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The Leadercast Podcast
The Leadercast Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

26: Susan Packard on Growing Your Brand

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Leaders don’t live on islands.

They grow best in communities of leaders who invest in them.

Susan Packard, the cofounder of Scripps Network Interactive (and speaker at our upcoming Leadercast Women event in October), attributes her success to examples she could follow, tools she could use, and people she could inspire.

She isn’t an interior designer or a gardener, but was instrumental in establishing HGTV.

She isn’t a financial guru, but was the backbone of the growth of CNBC.

For Susan, it wasn’t about what organization she was leading, but the people she could lead.

“You get a team of people together that can help you to make something successful,” she said.



This is the leader cast podcast, helping you be a leader worth following. Hello there, and welcome to another episode of the leader cast podcast. I'm Bart Keeler, here to take you behind the scenes of what it looks like to start up and grow a world changing cable television network. On this episode of the leader cast podcast I am joined by the cofounder of HDTV and other scripts networks, interactive channels. That's right, Susan Packard. Now, in addition to HGTV, Susan helped launch trade specialty networks such as food network and DIY network. Susan has recently authored her second book, fully human three steps to grow your emotional fitness and work, leadership and life, which takes a look at emotional intelligence and how readers can understand it and how understanding emotional intelligence can propel them to find fulfillment as success. Susan will be speaking on our leader cast women stage this October, so I'm super excited to be able to talk with her today, not only as a fan of food network and HDTV, but also in anticipation of hearing her speak at our leader cast women event. Now on this episode, scissor and I discussed with those first conversations to start up HGTV looked like and how she was able to get everyone on the team on board. We also talked about the importance of finding the right people to fill out your team and how it's not just about what you know, but how you work together. We also discussed how she was able to take the brand and nurture it and grow it to what we see it is today. And finally, we talked about the slight transition she's made in her life to go from leading television networks to helping leaders find their greatest potential. As I mentioned, Susan will be speaking on our stage this October, so please enjoy this ad for leader cast women. Leader cast women is an inspirational one day leadership event featuring renowned female leaders. Male and female audience members alike leave leader cast women with the tools they need to be leaders worth following. Attend the event live in Atlanta or at a host site near you. To learn more, visit women DOT leader castcom. Well, now it is my pleasure to bring onto the podcast the cofounder of sex network interactive. It's Susan Packard. Susan, thank you so much for joining us today. Well, thank you for having me. What we obviously are excited to have you here, but you're going to be speaking with us on our leader cast women stage in October. So this is kind of a double excitement for me anyway, because it's always a pleasure to interview our upcoming speakers. Just real quickly, though,...

...before we get started. What are you looking forward to about talking to this audience of women and passionate leaders in October? Well, I always love talking to groups of women because women are less along learners to, you know, increase and improve their leadership skills and really life long learners about everything, and so I always feel like there's this natural affinity. Obviously, I is one, so that helps too, but I really think that that's probably a big part of it for me, is feeling comfortable that the audience will be responsive and wanting to absorb whatever it is the messages are, you know, that I will be giving, and also the other speakers at the conference. Well, like I said, we're really excited to have you and all of our speakers coming up October eighteen and to kind of just start off the bat, I mean you have impacted, I think, millions upon millions of people worldwide with your company and your career. But you openly talk about how you're not a gardener, you're not an interior designer, you're not, you know, a chef, but here you are leading and growing and expanding brands that deal with, you know, that type of person, or at least that person who's fire is to be that. So how did you find yourself in that position? Well then, just to back pedal a little bit, so the job that I did before the HTV job was with NBC and CNBC and we built that division there from scratch, the Cable Division and NBC, and the first product that came out of it was CBC. And I tell that story to say that I didn't love or wasn't all that excited about selling a financial channel or a ticker tape or you know whatever they you know, they accouterments works of the the business. But I did it because I love to start things up. Now with a HGTV was a double wind for me because we were starting from scratch and while I'm not a gardener and while I'm my inter design skills are really lacking and I don't I'd bear, I rarely cook anymore. I mean when you ever keeps grown and all that less likely. But what I do love, what I did fall in love with, was the idea of bringing to life a channel and a brand about home and so, you know, the the category itself was one that I fell in love with and it helps you to be more successful when you really line up well with whatever the businesses that you're doing. Well, that's the great point, that it helps to be passionate about what you're doing and obviously with passion comes a lot of other emotions that a lot of other, you know, life...

