On your marks…Virgin Sport CEO Mary Wittenberg and her teammates are standing on the starting line, and are about to be off to the races! Virgin Sport’s mission is to move the world through sport. It will create active lifestyle experiences in run, cycle and multi-sport that are irresistible; bring people together; and make challenge fun. The company’s first product will be a festival of sport, with running, cycling, fitness and other surprises.
The race will truly begin for Mary and team in early January, when Virgin Sport will launch to the world as the newest company within the Virgin family. After 17 years building the New York City Marathon and a culture of running for life in New York City, Mary is eager to bring “Sporters” together across the world. Here, Mary discusses her favourite moments this year; the lessons she has learned; and offers a little sneak peek on why Virgin Sport is about to be the best game in town.
What has been your favourite moment in business this year?
It’s difficult to pinpoint just one, but some of my favourite moments include training for, and running, the New York City Marathon with our small but mighty Virgin Sport team; cycling glorious miles with Richard, Holly, Sam, Noah and team in the Strive challenge; and launching our We VS__ campaign on our social channels this week. This first campaign will ask everyone what barriers they face to being their healthiest selves. Maybe it’s getting started. Or being busy at work. Or getting off the warm couch on a cold winter’s day! We aim to position Virgin Sport as the champion to helping people overcome the barriers in their lives, while creating a supportive community of fitness veterans and newbies alike. We particularly like the We VS__ from Richard and Virgin Management CEO Josh Bayliss (their answers were the same)…We VS only 24 hours in a day!
Richard Branson and the Virgin Sport team in New York
What have you been proud of your company for achieving?
We’ve built a very strong bond among our founding team members, a bond that has been forged through many working hours and running miles as we build something new and meaningful. I mean this literally - our meetings and best ideas are often while running and “fitting” together! The team has rallied around the company’s purpose and incredible commitment to creating irresistible experiences that will make taking on challenges fun. I’m also thrilled with the heart and soul that’s gone into creating a brand whose stunning look and feel add another dimension to the amazing customer experience that will inspire people to move.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt in business this year?
During a new company’s early stages, it’s important to expressly state the type of culture you want to create. Ultimately, I don’t think you can dictate culture. It needs to be nurtured and to grow organically from the team. At this early stage however, the team is small. It is important to share your vision for the culture of the company and team with every potential recruit. In addition to assessing skills, it's key to get a strong sense of how well a potential employee will thrive in and contribute to, your desired culture.
We have an open, highly collaborative culture at Virgin Sport. While each leader has her own areas of responsibility, we are united in the end goal of winning together, much like teammates on a playing field. As we like to say, the huddle is greater than the hurdle.
What do you hope to achieve in business next year?
I’m most excited for the start of the new year with news of our upcoming launch in January! Please stay tuned and join in on the fun on social if you can!
How will you give something back or pay something forward next year?
Virgin Sport’s purpose is to move the world through sport (literally and inspirationally), and I hope that creates a ripple effect among people who are touched by our brand and share our mission with others. I’m also looking forward to supporting youth fitness programs and free fitness programs to promote healthy lifestyles at an early age and provide an outlet for children, young adults, and those who don’t readily have access to fitness venues and programming.