LINDA ROTTENBERG - Co-Founder & CEO, Endeavor
Linda Rottenberg, Co-Founder & CEO, Endeavor
A little over a decade ago, I was riding in a taxi in Argentina, and the driver told me he had a PhD in Engineering. “Why don’t you become an entrepreneur?” I asked. “A what?” he answered. Realizing there wasn’t even a word in Spanish for entrepreneur, I set out to create Endeavor, an organization that helps innovators in developing countries—from Argentina to South Africa—reach their high-impact potential.
In addition to being a CEO, I’m a full-time wife and mom to five-year-old identical twin daughters. Through trial and error, here are some personal and professional lessons I’ve learned along the way:
- Don’t fall in the trap of “too many options.” Call me contrary, but I never liked the mantra to “always keep your options open.” Too many options are a distraction and can lead to a kind of paralysis. At every life stage, instead of trying to do everything available, I’ve looked for specific ways to fill a need or bridge a gap—and focused my energy accordingly.
- Work-life balance? Technology helps. I’ll be honest: running a franchise in 11 countries while balancing family life isn’t always easy. But I’ve learned to make some adjustments. For instance, I travel much less than I used to (only a handful of trips each year) and rely much more on the web. From email and Skype to teleconferences and online social networks, technology allows me to literally be “everywhere at once.” And for a working mom, that’s a blessing!
- Follow your passion, and help others follow theirs. For me, these two things are one and the same. In fact my main goal was never to create a successful organization for myself, but to give others the resources to make their own organizations succeed. Of course, call it karma or the “boomerang effect,” but this approach has paid off on both fronts. Whether it’s helping entrepreneurs or attending to your customers’ needs, an “other-centered” approach is a great way to do business.
- Psychic equity goes a long way. People do their best work when they feel empowered. I often talk about what I call “psychic equity”—granting employees a sense of ownership over the mission and strategy of the company or organization. Even if you can’t offer million-dollar bonuses or stock options, you can offer this value. So whether you’re a job seeker, employee, or the head of an organization, take a lesson from the nonprofit playbook: a sense of ownership goes a long way, and won’t ever lose its worth.
- Craziness can be a compliment! When I started Endeavor, many people said I was crazy. They said there were no entrepreneurs in emerging markets, and no philanthropists. At first, I took it hard. But gradually I learned to use critiques to my advantage. “Crazy” is what helped me look for the need, the opportunity. “Crazy” made me focus. Every day, our entrepreneurs reinforce this lesson for me. These are folks who have been called “crazy” all their lives for their untraditional ideas. And they all share an ability to listen and learn from critics, while sticking to their guns when it matters most.
Linda Rottenberg is one of the world's leading social entrepreneurs. Her international nonprofit, Endeavor (endeavor.org), identifies and supports High-Impact Entrepreneurs in emerging markets. These entrepreneurs are given world-class strategic advice, access to key networks and other tools that will catapult them to success, generate jobs, and become role models for others.
Also featured on The Women’s Conference site: “A Father’s Ten Lessons for His Daughters,” a post by Linda’s husband, Bruce Feiler.