Roz Hewsenian

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Roz Hewsenian joined Ted Seides for a summary of her career – and summary of many of the themes we write about here. If decision hygiene were a thing, Hewsenian would be like Steph Curry. And like Curry, Hewsenian had to put in a lot of work to get there.

“If you know you’re going to try to convince somebody who has a different point of view of a point you want to make, you’ve got to start out with, what is this person’s point of view, why do they believe what they believe, what are their priors and bona fides. You gotta start there.”

Normally we see empathy touted by marketers like David Ogilvy or designers at IDEO but it’s part of any sale.

In her ILTB podcast, Bethany McLean explains how she brings empathy to her interviews. You have to “turn over every stone” and “even if you see that they’re skewed in their point of view, ask, why is it skewed?”

“I went into the MBA with the idea that I would continue my ‘helping orientation’ and I would go into human resources. That’s what I thought until I walked into my first finance class.”

Sometimes it’s only exposure that brings awareness. This is what’s possible. Those kinds of multidisciplinary experiences lead to new paths, at the end of which, are new solutions.

Lee Child seeded the Jack Reacher series with four pounds (£) of writing supplies and one idea. Child said, “He (John D. MacDonald) made me think it was possible. I could see how it could be done.”

An early boss at Kraft taught Roz a lesson that’s lasted her entire career.

“The first thing he taught me about management is that when I did something wrong, the first question he asked me was, ‘What didn’t I do for you to be ready?’”

She learned about extreme ownership. Besides EO, Jocko Willink also advocates for a decentralized command. Hewsenian said, “I allow the staff to follow their natural curiosity.”

How so? At a Monday meeting, she said they were going to focus on China. “I never said to them, ‘long-only hedge funds,’ instead I said, ‘think about this.’ I allowed them to go out and find the best managers they could.”

Mike Reiss was an early Simpsons writer and showrunner. Reflecting back on the series’s success he wrote, “The true secret to The Simpsons’ success is the valuable input of network executives. We don’t have any.”

Roz moved from Kraft to Pepsi to Dimensional Funds. There she focused more on investments and emphasized optionality.

“I never adopted this all or nothing attitude. Life isn’t that black or white or cut or dried. If you keep your eye on the bigger picture, you can figure out how to get there with virtually any investment.”

Hewsenian had options because she had career capital. Judd Apatow said you’ll write something for anyone who writes you a check. Michael Caine agrees, telling actors to first choose the roles that fulfill your dreams, if those aren’t available, take the ones that fill your belly. When asked about Jaws 4, Caine says he never saw the movie but saw a lot of the house he bought with its check.

Hewsenian’s elastic optionality comes from decades of hard work.

Besides a culture that values options, runs decentralized (to a point, always to a point),  and insists on extreme ownership, Hewsenian also argues well. “We staff every manager who’s undergoing a deep dive for due diligence with a sponsor, a skeptic, and a director.”

Ben Horowitz suggested some tension, “…but not so much tension that you hate each other.” Horowitz’s sparring partner, Marc Andreessen said, “The way I think about is this; it’s more important to have a successful partnership than being right on any particular issue.”

An early lesson for Hewsenian was to never say ‘No’ to a client. “You figure out how to give them some of what they want so that you show them you heard them, which is ninety-percent what the issue is.”

Here’s an example from Annie Leibovitz and Puffy.

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Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Roz Hewsenian”

  1. […] Malcolm Gladwell’s Ketchup Conundrum. Thompson said, “Well, I think you just said it. I think the internet has a barbell effect where there are returns to the biggest and returns to the smallest, and if you’re stuck in the middle, it’s just a very dangerous place to be.” Heinz, he said, should listen to Warren Buffett and dominate the B2B areas. The barbell is a helpful mental model; whether it’s reading habits like Marc Andreessen or investing angles like Roz Hewsenian. […]


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