Start Small, Think Big, Scale Fast

For Blakely, part of the success of Spanx was that she didn’t take any outside funding. She started with $5,000, and it was profitable from the beginning.
Whatever money she made from selling Spanx, she put back into the business.
A lot of people want to start big and think big and oftentimes get ahead of themselves [...] That can end wildly successful, but it can also cause a lot of problems. You dilute yourself down and you have people you’re answering to.
Ask Questions and Be Hyper-Observant.
Think differently.
I pay attention to things that haven’t evolved and why. I ask myself questions all day, every day. [...] Could there be something different?
Share the Fails.
If you can create a culture where [your employees] are not terrified to fail or make a mistake, then they’re going to be highly productive and more innovative.
I’m curious about the things that hold power over us. And one is fear of embarrassment. We all have that. But if I embarrass myself, then it loses its power over me.
Be Vulnerable.
I don’t feel I need to put on a facade to be taken seriously as a leader. When I started Spanx, instead of talking at my customer, I wanted to talk to them. I felt other companies were like, ‘We need to be perfect, and you need to see us as the authority. That’s how we’re going to sell you a product.’ They weren’t really talking to me, and I didn’t necessarily trust them. [Instead], I made myself vulnerable. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m one of you. Here’s what it does for me. This is why it works.’ I used my own butt in the before and after picture. And I felt like customers became really connected and loyal.
Use humor.
I don’t subscribe to the fact that you have to act serious to be taken seriously,” she says. “When I started, I wrote, ‘Don’t worry. We’ve got your butt covered,’ right on the package. I named my company Spanx, which made people laugh. All of a sudden you had celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Roberts flashing their Spanx on red carpets and saying, ‘I’m wearing Spanx.’ I think it’s because I chose to do humor and people wanted to participate in that. When I cold-called to sell fax machines door-to-door, I learned very quickly that if I could make somebody laugh or smile I’d get another 30 seconds before they’d slam the door in my face.
The word ‘Spanx’ was funny. It made people laugh. No one ever forgot it.
Break the Rules
At a cocktail party after I first started Spanx, one guy came up to me and said, ‘Sara, we heard you invented something. I hope you’re ready to go to war. Business is war.’ I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘Why?’ I went home that night and sat on the floor of my apartment and thought, ‘I don’t want to go to war.’ Then this voice inside of my head just said, ‘Do it differently. Take a different approach.