Whitney Vosburgh | Survive Today So You Can Thrive Tomorrow — Planning For A Career Pivot

On this week’s episode of Franchise Freedom, we speak with Whitney Vosburgh, co-author of the Work the Future Today book series, which aims to help entrepreneurs search for and share their unique gifts. Whitney is a fortune 20 Chief Marketing Officer who has guided over $20 billion in wealth creation, and whose expertise has been featured in a number of books, including one by Dan Pink.

“The old is gone, dead, over. It’s not business as usual,” says Whitney. “I personally am very excited at the many incredible opportunities ahead of us. We have an opportunity to reinvent business, ourselves, and the world. I’m a firm believer in the new triple bottom line, not of profit, people, planet. I believe in planet, people, profit. Why? Because if there’s no planet, there’s no people. If there’s no people, there’s no profit. It’s very simple.”

We chat about Whitney’s career, as well as:

  • Career pivots, and being prepared for a pivot
  • The Work the Future Today book series
  • His experience in the franchising world
  • Sustainability in profit
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. I’m your host, Giuseppe Grammatico, your franchise guide, and today we have a very special guest. Today we have Whitney Vosburgh. Whitney is the co-author of two Work the Future Today books on how to search for and share your unique gift. As a fortune 20 Chief Marketing Officer, he has guided over 20 billion in wealth creation. His expertise has been featured in four books, including one by Dan Pink. His next book comes out this fall. Whitney, I wanted to welcome you to the show.

Whitney Vosburgh: Thank you, Giuseppe. It’s a pleasure to be on.

Giuseppe Grammatico: Thank you. So just, I like to ask all our guests just to kind of give us a little bit of a background. How did you get into this business? And basically, what does that journey look like?

Whitney: It’s, I have an unusual background in that I studied accounting and worked in that field for a while. And then I went to art school and became a graphic designer, art director, creative director. Worked in advertising marketing, and then became a brand strategist, eventually an interim VP of Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer for Silicon Valley startups, midsize companies, and then fortune 20 companies.

Giuseppe: Wow. So you’ve been, you’ve done a little bit of everything, which is great. You know, we talked, our audience is corporate executives, many of them looking to make the transition into entrepreneurship. We also have both franchise owners as well as non-franchise owners that are looking to kind of diversify their investments or even look into an exit strategy. You know, you’ve done quite a bit. What advice, or what would your top two or three pieces of advice be to someone looking to make the transition from the corporate world into entrepreneurship?

The Time is Now

Whitney: There’s never been a better time. As great the challenges we currently face, every challenge is an opportunity. And headcount at corporate headquarters and divisional headquarters are going to shrink. More and more staffers are going to become freelancers, independents, consultants, interims, what have you. And with the world in such turmoil, it means that there are new better business opportunities with the passing of each day. So now’s the time to pivot, but you have to prepare before you pivot.

Giuseppe: Right. And we talked about that before the call. We talked about pivoting because, you know, as I know, in the franchise world, for example, there are many franchise companies that are pivoting. So what does that mean? It means restrategizing, figuring out okay, how do I offer my product or service? So one example would be I own a gym, but we can’t open our gym.

So we are going to use Zoom or we’re going to use various technology in order to, you know, have the member be able to work out from home. So, but this is not something that’s done, this is something that’s prepared for, right? This is done years in advance so that there are online libraries and things like that, that a lot of these companies put together. So can you talk a little bit more about preparing and being able to pivot, basically, being able to adapt to what’s going on?

Staying on Top of Potential Opportunity

Whitney: Yes. You have to know where you’ve come from and where you are in order to figure out where you’re going and how to get there. It’s slowing down, not panicking. And if you are bleeding, so to speak, stem the bleeding. If you need to operate, operate immediately. But in other words, it’s personal and organizational wellness. We all have to stay and keep healthy in order to take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of us and that continue to emerge. So it’s taking a look at what’s my Genesis story? What was the founding purpose and values of the organization, personally?

And then the organization, how they’ve been translated into the present day. What is the eternal value, the ongoing value offer? A value proposition that is not circumstantial. We do x better than anyone else. And it might not be what you think it is. It might be something else. But there’s something there that if you’ve been successful in business, then if you are able to prepare and then to execute a pivot, which nowadays is not just, you know, ready, aim fire, it’s slowing down and going in and out of retreat mode, where you’re going quiet, you’re taking the look at yourself, the world, and then it’s like a zigzag.

