Robbie Kellman Baxter: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris


BaxterRobbie Kellman Baxter created the popular business term “Membership Economy.” She is the founder of Peninsula Strategies LLC, a strategy consulting firm. The Peninsula Strategies website is http://www.peninsulastrategies.com. Her clients have included large organizations like Netflix, SurveyMonkey and Yahoo!, as well as smaller venture-backed startups. Over the course of her career, Robbie has worked in or consulted to clients in more than twenty industries.

Before starting Peninsula Strategies in 2001, Robbie served as a New York City Urban Fellow, a consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton, and a Silicon Valley product marketer. As a public speaker, she has presented to thousands of people in corporations, associations, and universities. Moreover, she has been quoted in or written articles for major media outlets, including CNN, Consumer Reports, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She has an AB from Harvard College and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Robbie’s book, The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue, was published by McGraw-Hill (March 2015).

Here is an excerpt from 2art 1 of my interview of Robbie.

* * *

Morris: Before discussing The Membership Economy, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

Baxter: This might sound corny, but my parents and my husband Bob have had the greatest influence on both my personal and professional growth, because they always have believed in me and have always provided a safety net, or at least the feeling of one. Knowing that I have people to turn to if risks don’t work out has given me the confidence to launch my consulting business, write the book and continue to stretch myself.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

Baxter: Almost twelve years ago, I was brought in to do some work for Netflix by a business school classmate. At the time, I had been an independent consultant for a couple of years, and prior to that had been a big firm (Booz) strategy consultant—always a generalist. At Netflix, I fell in love with their business model. I loved the subscription-for-unlimited-access model (as a person who loves all-you-can-eat buffets) and I loved the relentless focus on doing a single thing really well. I also loved how carefully they tracked post-transaction engagement, as opposed to just focusing on basic metrics like acquisition and retention. As a result of working with Netflix, I changed the focus of my practice to specialize in subscription and membership oriented businesses.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

Baxter: At Harvard, I studied poetry. That was such a gift. I learned to think analytically and I learned to write, but I also had an opportunity to develop an appreciation of the arts that is still a tremendous source of pleasure and inspiration. Going back to business school helped me round out my tool box of business skills and develop a big picture understanding of how organizations thrive. At both schools, I developed friendships that have evolved into tremendous professional relationships as well.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

Baxter: I know that you need to be on a team where your boss really believes in you and where the company is growing quickly. These two elements define a great professional situation for me. It’s not enough for your boss to think you’re “pretty good”. Also, especially as a woman, I encourage people to spend at least some time in sales. Revenue generated is never subjective.

Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.

Baxter: The Godfather. Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.

Baxter: Can’t select only one. Here are three:

o Free by Chris Anderson: I wish I had written it! I think the way organizations use free, especially as the variable costs of content, software etc approach zero, can be a source of competitive edge.

o The Enneagram Made Easy: A great tool for understanding how other people think and what they value. It’s been tremendously helpful in helping me relate with clients and colleagues.

o Getting to 50/50 by Joanna Strober and Sharon Meers: As a working mom, being thoughtful and deliberate about the professional choices I make has helped me have a wonderful career while still having the flexibility to parent the way my husband and I think is best for our family.

* * *

To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Robbie cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Peninsula Strategies link

Robbie’s Amazon page link

Robbie’s Business of Consulting blog link

LinkedIn link Twitter link

The Membership Economy video trailer link

The Membership Economy summary video link

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