Russ W. Rosenzweig is an entrepreneur and philanthropist best known for founding Round Table Group, the world’s largest expert witness search and referral firm. Mr. Rosenzweig served as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from 1993 until the acquisition of the company by Thomson Reuters in 2010.
Since then, Rosenzweig has launched several other expert-related ventures and philanthropies. While he has a lot of pride in his ongoing expert witness endeavors, executive education programs, and the confidential leadership coaching work that he does for executives and entrepreneurs, he is most proud of the intense and focused work he’s doing in the context of Middle East peace: the World Ventures Group
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some ways that your various businesses can help take clients from “Success to Significance?”
Russ: My “compass” is based on arête – the ancient Greek virtue that implies excellence in all things and the ability to reach the highest levels of human potential. They say leadership is about choosing what NOT to do. So I limit my time and work to this barometer. Whether I am starting a venture, coaching entrepreneurs, or engaging in reconciliation efforts, I try to ensure that arête is being achieved. More specifically, I connect people with experts and expertise, with coaches and mentors who have “been there/done that.” Frankly this is all I’ve been doing since I graduated from Northwestern in 1993 and is the only thing I’m great at (what are you great at and are you doing it?) The only difference is that now, as opposed to 20 years ago when I got started in the expert business, it is infinitely cheaper and easier to connect with experts. It’s gotten to the point where if you are not engaging with coaches and experts, you are simply not operating at a mastery level. Experto crede.
BusinessInterviews.com: “What advice would you give to a leader who, arête aside, simply wants to achieve revenue growth?”
Russ: First, in a nod to something I learned from Swami Parthasarathy when I studied with him in India, I feel that the work of an entrepreneur is to strive, to struggle, not to succeed. If the entrepreneurial endeavor is in and of itself good, honest, useful, true and just, then simply be on the journey for its own sake and reward. Set a mission and stick to it. Profits will follow and, if they don’t, it’s time to change the business plan! Philosophical musings aside, the key to my success as a leader can be simplys: delegate, and follow up. Delegation is an art that requires nuance and skill. But delegation is only 20%: it’s the following up that’s the more difficult 80%. If the delegated task is not done, it is the leader’s fault. To achieve mastery-level follow up I utilize technology and am in love with an app called MailTags that plugs into MacMail. It allows me to annotate e-mails and to “re-schedule” messages to appear at certain times and date. Through this I have been able to achieve the holy grail of personal productivity: every day at 5:00 my in box is empty , and I hope no “open loops” or worries in my head. My work is optimized and focused from early morning until 4 PM. After that I spend time with my wife, read classics, or ride my bike.
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you think that your special interest in the interrelationship of management, the liberal arts, and music influences your leadership style?
Russ: Yes. I think the era of the “dictator leaders” is over. In my opinion, to lead is to serve, period. I’m a big fan of the liberal arts and prefer to hire people who are well studied in the classic texts and philosophy. Art and culture also plays an extremely important role in leadership and in my newest area of focus, reconciliation, and I’m especially engaged on a project at the Maison Florsheim in Chicago (www.florsheimmansion.com) that seeks to bring the finest artistic talent from throughout the conflict areas Middle East to Chicago. In an unusual twist, all the funding comes from fans from the other side of the conflict. As they say, Concordia discors.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some emerging trends that you’re excited about or think that our readers should be paying attention to?
Russ: Actually, I’m moving away from trendiness and going back to the classics in my thinking and work. Thoroughness, rigor, patience, and making money the old fashioned way: by earning it.
BusinessInterviews.com: What did you find most surprising or compelling during your recent studies in applying ancient wisdom to modern business with the renowned Swami Parthasarathy?
Russ: There are too many to name here, but if I have to state one, it is to meditate deeply and intensely on what “success” means to you. Earlier in my life, as a highly successful entrepreneur in my 20s, success meant acquiring things. Bigger houses, extravagant trips, expensive restaurants, and fancy watches were my particular raptures (what are yours?) It’s kind of like a drug: once you “taste” this kind of false success, it become and all-consuming fire, requiring you to make more and more money, to ravenously feed the monster of acquisitiveness. Eventually it catches up with you and usually ends in a crash. Swami taught me to focus rather on an rich inner world of happiness that is achieved at the intersection of spirituality and action/leadership. There are plenty of action-oriented leaders. And there are plenty of spiritual beings. But having both together, now that is a worthy cause to which I zealously aspire.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you give to a company or individual who is interested in becoming more involved in philanthropy but isn’t sure where to start?
Russ: I don’t really have advice per se. I’m not an expert on philanthropy. Frankly I never really was into that sort of thing beyond writing a few checks here and there to worthy causes such as my beloved Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and secretly handing out McDonald’s gift cards to the homeless in Chicago. My philanthropic zeal came after visiting Israel and the West Bank and meeting numerous Palestinian entrepreneurs. It all just clicked for me – I could use entrepreneurship as a means to bring prosperity, peace, and enlightenment to the region. For myself, I only have three gifts, three things that I’m good at. Inspiring people. Connecting people. And creating/accelerating successful startups. I could use those (few, admittedly) gifts to help entrepreneurs in areas of conflict, by connecting them with benefactors and coaches from the OTHER SIDE of the conflict. It was the incredible life-defining moment that hit me at age 43 and I am extremely focused and dedicated to this effort. What are your 3 gifts? And how can you use them to change the world?
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