You go sort of in, take an internal look at yourself and your organization, your stakeholders, and then you go out into the world and see what is it that you can do to survive today so that you can thrive tomorrow. It’s a zigzag in terms of going in and going quiet and listening and then going out in the world and doing rapid prototyping. Put together something simple, put it out there, test, retest, test again. This is exactly,

Giuseppe: Yeah, it’s never as a, you know, in all my reading and all the people I’ve talked to, it’s never a straight line, right? So it’s

Whitney: At best it’s a zigzag.

Giuseppe: That’s right. Exactly. And I couldn’t agree more. It’s, you know, your vision, your mission, none of that changes, right? It’s, you know, you have your mission as a company. I mean, there can always be an adjustment, but the main vision, in many cases, will not change, but it’s how you execute it.

So if you’re, you know, if your mission is to change lives and that the end product, you know, just happens to be a gym, well now you’re offering that, you know, and you can’t go into a gym. Most gyms are shut down during the pandemic in different parts of the country. How do you pivot? How do you adapt? And we talked about getting into a virtual setting and being able to appear on someone’s screen, you know, in the members’ home.

Whitney: In terms of gyms and similar business, telehealth is here to stay and it’s going to be huge.

Giuseppe: Yes. Yes. And it’s funny you say that and I’m not making this up, at two o’clock or around two o’clock today, my son was not feeling well and the pediatrician was closed and we did a quick telehealth. I think it was 20 minutes and it was great. Didn’t have to leave the house and he was able to diagnose, get a script and we’re done. So it’s definitely the future.

Abnormal is the New Normal

Whitney: It is. The reason why is that in many parts of the country, we’ve been in lockdown, sheltering in place, whatever you want to call it, for nearly three months. And some places going to continue, other places it’s going to stop, but then we’ll go back to it. Because this is a very curious virus, and highly unpredictable. So we’re going to do enough of the new for long enough that it becomes a new way of being and doing. We’re forming new habits, we’re building new muscles and we’re never going back to what was.

Giuseppe: Yes, yep. It’s what people have said, the new normal, right? What’s normal? Well, we now have a new normal. So, you know, this is, unfortunately, the new normal, things are going to have to change and you accept it and move on. I mean, that’s I guess the best we can do.

Whitney: The abnormal is the new normal.

Giuseppe: Right, right. Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Tell me a little bit, tell the audience a little bit more about the book Work the Future Today. When I went on the website earlier today, I see, I really like it. I saw the icon up on the upper left-hand corner said WTF. So it caught my attention. So tell me a little bit more about the book and who, you know, who’s this book for?

Whitney: Yes, my co-author has written a number of experts, a number of books and is an expert on the future work. And I said, Charlie, the problem with FOW is future work isn’t working for somebody else. It’s working for yourself. And things are changing so rapidly that people are saying, what’s the future? WTF? So we’re coming out with our third book in the autumn and it is ever more relevant and timely. It’s about surviving today so you can thrive tomorrow. And you survive today by going back to the fundamentals. What is my unique value to whom? Where do I find them? And how do I best share that value proposition with them?

Giuseppe: Taking notes over here. Now, this is good.

Whitney: And then continuously staying relevant to whatever context you find yourself in and staying healthy so you can be resilient. Physically healthy, mentally healthy, emotionally healthy, financially healthy, organizationally healthy, culturally healthy, because this is one heck of a roller coaster ride we’re riding. And no one’s been there before,

Giuseppe: It’s new territory for all of us, right?

Whitney: Oh, yes. No maps. Nothing.

Giuseppe: Yeah. Where can, if people wanted to order a copy or reserve a copy of the new book, where can they pick that up?

Whitney: They can go to Amazon. And they can also find details on our sites which is workthefuture.today.

Giuseppe: And we’ll include that in the show notes as well. Switching gears a little bit, so we were talking about, and I didn’t realize this before, the call but you are in the franchising world and that’s, you know, many of our listeners are in franchising, have either owned a franchise or are looking to invest in a franchise. Could you talk a little bit about franchising and your experience?

