Opportunity Knocking: Lessons from Business Leaders


Known as the producer with the trillion-dollar Rolodex, Lori Ann LaRocco knows how to get business leaders and entrepreneurs to talk. Many of the world’s most well-known executives are so trusting of LaRocco, senior talent producer at CNBC, that she consistently gets scoops on billion-dollar deals before anyone else. In her newest book, Opportunity Knocking, LaRocco uses her close relationships with these organizational leaders to tell their stories—many of which have never been previously revealed, but offer ...

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Known as the producer with the trillion-dollar Rolodex, Lori Ann LaRocco knows how to get business leaders and entrepreneurs to talk. Many of the world’s most well-known executives are so trusting of LaRocco, senior talent producer at CNBC, that she consistently gets scoops on billion-dollar deals before anyone else. In her newest book, Opportunity Knocking, LaRocco uses her close relationships with these organizational leaders to tell their stories—many of which have never been previously revealed, but offer brilliant insights into their minds.

In Opportunity Knocking, readers will learn the full stories and secrets of success from some of the world's smartest, most innovative leaders, such as Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s strategy for creating a culture of promise that revitalized the American auto industry. This book provides real-world examples from leaders like Mulally and turns them into actionable, proven strategies for identifying and acting on opportunities.

What makes Opportunity Knocking stand apart is the diversity of individuals who offer real-world strategies and advice instead of just one person’s opinion or vision. From the assembly line to the C-suite, Opportunity Knocking will provide both inspiration and a blueprint for achieving success by recognizing the right opportunity—and seizing it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her latest book, LaRocco (Dynasties of the Sea: The Shipowners and Financiers Who Expanded the Era of Free Trade) targets a wide audience—company owners, employees, and entrepreneurs—looking for inspiration and guidance in furthering their careers, but falls short in delivering enough specific information to get readers off the starting blocks. On the one hand, she provides a slew of engaging profiles of business leaders, including oilman Harold Hamm, Ford CEO Alan Mulalley, and AOL co-founder Steve Case. But when it comes to extracting lessons from these success stories, LaRocco tends to falls flat, relying on worn insights that already overwhelm the subject area: "Pay attention to people and culture in order to execute your plans effectively." Had LaRocco simply published a collection of successful business leaders, detailing their successful maneuvering around obstacles and career roadblocks and setbacks, this would have been a much stronger book. Instead, feeble admonitions like "love what you do" or know "what sets you apart" do little to inspire readers. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"A must-read filled with big ideas from some of the best in business. LaRocco breaks down the steps to achieving success with a unique and actionable strategy. Compelling." —Donald Trump

"[Opportunity Knocking] is great! Well done!! The content should be very valuable to business people at all levels. I was particularly enamored with the creativity of how LaRocco presented the material...and how she provides advice depending on whether you are an owner, a manager, employee, [or] entrepreneur."—Dick Kovacevich, former Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO

"An excellent book and a must read! Lori Ann [LaRocco] has effectively captured key leadership best practices from which we can all learn and truly benefit. She has shown us a clear path to success in business. Her format and organization of the material is itself a benchmark best practice. This has now become my go-to handbook." —Bob Nardelli, Former Chairman and CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler; Founder, Chairman and CEO of XLR-8

"Opportunity has a way of making a soft tap-tap on your door. Smart entrepreneurs listen for these signals—they have ears specifically attuned to the sound.... Lori Ann LaRocco, focuses on the sound of these opportunities—from how to take advantage of a burgeoning industry to how to take on a challenge that's bigger than just one company." —Inc.

"In her latest book, LaRocco targets a wide audience—company owners, employees, and entrepreneurs—looking for inspiration and guidance in furthering their careers...[providing] a slew of engaging profiles of business leaders." —Publishers Weekly

"Lori Ann LaRocco shares real-world examples from some of the world's smartest, most innovative leaders about how they prepare for, identify and embrace opportunities. Weaving in her own analysis, experiences and wisdom, she shows readers how to apply these leaders' strategies and lessons to their own unique circumstances."—SUCCESS magazine

"Great writer, interviewer, and conceptual thinker—Lori Ann LaRocco has it all." —Ron Baron, Chairman and CEO, Baron Capital Group

"The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is successful people do all the things unsuccessful people don’t want to do...when an opportunity presents itself. It is those who take action—time after time—that finally succeed, regardless of the adversity that presents itself. Lori Ann LaRocco breaks down these differences nicely in her book, Opportunity Knocking." —John Paul Dejoria, CEO & Co-Founder John Paul Mitchell Systems and CEO Patrón Spirits Company

"Lori Ann LaRocco has the access and knowledge that brings a different perspective to the economy, finance and executives. She strikes a cord with the readers and helps them see business and executives in a different light." —Mike Jackson, Chairman and CEO of AutoNation

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932841879
  • Publisher: Agate
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Pages: 152
  • Sales rank: 960,712
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lori Ann LaRocco

Lori Ann LaRocco is the senior talent producer at CNBC and C-Suite Insider columnist for CNBC.com. She has worked at CNBC since 2000, when she was hired as one of Maria Bartiromo's producers on Market Week. She lives outside of New York City with her husband and three children.

