chicago, illinois. | wife. business advisor. author. media personality. speaker. leader.

Carol Roth makes people think, makes them laugh, and makes them money.  She is a national media personality (currently as an on-air contributor for CNBC and formerly as a radio host for WGN), ‘recovering’ investment banker, entrepreneur, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Entrepreneur Equation.”

As a deal-maker, Carol has helped clients complete more than $2 billion in transactions, including capital raising, mergers and acquisitions, licensing, joint venture and partnership deals, plus create seven-figure brand loyalty programs. Carol also acts as a brand spokesperson, ambassador, and adviser for a number of companies and brands that are seeking to reach a broader audience, with a focus on those looking to reach small business owners and entrepreneurs. She is a noted small business advocate and was named a Top 100 Small Business Influencer for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and has been a director of a publicly traded technology/media company. Carol is also a huge professional sports fan, especially of NFL football, and has an action figure made in her own likeness.

I follow her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth and Facebook. She is smart, edgy, and constantly shares relevant information. I enjoy learning from her and knew she would add a great deal to the j. jane conversation. After all, she is one of the most successful business advisors in the country and she has her own action figure … how many people can say that? Enjoy today’s highlight!


How did you choose your career path and was it a conscious decision?

I always start with a conscious decision, but of course, there are surprises that pop-up along the way that keeps things interesting.  Neither of my parents graduated from college, so I had to largely self-fund my education and was graduating back in 1995 with $40,000 in student loans.  I knew that I wanted to pay it off as quickly as possible, while getting the best training and most responsibility.  There were two obvious choices: for those people who liked to deep-dive into a subject, they went into management consulting.  For those who had A.D.D., they went into investment banking so they could work on a number of different transactions simultaneously.  That’s how I ended up in investment banking.

I chose a firm (Montgomery Securities) which was a meritocracy and I thrived- I was a Vice President and officer of the firm by the age of 25, which is unheard of on “Wall Street”.  But, I never wanted to be the world’s best investment banker- my initial choice served a purpose.  Once I had financial security- and a lot of expertise- I got something else—flexibility.  That allowed me to make choices, like media, that more aligned with what I wanted to be doing.

 

You graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. What is the best advice you can give to college students on choosing a career?

I have two pieces of advice.  First, as alluded to previously, the best thing that money can buy you is flexibility.  So, making and saving money as early as possible allows you the freedom to pursue other avenues with much less stress in the future.  In my opinion, this has incredible value.

The other piece of advice, which may seem contradictory to my first piece of advice (but really isn’t), is that successful people will find a way to be successful in whatever arena they choose, so be willing to take a job that you think is underneath you if you can get a foot in the door.  It’s often easier to work your way up from the inside and you sometimes need to step back to make a giant leap forward.

But, you have to know yourself.  For me, because of the burden having so much debt would have been on me early on, it was the right decision to take care of that first, and then be willing to take a step back later.

 

Did anyone ever try to discourage you from choosing your career? If so, how did you handle the situation?

I can’t think of anyone who tried to discourage me from anything of substance.  Or maybe they did, and I didn’t listen.  Usually, when someone tells me I can’t do something that in and of itself is a source of motivation.

 

What is the most difficult thing you have ever done?

For me, the most difficult thing I face each day is getting out of my bed.  I am not kidding.  Once I can get out of bed, everything else pales in comparison.

 

What has been your greatest lesson learned?

The biggest lesson that I have ever learned is to think big.  There are only 24 hours in each day, and we need to sleep, shower (hopefully), watch TV, etc., so why spend your precious time working on something small?  It often takes the same amount of energy—sometimes even less—to pursue something on a small scale as it does something on a larger scale, so I always push myself to think bigger.

The hardest lesson that I have ever learned is to be patient.  I remember even early on in my career, a senior partner at the investment bank told me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”.  I work very quickly and not everyone else can keep pace, which becomes very frustrating at times, so I do my best to exercise as much patience as I can muster.  It’s the hardest exercise that I do!

 

What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?

I don’t want to live a graceful life.  I want to live a clunky but rich real life.  Grace takes too much effort and is too stiff.  I am very authentic and believe that life is about those highs and lows—all of the emotions and experience which are not graceful in any way, shape or form.


 j. jane side note:

If you are not currently following this no nonsense leader, I highly recommend you do so now. Visit CarolRoth.com and follow her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth and Facebook.

Learn. Grow. Enjoy.