Rob Robillard serves as the Chief Merchandising Officer at HSN, a division of Qurate Retail Group. He is responsible for supervising the brand’s purchasing, planning, programming, and merchandising operations. He has held various positions within the organization including SVP of merchandising, home, culinary, electronics and leading the US Beauty business across all commerce platforms.
I was a child of a United States Air Force family, which meant before kindergarten, I had already lived in seven different places. My father was a lieutenant colonel and served as a fighter and bomber pilot.
I spent my formative childhood years in Omaha, Nebraska. We lived in a neighborhood attached to a huge field full of trees and secret hiding spots. Some of my fondest memories are getting home from school and spending hours running around through the fields. We didn’t have phones back then, so it was an idyllic childhood that most don’t have today. Thanks to social media, I’m still connected to many of the kids from that neighborhood.
I discovered my love of performance from very early on. The first time I got on stage was for the first grade talent show. From there, I quickly got into theater and spent many years involved with musicals and community theater, which I continued throughout high school and college. These experiences taught me to be comfortable in front of audiences, and essentially, to be a natural salesperson.
Not too long ago, my mother found a report I had to do in middle school. It was on becoming an ‘international business executive’ and the cover was filled with photos of fashion brands. It’s a bit surreal considering the trajectory of my career.
I technically had two first jobs. The first was at an auto body shop that needed someone to come in on weekends and clean the entire shop. My parents dropped me off and I would spend four or five hours by myself power washing, scrubbing paint and cleaning the machines. Working alone, I had to figure everything out independently – which taught me a great work ethic, and gave me my first real sense of responsibility. My second, more official first job, was at the Timberland Factory Outlet in Kittery, Maine. I started at fifteen and by the time I turned sixteen, they made me customer service manager and a key holder. I was opening and closing the store, handling the cash and managing other employees all before I was out of high school. I’ve always been able to operate beyond my years, which has continued with me throughout my career.
I have a mentor, Carol Hamilton. She has been my mentor since 1998 when I worked at L’Oreal, and she remains in that capacity even after twenty-five years. Having someone to aspire to be is invaluable. She taught me three important lessons about being a business leader. Firstly, never give up. Carol has a tenacity about her that is legendary. Secondly, never compromise–the minute you begin to compromise your way out of problems is the minute you introduce mediocrity. Thirdly, you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.
In my career, I’m most proud of watching those who have worked for me get to extraordinary levels within their own career. As a leader, you hope you can somehow develop people who go on to do extraordinary things. When I see individuals who have reported to me that are now presidents and CEOs, it’s truly meaningful.
I’m very lucky to live on a farm. It is the biggest investment my husband and I have made and it’s something I’ve wanted my whole life. We are fortunate to live in such a spot that allows me to ride on 5,000 acres of conserved land. I am an equestrian outside of work, and I have four horses. I have a competition sport horse that I compete in dressage with named Davey. I have a Morgan horse who is my trail horse named Monument. I also have two young horses, a two-year-old named Nitro and a 10-month-old named Verity. I’ve raised all my horses from babies and another part of my hobby is teaching them to be good horses—polite, good citizens. Before this, I was into autocross racing.