Dick Armey is the former House Majority Leader (1995–2003) and was one of the chief authors of the Contract with America. He is the former chairman of FreedomWorks.

Wilbur L. Ross is the chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co. LLC. He lives in Palm Beach, FL.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
The Opportunity Pyramid

Over the course of my two plus decades interviewing people who range from the owner of a corner deli to billionaire business owners, I have found that no regardless of their income, their entrepreneurial spirit is the same. Sure, the amount in their bank accounts varies greatly, but these individuals all share common strengths which have enabled them to reach success. These common strengths make up the opportunity pyramid.

After my first book Thriving in the New Economy and my second Dynasties of the Sea, I have had the privilege of meeting CEOs, small businessmen and aspiring entrepreneurs at various speaking engagements around the United States and they all ask me the same questions: 'how do these leaders think?' 'what kind of strategies they use?' and my answer to those questions were always the same which ignited a spark inside me inspiring me to write this book and breakdown the process in which these leaders define and execute on opportunity.

The ah-ha moment came to me one night after I was traveling back from Florida after speaking in front of 500 small businessmen. As I was stuck in the Miami airport because of severe weather and sitting on the floor with hundreds of other stranded travelers, I had an epiphany. At that time I was reviewing the conversations I had earlier in the day. The strategies that I described in my keynotes were not associated with a particular industry. They were stand alone and relied on a series of other fundamentals in order for these leaders to achieve success. I broke down these different layers and formed what I call "The Opportunity Pyramid".

In this book, I chose to highlight each level of the pyramid with a single leader. We’ll see how each leader created a blueprint within their layer including how they analyzes the competitive landscape and seized a particular opportunity—important traits regardless of the level. On this journey you'll learn strategies from Harold Hamm, America's richest oilman who has a high school education, Ralph Schlosstein a private equity titan, culinary queen Paula Deen, Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins, the three founders of the founders of the internet powerhouse BlogHer, auto executive Alan Mulally, finance chief Ron Kruszewski and another private equity titan, David Rubenstein who blazed the trail in China (long before anyone ventured into the Middle Kingdom).

True leaders need to blaze their own trails and create their own opportunities. An opportunity does not automatically result in success. It is how you use that opportunity that makes the difference. This book will take look at the process of differentiating good opportunities from bad ones.

While their reasons to embark on their careers were all different, from putting food on the table for their kids, being dissatisfied with their current careers, to rebuilding a dynasty whose opportunity pyramid crumbled after years of straying away from its core principals; the strategies they used are all the same. Take the industry and motivation out of the equation- The Opportunity Pyramid breaks down the steps these leaders have used in order to attain success in their respective fields.

The essence to this pyramid is the critical decision making process one must do while building each layer. One of the biggest misconceptions about leadership is that it is measured in monetary success. That couldn't be further from the truth. Leadership does not correlate with the size of a bank account. Leadership has no price tag. It comes from within. You own it. You develop it. How you look at yourself and define who you are and the way you execute your plan defines you as a leader. Empower yourself with the confidence that you can achieve what you set out to do. And it all starts will creating and developing your own opportunity pyramid. The motivation behind the creation your pyramid may be different than these leaders in this book but the formula you will use is the same.

Let's Get Building

Just like the great pyramids of Egypt, where each layer is carefully placed on top of the layer beneath it in order to create a structure that is perfectly oriented to the points of a compass, the opportunity pyramid is the base of entrepreneurial success. The opportunity pyramid creates a true north for each of us to achieve our goals.

Passion always plays a significant part in attaining success, but it’s only one of seven layers in the opportunity pyramid:

1. Knowing yourself
2. Building your knowledge
3. Defining your opportunity strategy and sticking with it
4. Stoking your inner passion
5. Staying the course
6. Execution
7. Thinking ahead: World Domination.

