W O W ! I Just had a business breakfast with one of the most fascinating and successful CEO’s in the country, Laura Ann Goldman, the CEO of Spanx, Inc. the ultra-successful, super slimming hosiery company.
It's not every day one gets to talk "privately" with a woman who grew a company to $150 million in revenue!
Spanx was founded by Sara Blakely just 7 years ago, and today the company boasts over $150 million in retail sales, 55 employees, 100 different styles, four patents, and ASSETS a new brand available exclusively at Target retailers. Additionally, the company is about to launch it’ new, revolutionary Bra-llelujah which is already on pre-order.
Spanx incredible growth and success is due in large part to the dedication and expertise of Laura Ann Goldman. I, along with just nine other business executives, had breakfast and coffee with her as part of the WEC: Women’s Executive Circle. It was an incredible experience.Ms. Goldman shared some of her personal and professional background with us, as well as some of the many challenges she has faced as a female executive in a male dominated world.
Laura Ann Goldman is a young, beautiful, married, mother of three young boys under the age of 15. And as she explained, she is also simultaneously the CEO and driving force behind one of the most successful corporations to come along in a very long time. She’s smart, sassy, knows what she wants and how to achieve it, and oversees the entire Spanx Empire as if it were another child. She is the “woman behind the woman” (Spanx founder, Sara Blakely). In fact, Laura’s most recent brainchild was the Assets line, a less expensive version of Spanx now sold at Target. They conducted over 300 focus groups when deciding whether or not to launch a cheaper version, affordable to the masses. She’s clearly a very detailed, strategic thinker.
She also described her experiences in a male dominated industry and about her decision to leave Coca Cola. Laura had delivered her 3rd child and 48 hours later was required to stand up and give a formal presentation to the Chairman of Coca Cola. I’d like to see a man pull that one off…Anyway, afterward she’s in Saks and upset about the fact that she had JUST delivered a baby and needed to be at a big corporate event. She was with a friend who suggested Spanx. She’s never heard of it before but it was sold out in every color and size. Quite ironically, the COO was in Saks, and overheard the conversation. He asked what the problem was? She began to ask about distribution channels, production, manufacturing, inventory etc… he was blown away. They talked for 2 hours, later he introduced her to Sara and the rest is history. Her story is a testament to being in the right place at the right time. Talk about lucky!
As a working mother and business owner, I often find myself wearing many different hats while trying to juggle multiple obligations at once. So, I was particularly intrigued when she shared her experience of “blending not balancing.” Laura described that with her husband and kids …there isn’t balance but rather blending of responsibilities. Her husband is a successful investment banker with his own firm, but he was the one handling car pool and stomach aches this very morning. Yet still, she was getting calls in the car from her upset husband, “why aren’t you home dealing with this?” As executive women, we all face this dilemma. Ms. Goldman admitted that her husband, while publicly proud and happy for her, secretly wishes she would quit and stay home with the kids. However, she is fortunate that her position with Spanx allows for a lot of flexibility and balancing of work and family…she wouldn’t have it any other way. In her original employee contract she negotiated a clause that when her family needs her, or when her philanthropic duties require attention, that she would be given the freedom and flexibility to deal with these personal issues.
Still, this “blending” seems to be a challenging for her, as it is for all us working women. It’s a comfort to know that I’m not alone in this struggle; that no matter how much success one achieves…nobody can actually be “Super Woman.” But here’s to all the women out there who work hard, love their families and friends, respect themselves…and who just do their best…ultimately, that’s what makes us all Super Women!
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