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‘Ebony’ CEO Desiree Rogers: The Art of Reinvention

The Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs (ABLE) held its second ABLE Insights quarterly business forum, on April 7 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Multimedia personality Monique Caradine moderated the dynamic panel that featured “Good Morning America” contributor and president of Ariel Investments, Mellody Hobson; Holland Capital Management CEO and chief investment officer, Monica L. Walker, and the electric Desiree Rogers, CEO of Johnson Publishing Company.

Here’s what Rogers said about reinvention.
On reinventing herself: “If all you ever do is all you’ve ever done, then all you’ll ever get is what you’ve always gotten, so that is one way of really thinking about pushing the envelope.

“I think my most recent reinvention was certainly played out in the press for all the world to see and as I worked my way through that transition, after awhile, I had to say, ‘what is the lesson in all of this? What are we really learning here?’

“For me, as I reflect back, and it was almost a year ago, I don’t think I would have ever left corporate America had I not had the White House experience. I would have stayed, doing very well, moving up in the corporation, but somehow, that whole experience opened me inside and out. I am good enough, I am strong enough … and this is the time when I really can return to Chicago and truly take the reins of what is clearly one of our jewels.

“In terms of the business that John H. Johnson and his family created almost 65 years ago, I really know the jewel there.

“Not everyone is black there, there is a mixed group of people, and we’ve transitioned that business to be innovative and creative and think about how can we take these magazines, these books, and change them into what he was thinking 65 years ago …

“So when I think about creativity and innovation, I just like to be able to get in tune with that as we think about the book.”

As a leader, reinventing a work force:

“Some days it’s difficult, there is no question about that. But you want it to be an environment where people feel like they belong and they feel like they are being respected and they are building something. So I like to say, ‘Hey guys this is going to be tough, but this is going to be some of the best work of your life. You’re going to [look] back on this experience and say, I was a part of this.’ ”

Photos by Bernard Williams