“Trust is everything.” With Tyler Gallagher & Christine Birch

Trust is everything. If you don’t have trust, you can’t build a healthy culture. And if you don’t have a healthy culture, you can’t challenge yourself or others to be truly great. As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Birch, the Founder […]

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Trust is everything. If you don’t have trust, you can’t build a healthy culture. And if you don’t have a healthy culture, you can’t challenge yourself or others to be truly great.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Birch, the Founder and CEO of The ROYGBIV Collective. Christine immigrated to the US from the island of Jamaica at the age of three. Heavily influenced by her Jamaican father’s wisdom and wit, Christine blazed a trail through the Ivy League (Dartmouth College), New York publishing (Scholastic & Random House) and eventually, Hollywood, where her strategic skillset and creative instincts in marketing won multiple industry awards and recognition.

Christine rose through the Hollywood power ranks to become the first and only black woman (and the only Jamaican!) ever to run marketing for a major studio (Sony Pictures) and a legendary filmmaker (Steven Spielberg). She has collaborated with the entertainment industry’s top executives and creative talent, disrupting the status quo, shaping popular culture, and driving performance.

Now, Christine is focusing her wide-ranging talents on her new company, The ROYGBIV Collective, which develops business leaders and projects focused on advancing the next phase of human progress.

Based on years of motivating people to create billions of dollars in global wealth in the entertainment industry, Christine now applies her unique understanding of how to drive mass behavior toward tackling the world’s bigger challenges through storytelling and strategic narrative development.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After so many years in entertainment, I was ready for a new challenge. I have a lot of interests and passions — besides marketing movies, I’m also a gourmet cook, a professional advisor and a knowledge nerd. It just seemed to me that the world was getting bigger and more interesting, and I wanted to expand my range of participation. Don’t get me wrong — I love movies, and I’m a film nerd. I just wanted new problems to solve.

I specifically recall a moment, looking out the window of my big, gorgeous office at Sony, and asking myself, “What would be as exciting to you as marketing movies?” And, no one will believe this, but the word “cryptocurrency” popped into my head. Now you have to understand that I knew NOTHING about cryptocurrency, so to me, it felt like some sort of weird spontaneous blip. I had no idea where it came from. But when I momentarily considered the idea of working on something like a new type of Money — which is clearly even bigger than Movies — it seemed like the kind of thing that would interest me. But I had no idea how to make that happen.

After I left Sony, I started a food truck, which sadly is no more. But at our food tasting, this guy walked into my backyard and introduced himself to me as Vincent McPhillip, my relative by marriage — my cousin-in-law, if there’s such a thing. I had never met him before, so as he’s eating the food, I asked him to tell me more about himself. Turns out he’s about to graduate from Stanford Graduate School of Business, and one of his chief areas of interest is Cryptocurrency. I almost fell over. He went on to become a co-founder Pi Network, which is how I got involved with that project.

Working on Pi Network was really a defining moment of this new chapter. That’s when I started to believe that I could conjure and actualize the life I wanted for myself, which is what gave me the confidence to start my own company, The ROYGBIV Collective. Now, I just ride this energy, pushing me to where I’m supposed to be, which is a very fun approach to work and life in general. It’s been amazing to step outside the entertainment arena, but bring those same skills to an entirely new space. People who have known me for a long time tell me they’ve never seen me so happy, which is nice. I think that’s probably because I discovered exactly the kind of challenge I was looking for.

I’m actually developing another project in the Wellness space, another one that literally fell into my lap while I was sitting in my backyard. There’s something going on back there, I think.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company?

Even with all my excitement and experience, I was out of my element with Pi Network, which is located in Silicon Valley. I’ve never spent any real time in Northern California and, while Hollywood and Silicon Valley may have certain similarities, the cultures are quite distinct. The two ecosystems measure success differently, which affects absolutely everything. I had to adjust some of my expectations coming from Hollywood and suddenly being part of the Valley startup culture. That being said, the work we did was well in advance of what’s considered normal for a startup, which helped the product hit the ground running.

What lesson did you learn from that?

Trust is everything. If you don’t have trust, you can’t build a healthy culture. And if you don’t have a healthy culture, you can’t challenge yourself or others to be truly great.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

I focused on optimizing my left/right brain balance. I’m strategic and creative, but I’m also process-driven and results-oriented. I can operationalize ideas. I love creating powerful imagery, but I also love PowerPoint. (I wish I was better at it, though.)

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Nothing is more tempting than working 24/7 — and nothing is more toxic.

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 get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve recently become fascinated by the concept of Adulting, which is defined as “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” When I did some research, I realized that my parents taught me all that stuff before I graduated high school. They did a great job preparing us for life in the real world, so they are always first on my list.

It wasn’t easy to shatter as many norms as I did, so I am fortunate to have had several male mentors and colleagues, who gave me the opportunity to have a voice in the room. But I was a rare bird.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

As I mentioned, I have another project that I’m hoping to announce later this year. Personally, I’m just spending time with people who improve my general state of being. I find it hard to be creative or productive when I’m around people who are bummers.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

Knowledge that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do stuff

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I would reinvent the idea of The World’s Fair to be more like The Olympics, except instead of sports, it would cover areas of Invention. We need a global call to action to deal with really big problems and everyone loves competition.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can stay up-to-date on what I’m up to by following me on these social channels:

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