...experiences. And when we talk about the theme of growth, our theme for this month of May here at leader cast, a lot of times growth comes with ups and downs and and a lot of planning and a lot of, you know, late nights, you know, strategizing and trying to come up with the perfect idea. But what was that first conversation about? You know, HDTV and food network and all these other brands that you've helped launch. What was that first conversation and how did it springboard everything else? Well, the first conversation was when I was shown the presentation that can lowe his idea. He had the hdut the idea and he put together a presentation about it and when I saw it and it was so enormous in terms of the vision for the business. You know, it's hard to be successful in any new venture, but I was going to say we could have probably been successful modestly just occupying the category of home because people can relate to it. You know, it's something that's very near and dear to people. But when I saw his vision, which was so much bigger than just a category TV kind of thing that up until now, you know, the categories that had been occupied by the various lifestyle brands, sort of we're like that. You know, this was one thousand nine hundred and ninety four and it was a new, fairly Nason business, this idea of cable programming. So there wasn't a ton of money sown against programming and branding and marketing. So people that captured categories, companies that captured categories, kind of you know, they were in them and they try you they made sure that they own them, when protected them, but they didn't go real broad with them. And that's the difference I saw with Ken's visions. And you know, again, a vision is one thing, but then you know you have to sit down and roll up your slave and recognize that not everything that you plan for or envision can can happen, and that's where you get a team of people together that can help you to make something successful. Yeah, what's the trick to transitioning from the big idea, the big brand of vision, to actually making it happen and finding that business plan and finding the resources to make it happen? Well, I think it's all in the people that you hire. So you want to hire people that compliment your own skill set. This is an idea that is not a new one, but in the new book I wrote fully human. You know, Eq, this is an element of eat, having good aq and recognizing enough self awareness to know what you're strong suits are and where you need to be complimented with other strong suits. You know, that's all part of the self awareness that Eq is about. So our team is really how we...

...transition, which is to say, each one of us had a skill set that we brought to the business of HGTV and while we worked together and we had tremendous trust, and you know, we work together very symmetrically, we also counted on one another where our skills were lacking for another person to step in. So like, for example, I became CEO of HGTV and I've never had a position where I also needed to report to shareholders, and so my cell by C fo, you know. So our CEO, I see fo, was absolutely critical to help me work through and learn and understand all of what's needed to, you know, occupy that space too. So that's why I mean. I mean it's really it's the sort of the dance of the team that works with you. That's where you transition. That's the easiest place for it to break apart. You know, you have a lot of risk when you're starting to hire people. Are they going to be the right people? But it's also your most secure path to success. I love that you mentioned people is, you know, the key to taking a vision and making it reality. But I think something that we often struggle with is we may have people who we trust in and who are aligned with us, but sometimes it's hard to get everyone on the same page. What are some tricks that we can use to make sure everyone has bought into not only the big vision and that that end goal, but also the strategy and the step by step planning? There's there's a million strategies out there for that. Some people will do some one on one in advance of a collective meeting to kind of air an idea and to see whether or not, you know, there are a couple of people who might be supportive of them in a meeting. You know, I'm sure you've heard about the meetings in the restroom. Where's my whole they talk and formally and then you have the meeting after the meeting. I talk about that in new rules of the game, my first book. But you know, I think more than anything is if you have a conviction that something is the right way to go and you have compelling evidence that it's the right way to go, not just your opinion, but whether it's industry data, whether it's new trends that are emerging that you're aware of that others may not be aware of. You know objective data that you can bring to us, to this and not just your subjective opinion, then that can go a long way toward moving people in the right direction. That's a great point because, I mean I'm one of those people who I can get what over by a compelling speech and going yeah, we can make this happen, but...

