Mindy Grossman on Profound, Radical Change in Business

What She’s Learned from Working with Oprah Winfrey, Ralph Lauren, Barry Diller and Phil Knight

Before Mindy Grossman joined WW International as CEO, she took a day to visit board member Oprah Winfrey to see if their visions for the company’s future were aligned. Grossman knew consumers were focusing more on community and living a meaningful, healthy life than they had in the past. She’d watched as the culture had shifted to a more holistic view of health and wellness and told Winfrey her goal would be to reinvent the company to align with where the culture was moving. Winfrey’s view was much the same.

By that point, Grossman had already established a solid reputation as a business transformation leader. She’d worked with Ralph Lauren and Nike’s Phil Knight to successfully reinvent their respective jeans and womenswear businesses. When Barry Diller convinced her to become CEO of HSN, she’d transformed the network into a retail powerhouse built around lifestyle and entertainment programming.

Grossman says risk taking and boldness are the essence of transformation and that:

  • Building a community is as important as the product. Executives often try to transform a company by transforming the product, but consumers want to be part of a community of likeminded people, so leaders have to prioritize community building alongside product. WW International’s digital community platform lets brides-to-be and other customer groups find people in similar circumstances to connect with and share information and progress with.
  • Getting the right people to the party is key. Finding the right partners can open the door to further opportunities. While Grossman was at HSN, a partnership with Sephora enabled the network to onboard 40 new beauty brands overnight. “Once you get the right people to the party, everybody wants to go,” she says.
  • The truth of the brand needs to permeate everything. Saying no to ideas that violate any part of your brand is crucial, because saying yes to those can alienate your core customer. Grossman says she learned this lesson from Ralph Lauren early in her career, and that she still lives by it.

To hear more from Grossman, including her surprising definition of who your competitors are and why leaders should not “stay in their lane,” listen to the episode.