Laurie Ann Goldman became CEO of SPANX, headquartered in Atlanta, GA, in 2002. With her corporate experience at Coca-Cola, she was able to provide experienced leadership to a company that was exploding in popularity. As owner Sara Blakely explains “[Laurie Ann] brought much more formality, more structure … We had formal business planning which we’d never had before. We had one-year and three-year targets. Laurie Ann knew right away it could be huge.” (from Forbes) Today, we discover Laurie Ann’s must have’s for international business travel, sage advice for leadership and much more!
Leaving The Coca-Cola Company for the young start-up company SPANX seems like a huge change of pace. What was it that intrigued you about this job and owner Sara Blakely?
I think you are who you are wherever you go, and that every phase of life is preparation for the next chapter. While at The Coca-Cola Company, I had my kids, was traveling the world and learned so much about business and branding, all of which helped prepare me for my role at SPANX. After having my third son, I was looking for a new opportunity and have always gravitated towards positions where I can build something. When I met Sara twelve years ago, I was immediately inspired by her passion and the potential at Spanx. From the early days in her apartment to today, it’s been a wild ride, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
Were there challenges having the brand headquartered in the South as opposed to NYC or on the West Coast?
We are proud to call Atlanta home and are here to stay. I think your surroundings influence who you are, and the SPANX brand has come to reflect so many great qualities of the South–approachability, authenticity and humor. And, it’s run by a group of strong women (and men) who know how to get their way with grace.
Are there any regional differences to brand sales per capita, or do women across America have the same desires to lose their lumps and bumps?!
Muffin tops have no boundaries! From Savannah to Singapore, we believe that if we can solve wardrobe problems for women, we can change the way they look and feel in their clothes and ultimately how they feel about themselves. We are fortunate to have loyal fans around the world who keep asking us for more, and they inspire us to continue to innovate.
Can you share any advice that has helped you in your role as CEO?
Strive for the three “Be’s”: Be naïve, be real, be hungry. Be naïve enough to believe in your dreams, but also be aware of the obstacles. Know the odds, but believe you can beat them. Be real enough to connect with consumers and cross that difficult divide from brand loyalty to brand love. Be hungry enough to realize that when ideas stand still, they get old and are eventually replaced by better ideas.
With your busy career, how do you balance your professional life and your family? And how do you intentionally connect with your children and husband?
Balance implies that that all parts are in perfect equilibrium, but life is unpredictable and unmanageable. Especially after having children, I had to adjust my approach to strive for a healthy blend versus balance. I love all aspects of what I do, and whether I’m running errands, running my household or running Spanx, I try to find creative ways to fulfill my responsibilities. My advice is to change your mindset from feeling weak that you can’t do it all, to feeling strong so you can find a way to do it better. Try softer instead of trying harder, and you may be surprised by the results you get.
As the featured speaker at the Middle Tennessee Girl Scouts luncheon in Nashville this September, what is it about the Girl Scouts that excites you?
Both Spanx and the Girl Scouts share the same mission–to empower women and make the world a better place … one butt and cookie at a time!
What’s your favorite luxury or indulgence?
I love the little things in life … shoes, bags and jewelry! I genuinely appreciate the process of design and fashion and do love to indulge, but I realize the best things in life are free. Whether it’s a greeting from my dog when I get home or a note from my son at camp–those are the real luxuries in life.
How important is it to keep a close group of girlfriends?
I’ve always had an eclectic group of close girlfriends, each one a jewel who offers unique gifts and perspectives. I am fortunate to be a part of an organization called the Committee of 200 that is committed to advancing women’s leadership in business. Through c200, I have made some lifelong friends–all accomplished women who, whether we’re getting our nails done or talking strategy, constantly remind me that women can be sweet, vulnerable, powerful and influential all at the same time.
Can you recommend a great family vacation spot?
Since I was a child, my family has escaped to the panhandle of Florida for vacation. Back then, there was only one hotel in Destin called the Jack Tar. We started going to Seaside and rented the same house for 13 years and switching to a bigger house a few years ago as little kids turned into big kids. Our time in Seaside is definitely simplified–I can ride my bike and everyone has freedom while still being close by. It’s a family tradition that I treasure and look forward to every year.
What books are currently on your bedside table/kindle?
Right now I’m reading The King Maker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory. I gravitate towards historical fiction, self-help books and books with strong heroines. The more you learn about yourself and human nature, the better you understand the people who work for you.
Where in Atlanta do you like to escape with your husband for a dinner date?
Atlanta’s Blue Ridge Grill and the Lobster Bar are favorite date night spots for my husband and me. Both restaurants have great wine menus (I love red wine), and we always share an order of mussels–the perfect excuse to dip bread in garlic butter!
What things are always packed in your carry-on bag that make travel easier?
I stash my comfy shoes and an extra handbag or two in my carry-on. I also bring my blue and white striped pajamas to change into in the first hour of my international flights; I sleep better when I’m comfortable, plus, I don’t want to sleep in my clothes! Before landing, I change back.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding God, family and friends!)
My poodle Lou, Ebay and my iPhone.
Thank you, Laurie Ann!