Episode 193
January 16, 2024

Turnarounds, Transformations, and Taking Charge

with Mary van Praag, Global CEO at Milani Cosmetics

About this episode

Mary van Praag joins us today to talk about how she became Global CEO of Milani Cosmetics, a 20-year-old company built on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to own and enjoy luxury beauty. From her entrepreneurial pursuits in high school to her first CEO role at Perricone MD, Mary tells us about her remarkable career journey and how she became the Global CEO of Milani cosmetics. Tune in today to learn about Mary’s passion for transforming companies, the lessons she’s learned about being vulnerable as a leader, and much more!

This episode is sponsored by

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About: 

  • [02:31] Mary’s upbringing in Ohio; how her parents’ divorce (and being the eldest) informed her early leadership development, her first entrepreneurial pursuits, and her college years.
  • [10:12] What it was like moving 17 times in her professional life, how this has proven her ability to manage change, and why she loves making things better.
  • [14:46] How Mary found her internal drive as a leader and her advice to others struggling to find their voice.
  • [21:18] Her early career in sales and how her experiences as general manager at Coty and OPI Products set her on the path towards CEO.
  • [27:07] Mary’s first role as CEO at Perricone MD, the destabilizing impact of the COVID pandemic, and how she adapted and ultimately became CEO of Milani Cosmetics.
  • [30:54] Key lessons on building your team as a CEO.
  • [34:44] What Mary has learned about turnarounds since she first started out, and her insights on how being CEO resembles running your own business.
  • [37:53] Why being vulnerable as a leader is one of the most important lessons Mary has had to learn, and her thoughts on what sets the role of CEO apart from other positions.
  • [46:02] Milani Cosmetics’ approach to remote work and an overview of the exciting things the brand has coming up!
  • [52:18] Mary’s practical advice for aspiring CEOs.

To Find Out More:

Mary van Praag on LinkedIn

Milani Cosmetics


Perricone MD

Lee Greene on LinkedIn

Stairway to CEO

Stairway to CEO on Instagram


“Moving, I think, indicates my ability to manage change and transformation. But at the same time, create a great network of deep-seated roots and connections that I will forever have in my life.” [0:12:13]

“I'm at my best, as a leader – when you look at the context of a situation – when something requires change and transformation. I love to make things better.”  [0:12:40]

“Some people are great at constructive conflict, others are analytical geniuses, others are great teachers. I always say ‘find that thing that makes you unique, [and] whatever your superpower is, really feed into it.’” [0:16:14]

“Leaders don't have all the answers. What I want to hear is the people [who] are closest to the business [and] have a unique point of view. And we need to hear that.” [0:16:56]

“I can be interesting, but I have to be interested first.”  [0:19:54]

“You always have to respect the past, but you have to get people aligned to create the new future. And you quickly find out who wants to do that, and who doesn't. And that's a lot of work.” [0:25:02]

“Thinking about how you build teams is an important part of what a CEO does. I have amassed a fabulous team with very high engagement scores and a really strong culture. And we built it brick by brick, but it started with my leadership team.” [0:33:04]

“We're all motivated towards the same future that we want to build. And that's very, very rewarding.” [0:33:51]

“Depending on the circumstances, [a turnaround] this is like running our own business.” [0:35:26]

“The biggest thing I had to learn was to be vulnerable.” [0:37:55]

“If you don't give people an inspiring vision, they have nothing to hope for. Especially when you're in a turnaround.” [0:38:53]

“I don't necessarily think everybody needs to be in the office every day to get productivity or work. I think we have happier employees, because we're hybrid, and that’s part of our culture now. We work hybrid.” [0:47:14]

“Have a bias [towards] action. The strategic agility part is really important in today's day and age with the millions of things that we have flying at us.” [0:53:08]

Read the transcript

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