In a new interview, WW International (WW) CEO Mindy Grossman shared the advice that she received over her career from “a great trifecta” of mentors: designer Ralph Lauren, Nike (NKE) CEO Phil Knight, and IAC (IAC) Chairman Barry Diller.
After entering the fashion industry at age 22, Grossman worked her way up to a job under Lauren, first running the midsize department store brand Chaps and later Polo Jeans.
“Ralph would look at you and say, Mindy, it's more important what you learn to say ‘no’ to as a brand even more than what you say ‘yes’ to,” says Grossman, now chief executive of the company formerly known as Weight Watchers.
“It's that definitive understanding of brand purity and the quality of decision-making and making sure that you really have the focal point, and the understanding of what differentiates you as a brand,” she adds.
In 2000, Grossman departed Ralph Lauren for Nike, where she took a job as Vice President of Global Apparel under Knight.
“Working for Phil was a gift,” she says. “The combination of culture, humanity, purpose, and clarity of vision was very much what Phil is. And he is who he is.”
Grossman made the comments to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance on Thursday in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
‘Risk-taking and boldness are the essence of transformation’
After six years at Nike, Grossman took a position as CEO of IAC Retailing, a subsidiary of the holding company run by Diller. When she broke the news to Knight, he gave a fitting response, she said.
“If you told me you were leaving for something predictable, I'd be very disappointed in you,” she recalls Knight telling her. “I found out that he called Barry [Diller] to tell him that this was going to be a great move...that is the essence of Phil Knight.”
Eventually, Grossman became CEO of the IAC-owned Home Shopping Network (HSNI), serving in the role from 2008 to 2017.
“One of the things that I really learned from Barry [Diller]—and he exemplifies this more than anyone else—is that risk-taking and boldness are the essence of transformation,” she says.
“If we had not relaunched the brand and made the changes and changed the culture, we would not have not only survived, but thrived, tremendously post-2008.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance.