This is an interview with Craig Rosen, Founder and CEO of InterviewFocus.
Where were you at 22, and how did you get to where you are today?
At 22, I was a Beauty Care sales rep at P&G right out of Vanderbilt University. I worked long hours and learned how to make a sale in a cut-throat industry. However, I quickly realized that the large corporate structure was not for me. I discovered that I had a more entrepreneurial spirit and ventured out on my own. My first venture was with a mail order catalog start-up business of licensed sports merchandise and apparel. The business took off like a rocket and grew to over $100 million in sales over the next 10 years. After the company was sold to a large investment group in 1996, I decided to start another online/catalog of corporate awards and logo items. This company was quickly sold to Awards.com, which needed a foundation for their growing start up catalog conglomerate. Having loved children, sports and camps my entire life, I started my “dream” job of owning my own sports camp with my wife in 2001. We loved watching how camp improved the confidence of not only the campers (ages 8-15) but also the staff. This venture grew quickly and eventually was sold after 15 years of operation. Wanting to jump on the technology bandwagon, my latest business is InterviewFocus, which is an interview prep platform that evaluates people’s soft skills to perfect their interviews.
When did you really decide to “take ownership” of your career? What inspired you to pursue your passion?
I decided to “take ownership” of my career following my first job out of college. I was looking for a more entrepreneurial business venture and challenge. I’m a very independent person. My love and passion for sports and math have permeated all four of my start-up ventures. It gave me inspiration to take these passions and turn them into useful and successful business opportunities.
All good career stories include some aspect of “risk.” Was there a moment in your career where you felt that you were risking something, but looking back on it now, that move made all the difference?
I have been an avid risk-taker throughout my life. The key moment occurred when I gave up multiple MBA acceptances to pursue my dream job of starting up and running a licensed sports catalog company. I even paid the $200 to reserve my space at one select school because I thought I would be attending. Then, out of nowhere, a chance of a lifetime business venture came my way. Let’s just say that $200 was the best money I ever lost!
Where do you find significance in your work? What gives you the most satisfaction?
I’ve really enjoyed watching my employees grow and flourish at companies I have started and managed. It gives me the most satisfaction to see how my “preaching” about following your passion in life has led to many of my former employees’ success in their career paths. One in particular was a 12 year employee of mine who started fresh out of college with my sports catalog company. She took risks with my support and urging, and eventually became an essential marketing analyst at the NFL!
How do you measure success in your role? How do you know you’re succeeding?
I measure success by my ability to achieve challenging goals. These can range from sales to profitability to total expenses. In addition, I have always relied upon exceeding customer satisfaction goals and having repeat customers. Success is measured with reaching these goals and continuously achieving even higher objectives. One recent customer in my latest venture was an autistic student who’s behavior typically was belligerent and loud. After taking our mock interview a couple of times, this student calmed down and realized after seeing results that he could successfully have a job interview, despite his past behavioral issues. Once the career counselor for this student shared the story, I was moved to tears. This is how I know my program is successful which is very fulfilling.
If you could offer your 22-year old self one piece of advice, what would you say?
Be patient! There have been many times when I have been trying to build companies with many crucial decisions to be made at the same time. It’s been frustrating and difficult to rush into making the right decision. However, with patience it somehow all works itself out. Looking back now, there was not such immediacy to these decisions. I could have easily thought things through with a good night’s rest and the ability to be patient.