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Penny Pritzker Quotes

Penny Sue Pritzker

Penny Pritzker quotes: the billionaire’s most helpful ideas.

“It’s a continual evolution, which means we need a different mindset. We have to accept the fact that people may change jobs 10 to 15 times over their lifetime. This is the new reality.”

“I wanted to build businesses from the time I was little.”

“I grew up in a household that revered building businesses. I wasn’t thinking about leadership; it was more about building something. To build something, you ultimately have to lead.”

“I grew up in the motel business, and it evolved into hotels. After I got my law degree and business degree, I went to work for my family, and I spent two years at Hyatt doing a training program. I was really interested in real estate; one reason was that nobody in my family was doing that. I was looking for a place where I could be successful doing something that was my own.”

“Specific insights my father passed along to me… one thing he would talk about is how, when you’re building a fast-growing business, the bellman might very shortly be the general manager. He was focused on talent, and that you need to realize that talent doesn’t necessarily come in at the top, and that it’s maybe somebody you grow. He had a real appreciation for the person who is passionate, committed, energetic and wants to learn, as opposed to the person who’s already done everything you need them to do. A lot of my approach to hiring came from that experience.”

“I learned to do a lot more work on the front end about hiring—to force yourself to really understand what you’re looking for and do more research. I’m also a big believer in triangulating. When I’m interviewing someone, I also want the opinion of others: people who share the same values as me but who might look at the situation a little differently.”

“Integrity is extremely important. Do they have a lot of energy? Are they passionate? And I use this test: Your 11 p.m. flight is delayed, and you’re going to be sitting next to that person during the trip home. You’ve had a long day and you’re tired. Do you want to be traveling with that person?”

“There was an idea floating around the office to start a senior-living company. This is 27 years ago, and the industry didn’t exist. So I started that business, just me and a secretary. There was just a white sheet of paper, and the industry was just a white sheet of paper, too. I had never hired anyone. I’d never fired anyone. I had to put together a strategic plan, figure out the product, how to market it and how to get it built. I learned by doing.”

“We need to come together and change our approach and relink education, work, and opportunity. And we also need to acknowledge that we no longer have a system where you go to school and go to work for a career. That’s not going to be the norm anymore. You’re going to have to be a lifelong learner because we have such great evolution occurring in technology and we’re all going to have to keep up-skilling ourselves.”

“Businesses need to define what they need so training providers can offer up the right training.”

“You can no longer be a history major with no technical skills, or acquire technical skills and not be able to write. You need a certain well-rounded nature to your educational background. We also need to acknowledge there are core skills such as coding that are almost like learning a foreign language today, and they should be a requirement.”

“In a tight labor market, like we have, employers are more open to the idea of a greater responsibility to help train the workforce. They are interested in helping individuals from lower-income communities make the bridge into the opportunities in other businesses. I’m excited by that effort, that energy, that initiative. And I think it will continue.”

“An important part of well-being, among many factors, is also having work and purpose and being a contributing member of society. We’re not pessimistic about the fact there will be jobs. We’re optimistic there will be many new jobs. And there’s dignity in a job.”

“Empathy matters in all aspects of life; it’s not just a box to check off. To build a great business, you must integrate empathy into the fabric of your company—for your employees, your customers and all of your stakeholders.”

“I tend to be a person who starts with the presumption that I should trust you until you abuse the privilege, and then our relationship is forever changed. That’s a very big line, and chances are it’s not going to work if it’s crossed. I warn people that this is how I’m going to deal with it.”

“If you want to get fired, here’s what you need to do: first, lie, cheat, or steal. But the other thing that will get you fired is if you have a problem and you keep it to yourself.”

“Problems are going to happen, and it’s my job to help you with your problem. What I’ve learned is that the most troublesome people don’t tell you 100% of the story, and keep some facts to themselves. They just don’t give you the full picture, and that’s very worrisome to me. Oftentimes it’s because they don’t want to tell you the things you don’t want to hear.”

“‘Everything’s great, boss. I’ve got it under control.’ And typically what happens is it gets worse. So you constantly ask probing questions and you need them to give you honest answers. You also need to give them permission to give you bad news.”

“One of the challenges I have is that people make a lot of assumptions about me based on my last name. So I figure my job is to put it out there, be direct and do my best to be consistent. I’m not always perfect but I try to do that.”

“How to get better over the years as a leader? One lesson is to try to be the best listener you know how to be. You’ve got to hear, and sometimes in the rush you’re not really absorbing what’s coming at you. Probably the biggest mistakes I’ve made were when I wasn’t listening carefully enough. Sometimes you need help with that. I have often said to my closest advisers that your job isn’t just to tell me what you think, but you also have to get in my face and make sure I heard you. It’s hard to deliver bad news, and part of leadership is giving people permission to give you bad news, and making sure you really hear it.”

“I learned a lot about the importance of listening from my Uncle Jay, who was a brilliant businessman and asked lots of people their opinions about things. I’ll never forget how he asked me once about some deal he was doing in Japan. I was 25. It wasn’t my area, but he gave me the facts and said, ‘What do you think?'”

“I really think workforce development is the economic issue of our time. We have too much income inequality, and I believe education, better training and greater support for our workforce are the great equalizers. The most valuable thing you can do for individuals is help them get a job and develop their career. Access to opportunity is what drives me, and I believe education and workforce training are foundational elements of the solution.”

“Leadership requires all those holding public office to have the courage to always stand up for basic values: decency, truth, and putting the public interest above any personal political interest.”

“I decided I wanted to be active in three things: be more present for my family, continue to build businesses, and have a rich civic and philanthropic life.”

“I’m more involved in tech, more interested in tech in how to create or grow businesses by embracing new technologies.”

“What was important to us was to make a difference in our community. I also wanted to be able to build on what I’d learned from my business career and my time in government.”

“It helped me be clearer about what I wanted to do, being exposed in government to the fact that the divide is growing in America. The ability for people to reach their potential and benefit is becoming harder. That informed our philanthropic focus. The solutions for that—many of them are local.”

“The role of philanthropy is severalfold. It helps individuals as they are moving from one type of business opportunity or career to another. And it can play an important role as a source of venture capital to set up either new intermediaries or new institutions. This moment is as pivotal as the time when we went from an agrarian society to an industrial society. At that point our country adopted the idea of public high school education for everyone. We need that kind of generational thinking and that kind of cultural change where we better link training and education to jobs, and where we create a system that allows people to be lifelong learners. People should be able to switch jobs and have a safety net under them.”

“Philanthropy also plays a role in helping with transitions. For example, a worker moving from one role to another often needs assistance. That’s a place for philanthropy; it’s also a place for public dollars to be spent in our social safety net.”

“Now is the time to step in aggressively and strengthen our safety net—for all—so we can restore and rebuild the American dream and not leave millions behind.”

“Today is a great day for America.”

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