney and Chloe, and who has launched a game app, a book of selfies (Selfish) and seven perfumes – to name a few. Even Rob, who appears not to have any great talents at all, is making money like crazy, using his name connecting to big brands and earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per social media-outburst.
‘There’s a lot of people that have great ideas and dreams and whatnot, but unless you’re willing to work really, really hard, and work for what you want, it’s never going to happen,’ Kris Jenner modestly told The New York Times, explaining her children’s work ethic. But the truth is: if it wasn’t for Kris, her children wouldn’t have been half as successful as they are right now. She is the leader of this Kardashian/Jenner empire, double-functioning as a ‘momanager’ and carefully sliding forward each of her kids as business people one at a time.
‘The devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder’
She makes use of a brilliant marketing approach (which I think a lot of big companies can learn from), that can be compared to a music score, with her being the conductor while her kids alternate each other like melodies. If one of them launches a new brand or company, Kris makes sure that all the spotlights are turned on. At the same time, she already has a new event ready to take over when the hype fades away. This way, she makes sure that the Jenner/Kardashian family is always in the view of the public.
‘The devil works hard, but Kris Jenner works harder’, is a well-known quote related to Kris Jenner. She is criticized for her choices as a mother, being believed to exploit her daughters for the sake of the television show. The first episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians got a boost after a sex tape of daughter Kim was released. ‘As a parent, Kris Jenner was concerned for her daughter,’ The New York Times wrote in a review. ‘But as her manager, she thought, well, hot-diggity.’
You might indeed argue why a mom would allow that to happen to her child. But at the same time: why not?! A series of events show that Kris Jenner is perfectly capable of knowing what her daughters can and can’t handle. For instance, when Kendall was experiencing an overload of work, Kris drastically brought back the number of shows she was supposed to be doing. This is exactly why it is convenient to have your mother for your manager. After all, who knows best what you need than the woman who gave birth to you?
‘The most satisfying way to live life is watching your kids be successful at whatever that means for them,’ Kris said in an interview once. It doesn’t bother Kris Jenner if the audience knows everything about her and her children’s lives. The only thing that counts, is that she decides when and where you hear what you should. And that, in my view, should be seen as nothing more than a smart mother(manager)hood.
Ricardo van Loenen is founder and CEO of B. Building Business and has a background in marketing.