Rebecca Roby joined Hard Rock International with the goal to expand her horizons as a lawyer. She brought extensive intellectual property expertise from her previous position at Red Bull, but she expected Hard Rock’s lean structure to help her develop a broader range of experience by allowing her to engage in all aspects of the business.
That is exactly what happened after she was hired to handle transactional and litigation issues, in addition to managing Hard Rock’s global intellectual property portfolio. Roby quickly segued into all aspects of Hard Rock’s restaurant, hotel, and gaming business—drafting and negotiating contracts, franchise projects, merchandising, marketing and sales initiatives, and managing litigation.
Just as quickly, she also developed a personal connection to staff in the field and all the activities they help manage, including customer experiences. “I view our consumers and our staff as my clients,” says Roby, now vice president of business affairs. “I want to ensure that the right tools are in place so that every customer can leave thinking, ‘That was awesome. I can’t wait to come back to Hard Rock.’”
She knows that materials she helps develop—whether marketing collateral, training guides, contract templates, or corporate policies—all have an impact on each guest interaction. For example, the profitability of a BOGO promotion will be severely impacted if it isn’t clear—to both staff and customers—which merchandise is included.
Roby believes it’s her responsibility as a senior leader to support field staff to be successful. When she learns of customer complaints, her first reaction is to assess whether internal policies or procedures need to be improved or better communicated, or if training materials are effective enough.
“It’s one thing to develop an initiative on a white board at headquarters, but something completely different when it’s implemented in our restaurants or hotels,” she says. “We have to be sure we’re providing the right tools in the right ways to communicate and execute the vision.”
Roby readily admits that this perspective causes her to “manage down.” She views field staff as brand ambassadors and as the face of Hard Rock with customers. As a result, she makes it a priority to look beyond ROI forecasts and profit and loss statements to real-world operational details.
“I can stay focused on writing sweepstakes rules that no one but other lawyers will read, but I have to get out from behind my desk and engage with our staff,” Roby says. “Otherwise, I won’t know if a program actually works and if we’re meeting expectations.”
She also makes a point to deliver what she’s promised—often sooner than expected—and to be a helpful resource. That might mean proactively adjusting a clause in a contract that typically creates problems with potential events or clients. In addition, she never responds to inquiries with “that’s not my area.” Instead, she leverages her ten years of experience with the company to find answers.
“If I can assist staff members by finding the information they need, I hope that will be reflected in the attitude they bring to help create strong customer experiences,” Roby says.
Another way she strengthens her relationships within the company is by sending handwritten notes to thank colleagues for their efforts. Regardless of their title, she feels the personal connection creates a more productive, collaborative, and trusting work environment. And each year she visits at least one Hard Rock location she hasn’t been to before to meet the local teams face-to-face.
The relationships Roby has developed over the years were particularly helpful during her work on the second revision of Hard Rock’s loyalty program. It required collaboration among all the company’s business units to transition from a consumer points system to a surprise-and-delight model based on individual customer preferences. Roby says the experience taught her not to always “wear her lawyer hat” and enabled her to tap into her own personal preferences to help develop some of the member reward options.
Roby’s passion and dedication hasn’t stopped with staff and colleagues. It has extended to being part of Hard Rock’s mission to preserve and promote the musical legacies it helps curate and its mission to always give something back. She has also enjoyed protecting the Hard Rock brand—policing and investigating counterfeit merchandise produced in China and full-blown brick-and-mortar “pirate” imitations of its facilities. The accompanying global perspective and close ties with legal counsel in China were particularly gratifying and enlightening, Roby says. They were also instrumental in furthering the company’s goals when it opened the first Hard Rock Hotel in China.
However, in 2017, when the company announced the relocation of its headquarters away from Orlando, Roby faced a difficult decision. Using her mother as a professional role model, she also wanted to demonstrate to her own daughter, age five, the importance of her job and the passion she has had for doing it.
After struggling with the decision, Roby decided to follow her instincts and to stay in the community that she has become attached to, and where her daughter feels happy and at home.
“My job at Hard Rock has been so important to me that a part of me feels like I’m letting people down by leaving,” she says. “But sometimes significant career changes are forced upon us, and that doesn’t have to be a negative thing.”
The experience helped her come up with advice for other parents facing a similar career crossroad. “Balance your head, your heart, and your gut, you’ll find the right outcome for yourself and your family,” she says. “Ultimately, if you’re happy with your decision, the rest of your family will be, too.”
Photo: R.J. Nelson Photography