CJ Prober: GoPro Turned Business Around By Hyperfocusing on Mission

October 10, 2017

4:00 pm

Businesses are created and destroyed on a weekly, if not daily basis. Sure, there may be some bailouts to keep a few historical machines running, but for the rest it is almost entirely up to the leaders and team members of an organization to right the ship. For many, GoPro never had the appearance of a struggling business, but somewhere along the way they ran aground and were losing money. The solution? According to CJ Prober, GoPro’s COO, they became hyperfocused on their mission of achieving profitability.

After a bit of a tumultuous time financially, having spread their offerings a bit too far, the leadership team gathered together, wrote down five initiatives that the company should solve, and went after it. According to Prober, for each item they had one sentence priorities, specific action items, and how they would measure success.

“We made it incredibly visible internally (meetings, all hands, etc.), and became laser focused on that. When you have that level of clarity it makes the decisions that much easier.”

While the target of achieving profitability was at the top of the list, they knew it was also important to hone in on their offerings. During the earlier, initial successful bootstrapped years, GoPro offered three tiers of cameras, but then later invested heavily in original content and other hardware.

In hindsight, Prober said that organizers should be more mindful about how fast they are growing.

“It was a necessity that we hit profitability. Once you get that.. It’s all about the vision in the long-term. We spend a lot of time re-articulate our vision and mission,” said Prober.” He went on to detail that businesses should visualize what success looks like, and build a strategy around achieving it. Fortunately for GoPro, the company and team were on board with the vision, and having the long-term goal was critical to everyone’s success.

Prober also emphasized the importance of team health, and while they did have a period of layoffs and attrition, it was important to remain highly transparent and bring back the fun when the time was right. As one would expect, during the organizational lull it impacted everyone in the organization.

“Personally, it was incredibly taxing. On one hand you’re in an ambiguous situation and need to lead from the front and be positive,” said Prober. “You have to remove yourself from personal relationships to do what’s right for the business, and that was one of the hardest parts.”

However, he went on to say that there were glimmers of rewards intermingled in this period. As GoPro flattened their organization, leading to some people taking on new roles, Prober was happy to see these team members flourish and become successful. Now in a much stronger place and market position, the company has a bright future ahead of it.

Last month, GoPro also announced several new updates to their hardware, including the GoPro Hero 6 camera. It was their first smart camera, which includes the GP1 processor that was custom designed and developed for the company.

However, what Prober was most excited to share was the new QuikStories feature that automatically pulls content from the camera, imports it into the app, and creates an edited, shareable story from it. These can of course be edited as well.

Moderator Amy Jo Martin, Author of Renegades Write the Rules, mused about her past experience of using a GoPro while snowboarding, and mentioned how it was a challenge to find the right content that she wanted. According to Prober, that’s one of the areas GoPro is continuing to tackle. To learn more about their latest updates, you can read our coverage from September.

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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