• January 2012

Reebok Helps Us Kick Off 2012 in Style

We kick off 2012 with an interview with Reebok International’s president, Uli Becker, our January CEO of the Month.

Responsible for the Reebok brand’s business around the world, Becker has since 2008 been at the helm of the U.S. branch of the firm owned by the Adidas Group. The German-born athlete has big plans on how he and his team will keep the company in its place as an industry leader. Here’s a hint: CrossFit. Scroll down to the feature to read more.

What will it take to help you stay on top of your game in 2012? Here are a few ideas to run with:

  • Exercise will make you smarter. “It’ll also make you stronger, healthier, and could help you grow your business,” says Harvard professor John Ratey, author of “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” Click here to learn more.

  • Exercise will make your kids smarter, too. Kathleen Tullie, the head of Reebok’s nonprofit, BOKS Kids, knew that from observing her own kids. But after reading Dr. Ratey’s book, she was inspired to start an organization that Reebok has invested a few million dollars in to help parents and teachers in schools around the country get kids moving through before-school programs. Click here to learn how to become part of the revolution.
  • Consumers are shifting how they spend their money. Reebok is one company that is paying close attention to this trend. How can your organization adapt to the shift? Futurist Andy Hines offers insight in ConsumerShift.

Also in this issue:

  • Since Reebok is just outside of Boston, we put the spotlight on Beantown in this issue of Be Inkandescent Magazine. Don’t miss our interview with Paul Guzzi, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; John Murtha, GM of Boston’s oldest hotel, the Omni Parker House; and Joe Milano, owner of the oldest eatery in town. Oysters, anyone?
  • This month we also have the honor of interviewing Maria Aguilera, our Truly Amazing Woman of the Month. Since 2007, she has battled a rare form of cancer. She shares the source of her strength as she embarks on the new year.

Here’s to kicking off 2012 with fresh and fabulous ideas, well-considered resolutions, and much joy!
Warmly, Hope Katz Gibbs, Publisher, Be Inkandescent Magazine

Reebok's Uli Becker Jumpstarts the Shaping Up of America

JANUARY 2012 CEO OF THE MONTH: REEBOK’S ULI BECKER

By Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher/founder
Be Inkandescent and
Inkandescent PR

“I do and say what I believe in,” Uli Becker told me when we met in his office at Reebok’s corporate headquarters in Canton, Mass., in December.

That attitude undoubtedly has helped the current president of Reebok International chart new territory for the firm that he says was in the hospital, on life-support, when the new parent company, the Adidas Group, bought it in 2006.

The German-born Becker, who has worked for the Adidas Group since 1990, explains: “We found that Reebok was not in its best shape based on lowering of price points, and distribution channel dilution. The brand itself also wasn’t a high flier, because it was at the border of being a branded but unbranded business, in terms of how the public perceived it.”

If American consumers were confused, Reebok’s reputation was even muddier abroad. Despite pro-basketball player Shaquille O’Neal saying: “I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok,” it wasn’t enough to keep Reebok a front-runner.

The financials for the company remained rocky until 2010.

That was partly due to the recession, Becker believes, but he also attributes the downslide to the fact that the brand—which hit the ground running in the ’80s with the classic Freestyle Hi and Princess aerobics shoe—had lost its way.

“Reebok’s previous leaders made headway as a licensing business, working closely with the NBA, NFL, and NHL, but there was a lack of consistency and congruity among the different departments,” Becker explains. “There was a great idea here, but six months later it was not connected to what’s going on over there. Over time, that proved to be a real problem, because eventually the consumer didn’t know what Reebok stood for.

“So we had to clean up the business, and then we began to build it back up by creating a clear strategy, which is the prerequisite of any strong business,” he insists. “If you work with a good strategy, and you are consistent, the chances of success are much higher.”

Adidas Chairman and CEO Herbert Hainer knew that when his company bought Reebok for $3.8 billion. The purchase gave Adidas about 20 percent of the U.S. sportswear market, and the potential to better challenge leader Nike, Inc. Under the terms of the deal, Adidas-Salomon AG paid $59 per share for all of Reebok’s outstanding stock.