...some people do need that hard data, that hard evidence that this is the great path forward. But then you have your team on board, but especially for your your company and what you helped build, it's about growing an audience and sometimes that audience may already be there. Sometimes you kind of have to make an audience for your brand. What were some of those keys that you all were able to latch onto that were pivotal to growing your audience, both at Hgtv and then later on with the rest of the scripts networks? Well, first of all, we had a really strong brand discipline. We had a process that we went through whenever we were thinking about the programming and the marketing and any of the consumer element. So having this brand discipline was very important to us. It all lot, you know, made sure that we were all consistent, on the same page, speaking the same language. But the most important thing is talking to your customer. You know, from the very beginning, middle and end of your relationship hope with there's never knet if your relationship with your customer right. So talking to them, and we did that by we put together, we do something very unorthodox for a programming network, but we put together call center to have our viewers actually call us so we could get feedback about our programming. I mean this was more efficient than a bunch of focus group. We did those two. But see, we had the middleman of the cable operator and we didn't have the relationship of the end user. And we hear we felt the critical need to have it if we were going to be successful. So this was our workaround. So we, you know, we put together a call center with just really a couple of people. It was very modest, but it gave us the critical information that we needed so that we could stay true to the brand vision that we had for HGTV. And that was a lesson that I learned. That was really a life lesson. I mean, any business you're in to always stay close to your customer. Don't stray, you know, make sure that you're you're with them and there with you and it. You know, if you can actually have them help you build a business, then they fill ownership of it and you know they won't leave you. Yet, like, what kind of information did you want from them? I mean that's just that such a bold take as to just say yeah, call us and tell us what you think, but what you know, what were you looking for? Yeah, so the way it was framed is if you have any questions about the programmy give us a call and then you would, you know, get somebody who they wouldn't you know, people would have questions about what was the name of that tile or that sloring or that, you know those draperies or whatever. What's that style of design? Call. So, as we feel did those...

...questions. You know, sometimes we have to get back to them because we didn't have the answers to everything right at our fingertips. But as we feel that those questions, you know, any comments you have about programming, and and then sometimes we did have very specific questions about those we were airing. But it didn't take much to get feedback once we had somebody on the line. And you know, one one story was that we had put on the air a show called dark garden and this was showing stars, people that you would recognize, and they would be touring around there, you know, their gardens and talking about how, you know, inspired their garden was, inspiring they were for them and you know how beautiful the work that had been done and how they wouldever help that they've given and anyway, long story short, our viewers cried fall on that one really quickly and said, first of all, there's no way that person's ever even pulled a weed. And I don't really care about the fact that it's such and such. I don't care about movie stars. I want my to me. What matters is the information being credible. That is your talent, the information. So as long as you're giving me credible information, I sure don't need to see some high fluting person giving it to me because I'm not going to really believe it anyway. So was a huge it was really a pivotal point for us in recognizing it at early stage how important credibility was. Over time, of course we've added star value, but in the beginning we had, you know, we had to build trust with our audience. That's so interesting because I mean obviously as a consumer of HGTV and food network and many of your other programs. Now I mean the host or the talented, their stars of their own fact we have we have Marcus Samuelson coming to who spoke on our leader cast live stage. Obviously, you know, a food network of top to judge. It's just so interesting that you mentioned that at that point they weren't looking at those already celebrities. They wanted someone to tell them something that they knew they could trust and that they could use. That's just such a weird and enlightening top point of information. That's great. Yeah, and saying God is started there, because that was foundational for us and everything we did. And then after that, I mean really the easy part was bringing recognizable names under and our air. But what does the hardest part was making sure that we had to discipline around the integrity of our information. And I do have to ask, because I think this is something that companies worldwide struggle with. I don't care if your cocacola or if you're, you know, start up. It's you mentioned that brand integrity. What is a way that, as a leader, we can have that vision and that that idea of what this brand is trickled down to everyone into the organization? It helps to have language that everybody buys into.

