Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: ”Giving up is not an option” With Sari Davidson, founder, owner, and CEO of BooginHead and Phil Laboon

Grit doesn’t allow for giving up. Grit says, giving up is not an option, so you better find another way. It also makes the success that much sweeter when you get there. When you succeed, it is by your own sweat and tears. Grit shows your team that you aren’t going to give up so […]

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Grit doesn’t allow for giving up. Grit says, giving up is not an option, so you better find another way. It also makes the success that much sweeter when you get there. When you succeed, it is by your own sweat and tears. Grit shows your team that you aren’t going to give up so they shouldn’t either, and sets the tone for how important the drive for excellence is.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sari Davidson, founder, owner, and CEO of BooginHead. Sari launched BooginHead from her kitchen table with a single product in 2007 and she and the company just celebrated their 10 year anniversary with a successful new product launch in all Target stores nationwide. All her baby and toddler products are mom-invented, inspired by the little problems parents face that can make day-to-day parenting life a struggle.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

In some ways, I feel that all of my experience leading up to launching BooginHead is what prepared me to step into the role of the CEO. This is what I was always meant to do. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs, studied and practiced HR and Recruiting for a majority of my career and worked at Microsoft in departments that created, built and launched products. In some ways, all my experience was the master class I needed to have the confidence to go into a leadership role in a consumer goods company.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

At the start of my journey, it was very difficult leading a double life. I was working at Microsoft full time and also working on BooginHead full time. I had two young children and no employees. From the very beginning there have been so many setbacks and hardships every year that I am in business. I used to think it would get better over time but the truth is, as you grow, the impact of the hard times can get even harder because their effect ripples out so much wider. But getting through those difficult times now allows me to say, “well, if I got through that, I can get through anything.” And that’s the thing. You just have to get through it. After 10 years of surviving the hardships and thriving after they’re over, I no longer feel panicked when something unexpected happens. And all that incredibly difficult time I spent alone with two jobs taught me how to do every single job inside my company and learn what my future employees needed to bring to the table. As a boss, I now know what my employees are going through every day on a deeper level than many CEOs out there. That is invaluable when growing your business — learning to pass the torch of responsibility, but also being able to jump in and help at a moment’s notice.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I have always been the type of person that pushes through. One word that describes me well is “relentless.” I believe I was born with it, AND it was cultivated by the environment I grew up in. If there is a wall I will figure out how to get around it, under it, or through it if necessary.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit doesn’t allow for giving up. Grit says, giving up is not an option, so you better find another way. It also makes the success that much sweeter when you get there. When you succeed, it is by your own sweat and tears. Grit shows your team that you aren’t going to give up so they shouldn’t either, and sets the tone for how important the drive for excellence is.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Things are going well and we are continuing to grow in our 11th year. Each year brings challenges and successes and each year I appreciate what we have.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  • You can create your own website and print your own business cards, but never skimp on a good lawyer. When I first launched my now wildly successful PaciGrip it was named BinkiGrip. I got a very official letter from Playtex saying I was infringing on the word Binky that they have owned since the 1930’s. I was in production and in store with thousands of units. That could have been it for BooginHead. But thanks to Grit, giving up was not an option. Thankfully Playtex allowed me to do a rolling change, but it was not fun calling up my new buyer at a major retailer to tell her of the change. Now I make sure I have a hardworking team of experts on top of the issues that could impact my business by no fault of my own. Acknowledge you can’t do it all by yourself, and delegate. Grit doesn’t mean doing it all alone. It means leveraging the right resources to make your success strong and sustainable.
  • Hire Slow and Fire Fast. I have had to learn this lesson the hard way over the years. The act of firing someone not only has a lot of lead up but is also a very uncomfortable thing for someone to do. I care about each and every one of my employees like family, so firing someone really takes an emotional toll on everyone. However I have learned the hard way what happens to the rest of the organization and the business if it is delayed. I take my time really making sure someone is a good fit and if they are not, I don’t delay setting them free. It takes a lot of work and practice to set those emotional connections aside and do what you know is right for your business.
  • Travel the World — Alone. After college I took a year off, bought a one way ticket to Europe and traveled on my own. There is so much goodness that came from that experience, but when I came back I felt like I could do anything. I had the confidence to live anywhere and do anything and that I would not only survive, but thrive. Put yourself in unfamiliar situations that will force you to grow and change. The lessons you learn about life and yourself will translate to your business in a thousand different ways.
  • Know your worth and when you deserve better and don’t settle for less. I have always been someone that stands up for myself and for others, but truly KNOWING what you deserve in business, in life and in relationships will empower you to make the right ( and sometimes hard ) decisions needed. Women still struggle to assert themselves, claim that seat at the table, and speak up when they’ve been wronged. It is hard to unlearn that social conditioning, but practice makes perfect. And practice makes Grit.
  • There is always a way. Grit tells you no matter how bad it gets, or how hopeless a situation feels, there is always a way. Powering through the struggle is Grit Development 101. I often look back and say to myself “if I can get through THAT, I can get through anything.” There is always a way. If you don’t see one, make one, because quitting is not an option. And then powering through gets easier and easier each time it happens. That’s grit.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Several years ago I hired an outside business consultant that had grown and sold a very successful company in my industry. His expertise in molding me into a better CEO, a more strategic leader and better run company was instrumental. He forced me to make very difficult decisions, to take some big chances and to implement more structure in the business. This person has stayed engaged with me and without being formally paid has helped me so much along the way in times of crises, tough decisions and introductions to influential people in the industry. I hope to be able to do that for someone else one day.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I set aside a certain number of hours a month to mentor other entrepreneurs that are just starting out, or that just need some advice along the way. I am trying to pay forward what has been done for me in the past and ongoing today.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

My team and I are trying to focus more on finding the right organizations to partner with in regards to issues that are happening every day in our country. It is a scary time to be a child, a woman, a person of color or of a different sexual orientation and as I have gotten older and my kids have gotten older, supporting those causes in some way through the power of my business has become more important to me.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I have always believed you should hire people that are smarter than you and then get out of their way and let them do their job. As a CEO your goal should always be to work *on* the business, not *in* the business, and the best way to do that is to have employees you can trust and empower to do their job. Help them take down roadblocks when necessary, but let them excel. And remember, you set the tone in your workplace. If your attitude is the wonderfully gritty “We don’t give up, we find a way, we make it happen,” your employees will follow suit. And if they don’t, fire fast.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I can’t even begin to imagine that I would be the sort of person that inspires a totally new movement — but I bet every person who has ever inspired a movement felt the same. There are movements that are happening every day in our society that I 100% support and try to show that support through my business when I can. At BooginHead we believe in and support women. We champion child safety. We have children who are alternative learners, who are neuro-atypical. If we can craft a world where children are safe and supported no matter who they are, what they look like, or how they learn, that’s the world I want to live in.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t know if this is a life lesson, but I have had this cheesy plaque in every office I have been in since starting the company that says “Passion is a powerful force that cannot be stopped.” I believe if you are truly passionate about something, nothing will get in your way to succeed. It’s that very drive and passion I try to draw on every day and to inspire in my employees. And I’m pretty sure the other name for that philosophy is Grit.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

BooginHead is on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as @BooginHead. Please tag us in all your cute baby photos using BooginHead products! We love to share and retweet and show the world how cute your babies are.

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