JJ Ramberg: ‘No one is hiring you because you know everything’

JJ Ramberg is the founder of Goodshop.com and the host of msnbc’s Your Business, which focuses on small business and entrepreneurship.

Now in its tenth season, Your Business focuses on giving advice and inspiration to America’s small business owners and entrepreneurs. Guests have included thousands of small business owners as well as members of the government, investors and business journalists.

Ramberg has been honored for her work with msnbc as well as Goodshop by organizations including the American Women’s Business Association, Self Magazine, The Association of Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, Small Business Influencers and the New York Enterprise Report. As an entrepreneur and business journalist, Ramberg often speaks to organizations including the Small Business Administration, National Women Business Owners Corporation, National Association of Women Business Owners, American Express CEO Bootcamp and many others.

Ramberg is also author of the best-selling book It’s Your Business: 183 Tips That Will Transform Your Small Business. She holds her MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.

The 10th season of ‘Your Business’ kicks off on August 16th. What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at NBC?

I have absolutely loved this job. On a personal level, I’ve been inspired by so many of the entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed. And I feel honored to be in the position to help so many other small business owners. As an entrepreneur myself, I know how exciting it can be to run a small business, but also how hard it can be and we really set out each week to give people truly practical advice that can help them succeed.

As for challenges, I hosted this show throughout the recession during which time we did many stories profiling the struggles some were having keeping their companies afloat. It was simply heartbreaking to hear firsthand the stories of people who had to shut down their companies that they had put their heart and soul into and which were the source of income for their families.

What are your hopes for the tenth series of ‘Your Business?’

Every piece we do is based around a lesson that other small business owners can learn from. For example, we did a story on a hot air balloon company in California about how to price your service; we did a story on a jewelry manufacturer about how to hire good sales people; we did a story on the company Tough Mudder about how to create a good company culture. So my hope for the tenth season is to continue to give examples of how to solve business problems in a compelling way. 

We use a lot of the tenants of running a business when we think about how to produce this show. So, to use some Silicon Valley-speak, we will continue to listen to our customer (in our case the viewer) and iterate based on their needs. 

What advice can you offer to women who are seeking a career in your industry? 

Take any job you can get and do it well. If you are a hard worker who people can depend on, you will get noticed. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Nobody is hiring you because you know everything. They’re hiring you because they believe you can learn and produce. 

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

First, I always try to remember that I’m fortunate that I am even in the position to contemplate the concept of work-life balance. There are so many people who are working multiple jobs simply to survive and provide for their families who don’t have the luxury of worrying about how to create a balance.

For me, I take it day by day and if things seem to be skewing too much or too little towards work, I make adjustments along the way. And if I’m worried at any particular time about giving up an opportunity in order to strike a better balance, I ask myself, “When I look back ten years from now, will be I disappointed that I did not move forward on that or will I be upset that I didn’t spend more time at home.” My response varies depending on the situation, but for me, answering that question clarifies how I should move forward.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life? 

During different stages of my life, I’ve turned to different people who have given me invaluable advice. One of the most memorable conversations I had early in my career was with Cheryl Gould who was the senior producer of NBC Nightly News when I was the receptionist – my first job out of college. While I was grateful to have gotten a job in such a dynamic environment, I was itching to get out from behind the desk where my key task was taking messages and directing calls for all the producers and correspondents. I wanted to be in on the action. Early on Cheryl took me for a coffee and said, “I know you want to be doing more, but make yourself stand out as the best receptionist that ever sat in that chair and someone will notice you and you’ll get promoted.” She was right. I stopped worrying about what I wanted to do and started paying attention to being exceptional at the job for which I was hired. Soon after, true to her word, I was promoted to an assistant producer.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

My mother. My mom was a stay at home mom who raised her four children. When she was in her mid-40’s, she and my brother Ken started a company together called JOBTRAK. Keep in mind, this was pre-internet when it was very uncommon to see a stay-at-home-mom or a 22-year-old recent college graduate start a business. I had a front row seat to witnessing as my mom proved wrong all the people who said her company would fail. She worked incredibly hard to grow the company and 13 years after starting it, she sold it to Monster.com. Her motto was “I think I can,” from the book The Little Engine that Could – and she could! She simply would not listen to anyone who told her she couldn’t do something. I was so lucky to have had my mom as a role model, both as a mother and a strong leader and businesswoman. It was an incredible gift she gave me.

What have you learned about business during your time anchoring ‘Your Business?’

In 2005, I started my own company Goodshop.com with my brother Ken. What started as an idea with me working from my one bedroom apartment in New York City is now a thriving business. And I have been able to bring everything I learned about growing Goodshop into the stories we do on ‘Your Business.’ Having the perspective of someone who has been in the trenches has allowed me to really dive deep into the topics we address on the show. And from both the show and Goodshop, I’ve learned that running a business is incredibly exciting and fulfilling, but there are a lot of challenges and it can be very hard. You have to be prepared for the ups and downs or else your business will not survive.

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JJ Ramberg: 'No one is hiring you because you know everything'