There is no secret sauce to success, nor is there a one size fits all strategy. What the opportunity pyramid does is make you think and look within yourself. The opportunity pyramid is a customized approach to succeeding. It's all about you. Throughout this book you will learn that honesty, determination and passion all help build the opportunity pyramid. Just as each of us defines opportunities differently,, defining success is personalized as well. No matter what the industry the leaders in this book are in, the opportunity pyramid works because it is based on their talents and how they make the best use of them.

We all know achieving your goals does not happen overnight. It takes time, patience, and nurturing. You have to analyze your business brick by brick, layer by layer. The pieces need to fit together like a puzzle. Without all the pieces in place, the pyramid collapses. All the layers within a structure need to be be defined and strong; constructing and fortifying the opportunity pyramid is no different.

The opportunity pyramid in essence is a blueprint on how leaders analyze the competitive landscape and seize a particular opportunity. In order to lead you need knowledge, confidence and passion. This book will have advice from some of the world's biggest business names on how they define opportunity, define success and the process they take when differentiating between good opportunities from bad ones. Remember not all opportunities are created equal. You need to have a checklist to run the opportunity against to see if it is right for you.

In order to get started the first thing you need to do is look within yourself. What the Opportunity Pyramid makes you do is think. You need to take a hard honest look at yourself. The opportunity pyramid is a customized approach to leading. It's all about you. Throughout this book you will learn that honesty, determination and passion all help build the opportunity pyramid. Just like when you define opportunity, the way you view success is personalized as well. That is why no matter what the industry these leaders are in the opportunity pyramid works because it is based on their talents and principals.

We all know achieving your goals does not happen overnight. It takes time; patience; and nurturing. You have to analyze your business, your career or your dreams, brick by brick, layer by layer. All the elements are like pieces to a puzzle. Without one, it is incomplete. All the layers within the structure need to be be defined and strong. Constructing and fortifying the layers of the opportunity pyramid is essential in order to achieve the apex- world domination.

To start on the building process you need to know yourself, so you can identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you can decide if you have the competitive edge when assessing a certain opportunity. How can you distinguish between a good opportunity or bad opportunity if you don't know what you want to achieve or how you are going to go about it?

That's where you assess your knowledge and grade yourself. You need to be more than competent. You have to strive to be the best. It applies to every level in the business food chain. Your boss wants the best out of you because an organization thrives and grows on strong employees who they can count on and who execute at a high level. If you are a small business owner, you not only want yourself to be a top performer, you want your employees to work hard and excel. In order to be successful you have to be at the peak of performance. That's a necessary ingredient in service. This level is also essential to the aspiring entrepreneur because you need to sharpen your skills so you can take the plunge.

If you are at a cross roads in going to the "next level" of your business, career or your aspiring career, you may have to look into expanding your knowledge with business classes or mentoring. In reality you never stop learning. You normal internalize whatever life lessons and experiences that come your way. These two fundamentals will give you the courage and the conviction in defining your opportunity strategy and sticking with it.

Since I'm a journalist, I love to take notes and make lists because it helps me stay the course. With daily deadlines you have to keep your focus, its imperative. When you are making your list and checking off each "to do" it stokes your inner passion to achieving your goals.

The thrill of knowing you are on your way can be intoxicating but you have to make sure your execution is dead on. You can't let the emotional highs and lows along the way cloud your judgement. You are so close to achieving your goals, you can't go half-way in your efforts or do knee-jerk reactions. If you want something bad enough you have to make sure your plan works and if for some reason it doesn't you have to make sure your backup plan is clear immediately. As one of my Dynasties leaders that I profiled, transport banking financier extraordinaire and member of the board of Managing Directors for transportation lender DVB Bank, Dagfinn Lunde once said to me. "The backup plan has to be clear immediately because, when you sit on that tipping point, you can't wait. Sometimes you have to give up the first plan and go to your alternative plans. You do not want to fail. You just have to find the right way to execute and work on those alternatives to prepare for such an occasion."

All this preparation is fortifying your way to up world domination- be it expanding your business, a job promotion to leaving your job and embarking on a new career or business, your apex is what you want it to be. All of these levels fit perfectly together and erect a strong structure to guide you in your pilgrimage to success.

Above all, the cement that holds these layers together is honesty. All of these leaders are brutally honest with themselves. If you do not know yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses, how can you define opportunity? How can you distinguish between a good opportunity or bad one? Also, without conviction and sticking to your plan, how can you achieve what the BlogHer founders call "world domination"? They all work hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. Life is too short not to be honest with yourself. All too often we let the fear of failing get a grip on us. We don't want to try because we are afraid we will fall short. Don't let that fear immobilize you. Seize the day!

