Entrepreneur-in-Residence Profile: Len Green
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with esteemed entrepreneur, advisor, consultant, and author, Len Green! Len taught at Babson as an adjunct lecturer between 2001-2016 and has continued to impact the Babson community by serving as an Entrepreneur in Residence. Len’s book, The Entrepreneur’s Playbook, was published in March 2017 and has quickly become a best-seller. In our interview, Len shared observations about Babson over the years and the qualities that successful entrepreneurs should embody.
When did you realize you were an entrepreneur?
I have always been entrepreneurial. In my freshman year of college, I wanted to sell t-shirts. My first customer was a policeman asking if I had a sales permit, which I did not. This was when I learned that in order to be entrepreneurial, you must take calculated risks- and this particular risk was not calculated.
After I was fired from my first five jobs, I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. I wasn’t good at being an employee or taking orders. In high school I worked at a supermarket, then later became an accountant despite being dyslexic and having no memory retention for numbers. After serving in the Air Force during the Berlin crisis, I got a job with Deloitte Touche and was up for a partnership after five years. At Deloitte, I made sure to associate myself with very successful people. I would ask clients to stay after our meetings to tell me about what they did to become successful. By doing this, I identified the patterns that led them to success. Patterns are important in business and life.
At Deloitte, I specialized in real estate and learned a lot about it during these years. After leaving Deloitte, I helped raise $18 million that was used to purchase commercial properties. Then I started a real estate investment company. Many years later, I began investing in start-up companies. Ten years ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to be one of the original investors in Blue Buffalo, which is now the fifth-largest dog and cat food company in the world.
Twenty years ago, I was fortunate enough to visit Babson to attend the SEE Program with Jeff Timmons. I decided I wanted to teach here, but the faculty waitlist was 250 people long. Three days before the school year started, a professor went on maternity leave. I stepped in and began teaching a family business class. Then I had the idea for an Ultimate Entrepreneurial Challenge class, modeled after a popular television show The Apprentice. I taught that class for 17 years.
What attributes must a successful entrepreneur have?
You must have passion and be a calculated risk taker. If you are willing to outwork your competition, there’s a good chance you’ll succeed. Just be sure that you love what you do. If you think of it as work, it will consume you. Don’t do it for the money – be excited about it!
Over the years, I’ve also begun to believe that there should be a social aspect to every business. While business is very competitive, it’s also important to give back. In my best-selling book, The Entrepreneur’s Playbook, I recommend that businesses donate 10% of their earnings to charity. For example, Blue Buffalo donates 10% of profits to animal cancer research. I also believe providing stock options for employees and then lending them the money to exercise the options. Social entrepreneurship is key!
How has Babson changed in the 20 years that you have been involved in teaching here?
When I came to Babson, the entrepreneurship professors were the cream of the crop entrepreneurs. I used to sit in classes taught by Jeff Timmons, Bill Bygrave, Steve Spinelli, Zach Zacharakis, Les Charm, etc. because they were so fascinating. Entrepreneurs who have started businesses and taken the risks that we teach about sometimes have a different perspective than those who purely teach by the book or from a book.
I felt there were very few books in the global marketplace that can truly teach entrepreneurship. Most of them were applicable only to specific people (“Dummies”) or who had a lot of theory and formulas. My book, The Entrepreneur’s Playbook contains over 100 tips, strategies, and techniques from over 150 entrepreneurs.
What excites you about being an Entrepreneur in Residence at Babson?
I feel like I am adding value. When I meet with students and give them business strategy advice, it feels good to give back in this way. I’ve taught sessions at four other universities, and while they are always interesting, they never have the same high caliber of students at Babson.
What inspired you to write The Entrepreneur’s Playbook? Is there anything from the book you would like to highlight here?
I initially wrote The Entrepreneur’s Playbook to use in my Ultimate Entrepreneurial Challenge class, but it has gone far beyond that. It’s now a top book on Amazon. It’s not a theory book, it’s a real playbook. The book provides situations, tips, techniques and strategies that successful people have used to solve problems. The tips aren’t just from me, they’re also from people I have worked with over the years. I wrote about examples and stories that have never been published before.
A major point in the book is the importance of empowering your employees. There’s a section in The Entrepreneur’s Playbook called “Be a Mensch.” I like to empower people and give them incentives. You have to trust the people who work for you and include them in the success.
What can students do to maximize their Babson experience?
Remember how fortunate you are to be part of the small percentage of people who apply to become students at Babson.
Join clubs and become officers in those clubs. Take responsibility for getting things done. Work in the Blank Center or get involved in other activities so you can see what’s going on. Observe how staff members handle certain situations. It’s valuable to see how they handle logistics even when strong personalities get involved.
Take calculated risks. Network with fellow students. Start a business. Remember to give back.