So, for example, with HGTV, we had three eyes, ideas, information and inspiration, and every show had to satisfy each one of those, at least one, and so it was a bit of a format, if you but it wasn't a format in the standpoint. You How television today, when you talk about TV format, it was our internal format right. It was, you know, is what we stay true to. And knowing that people who created the programming and those who branded the brand and ITHTV, they they had that, that tool of those three eyes that they could always go back to and it helped to keep everything consistent and on the same page. Well, obviously you did a good job of expanding and using that information and making sure that you're everyone in your team was on the same page. Now I have to pause for a second and kind of switch gears because I do want to talk a little bit about the leader cast by and thing, the stage you'll be taking in a couple months. This is again Susan Packard, who will be speaking at leader cast. Women are theme. Take courage. I think alliance pretty well with what you had to experience, I would say, when you were first taking these steps with HGTV and then with scripts networks as a whole. What's that relationship between growth and courage? Well, I don't know that you could have any growth without courage, and I'm just thinking about sort of reflecting on these two books that I've written. The first book was really an outer it was about the outer journey and I just left Corporate America and I wrote this book and you know, was about the strategies one uses, how one communicate, even how one dresses. All these things sort of the outer trappings of being successful, if you will, but in they're needed. I mean it's important, but the harder, I think, and the more courageous journey is the inner journey toward leadership, and that's what the second book is about. Fully human. I really start in that book at thirty nine, taking over as CEO o of HGTV and second employee, and how there are a lot of things I didn't know about myself that I needed to know if I needed to really sort of ratch it up. Self Awareness, my own self awareness, but I was going to be a strong leader of you know, I've hundreds of people that I'm responsible to and I wasn't as grounded on the inside as I needed to be. So gross to me is, you know, it's sort of to fold. It's, you know, how we grow in terms of our responses to things, the way we communicate things. For example, I used to be really wordy, but...

...hanging around then, my whole career I got a lot and this is just, you know, that kind of outer layer of how you grow. But then your inner journey to payout that you go on and which requires some work as well, requires a whole lot of courage because you have to have to face faceoff with where are you lacking? What is it that where the holes and you know, what do I do to fill them? And that will I have an accurage to fill them. I'm very glad, Susan, that you brought up that, that point of personal growth, because I think, especially when we're chasing a career, we kind of view personal growth as just how am I advancing, how I help this company grow? What are my numbers looking like, and we confuse that with us growing as a person. And I do love your book fully human, because it is talking about that personal side of leadership, because it's not just about yours. How, I said, a vision and here's how we create a plan to go get it. It's how do I make sure that every single person that I'm leading feels belong, like they belong at this company and feels like I'm, you know, there to help them? And I just I want to know from your personal experience were you tracking, as you would maybe your company's growth? Were you tracking your personal growth, or where you taking steps back to evaluate how you had changed or things that you needed to do to improve on or anything like that? What was your self evaluation process? Hmmm, yeah, that's really good question. I knew what it was pretty clear, since this was the most this job was the biggest job I've ever had. Most people, it felt like the stakes were the highest because we really had a chance to get profitable and, if our projections were even half right, make a lot of money in this business. So I had to get the inside work right. And and so that was so I was aware of this. Is because I don't mean this to sound negative, I was aware of what I left. Okay, this that's is important in leadership is being aware of what your capabilities and strengths are. So I'd come from a culture which was winner take all and I knew that it didn't align with my inner values. But when you're at a place for, you know, a fairly long time, you can start, oh most, without even seeing it transforming a little bit, you know, moving in a direction of the culture. HMM. And so when I met Ken Lowe and I started working with him. I recognized in him that he could bring out the best in me and I saw his inner action with how he dealt with people, and he could show me how to...

