Lynda Resnick, vice chairman of Roll Global and the marketing force behind leading companies such as POM Wonderful and Teleflora, began her career as a child actress. Her business career began at the ripe old age of 19 after she left college to open her own advertising agency.
Resnick, the USC Marshall School of Business’ Bendheim Executive in Residence, spoke to Judith Blumenthal, professor of clinical management and organization at USC Marshall, about her career. Highlights of the conversation follow:
JB: You say in your book Rubies in the Orchard that you are able to sell ice to the Eskimos, but you decided not to do that. Could you tell us what it is that makes you such a great marketer?
LR: If I don’t believe in it, I can’t sell it. If I love something, I’m passionate about it and … that’s what has helped me in business. Also being a child star in a very limited way, I assure you, taught me to never be afraid of anyone or anything. I was never afraid of public speaking because I had worked in front of a large audience.
JB: In your book, one of the most striking things is the value system that has developed in you. I’d be very interested in hearing about where you had the opportunity to really make a contribution along those lines.
LR: A number of years ago, at a company called the Franklin Mint, we had to do a massive layoff. I got sick from it and I realized then – this was about 25 years ago – that it’s the responsibility of the business owner when you hire people to have a business that gives back and takes care of its employees, and it is frivolous to be in a business that isn’t.
JB: I am curious about how you do business your way, but also how having an in-house staff works.
LR: I have sayings like “think inside the box.” Everyone says think outside the box, but the problem is inside the box, and the solution is part of the problem. I don’t know how much I’ve done things my way. I didn’t have a traditional education, but if something works and it’s traditional, I’m the first one to do it. The in-house thing is big for us. We have 73 people in our legal department. We have a huge advertising agency in-house. We have a consulting group of 40 people – young MBAs straight out of school. That way we don’t have to rely on consultants. There are brilliant people in consulting, but often they come up with a plan but don’t stay there to see it implemented. It’s all about execution in life.
JB: What advice would you give to young students?
LR: What’s worked for me is just being true to myself and not allowing people to run me over or scream louder and say that something is true when it isn’t. America will survive during these very challenging times, but the recovery is going to take years. So, if you’re a student, I’d say go into a business that’s global. If you are in a standard business, make sure it has a global footprint. And if you can be entrepreneurial and do something on your own, you may have a chance to do that.
JB: With the state of business today, is there any one or two things that should be taught at business school that you want to make sure the next generation learns?
LR: Ethics, ethics, ethics, ethics. Look at the state we’re in. This is the time for ethics. This is what’s going to get us back on an even keel, to do the right thing, to care about our fellow man and give back to society. This is really something that I care about the most. If people really cared about humanity, they would take more time to do the right thing and give back because, in the end, we all suffer if our society disintegrates, don’t we? It touches all of us. We need young, wonderful people in business, but just keep it true.
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