Published by National Public Radio
Review: Charles Shapiro, president of the World Affairs Council of Atlanta
My favorite book of 2017 is not a book at all, but a podcast. In this age when there is no difference between an audiobook and a podcast, why not?
Each week, host Guy Raz interviews a different entrepreneur about how they built their business. Many of them are the founders of well-known companies – Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Samuel Adams Beer, Airbnb, WeWork. Others are companies I had never heard of like LearnInvest, Drybar and Framebridge. But each installment is fascinating as Guy Raz talks with the entrepreneur from concept to implementation. A few are well-planned ideas started by people with MBAs, but most of the entrepreneurs are driven by passion, hard work and good timing. Almost all struggled to find the capital they needed to scale up a small business. All brought in professional managers and CFOs as their companies grew. Most have sold their companies and no longer personally run them.
Guy Raz makes the entrepreneurs accessible. He asks about their childhood, their education and how they got their start. He always asks if their success was due to skill or to luck. My favorite answer comes from Robert Johnson, the founder of BET who explains that while technology advances made cable TV possible (timing), he was sure that African Americans would pay to watch content tailored for them. His research? He called a barber in Dothan, Ala., and asked if his customers would pay to watch Grambling football. The barber shouted the question to the shop and Johnson had his answer.
And there’s an Atlanta connection. Actually two. The very first episode is with Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx. You’ll love the story of how she develops Spanx while selling fax machines door-to-door.
The second Atlanta connection? In December, Raz did a live show at the Buckhead Theater with Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. The live interview lasted almost two hours. As an audience member, I found it fascinating. The How I Built This team now has the challenge of editing the garrulous and hilarious Arthur Blank down to 30 minutes for broadcast. I can’t wait to hear the finished show. And you don’t want to miss it. A new episode is available at 12:01 am every Monday through your favorite purveyor of podcasts. (Update: The Arthur Blank episode went live this week and is available on iTunes here.)