Sara Blakely is guiding Spanx through the pandemic from an RV

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  • Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely needed a change of scenery, so she and her family bought a 35-foot RV to explore the quieter corners of Florida.
  • In a conversation with LinkedIn’s This is Working podcast, Blakely shared four things Spanx is doing to get through the coronavirus crisis.
  • In moments of challenge, she says, “the ones who make it are the people who take obstacles and turn them into opportunities.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has many people working remotely, but Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely is taking it a good distance further.

“We decided that quarantining with four children under the age of 10 in a home just wasn’t enough,” she told LinkedIn’s Dan Roth. “We had to take it up a notch.”

Blakely and her husband Jesse Itzler — himself an entrepreneur as well — needed a change of scenery, so they bought a 35-foot RV to escape their home city of Atlanta and explore the quieter corners of Florida.

“We don’t even have super set plans. We kind of just got in,” she said.

A post shared by Sara Blakely (@sarablakely)

Even on the road however, Blakely remains involved in her company during this unprecedented time.

“Spanx is deeply affected, like so many other businesses. We are in the retail space, which obviously has had an enormous impact,” she said.

Blakely shared four things Spanx does, which are helping the business get through the crisis.

When setting your budget for the upcoming year, it may seem natural to simply look at what you spent last year. But that’s not how Blakely runs Spanx.

“Every year the budget starts at zero,” she said. “Each leader in the organization has to make a case for the money being spent.”

This approach has helped the company weather disruptions in the past, and Blakely turned to it once more when this crisis hit.

“We regrouped as a leadership team and each leader redid the budget with the new normal,” she said.

The new financial targets are more fluid than in normal periods, and the team revisits them every few weeks to make sure they’re still appropriate.

Prioritizing culture and communication

Blakely said her first thought when the health crisis started was how to keep her team safe and connected, which involved a major push toward remote work.

“We’re doing a virtual all-company meeting every week,” she said. Also, “we’re having fun virtually and connecting, because emotional wellbeing is a really important thing right now.”

People may not be physically close to their coworkers, but Blakely says that shouldn’t stop leaders from investing the time and resources into strengthening their teams.

“This is a fantastic time to build culture and to show your people that you care,” she said. “People are going to remember in times like this who showed up who did something for them.”

And what goes for your team applies to your customers as well.

“People are hurting and scared,” Blakely said. “People don’t want to feel like they’re just being sold to. They want to feel like you’re there for them.”

‘Take obstacles and turn them into opportunities’

In moments of challenge, Blakely says, “the ones who make it are the people who take obstacles and turn them into opportunities.”

For Spanx, one such opportunity is the chance to focus on rethinking some of the company’s processes.

“Spanx has been growing pretty rapidly over the last several years and it’s harder to stop and go, ‘there’s a more efficient way to do this.'”

Even though Spanx is a global brand and a household name, Blakely says she still runs the company like a small business and that she’s no stranger to getting good results with lean financing.

“Cash for a while is not going to be as accessible as it has been and I think for a lot of people that may end up being a hidden blessing,” she said.

Blakely launched Spanx 20 years ago with $5,000 that she saved from selling fax machines, and has since weathered two major economic recessions.

“I moved forward with everything that I could and I just didn’t let the the macro environment overwhelm me,” she said.

Entrepreneurs may take a degree of comfort in knowing that creative business ideas and an adaptable mindset can get them through some extraordinary circumstances.

“If you are making a product or a service better than anything else out there, it is always a good time to start a business,” Blakely said.

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