...treat people honorably, not that I was treating them dishonorably, but that I needed to step it up and treat people honorably and build a culture that was honorable and those things, with civility and respect and all of those things that really weren't at the last place, even though I was in a leadership role, and it didn't for a while. So you know, some of this work is what are your tools, and some of your tools can be those around you who can bring out the best in what you are and who you are, and you know so. So it was those kinds of things. This is kind of sounding like sort of detentel, I realized, but I also I also hear some practical things. I did. I got an executive coach, so I'd someone who I can actually talk to about these areas that you know and give me some guidance. I'd received a book from a friend who this book was somewhat transformational for me too. Is called the heart aroused by David White and he's a consultant, but basically in the book he's talking about how to bring soul back into the workplace and he does it in poetry. I mean so it's done. It easy read, but it was a really profound reach for me. So so, you know, book people, Coaches, best friends, I mean a lot, you know, to get your grounding, your inner grounding, sometimes you need to have others reflect you and people who you know will be telling you the truth. Well, thank you. I mean that's what I was really hoping for, because I think I'm still young enough in my career and you now have kind of shifted into this coaching and mentor role and really someone who is trying to inspire younger leaders, especially young female leaders, and to hear that it's okay to ask for help, I think is, you know, something that we sometimes forget and that is a good idea to have someone to just talk to. That's great bit of, you know, authentic reality that you've shared. So thank you so much for that. Now, obviously you have transitioned. You know, you're you're in a bit of a different kind of stage of life, if you will. You're trying to help other people reach their full potential. So what are some things that you've learned about other people's needs in terms of what they need to become better versions as themselves? You need someone who's an objective, trusted other that can kind of take this learning with you, and whether that's a coach or a best friend or a therapist or a clergy person, or it can come from any number of places, somebody that you've you gravitate toward for whatever reason, you feel like maybe they have something that you would like. Is Far as me in the coaching and I guess I made a new phase of life. I don't know. I mean I first of all I've done mentoring my pretty much my whole career, that's true, and you...

...know. So this is sort of what it was the natural outgrowth of what I've been doing and in helping women. You know, it's kind of what I've hoped that I've achieved. Some of that. Might you know, before this leaving the corporate world, and I keep calling it corporate and it was only corporate from the standpoint of when I left. You know, it was a multi billion dollar company with lots of people and employees, but it was definitely a startup and really all my jobs have been startups. Yeah, so now my focus is and the work that I can do to possibly help others through the books I write and the speaking that I do and the coaching that I do, and it's all very fulfilling. It is wonderful to hear that because it's nice to know that there are people who have been so successful as you who truly are worried about I guess you could say the next generation, but even people in your own generation, you know, who are still, I don't want to say struggling to find themselves, but are in that phase of unsuredness, and it's really nice to hear that. Yeah, well, I think too many of us say unselfaware because it's easier than looking under the hood a little bit. But the rewards are so transformational if you're willing to do that inner work, because then you can get grounded and become really, it's a highest version of yourself. Well, I do have two more questions kind of related to this topic before we get you out of here, so I will take up too much more of your time, if we appreciate it so far, though. Again, this is Susan Packard, cofounder of scripts network. Interactive and we've talked about growth this whole episode, both personal and business growth. But you know, there are times when growth is uneasy, unsettling, scary. You know, those are the growth isn't always this wonderful, great journey. You know, sometimes you forget about the good times and you're stuck in the the Rut. What are some of those tips that you would give someone who is trying to move their organization or move themselves in that right direction but it's just not always easy. It's as a little bit of a rough spot at that time. What some of that sage advice you could give someone like that? Well, really the only advice I could give is that you know, to give it a try because, as I said a minute ago, their rewards are so great. I could have stayed. I mean I had a senior vice president job at the job before hgtv, which one would argue is a fairly high leadership job. I mean just above it really, I was really just two levels below the CEO, and yet I think I functioned as a middle manager because I hadn't done the inner work that I needed to get to a place of being a full, well rounded,...

