When Mindy Grossman went to work for HSN, in 2006, people thought she was crazy. She was leaving a cushy job at Nike to head up what many saw as a dying brand. But Grossman had a vision—and soon she grew HSN into a multibillion-dollar retail business. Grossman spoke with Real Simple about going big or going home.

By Jane Porter
Updated May 28, 2015
Mindy Grossman
Credit: Bryan Kasm
Mindy Grossman
Credit: Bryan Kasm

Be appreciative.

“My mother got married at 18 and tried for 12 years to have children. She couldn’t. My father worked nights in the produce business. They couldn’t afford to adopt. But the man my father worked for was kind enough to give my parents the money to adopt me. I was three days old. From my mother’s perspective, I was a gift to them, and I had to look at life as a gift, too.”

It’s okay to change your mind.

“I wanted to be the first in the family to go to college. I graduated from high school after junior year and went to George Washington University. I majored in literature and philosophy. I planned to become a lawyer. My last semester, I was engaged to my high school boyfriend, who was going to be a doctor. Then I woke up one day and said, I can’t do this. It’s not where my passion is. I called my folks and said, ‘I’m not getting married. I’m not going to law school. I’m not sure what it is I want—I just know I want something more creative.’”

Work hard, and people notice.

“I got a job at a company that distributed menswear brands, and I took textile-technology courses at night. A year later, I was filling in for a receptionist, working for [a designer named] Jeffrey Banks. I’d never met him, but when he came in and saw me juggling the phones and talking to people, he said, ‘I want to move you to sales.’”

Focus on possibility, not fear.

“I think a lot of people, especially women, make things such a science project of fear instead of focusing on the possibility and how change can propel you forward. If you’re willing to take a risk, be a little bold, that’s going to take you so much further.”

Show your commitment.

“My first move at HSN was to do a massive cleanup. The physical environment was very broken. I closed it down on a Friday. I brought in 15 Dumpsters. I power-washed everything—there was mold on the outside of the building. I replaced every chair on the campus. I got hundreds of e-mails thanking me for the chairs. I was focused on reenergizing the culture. It was important that people felt I was here for the long run and that I had their best interests at heart.”

Don’t get bogged down in the balance myth.

“There’s no such thing as 50/50. You’re always going to have to make difficult decisions. My daughter is 25 now, but when she was younger, there were times I really struggled. The important thing is that your family understands you took them into consideration with every decision.”

Be a giver.

“I love the book Give and Take, by Adam Grant. Everyone who works for me reads it. [Grant] divides people into categories. Givers are those who believe, as I do, that what you do for people isn’t just because you expect something in return.”