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Lee Fromson: Tapping into the Power of People

By: By Alex Jenkins

December 2, 2014

Lee Fromson recently joined the team at portable solar power company Goal Zero as president and COO. He was previously at REI, serving as senior vice president of merchandising. During his time at REI, Fromson helped drive the retailer’s revenue to over $2 billion by overseeing merchandising strategy, financial planning and vendor partnership development. He plans to take Goal Zero and its employees on a similar path to the next level of success.

How will you guide Goal Zero into its next phase of growth?     
One interesting thing with Goal Zero is there is a tremendous amount of passion—passion for the brand and what’s going on in the industry. Many young startup companies miss the mark on their purpose. I’ve definitely made mistakes during my time in the professional world. You need a strong mission for a solid company. We just needed to be better at getting things done. There were times when we overpromised and underdelivered. Now we underpromise and overdeliver.

What makes Goal Zero products different from the rest?

When you’re designing products for the outdoors enthusiast, they’ve got to be well made, rugged and able to handle the elements. Our main difference is the design. When you design for the outdoors instead of the backyard, you get a whole different list of criteria you have to think about.

Can the company’s culture stay vibrant as it grows?

Yes, but the culture needs to continue to evolve. It starts with a strong purpose, and that’s the reason people come to work every day. There is this threshold of just getting a paycheck and being competitive, but for people to give extra, it needs to be because the purpose matters. I want this to be the kind of place people want to come to. Goal Zero has the potential to be one of the best places to work.

Do you classify Goal Zero as a startup or has the company moved past that?

We are certainly moving toward being bigger than a startup due to being acquired by NRG Energy. It’s really an exciting phase and we are excited to be an established company.

What are your goals for the company?

When you think of all the different levers that can drive a business, like success, being innovative and having the right people, it comes down to the right people. You need to be able to spot, recruit and retain talent. It is people who make the business go forward. All the money won’t make a difference if you don’t have the right people. During my life, I’ve learned the importance of a great team. I’ve seen that the power of people is what makes companies stand out. Great diversity and turning them loose is the formula for success.

You have a history of working with outdoors merchandising companies. Have you always been an outdoors enthusiast?

I haven’t always been an outdoors guy. In fact, my folks never really even went camping. As an undergrad in college, my roommates were all outdoorsy people. We would go whitewater rafting, kayaking, camping—you name it. Then in the early ‘80s, I moved out West and was able to do all kinds of stuff. My daughter is my big hiking partner, but now that I’m getting older I enjoy a slow pace as opposed to hanging from one finger or going into whitewater rapids.

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