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Speaker gives five-step plan for success

Maddie Daly | Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Future businessmen and businesswomen flocked to Jordan Auditorium on Tuesday to listen to New Zealander Sarah Robb speak on her ultra-successful career in entrepreneurial insights. She organized her talk around five specific steps that helped her to where she is today: the president of Equinox Fitness.  

Robb’s first point was to “know who you are and who you are not.” She emphasized following passions and finding niches.

“You cannot start your career without knowing who you are as a person,” Robb said. “I began working at Atari when video games were upcoming and popular, but I didn’t think about the fact that I hated video games. I had never played them and had a tough time fitting in and getting ideas across. Got fired. It’s just an awesome, awesome moment in your late 20s when you think you know what’s going on and you lose your job.”

Shortly after this low point, Robb went to Nike, which she said ended up being a much better fit for her.

“Nike was a place I had dreamed of working at, and not surprisingly went from being a massive failure at Atari to quite successful, surrounded by people with similar values and passions,” Robb said.

Robb said she admired Nike’s courage to say no, even when under extreme pressure.  For example, when the toning-shoes industry became a billion-dollar industry about two years ago, according to Robb, Nike refused to join in because of the fake technology.

“Nike is one of the best examples in the world of knowing who they are, which is being inspiration and innovation for athletes,” Robb said. “The whole toning shoe business has imploded and Nike has avoided it because of their courage.”

Secondly, Robb said she believes in understanding the consumer better than anyone else. She emphasized the idea of focusing on micro-communities instead of always equating large-scale with success.

“Knowing your consumer and micro-community intimately can drive innovation and growth,” Robb said. “Virgin Airlines, for example, focused on a very specific, creative customer and only flew to places they knew these people lived.  This consumer focus enables Virgin to redefine themselves into the entertainment business.”

Having worked for Virgin Airlines early in her career, Robb said she noticed how successful they were even with such a small consumer base.

However, having such a specific audience allowed them to tailor their services to these people, making the flying experience one of entertainment rather than stressful tedium.

“Do something spectacular for a few, instead of something average for many,” Robb said. “I’m so super passionate about this I can’t even describe to you. There are so many companies out there that focus completely on scale that they’re not really offering anything useful to their customers.”

Robb piggybacked onto this idea the topic of social media. She said she believes that social media has been around forever and is just now taking on a new form.

“We’ve always been influenced by the people around us, the people we trust and the people whose opinions we care most about. Social media is the same as that behavior just on a really giant scale,” Robb said. “And I think it’s the most exciting economic era we could be going into.”

Robb then told the audience to not be afraid to change things up. She used her experience with Gatorade to highlight this point.

“Gatorade was started for football players. It was purely created to make athletes better,” Robb said.  “So after Gatorade spread to all the athletes in every sport, it eventually spread to places like Wal-Mart. This massive growth was not a good thing, especially with the economic crisis of 2008, which of course is exactly when I joined the company.”

Robb explained that although the economy severely hurt sales, it was the non-athletes that were cutting back, which is actually what Gatorade wanted.  

“We asked our loyal customers what they thought about our company, and all of them said they had a deep trust for the brand but wished for new things from us. That’s when we introduced the G Series, specific to athletes,” Robb said.

Robb concluded with her fifth concept: “What you give is what you get.”

“You must consciously think about the communities you’re serving. One consumer who exemplifies the brand can inspire many, create loyalty in the long term,” Robb said. “Business is not about making money; it’s about doing what matters to you.”