More than 10 years ago Lisa Sugar and her husband, Brian, founded PopSugar. Back then, it was a scrappy, bloggy website where Lisa posted her musings about fashion, celebrity, and, occasionally, technology.
Today, PopSugar is a thriving and profitable online-media company that bills itself as the No. 1 "lifestyle brand for young women." It's also the parent company to the digital shopping platform ShopStyle. The PopSugar and ShopStyle brands together boast more than 100 million visitors a month--and their posts and fashion content rack up nearly 2.5 billion views. Last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, the company took in around $150 million in revenue.
Today, the majority of the San Francisco company's 500 employees are charged with creating content and disseminating it across online and social-media platforms, and Brian Sugar, PopSugar's chief executive, has issued himself a particular challenge: to keep this decade-old media company infused with creativity and a risk-taking spirit. Some recent projects include a company-wide hackathon, a new way for customers to buy products through Snapchat posts that uses emojis rather than QR codes (it's called Emoticode, and it launched in June), and an app that can perhaps best be described as a hybrid of Pokémon Go and Snapchat (it lets users geo-place video messages for others to find through the app).
Everything Brian Sugar does during a business day has one goal--keep innovating--in mind. He explained to Inc.com precisely how he tackles the charge daily.
Ban Meetings (or Keep Them to a Minimum)
"I want to be able, every day, to focus on the most important thing of the day," Sugar says. That doesn't often include going around a table and sharing progress reports. Of course, there are exceptions. For Sugar, they are board meetings, operating committees, new clients, and his weekly cross-team innovation group, which discusses "the cool stuff we are doing." That's it. "I'd love to say I've completely banned meetings, but it's not the reality. But I keep them to a minimum."
Make Time for Ideas
Sugar's iPhone is full of apps--many of which the PopSugar team has created from scratch. But one of his daily go-tos is the simple pre-loaded Notebook app. "New ideas go in Notebook." It's not something he carves out time for every day, but when ideas hit, he makes certain that, at the minimum, he takes a moment to type them up.
Give the Best Ideas Room to Grow
Turning that list into reality is what really takes time and energy. Sugar says he takes his ideas to the company's innovation group, or sometimes saves them for an upcoming PopSugar hackathon, if one's on the horizon. From there, he and other programmers and project-managers get to work turning them into reality. Sometimes, several of Sugar's ideas are in gestation within the company at once. "There's no way to tell what will work until we build it in earnest and put it in front of the skilled editors at PopSugar for testing," he says. The editors, he says, are mostly women in their late 20s with a keen sense of what's useful, versus what's just a party trick. His mantra, pure and simple: "You gotta try stuff."
Get Your Hands Dirty
While Sugar doesn't claim to be a prolific programmer, he does regularly get in on the building action by coding. He says he enjoys being part of teams attempting to bring ideas to fruition--and experiencing how new projects within PopSugar actually tick. Plus, if something's not working early on, he likes to know why. And being part of the process of creating new projects keeps him honest about another theory he holds dear: "If 90 percent of your innovations fail, you are still winning."