What many CEO’s have in common…

Posted by Liz May 2nd, 2013

For the past eight years, I have been writing about CEOs for Inc Magazine. Dream job. The very first was a feature I wrote about Fred Carl, the founder of Viking Stoves. That piece focused on Carl’s love FHBAC1-bkt_22890for his hometown, Greenwood, Mississippi, where he built his fancy stove empire (It has since sold to Middleby Corp; Carl reportedly resigned in January this year as CEO. I may need to go back to Greenwood.) Breaks my heart frankly as Carl’s commitment to his company, and the people of Greenwood, were the soul of that story. But his passion–when talking about stoves, or his mom’s cooking, or recreating the Greenwood of his youth, this time to include everyone–moved me. I have since written dozens of stories about CEO’s and company foundersand have seen that kind of eye sparkle and breathlessness often: Matt Mullenweg as he spoke about creating a “new, more democratic printing press” in WordPress; Essie Weingarten about the power of a pedicure in making women feel good about themselves; and one of my all time favorite reporting moments; Jerry Murrell getting misty eyed talking about french fries. Murrell claims the best fry has to do with the water content in the potato: I’d venture that the best CEO has to do with the deep love for what he or she does. Take Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada: the man loves beer! And Zulily’s Darrell Cavens gets excited when he meets a mom at his kid’s school or a birthday party who is also a customer and fan. Even Michael Arrington, who someone once described to me as a “cosmic stinker”, locked eyes with me and said, “I love entrepreneurs!” And I believe him.  It’s that zeal that keeps these folks going and is the key to their success.  Gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them up well into the night.  As Gary Hirshberg told me years ago, “[as a company founder], you best love what you are doing because you need to do it day in and out for years before you get traction.” Amazingly, many of them–with the exception of Fred Carl– are still doing whatever “IT” is for each day in and out. It is that kind of tireless dedication that makes them successful. Which is all the more reason I need to go check in on Fred, find out, what happened?

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