Linda Rottenberg: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris


RottenbergNamed one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News and one of TIME’s 100 “Innovators for the 21st century,” Linda Rottenberg is considered among the world’s most dynamic experts on entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership. Her pioneering work also earned her a host of nicknames: ABC and NPR declared her “the entrepreneur whisperer,” Tom Friedman dubbed her the world’s “mentor capitalist,” Business Insider named her “Ms. Davos,” and for years she was known as “la chica loca” (the crazy girl) for insisting that entrepreneurs existed not only in Silicon Valley but also in emerging markets around the world.

Rottenberg is Co-founder and CEO of Endeavor, the premier organization focusing on the scale-up phase of entrepreneurship. Headquartered in New York with 50 offices across the globe, Endeavor identifies, mentors, and co-invests in “high-impact” entrepreneurs: those with the biggest ideas, the likeliest potential to build companies that matter, and the greatest ability to inspire others. Since 1997, Rottenberg’s network has screened 40,000 candidates, handpicked 1,000 Endeavor Entrepreneurs, and helped them grow to provide 400,000 jobs and generate $7 billion annually.

Linda is also author of the New York Times bestseller, Crazy Is A Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags, published in October 2014. A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, Linda lives in Brooklyn with her husband, author and New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler, and their identical twin daughters.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Linda.

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Morris: When and why did you decide to write Crazy Is a Compliment?

Rottenberg: In my experience, some of the biggest obstacles to becoming a successful entrepreneur aren’t financial or structural—they are internal and psychological. A few years ago, I set out to write Crazy Is A Compliment to help people overcome those mental obstacles to success. It’s important for dreamers to believe in themselves and their ideas, to fend off the skeptics and find others who will share in their dreams. Once you understand that being called “crazy” is a compliment, you realize that you can get beyond other people’s opinions and zig when others zag. Nowadays, everyone has to learn to think and act more like an entrepreneur, and my book serves as a roadmap to getting started.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Rottenberg: While I started out writing a book to help everyday people learn to think and act more like entrepreneurs, I found that deep down I was also writing for my twin daughters Tybee and Eden. I especially wanted to prepare them for the world they’re about to enter, where careers paths are no longer straight; ladders have tumbled; and rats are less willing to run someone else’s race. They inspire me to go home every day so, as much as this book is for regular people, it also became a very personal pursuit.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Rottenberg: When I first sat down to write the book, I didn’t know exactly what the end-product would look like but I knew what I didn’t want it to be – it wouldn’t be a how-to manual for writing a business plan, an academic primer on the history of entrepreneurship, an inspirational graduation speech filled with feel-good bromides or a story of one person’s journey to success. Instead, I was going to try to offer an entrepreneurial roadmap, mined from my research and experience. What surprised me, however, was the sheer number of stories that I had never heard of – Veuve Clicquot, Pepperidge Farm, Burt’s Bees – that don’t often get told because they don’t follow the standard narrative of a college drop-out techie in a hoodie living in Silicon Valley. As I got deeper into my research, I felt an intense desire to bring these lesser-known stories to life.

Morris: Please explain the title.

Rottenberg: I was called “la chica loca” so many times when I launched Endeavor that I finally decided to own it! I hope others will too because if you plan to try something new, you should expect to be called nuts. You can’t rock the boat without being told you’re off your rocker. Entrepreneurs’ greatest asset is their contrarian way of thinking, their tendency to zig when others zag, to go in a new direction. But many people don’t give themselves permission to get going for fear that they will be called crazy. I say not only is crazy a compliment, but if you’re not called crazy when you start something new, then you’re not thinking big enough!

Morris: You identify four species of entrepreneur. What are the defining characteristics of each? First, Gazelles

Rottenberg: This is the classic entrepreneur of myth and reality, someone who starts a new business venture and aims for it to explode into a white-hot phenomenon. They are fast moving and jump high.

Morris: Skunks

Rottenberg: Skunks are also called intrapreneurs – those who start something new inside an existing large company. These are entrepreneurs who go out of their way to stink up the joint!

Morris: Dolphins

Rottenberg: Dolphins are contrarians in the non-profit and public sector, community groups, and social service organizations. They fight for change and new ideas that the establishment is slow to adopt or reluctant to even consider.

Morris: Butterflies

Rottenberg: Butterflies are the fastest growing group of all. These are small-scale or lifestyle entrepreneurs: the plumbers, yoga instructors, freelance writers, organic farmers, and artists. Forty percent of the American adults are working on their own, and 24 million more are expected to be self-employed in 2018.

Morris: Here are the names of five entrepreneurs. Which species? How so? First, Benjamin Franklin

Rottenberg: A politician, statesman, scientist, inventor, printer and author…is there anything Ben Franklin couldn’t do? For this reason, it’s almost impossible to categorize him as a single species. He is both a butterfly, who single-handedly produced some great inventions, and a dolphin, who shaped and guided the birth of this great nation.

Morris: Sam Walton

Rottenberg: A gazelle. We think of one-stop shopping today as a no-brainer business model but when Sam Walton first had the inspiration to create a discount store at age forty-four, his brother dismissed it as “just another of Sam Walton’s crazy ideas.” Walton is a great reminder that gazelles do not necessarily have to be technopreneurs.

Morris: Mary Kay Ash

Rottenberg: A skunk-gazelle. Mary Kay started out as a saleswoman for a household goods company where she had the innovative idea of hosting parties to encourage people to buy her wares. She then struck it big on her own, taking a bet on a new cosmetics formula that she marketed into a billion-dollar business.

Morris: Ted Turner

Rottenberg: A dolphin-gazelle. Turner was a pioneer in the media world, launching the first 24-hour cable news channel and the first superstation, among many other bold ventures, which sometimes overshadow the great philanthropic and environmental work he also did on the side.

Morris: Ron Popeil

Rottenberg: A butterfly. Popeil managed to build a personal brand for himself by coming up with dozens of gadgets and gizmos as well as the marketing slogans to sell them on TV. As a result, he is recognized today as the father of the infomercial. Popeil is a great example of how tiny butterflies can have an outsized impact even without a massive company behind them.

* * *

To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

Linda cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

Her website link

Twitter link

Endeavor link

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