In order to achieve this, you need to look forward, not backward. I for one do not live with regrets. No "coulda, woulda, shoulda" here. I don't ever want to look back at life and second guess my decisions. You cannot better yourself if you are stuck in a self loathing rut. You have to live in the present in order to create your future. While taking on a "risk" and going into the unknown or out of your comfort zone can be a little unnerving, the rewards can outweigh the downside. Why wouldn't you want to try? You will never know unless you take that leap.

When we are afraid to make such a commitment, we make up excuses, 'I have no time', or "I would but there's the kids' or the confidence killer, 'I don't know how". Those are just verbal and mental anchors weighing you down. If you truly want to do something, you will find the time and way. You will learn the necessary pieces of information to start a business, get that promotion or expand your business. When I was first presented with the opportunity of writing a book it was during the recovery of the financial crisis in 2009. I had my full time job at CNBC and my kids at the time were eight, five and three. I needed to write the book in a month and I had to write the book on my own time without it interfering with my job. It was an opportunity of a life time. Did I look at all those challenges and say, "No I couldn't do it? What about the kids? Where will I find the time?" Heck no! I seized on that opportunity. I made the time. Carving out a writing schedule that consisted of writing after my kids going to bed till 1am to waking up before dawn and writing till they woke up at 6:40am. It was grueling, but the fire in my belly was so intense it just drove me. With each thought being fleshed out on paper I was slowly achieving my goal. I kept my list of "things to do" on hand, kept a tight schedule and I delivered my manuscript early.

This quote by Anonymous sums up the lessons one learns on this passage to success the best, "All of life is a journey – which paths we take, what we look back on, and what we look forward to is up to us. We determine our destination, what kind of road we will take to get there, and how happy we are when we get there." The opportunity pyramid can be your map on that journey.

Inspiration Injection
While we are on this literary voyage in finding who you are, what you want to achieve and how you will execute and attain your goals, I want you to be inspired. Being a newshound I am not only an adrenaline junkie but I'm also in the constant pursuit of finding inspiration. To get into the minds of leaders and learn the how and why and the strategies they employ are priceless. What gets me all jazzed inside is that I see these qualities in me and I hope as you go through the layers of the pyramid you too will be awakened and realize that you also possess these traits. Will you be uber successful? It's not guaranteed, but if you want to better yourself, redefine your edge, the lessons that can be learned from these leaders can be eye opening.

Since I'm a self-described list maker, I flesh out and break down some of the steps these leaders use in quick bullets so you can digest it easier. My conversations with these individuals left me bubbling over in excitement- each leader becoming "my new favorite". There was so much information from my discussions that I decided to break down the information even further with a special section I call "my notebook" which hits on their rules to live by, mantra and life lessons. The synergies amongst these businessmen and women are uncanny.

I know you are shaking your head right now thinking, sure these CEO's are super successful but how can I relate to them? Well, at the end of each chapter I'm going break down the particular pyramid portion in how this can apply to you. It doesn't matter if you are a small businessman, an executive, manager, employee or an aspiring entrepreneur, this pyramid can be applied. We'll talk about the lessons each of these individuals have learned and how they have incorporated their strategies to fulfill that level of the opportunity pyramid.

So let's get on our traveling clothes and become opportunity vagabonds. It's an adventure of discovering who you are and what you want to do. Along the way there will be tips on how to achieve this path of self-enlightenment and goals. It's time for a reality check. In this book, we’ll be taking off the blinders and rose colored glasses. Instead we’ll be getting out the picks and shovels. It’s time for a reality check. It’s time to start building.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Dick Armey, Former House Majority Leader (1995-2003), Co-Founder of FreedomWorks and one of the chief authors of the Contract for America
Chapter 1: The Opportunity Pyramid
Chapter 2: Build Your Foundation: Know Yourself—Ralph Schlosstein, Chief Executive Officer and President of Evercore Partners
Chapter 3: Build Your Knowledge—Harold Hamm, Self-made Billionaire with a High School Education and America's Richest Oil Man
Chapter 4: Define Your Opportunity Strategy—and Stick with It—Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford
Chapter 5: Stoke Your Inner Passion—Steve Case, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and co-founder and former CEO of AOL
Chapter 6: Stay the Course—Ron Kruszewski, CEO of Stifel Nicolaus
Chapter 7: Execute: Pay Attention to the Details—David Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group
Chapter 8: Think Ahead: World Domination—BlogHer Founders Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page and Joy Des Jardins
Chapter 9: Create Your Own Opportunity Pyramid
Afterword: Wilbur Ross, Chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co
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