Becker seems to be the perfect man to breathe life back into Reebok.

In his 22-year-career at Adidas, he held a variety of positions in the company’s U.S. and European offices.

Most recently, Becker oversaw the Reebok Global Marketing Group, which included product, sports, and entertainment marketing, brand marketing, and PR. Under his leadership, Adidas launched the campaign, “Impossible Is Nothing,” which was met with acclaim.

One look around his giant sun-drenched office, and it’s clear that Becker loves what he does. Strewn about are piles of prototypes for new sneakers, samples of future clothing lines, a couple of high-speed Reebok bikes, and other products that he is assessing. “My job is my hobby,” Becker insists. “I come to work to play.”

Play is most definitely the name of the game at Reebok.

In the last 18 months, it has been even more of a focus since Becker and the other leaders of the organization began encouraging Reebok’s 1,100 employees to work out regularly. According to Becker, more than 700 do.

He says that the objective has been easier to accomplish thanks to the company’s new CrossFit Box, a large, open gym that is stocked with free weights, kettlebells, and medicine balls. Skilled trainers are on staff to assist with daily workouts.

The Box stands on the Reebok campus adjacent to the architecturally noteworthy 500,000-square-foot world headquarters.

Inside the massive glass building is a much used basketball court, studios where yoga and workout classes are held daily, and an equipment-filled gym.

There’s also a full-service cafeteria, which emphasizes healthy choices—including a well-stocked salad bar, grilled panini sandwiches, and big bowls of stir-fried vegetables, meat, and rice. Tacked to the elevator is a sign that gently suggests that employees take the stairs instead. And circling the building is a running track.

This full-throttle approach to work and fitness, and fitness at work, is Becker’s way of testing what he hopes many Americans—and American companies—will embrace in the coming years.

“We have a company-wide focus on fitness that takes us back to our roots,” he says. “Reebok shoes got so popular in the 80s, when women turned out by the millions to do aerobics wearing our sneakers and clothes. Fitness in 2012 has changed, and we have adjusted our product initiatives and again are determined to be an innovator in our field.”

The impetus for innovation led Reebok to discover CrossFit.

The strength and conditioning brand, founded in 1995 by former high-school gymnast Greg Glassman (pictured far right) and his then-wife Lauren Jena, combines weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastics, power-lifting, plyometrics, rowing, and kettlebell and medicine-ball training.

Glassman—who Becker says “lives and breathes the fact that he wants to change the world by making people more fit“—contends that being healthy and fit requires proficiency in 10 physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.

Glassman actually started marketing his workout program by training the Santa Cruz police department in the 90s. Today, CrossFit has a presence in more than 1,700 gyms nationwide.

The CrossFit find is attributed to Reebok’s chief marketing officer, Matt O’Toole.

“Matt discovered the program in 2010 when he joined a CrossFit gym near his home—and loved it,” Becker explains.

“It was perfect timing, because we were searching for the next big fitness trend. We had the fundamentals in place, and knew that if we really wanted to be innovative, we had to create our worth with a company that was in a niche that will enable consumers to create a healthier, fitter lifestyle.”

“I believe this is a micro-trend in the world, and it is driven by the need to reverse the things that we have done wrong as societies—lifestyle choices that have made so many of us obese, diabetic, and sick. Around the world, our modern conveniences and sedentary lifestyles need to change. If people are open to making this shift in their lifestyles, we want to help drive them toward that goal.”

When Becker and O’Toole met with Glassman, they knew Reebok and CrossFit were ideal partners.

“This is a love relationship,” says Becker. “We have the same DNA when it comes to our thoughts and ideas on the future of fitness.

“We have such a deeply overlapping approach. Like Greg Glassman, we want to help people learn to be fit for life. Certainly, we want them to buy Reebok shoes and apparel. Not from a crass marketing standpoint, but in an authentic way.”

That’s why the two companies signed a long-term deal for a partnership that Becker says Reebok is determined to continue for years to come. Reebok also sponsors the annual CrossFit Games, which is quickly becoming the Olympics of fitness.

