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Grooming For Success

Joe Dudley has just completed a motivational talk at a monthly Dudley Products, Inc., sales meeting. Gathered at the meeting is the 200-membersales force ofthe Kernersville, X.C., firm, which manufactures ethnic haircare products and cosmetics. The company's president and CEO moves through the audience, greeting many ofthe employees by name. It is difficult to tell who is more energized by the encounter—the salespeople or Dudley.

"Mr. Dudley is in charge of the people, and I'm in charge ofthe things and the money," explains Kunice Dudley, chief financial officer. The Dudleys co-founded the business in 1967. Dudley Products employs 47o people, distributes products in seven countries, and brought in revenues of $35 million last year.

One of 11 children, Joe Dudley was mistakenly labeled mentally retarded in the first grade because of a speech impediment. Growing up in North Carolina, he says, he struggled through school and had been held back twice bv the time he reached the 11th grade.

But with the support of his mother, who told him that "when slow people get it, they've got it," Dudley made it through high school and, later, college. In the process he discovered the value ol' self-motivated learning. "When I was in the 11th grade, I decided to help myself and went back and studied materials from first through 10th grades," he says. "Anything you want is in the library."

The Dudleys met in 1960 in Brooklyn while both were selling ethnic hair-care products part time, door-to-door, for Fuller, Inc. Married in 1961, they eventually settled in Greensboro, N.C, and opened a Fuller distributorship. In 19b!) the Dudleys started making their own line of products in their kitchen during a Fuller product shortage. "I wondered if I should go and get a job but decided to make my own job," Dudley remembers.

The Dudleys employed a dual marketing strategy, combining a direct-sales network with their own chain of beauty-supply stores and salons. By 197(5 their company had 14 stores and 100 employees. In 1976 the Dudleys moved to Chicago at the request of founder S.B. Fuller to help run his company. They continued to operate Dudley Products out of Chicago and in 1980 consolidated the two companies under the Dudley name. A decision was made to close the beauty-supply stores and shift the company's focus to manufacturing. "By making our own products, we would be able to control distribution and product quality," says Joe Dudley, 58. "This decision also enabled us to build a national company."

In 1984 they moved the company back to (ireensboro. Today the firm manufactures 200 products in an 80,000-square-foot headquarters facility in Kernersville and sells them to more than :}(),()()() cosmetologists. Dudley's commitment to his employees is paramount. The company's monthly sales meetings focus not only on product knowledge and selling techniques but also on personal-development principles ranging from building self-confidence to the importance of saving. kkWe try to get our employeesto look within themselves and realize that they decide who they are and who they can become," he says.

The Dudleys' commitment to education and training led them to open Dudley Cosmetology University in Kernersville in 1989, and branches in Greonsboro, Charlotte, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. The schools, which have graduated more than 12,000 students, offer a 10-month program for those looking to enter the hair-care business; the Kernersville campus also has an advanced program for experienced cosmetologists. "We are on a mission to do more than just sell products. In the future the needs will increase for hair-care education worldwide," says Eunice Dudley.

The company also operates a travel agency, a convention center, a publishing division, and an inn at the Kernersville site; all were established to support the hair-eare-products division. While Joe Dudley sets sales-growth goals for the company each year, he is more concerned with leaving a legacy in his industry. "There is no other business like the ethnic hair-care business that African-Americans have as much control over," he explains. "I want to help empower people in this industry while I am here on earth and show them that if you work hard enough and believe in yourself, you can make it in this countrv."

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