WW CEO Mindy Grossman shares how the worst advice she never took became a great decision

WW CEO Mindy Grossman calls herself the accidental CEO.

Mindy Grossman has spent her career as an agent of change. She is the president and CEO of WW (formerly Weight Watchers), which she rebranded in 2018 to encompass wellness, not just weight loss, in the company’s mission. The rebrand was the first in the company’s nearly 60-year history, but Grossman is no stranger to shaking up the status quo.

As a 20-year-old during her senior year of college at George Washington University, Grossman seemed to have her life figured out. She was engaged to her high school boyfriend and poised to head off to law school after graduation. But something happened in her final semester when she says she had an epiphany.

Next, Grossman called her parents to break the news of her decision.

“I said, I have something to tell you, I'm breaking my engagement, I'm not getting married, I'm not going to law school, and I'm going to move to New York, and that's what I did.”

It was 1977, and she landed in New York with $5000 of savings and no job. She immediately started interviewing and was offered a role as the executive assistant to the president of an international division of a men's wear portfolio company. From there, she worked her way up in the fashion industry, increasing her title every few years and making strategic moves to different brands. She eventually became the president of Chaps Ralph Lauren, where she created a new category of menswear and took the business from $26 million to $250 million in three years.

But while her career was thriving, she wasn’t happy at the company.

“I didn't like the culture and toxicity of the company.” She said, “Just because I wasn't being affected by it, I could not stand by and watch how other people were treated, and I believe that for everyday I was there I was complicit because it didn't align with my values.”

It was during this period when she received the worst advice she never took -- don't leave a company without another job.

“I resigned and the CEO at the time ... said, ‘you either have another job, you're independently wealthy or you're stupid.’ And I said, 'Or, none of the above.'"

But her decision paid off. She received a call the next day from Ralph Lauren and his partner, who convinced her to come back to the company for a more significant role. She was going to be in charge of new business development and new concepts for the brand.

"I worked on the business plan and signed a license agreement for Polo Jeans Company, and they asked me to go do the startup as a CEO, and that was a phenomenal impetus to my career."

Grossman served as president and CEO of Polo Jeans Ralph Lauren for five years until the company was sold to Jones New York. She then went on to work as the vice president for global apparel at Nike, and eventually, she found her way to HSN, where she became CEO. She spent over ten years running the company where she reinvented and relaunched the brand, took HSN public, and oversaw its multibillion-dollar retail portfolio and multimedia expansion.

“If I had not made that decision [to leave Chaps Ralph Lauren] none of this would have happened, and I always tell everyone, if you are somewhere that does not align with your core values ... do not work there ... sometimes not taking the risk is riskier than taking the risk in the first place.”

Hear more from Mindy Grossman on an upcoming episode of the “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.