...holistic leader right. So it's almost like you can talk to talk and wave your arms and do all the things and you know, answer questions and you can, whatever career, whatever sector you're in, you know you can. If you're a financial person, you can give answers to whatever the financial questions are, and that's fine, but that just gets you so far, you know. It doesn't get you to the place where you can start thinking with full vision that we need. You can start thinking with connectedness, not just a connecting the dots of ideas, but connectedness of your culture, in your people. And you know what's why that's important recognize. You know, it starts to come start, these things start to come second nature to you when you've done that inner work, and so you take care of your people even without knowing you're doing it, because it's all comes so second nature to you. And you know it's the third part of my book, which I call we principles, and that's when we find ways, and I give a bunch of tools to help with this, to move ourselves aside sort of. That me focus for a greater good. And you know, in the case of organizational leaders, the greater good is their organization. There people, the mission of the place, the purpose of the place, all of those things, and you know you can make money, profit and purpose marry up really nicely. But people, you know, they maybe they're afraid and the other they think this is the way it's always been, that you know, they're just all those reasons to not keep pushing yourself to grow. But you're going to end up not only be more fulfilled in life, but you'll be a better leader and a better worker and you'll, you know, your the results of your organization will be stronger. Well, you've obviously had quite the career and a lot of experience and leadership and here at leader casts were all about filling the world with leaders worth following. So my last question is, what is a leader worth following to you? Well, I'd go back to saying that it's somebody who leads honorably, someone who is inclusive, who recognizes that, you know, we don't really need to have boundaries because, you know, boundaries really keep us small. What we need is expansive thinking and vision and expansive treatment of one another in terms of how we see one another, even those people that may not look like us or come from our same neighborhoods. All of that, you know, putting all of that together under the rubric of being a Great Leader. That that's how I would define it. So, I mean, those would be my thoughts about it. I love that.

Thank you so much. Now, Susan, you've written two books, new rules of the game and fully human. You speak at a lot of places, but where else can we find, you know, any content or anything else that's coming out from Susan Packard? Yeah, I mean I have a blog in the full website, which is wwwardcom. So there you can find my blogs and you can find F my newest book, fully human. There's a quiz to test your Equ fitness, so you can take that and it's all free and there are some other fun things on the on the site. So probably that's the best place to have your listeners go. Well, like I mentioned, you will be on our leader cast women's stage on Friday October eighteen or at a host site near you. Will have a lot of locations outside of Atlanta who will be broadcasting this with us, and we hope that you can join and be a part of leader cast women, which is really I got to say I love the what leader cast women event. It's been. We've had it this. We are third year of leader cast women and it's just taken off so well. We're just very excited and eager fee to come speak with us there, as well as our eight other women. So we're excited to see you in October. Okay, and I am excited to be there. So thanks so much. Well. Thank you, Susan, and we appreciate your time. Now, as mentioned, you can find fully human wherever find books are sold, and you can go to Susan packardcom to test your emotional fitness. Now that link will be in the show notes blow, so make sure to go check it out and figure out how you can do better to be more emotionally intelligent. So again, thank you so much for joining us here on this episode of the leader cast podcast. You can find all episodes on itunes, Google play, stitcher and, of course, leader Castcom. Be on the lookout for more news and information about leader cast women, and don't forget to interact with us on twitter, facebook, instagram and Linkedin with Hashtag the leader cast podcast. Again, thanks for listening. Now go be a leader worth following. Thanks for tuning in to the leader cast podcast to ensure that you never miss an episode. Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

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