Becker is also hoping that other companies will build a CrossFit Box at their corporate headquarters.

“Exercising regularly encourages employees to push themselves further, and bond as co-workers,” Becker says. “When people are fit, and healthy, it increases productivity and decreases health care costs. Plus, exercising just makes you feel good. I am the perfect example of CrossFit’s success. In the last year I lost 40 pounds, and haven’t felt this good in years. If I can do it, anyone can.”

Click here to read Becker’s Five Steps to Success in 2012.

Take a Page From Reebok's Playbook

What Makes a Company Successful? Five Tips for Entrepreneurs

By Uli Becker, president
Reebok International

1. Successful companies have clear strategies that people understand. More successful companies live their strategy.

When we took over Reebok in 2006, our team had to start coming up with a plan to clean things up.

It took a while, and needless to say the recession didn’t help, but we knew we wanted to be innovators in our field again, as Reebok was in the 1980s during the aerobics craze. That was the decade when women got hooked on fitness, and we were leading the pack in sales of aerobics shoes and apparel. So we began planning and executing a strategy to get us on steady ground first.

In 2010, we discovered the CrossFit exercise program, and I admit that I was not a true believer—at first.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting in to. But after I did CrossFit for just four weeks, I was hooked. That is why I am so psyched about it, and why I want all of my employees to do it.

I lost 40+ pounds in the last 12 months through managing my nutrition intake and increasing my physical activity. If you do both, I promise, you’ll feel 10 times stronger. Even though my knees are screwed up from years of playing sports in Germany, I am healthy again. And that’s remarkable, given the fact that I am in that age group where you are either doing well, or you end up in the hospital.

My goal is to stave off diabetes and Alzheimer’s, because while I want to live a long life, I want to avoid having the last years of my life suck. So if I am in charge of making myself healthier, and continuing this healthy lifestyle for the next 20, 30, 40 years, then growing older and staying healthy is more likely. What more evidence do I need? Once you get there, why would you go back?

If more people adopt this attitude, in time, it could be a revolution.

2. Successful companies engage their employees.

Once we found CrossFit, we knew that we couldn’t just spread the word about the impact of this fitness program. We knew that we needed to actually live it.

In the 15 months since signing our collaboration agreement with CrossFit and opening the Box for our employees to use, this whole organization has had a culture shift. We are now living what we are preaching, and that gives us an even greater probability of being successful.

Through the pounds we lose, through the confidence it builds, to the collaborative efforts that are forged when people from different departments meet each other in the CrossFit Box—everything gets stronger.

3. Successful companies have a bigger purpose.

For a sports company, it’s pretty easy to engage your own employees. After all, most of the people who work here do so because they like sports and think this is an exciting, sexy industry to work in.

As I said before, I don’t go to work. I come here to play. This is my hobby. And, it’s the same for many of my colleagues.

But when we gave that a bigger purpose, and really made exercising and fitness part of what our employees do for themselves every day, we took the entire proposition to a new level. By encouraging them to work out, we are telling them that we want them to be fitter people who look at life with open eyes regarding what is possible. We want them to engage more, and to collaborate with their peers. When you push yourself past your limits in the CrossFit Box, you bond with those around you. It helps make our whole team stronger.

This is a great opportunity for the individual employee, and for the company as a whole.

4. Successful companies see an opening in the marketplace, and help create a shift.

We hope that other companies see what we are doing, and in the next few years set up a CrossFit Box and the gyms on their corporate campuses.

Already, when our partners and suppliers come here, they are blown away by how we have all transformed in such a short period of time. It’s really obvious to them that we are doing something right.

So our goal is to work B2B, and help other companies do what we have done when it comes to creating a strong link between work and fitness.

Increasingly, as we can prove that we are a more successful company in terms of the products, and a more creative company because our healthier, active employees are more engaged, we are confident that other companies will do the same.

5. Successful companies know how consumers think. They pay attention to trends—and take their products and services to market at the right time.

Given the great recession of 2008, which is still lingering for many industries, it may not seem like this is a good time to launch something new.

