Inspire Event: Flywheel CEO Sarah Robb O'Hagan Q&A


Sarah Robb O'Hagan, the CEO of Flywheel Sports, former President of Gatorade and Equinox Fitness, and former GM of Nike, was one of the ten speakers featured at our 2018 Inspire conference on February 23rd.

Sarah is a sought-after disruptive powerhouse known for transforming Gatorade from a declining sports drink company into a booming sports fuel company, working with Nike on the game-changing Plus technology, and is the author of her latest book, Extreme You.

During her presentation, Sarah spoke passionately about disrupting your own business from the inside out, building unbeatable teams, and not being afraid to fail. She blew the audience away with her methods of achieving extraordinary results and shared the lessons to drive extreme performance. Sarah emphasized the importance of discovering your most competitive playing field and playing your specialist game and how that has helped her to make brands like Flywheel so successful.

To live out an “Extreme life”, she first talked about how failure can be fuel for motivation, saying “when you push yourself and fail it does build your resilience, and frankly your muscle strength, your emotional strength to a greater level and that’s why I love failure.” She also mentioned her belief that failure helps you to bring out the best in others and creates an extreme team. “Experience the extremes of the good and the bad, the failures and the successes helps you really hone in to what is extreme you, where are you at your very best.” 


It’s easy to get caught up in business as usual. How do you refocus your attention on the things that can change and evolve your business?

I very consciously plan into my annual planning calendar - the ability for my teams to be creative and get inspired by the business landscape, including planning exercises to allow them to think outside the current box. And for me personally - I really make an effort to continue learning and educating myself. I listen to tons of podcasts, read business books - look for business stories from other categories that inspire my thinking at Flywheel

How did you power through the failures? How did you continue to dust yourself off and believe in yourself?

No matter who you are, it is hard when you fall, but I’m more clear about the importance of failing and know that you need to fail to discover new things about yourself. The best learning and growth comes from failure and I mentally tell myself that story to keep going. I am in pursuit of walking my own talk and being comfortable failing.

What questions do you ask in interviews when hiring? 

Today people come to interviews with staged answers but I want to ask questions to get people to tell me stories about times where they used grit to come up successful. I am also looking to hire people who are self-aware and know what they are good at and what they are passionate about as well as what they are not good at.

Any thoughts on leading and managing millennials?

When everyone got a trophy for participation, managing millennials is different than managing other generations of people. I noticed that entry level people were ready to get a promotion right away but they need to earn it. The empowerment movement led to the way millennials feel and act and we didn't parent the millennial generation the right way to be successful adults and they don't know how to fail and overcome things. My advice is to encourage millennials to get out of line and create value in their roles and not to expect things to come to you and be comfortable taking risks.

How do you push your own team to an extreme place without burning them out?

Actually, rest, regeneration, and LOTS of play time is a big part of being an Extremer. So I keep a close eye on my team and really encourage people to build the flexibility and fun in to their routine to ensure they continue to be energized.

Why did you decide to incorporate Flybarre into Flywheel and what’s your target athlete for Flybarre?

Because we knew that a weekly workout plan should include both cardio (flywheel) and precision training (flybarre). We wanted to offer a really athletic kind of barre program - it's a super great program and really leaves you feeling you did a great workout!

How do you keep your company’s brand and vision focused when your spectrum of consumers is broad and diverse?

I just deeply believe that the more focused you are - EVEN though it feels like it might not appeal to everyone - in fact the more you delight your core and they end up inviting others in to the world of your brand. So focus and saying no a LOT is really important to how I lead my teams!

Sarah is a unique combination of business advice and motivational speaker, and pairs stories about reinventing lines of business with her personal journey from being fired twice in her 20s to being a rock star CEO. For an event focused on transforming your business model, collaborative innovation, or creating new growth runways, consider Sarah Robb O'Hagan


To get a better feel for what we covered at our 2018 Inspire conference, catch up on anything you may have missed, or learn more about the motivational speakers featured in our Inspire lineup:

• Check out our favorite moments from the event, including presentation and Q&A recaps from each of the ten keynote speakers

• Subscribe to the Leading Authorities' podcast, Speaking Of, and listen to the podcasts we recorded with our Inspire speakers

• Follow us on Twitter @LAISpeakers and see the inspiring tweets and photos that attendees shared during this exciting one-day event

Interested in learning more about our Inspire speakers or checking the availability and fees for a speaker for an upcoming event or meeting? Call 1-800-SPEAKER or live chat with a member of our team now.

Continue Reading »