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Last Update: Tuesday June 15, 2021

Key Idea: Admit What You Don't Know

Harry Rosenthal had proven himself in the catalog business and was hired by Redford to launch the Sundance Catalog  business.   More...

Key Question:


Yes, but first you have to admit what you don't know.  Harry Rosen and Robert Redford both give this advice!

Q: Why did Robert hire Harry and how did Harry learn what he didn't know?

A: Robert Redford saw an opportunity for a Sundance Catalog but he admitted to himself at the outset that he had no idea how to create a catalog company.

On the other hand, Harry was praticing law and quit that to launch a catalog to sell Moms and Dads what they needed to outfit and educate their young children. Harry thought he and his two partners collectively had the skills they would need to make a success The Case a startup.

Harry admits now that he and his partners didn't know as much as they thought they did so they had to learn it in the school of hard knocks. If possible, we should take the Robert Redford not the Harry Rosenthal road to success in business. Admit what you don't know then figure out a way to learn it. You can take a class, find a mentor to advise you, hire a consultant or join your trade association.

Think about it

When have you wasted time and money because you were too stubborn to admit you didn't know something? What do you need to know now that would help you grow your business?

Clip from: Sundance Catalog

Meet Harry Rosenthal (above) and Brent Beck

Provo Canyon and Salt Lake City, Utah: In this episode of the show, we go into a pristine part of the Rocky Mountains, a place Robert Redford loved and wanted to preserve. To sustain that dream and help pay for it all, he turned to Brent Beck and Harry Rosenthal to implement an idea he had for a catalog business. Brent knew the products. Harry knew direct mail. But, unlike most of us, these three had a fast start for this business -- they were leveraging the Robert Redford brand.

Business is not easy for any of us. When Redford applied for his initial loan from a bank, he was rejected just like the rest of us.  He turned to investors, bought the land  to preserve it from housing developers, and began thinking of how to turn it into a business. That was in the late '60's.

Even celebrities were once "less than famous" and had to crawl, scrap,  risk... take a flying leap, just like the rest of us.

Go to all the key ideas and video of this episode...

Sundance Catalog

Jessica Basin, Sr. Marketing Manager, Robert Redford, founder

3865 West 2400 South
Salt Lake City (and Provo), UT 84120

Visit our web site:

Office: 801-975-5238

Business Classification:
Catalog, direct mail

Year Founded: 1989

Admit What You Don't Know

CHRISTINA (Operator): Sundance Catalog. This is Christina. How can I help you?

BRENT BECK: This is a product out of Jonah Bridge collection by John Reed, a famous Adirondack designer, and this is all hand-bent hickory, handmade.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Brent Beck has been with the Sundance operation since 1970.

BRENT: It's preserving the history of the last century and really fits into what we're about. You know, going onto the product, it's outdoors, obviously. There's a brand-new kind of napkin holder that's got a wind tray on it. This is a weighted little tree that sits on top of the napkins, so if you're out picnicking or on your patio they don't blow away. A tray out of the same metal stuff.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Robert Redford brought Harry Rosenthal, CEO of the catalog, into the organization because of his success in his own catalog business.

HARRY ROSENTHAL: If we're tight on space on this one, I would recommend killing the tray, even though I know it matches the napkin holder, just 'cause it's a really weak category. I mean, we've carried a lot of trays, and I think most of them are still out back somewhere. I don't know, but you've got to leave room for the story on this guy.

I grew up in the suburbs of New York, actually, a classic New York post-war suburb which is New Rochelle. If you've ever seen the old "Dick Van Dyke Show," it takes place in New Rochelle, New York, a very much classic suburbia. I went to college. I majored in Greek and Latin literature, perfect background for mail order. It's so perfect that I went to law school. There's not a lot else you can do with a Greek and Latin major. And I was a lawyer for several years in Los Angeles--securities law, tax law, real estate law--and always wanted to start a company and have a business, and I had some friends who felt the same way. So back about 10, 11, 12 years ago, we all quit our jobs, knocked on doors, raised money, and we started a mail-order catalog called Right Start catalog.

We really did think that we had the range of skills necessary that we could start up and succeed at a business that we knew nothing about. No, in fact, we did start up and succeed at a business we knew nothing about. However, I don't think that the range of skills was nearly as applicable as we thought it would be. I think it was more of the things that make any entrepreneur succeed, which is to say the ability to work very hard and to also react very quickly and be able to fly by the seat of your pants.

The first thing you learn, I think, when you start a new business in an area where you're inexperienced is that you really don't know anything. And the sooner you learn that, the faster you begin succeeding. It's when you think you know things that you don't know that you run into trouble.


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