But we think it is the perfect time because what we are seeing is that consumers, and many companies, are starting to think differently.

The recession has woken people up. There has been a values shift among consumers and corporate executives, and the financial pain has caused a shift in what people feel is important. It has brought people together. Exercising, and getting fit and healthy, is something that we can all do—and be better for it. It’s affordable, and easy to do once you get hooked.

Plus, if we can help make thousands of people more active—we can decrease health care costs. That’s good for every company, every household, and every country in the world.

For more information about Reebok, CrossFit, and the CrossFit Games, visit www.reebok.com.

By your stumbling the world is perfected.”

– Sri Aurobindo

Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

– Helen Keller

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

– William Butler Yeats

We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”

– General Omar Bradley

History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”

– John F. Kennedy

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

– William Shakespeare

When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas Edison

Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.”

– The Dalai Lama

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

My job is my hobby. I come to work to play.”

– Uli Becker, president, Reebok International

The biggest flaw in our existing theory of capitalism lies in its misrepresentation of human nature.”

– Muhammad Yunus

Let us seize the day and the opportunity and strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities.”

– W.E.B. Du Bois

Passion makes perfect.”

– Eugene Biro

Don’t wait for someone else to lead you to your right life; that privilege—and responsibility—is yours alone.”

– Martha Beck

If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it.”

– Jesse Jackson

We never know how high we are
 till we are called to rise;
 And then, if we are true to plan,
 Our statures touch the skies.”

– Emily Dickinson

Remove those ‘I want you to like me’ stickers from your forehead
and, instead, place them where they truly will do the most good—on your mirror.”

– Susan Jeffers

I can’t go back to yesterday—because I was a different person then.”

– Lewis Carroll

I always maintained that the greatest obstacle in life isn’t danger, it’s boredom. The battle against it is responsible for most of the events in the world — good or ill.”

– Dr. Evelyn Vogel, Dexter

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

– Charles R. Swindoll

Speaking more than one language is no longer just an asset in today’s job market; it is a requirement.”

– Tom Adams, CEO, Rosetta Stone

If you do work that you love, and the work fulfills you, the rest will come.”

– Oprah Winfrey

The fixity of a habit is generally in direct proportion to its absurdity.”

– Marcel Proust

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. 
Now put foundations under them.”

– Henry David Thoreau

The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.”

– Andrew Carnegie

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

– Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc.

Challenge is a dragon with a gift in its mouth. Tame the dragon and the gift is yours.”

– Noela Evans

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

– T.S. Eliot

A man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.”

– Chinese Proverb

Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.”

– Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

If it really was a no-brainer to make it on your own in business there’d be millions of no-brained, harebrained individuals quitting their day jobs.”

– Bill Rancic, "The Apprentice"

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

– Christopher Morley

Don’t follow your dreams. Chase them.”

– Richard Dumb

If you would create something,
 you must be something.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I don’t do very well without fear. There needs to be a part of me saying, ‘That’s going to fail,’ so I can prove myself wrong.”

– Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. 
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.”

– Mary Jean Irion

Never cut what you can untie.”

– Joseph Joubert

The goal of Life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.”

– Joseph Cambell

Anything not worth doing well is not worth doing.”

– Warren Buffett

It is only when the mind is free from the old that it meets everything anew, and in that there is joy.”

– J. Kristnhamurti, The First and Last Freedom

Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

– Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields Cookies

Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”

– Jack Kerouac

The only dream worth having is to live while you’re alive and die only when you’re dead.”

– Arundhati Roy

Treat the attainment of happiness in the same way an entrepreneur would approach building a business — with a vision, plan, goals, and a systematic approach.”

– Ted Leonsis

You don’t go into a field that requires cracking people’s heads open or operating on something as delicate as the spinal cord unless you are comfortable with taking risks.”

– Dr. Ben Carson

You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

– Steve Jobs

The follow-your-gut mentality of the entrepreneur has the potential to take you anywhere you want to go or run you right out of business.”

– Bill Rancic, "The Apprentice"

A truly forgiving person is someone who experiences all the anger merited by injustice and still acts with fairness and compassion.”

– Martha Beck

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