Linda Rottenberg, Co-Founder of the global entrepreneurship network, Endeavour, knows something about starting a successful business. She’s helped to start 580 companies in 20 countries around the world.
In a recent interview with Skiddy von Stade, the CEO of finance career site, OneWire, Rottenberg offers two fascinating anecdotes and a killer piece of advice demonstrating how great entrepreneurs think differently.
Lets go with the stories first.
When Endeavour was just starting, Rottenberg flew down to Argentina for a mere 10-minute meeting with Eduardo Elsztain, an Argentine businessman who famously got a $US10 million investment from a meeting with George Soros. When she met him, she got right down to business. “Look,” she said, “I’m an entrepreneur, you’re an entrepreneur…I want your time, your passion, and $US200,000.” And Elsztain turns to his colleague and said in Spanish, “This girl is crazy.”…A few minutes later, Rottenberg walked out of the office with a check for $US200,000.
But of course, being an entrepreneur isn’t always about charging into a situation. Sometimes you have to trust your team and be really honest with them and yourself.
“I used to think that as a female leader, I had to be very tough and invincible and keep my private life separate.” Then, Rottenberg’s husband, the author Bruce Feiler, was diagnosed with bone cancer. “When I came back [to work],” Rottenberg recalls, “I was very open, I occasionally cried…I was vulnerable for the first time. And the young people here who worked for me said, ‘Linda we always admired you, but you were kind of superhuman…in a kind of scary way. When you showed us your vulnerable self, you became a real person to us, and in fact it made us want to follow you more.'”
Rottenberg couldn’t have done any of this if she was afraid of failure. That means taking risks, or as she puts it, “smart risks.”
“The riskiest thing of all is to take no risk at all,” she said closing the interview. “Your job is not going to be stable, the company you work for is not going to be stable, so you might as well learn to take smart risks in the pursuit of big dreams… There’s ways to de-risk that risk along the way, but you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and if you do you can take charge of your life and write your own story.”
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