Whitney’s Experience in Franchising

Whitney: Yes, I’ve worked on a number of franchise businesses over the years. The most interesting one was my last one in 2014. I was Interim Chief Marketing Officer for Health Mart, which is the fifth-largest pharmacy chain in America, owned by McKesson, and it is a national 3000 location franchise system. And as the interim CMO, I was put in charge of, in terms of my number one KPI, was increasing the number and rate of new franchisee signups. So these were traditional family-runned, multigenerational, small-town pharmacies.

What I learned was that the small town pharmacists were local heroes and I positioned them as the champions of community care. And then I reposition Health Mart as the corporate champion of community care. And this wasn’t just the advertising slogan, this was the real deal in terms of these local small-town pharmacies being the local community hubs. And what I showed to McKesson is that they could do so much better by doing well.

By embracing community grassroots marketing, development, outreach, local town hall meetings, engaging with mommy bloggers and local health activists and nonprofits. If you build a coalition of multiple overlapping stakeholders and you get support from the corporate franchisor and you work all together, you can get unbelievably good results. At the last day of my six-month project, the CEO of Health Mart said, You know Whitney? We would have been delighted with a 30% increase in new franchisee signups. You managed to create a demand for over 300%.

Giuseppe: Wow, that’s pretty amazing.

Whitney: And so it was a win-win-win. The community won, the pharmacist won the distributors won and Health Mart and McKesson all won.

Giuseppe: And how many franchisees when you had left in 2014?

Whitney: We had about 3000.

Giuseppe: Yeah, so that’s a pretty large number. When you talk about a vision, even pivoting and how you do business, I mean, you have a parent company like that being able to affect 3000 franchisees across the country, that’s pretty impressive.

Whitney: Yeah, what was interesting is that McKesson, it’s like a large company, and deals with such large partners, the clients, like the Department of Defense, the VA System, and their contracts are 20 to 30 years. It’s, they’re really in the enterprise to enterprise business. And they’re not particularly branded, they’re not marketing-driven.

They’re essentially a pharmaceutical pipeline. But they had this $10 billion franchise, you know, business to business to consumer business that had never seen, never had a director of marketing let alone VP or CMO. They were doing well in stock markets. So they thought they could invest the money in the brand. And it paid huge dividends to everyone right down the value chain.

Giuseppe: That’s great. Yeah, that is pretty impressive. I got to take a look at them. It’s not a company that we’ve worked with in the past. Whitney, switching gears. So what’s, I guess what’s the most exciting thing going on in your world in your business right now?


Whitney: Just the fact that the old is gone, dead, over, not business as usual. And I personally am very excited at the many incredible opportunities ahead of us. We have an opportunity to reinvent business, ourselves, and the world. I’m a firm believer in the new triple bottom line, not of profit, people, planet. I believe in planet, people, profit. Why? Because if there’s no planet there’s no people. If there’s no people, there’s no profit. Very simple.

Giuseppe: Yep. It’s got to be sustainable at the end of the day, right? Without the planet, yeah, we’re not here. So good point. Very good point. Anything else you’d like to mention to all the listeners today?

Whitney: I just did, you know, my co-author and I are putting the finishing touches on our third book, Work the Future Today: Surviving Today Thriving Tomorrow. And it will be out probably in early October through Amazon.

Giuseppe: And so if someone were to want to reach out to you, I know you have various clients, so what would that look like? Is it something where they would reach out to you directly? Or should they take a look at the book first? What do you recommend to someone that wants to get a hold of you?

Whitney: You know, they can look at my tweets, they can visit our website, they can look at my testimonials record on LinkedIn.

Giuseppe: Sounds good. We can post that. We have the LinkedIn and your Twitter. Is that Brand Guru?

Whitney: Yeah, that’s right.

Giuseppe: So we’ll put that in the show notes as well. So that’s the best way, right? Get on there. They can follow you answering, you know, ask any specific questions that they have?

Whitney: Yes, it basically, it’s asking and answering the question, now that the world has lost its way, how do I and we find our way through this new world? To the land of incredible challenges, yes, which are also opportunities.

Giuseppe: Right. I agree. I really enjoyed speaking today. Yeah, we’ll definitely add everything in the show notes. And if anyone has any, any specific questions, we’ll put everything as far as the LinkedIn, Twitter and the website. Whitney, it’s been a pleasure, and I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Whitney: I hope so. Look forward to it.