International Women's Day: Linda Rottenberg

Linda Rottenberg, CEO and Co-founder, Endeavor
March 2, 2015

Since the early 1900’s, International Women’s Day has been observed throughout the world, inspiring women and celebrating their achievements. ‘Make It Happen’ is the 2015 theme, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women. In honor of this, First Republic Bank would like to share the inspiring perspectives of some of our exceptional female clients.

Linda Rottenberg is an American businesswoman and New York Times bestselling author. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of Endeavor, a non-profit organization that pioneered the field of high-impact entrepreneurship and she is a frequent lecturer at Fortune 500 companies. Named one of 100 “Innovators for the 21st century” by Time Magazine, she is considered one of the world’s most dynamic experts on entrepreneurship, emerging markets, innovation, and leadership. We spoke with Linda about her book, accomplishments and tips for entrepreneurs.

1. Endeavor is the first global organization to focus on the "scale-up" phase of entrepreneurship. Please tell us more about what endeavor does.

Entrepreneurship exists everywhere but most ventures never scale beyond the mom and pop phase. Endeavor was started 15 years ago as a non-profit organization to help ambitious, high potential entrepreneurs build large, successful companies in order to create jobs and jump start economies. We focus on finding mentors for these entrepreneurs and introducing them to a worldwide network of resources and talent who can help them. The businesses supported range from a chain of beauty salons in Brazil to a satellite company in Argentina, an Egyptian medical lab and a kebab chain in Indonesia. We have helped over 1,000 entrepreneurs over the past 15 years. Their businesses have created over 400,000 jobs and generated nearly $7 billion of combined revenues at year-end 2014. 

2. You have recently published a book, "Crazy is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone else Zags" - Can you speak a bit about the book? 

In my experience some of the biggest obstacles to becoming a successful entrepreneur are internal and psychological. That’s why I wrote Crazy Is A Compliment, to help people overcome those 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 and going big.

3. What accomplishment are you most proud of? 

Personally, my proudest achievement is being the mother of two identical twin girls. 

From an  Endeavor perspective, we initially focused on emerging markets but in the past few years realized that there are plenty of cities in southern Europe and the United States that need Endeavor’s help as well. In 2012 we launched an affiliate in Greece and one in Miami, FL. Last month we announced a move into Detroit. I’m particularly proud to see us supporting US entrepreneurs and to see that our model works everywhere. Despite the success of Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley there are plenty of places in the US where entrepreneurs need support. And US entrepreneurship is not just about tech. We’re finding all kinds of great businesses here. One of my favorites is a gluten free packaged cookie and bake mix company called Ginny Bakes. Look out for this business to grow dramatically.

4. If you could turn the clock back to when you were starting your career, what advice would you give yourself? 

It’s not just enough to have a great idea. You need to build a team if you want to “think big” and grow.  In the past five years I was finally able to build a strong executive team around me – with the support of a very engaged board – and really take Endeavor to new heights. I should have done that sooner.

5. If you could give one tip to entrepreneurs starting out, what would it be? 

Finding a mentor – in fact, multiple mentors – is the most critical key to building a successful venture. I have been lucky enough to have a number of people who provided critical advice along the way; they still do. And, as I point out in my book, don’t just focus on older mentors. Find peers and even folks younger than you.  They all bring valuable perspective.

6. Who has been a role model to you in your life/career and why?

Edgar Bronfman, Jr. became the board chair of Endeavor in 2004. At the time he told me that Endeavor needed to grow much faster. He said that we needed to move from being “charming” to being “relevant” and challenged me to expand to from 8 countries to 25 by the year 2015. I’m pleased to say that we will meet that goal by the end of this year! Edgar has served as both a mentor and role model, providing just the right mix of prodding and encouragement.

7. This year's theme for International Women's Day is 'Make it Happen', encouraging effective action for advancing and recognizing women. What do you think is the most important action a woman can take in her life to meet her own vision for success? 

As I mentioned above, I have found that the biggest barriers to success as an entrepreneur are not strategic or financial. They’re mental. Push away those mental barriers and believe in yourself. Don’t listen to naysayers. Give your ideas a chance to succeed or not and don’t wait for everything to fall into place.

8. What would you like your legacy to be?

I want to leave a world where anyone who dreams of trying something new won’t be afraid to think BIG and get ‘crazy’. I wrote my book, Crazy Is A Compliment, for people who are joining companies, leaving companies, starting companies, or changing companies from within, and many who will never set foot in companies at all. I wrote it for anybody who wants to take risks but wants to do it without risking it all. Deep down I was also writing for my twin daughters Tybee and Eden. I especially want 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. In short, I want to leave a world where everyone can learn to be an entrepreneur in everyday life.