In today’s world, the mystique of the “founder” looms large. For many nowadays, superheroes don’t just wear capes or appear in the latest summer blockbuster but are instead the builders of successful companies. But one might be surprised to hear that Guy Raz—the journalist, author and host of the NPR’s popular podcast “How I Built This” —doesn’t subscribe to this view of entrepreneurs.
Raz would certainly know; he’s interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs for “How I Built This” and his book of the same name, which was released in September 2020. Raz joined Chris Dimuria, Head of National Sales, UBS Wealth Management US, and James Jack, Head of the Business Owners Client Segment, for a conversation that was part of UBS' My Business, My Legacy program.
The program brings business owner clients together to share stories about how business and legacy are inextricably linked. Raz touched on a wide variety of topics in his discussion with Dimuria and Jack, from his start in journalism and podcasting to conveying some of his most interesting learnings from the successful entrepreneurs as it relates to legacy, impact and resilience during COVID-19.
Raz discussed his own career journey, in which he started out as a war correspondent in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Raz also shared what he sees as the special traits of some of today’s larger-than-life entrepreneurs. He told behind the scenes stories of the start of companies like Allbirds, Spanx, Eventbrite, Luke’s Lobster and Impossible Foods, highlighting fascinating similarities among these beginnings, as well as pointing out the different routes the founders of these companies took.
A common quality among successful entrepreneurs, according to Raz is tenacity. “Failure is essential to eventual success,” says Raz, “To be able to get to a ‘yes’ you have to be able to understand the ‘nos.’” For example, after beginning her career in sales (something else Raz recommends for those interested in entrepreneurship), Sara Blakely sought help from local textile manufacturers in North Carolina to build her single proof of concept for what would become Spanx. It was only after a long series of rejections that she succeeded in convincing one manufacturer to produce her proof of concept.
Raz hopes that the stories of successful entrepreneurs will inspire others to think creatively and try to solve the world’s next set of problems. It was this hope that inspired him to write “How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most inspiring Entrepreneurs.”
When discussing legacy, he said, “I think legacy, increasingly today, is intertwined with mission. I believe the best entrepreneurs, the best organizations, bake mission into their idea from the very beginning. Mission can change, it can evolve—and it should evolve—but legacy and mission are increasingly one in the same.” Raz views legacy for business owners as more than just leaving money to the next generation or charity, but increasingly solving important challenges. Developing sneakers that were comfortable, but importantly sustainable and as environmentally circular as possible was a key driver for the founders of Allbirds. Combating climate change that result from the production of meat was a driver for the founder of Impossible Foods.
So why doesn’t Raz think we should be looking to these entrepreneurs as superheroes? Ultimately, Raz believes that we can all be entrepreneurial and can make the choice to acquire the skills that help create a successful entrepreneur. “It’s so important to understand that these people that many of us mythologize are actually just like us.”
It’s reassuring to know that we can all learn from entrepreneurs and work to make an impact or show resilience in the face in enormous challenges and adapt. The difficulties of 2020 certainly reinforce the value of advice from someone who knows you and understands you, your family, your business and your priorities. Our UBS purpose statement, which is really our core value, is to help our clients improve their lives and create legacies that matter.
Speak with your UBS Financial Advisor and learn more about how your business can navigate the current environment or by visiting the UBS Business Owner Resilience Center. Also, visit the UBS Flight Paths homepage for more on Entrepreneurs and their journeys.