Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Nutrisystem CEO tap dances around corporate change

When the publicist from Nutrisystem sent around a bio of Dawn Zier, the Fort Washington weight loss company's new CEO, there was no mention of her background as a tap dancer. But there should have been, because at one point, in the executive ranks at her prior company, she reported to four CEOs in five years. Even Fred Astaire couldn't top that footwork..

Nutrisystem CEO tap dances around corporate change

Dawn Zier
Dawn Zier

When the publicist from Nutrisystem sent around a bio of Dawn Zier, the Fort Washington weight loss company's new CEO, there was no mention of her background as a tap dancer.

But there should have been, because at one point, in the executive ranks at her prior company, she reported to four CEOs in five years. Even Fred Astaire couldn't top that footwork.

Before she arrived at Nutrisystem in November 2012, she worked for Reader's Digest Association  -- a publishing and direct marketing company in constant flux. In her 20 years, the company was sometimes publicly traded, other times it was privately held. It was bankrupt. It emerged from bankruptcy. Every change was marked by a change of leadership, and Zier, always in the ranks of top management, was in corporate suite for the moving of the boxes.

Actually, Zier played volleyball as a student. Whether she actually danced is unknown to me.

Yet, somehow she managed to dance around all those CEOs. How?

"Being adaptable and open to change," she answered during our Leadership Agenda interview, published in Monday's Inquirer.

In the best defense is a good offense department, Zier said,  is "being the best at what you do. I’m good at marketing. It’s what I do. It’s a strength and that was easily recognizable."

And?

"I will also work hard to make sure the new CEO is successful," she said.

I asked Zier what lessons she brought to Nutrisystem from all the tumult in the executive suite at Reader's Digest. Zier came to Nutrisystem in November 2012, after five straight years of declining revenues, profits and share price.

She said she was very careful about choosing her executive team. One of the worst things, she said, would to bring in a completely new slate. "The mistake could be that you create an us versus them culture," she said.

"So when I was making my management team, it was very important that I built a blended team, a hybrid, superstars at the company, bringing in new skill sets that I thought  were gaps in the company and actually bringing back people who had been at the company when the company was very successful," she said.

For more on Zier, read Monday's blog post on how her engineering degree helped her run a business.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer