Roche does not want a team that agrees with her at every turn. Quite the contrary, she embraces conflict and believes it leads to a better decision for her business.
“We can have a really healthy debate and bring all the disparate points of view to the table, debate them and come away with what I think is the best strategy,” Roche says. “If you can’t embrace that conflict while you’re formulating your strategy, you won’t come up with the best strategy. You need to consider all the different functional points of view in how you do things.”
This ability to work through disagreement to reach the best solution should begin at the top. It showed itself when Blackhawk was making five acquisitions over the last two years and Roche and her team spent a lot of time evaluating different assets in the marketplace.
“There may have been a time where I wanted to go in one direction and other members of the team wanted to pursue a different asset,” Roche says. “Through the debate, we actually came up with the best conclusion. That was for me to allow the team to challenge my point of view and actually change my point of view.
“Particularly when you’re thinking about acquisitions, you need to think about the fit within your company. That’s an example of where I think we made a better decision as a company because I invited the team to challenge me. Leaders do that and they should do that.”
One of the challenges in a growing business is that the top leaders can sometimes become more detached from the rest of the organization just from the sheer increase in people and responsibilities that come about.
“It’s harder to do when you’re larger, but it’s something I’m always working on,” Roche says. “We’re stronger when I make decisions that are informed by my team.”
As Roche continually works to strengthen her bond with Blackhawk’s internal team, she also devotes a lot of energy to an external network that she has built up over the years.
She called upon this group when the credit card business came under scrutiny from the federal government after the financial meltdown in 2008.
“It could have been devastating to many of us in the marketplace and could have changed gift cards for consumers forever,” Roche says. “But by being able to reach out to that network and call on them and bring them together to work on the issues collaboratively, we were able to fix what could have been a devastating situation.”
Often, this external network is just as important as the team you talk to and trust within your business.
“Every time I meet with somebody else in the industry, I learn something that allows me to be a better leader,” Roche says. “I can’t imagine running this business and not doing that, especially if you’re a high-growth business. You’re always looking for ideas on how you can improve or new products you can bring to market or new ideas on how to better manage your business.”
As she looks to the future, Roche is thinking a lot about the digital realm.
“Digital is transformative for us because it allows us to take the services we represent in the physical retail channels and think of our services as a platform and expand them into digital markets,” Roche says. “It’s another opportunity for growth.” ●
- Be detail-oriented when evaluating growth opportunities.
- Give your team what it needs to help you help your business.
- Build and maintain a network of external support.
The Roche File
NAME: Talbott Roche
COMPANY: Blackhawk Network Holdings Inc.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in economics, Stanford University.
What was your first job? I worked as a salesperson at Talbots in Richmond, Virginia.
Who has been the biggest influence professionally? Rather than one person I have a network of folks who inspire and influence me every day.
I have a network of advisers, CEOs and other business leaders I have met throughout my career whom I rely on, including my current chairman, Bill Tauscher. Bill has been a CEO of private and public companies and has an insatiable appetite for knowledge and is an incredibly talented manager.
Throughout the years I have also developed an extensive network of women business leaders with whom I regularly meet. We support each other and inspire each other to overcome challenges and solve issues. I am inspired by folks who apply themselves to their work with both passion and commitment.
What are you excited about in terms of Blackhawk’s future? Our opportunity for growth comes not only from our core business today, but a new segment we’ve entered which is the incentive marketplace, an adjacent market that is very large, about $46 billion.
There are lots of synergies with our existing business, which is the retail distribution of prepaid products. I’m very excited about that. I’m also excited about our global expansion. We’re continuing to grow at even faster rates outside the U.S. because our business is less developed there. So we’re further back on the development curve and I think that’s an exciting opportunity to stand up our solutions in 22 countries and growing.