Martha Stewart has built a billion-dollar industry out of living the good life. This week, the original domestic diva presents her 80th book, Cakes, at the Delicious Food Show in Toronto. Here, some of the secrets to her success, including why footwear is always a good idea.
Life is an exact science
I am a perfectionist and I do think that perfectionism is a virtue. The people who have built really beautiful businesses, like Ralph Lauren – it wouldn’t be a beautiful business if he wasn’t a perfectionist. I like to do things well in the most economical, time-saving way and still make them beautiful. And if you mess up, I believe in going back to the beginning, especially with baking a cake. You can’t put an ugly cake on the table, even if it tastes good. Baking is an exact science.
Always wear shoes on the tractor
I get up early without an alarm every morning. There are a lot of things that need to get done. Before I get out of bed, I check my e-mail and my blog to see that everything’s okay. After that, I have a lot of animal chores: I have two giant bird cages to uncover to make sure the birds are okay, I have four cats to let outside, three dogs to walk. All of that needs to be done before 6 a.m. and then if it’s an extraordinary day I take photographs of my farm and post them on my blog. Last week, I rode around on my Kawasaki in my nightgown to get the pictures. All I could think was: “I forgot to take my cellphone – what if the Kawasaki runs out of gas?” I was barefoot!
An adoring public beats privacy
I don’t like solitude or too much quiet. I like being with people, which is good because it really doesn’t matter if I go out without makeup or wear my hair in a babushka, I am recognized every single minute of every single day. There is nowhere to hide, but I don’t mind – everyone is really friendly to me and I have rarely had a negative encounter.
Disorganization is not an option
I have an awful lot to do in a day and I don’t like a lot of chaos, so I have to be organized. I keep a schedule. If you saw it, you would not envy it, but I think it’s the same for all business people. I have two assistants who help me tremendously in terms of being organized. I try to make room for a few really enjoyable things every day in addition to all the work, which is a good motivator to move through the day. I also drink a good green juice every morning to help with energy. I grow kale and celery and parsley in my garden.
Rebuilding isn’t as fun as building, but you have to do it
I had a legal problem that caused me a tremendous amount of difficulty. My company was taken over by some outside people and when I was able to regain control there was a lot to rebuild. We were an extremely vibrant wonderful company, but it took a while to get back on track. Rebuilding is less fun than building. Gradual evolution and growth is much more fun than coming up short and having to start over again. If you build a beautiful stone wall and it’s all done and then a truck runs right through it – it’s not fun to build it a second time. You want to move on to something new.
This interview has been condensed and edited.