“In my glamorous life of being a mogul today,” Bethenny Frankel says, “I cleaned up dog poop and steamed lotion off the carpet.”
We are talking at 6 p.m. on a Thursday. It’s been quite a day. The dog poop was the dog’s fault. The lotion was Frankel’s. She spilled it shortly after rushing to drop off her daughter at a playdate—a drop-off that was so hurried that her daughter’s hair was still wet from a shower. Frankel then had to take over a hotel reservation that someone was supposed to make for her, but they bungled it. Her wardrobe for a Home Shopping Network appearance was a mess, so she fixed that herself. After our talk, she’s filming an online video about BSTRONG, her initiative that raises money for disaster relief work. “I will have to proofread the entire post,” she says, “because it will be grammatically incorrect if I don’t.”
She isn’t complaining. Instead, she’s illustrating a problem she has yet to solve. Frankel has famously transformed her once fractured life—a difficult childhood among degenerates and gamblers, being flat broke in her late 30s, countless career changes, and then a star turn on The Real Housewives of New York City that she used to frame herself as a brand builder, including creating the juggernaut lifestyle brand Skinnygirl. But like most entrepreneurs, she has still not figured out how to exit the weeds.
“I’ve always wanted someone to be me—to be able to think like me and make decisions like me,” she says. “And I don’t even know if that’s possible.”
There are two reasons we’re talking about this. The first is promotional. Frankel, as is her way, has turned her staffing problem into a television opportunity. In her new HBO Max show, The Big Shot with Bethenny, she runs contestants through a series of challenges, Apprentice-style, in order to hire the winner as her VP of operations.
But the second reason is more practical. Entrepreneurs may dream about cloning themselves—finding someone who shares their thoughts and can double their output—but that’s like finding a unicorn. The reality is messier. It’s life as a series of scrambles, juggling massive decisions and very minor ones, no matter your level of success. Maybe this is just always how it is. Maybe there’s no real solution here. So I ask her: “Do you feel like you’re not doing it right?” She pauses for a second. Frankel rarely pauses. Then she says, “What I’m doing right is that I can make major business decisions in an instant—execute, delegate, know what to do about the big picture. I was on the phone about a multiyear, very lucrative podcast deal that in many ways is unprecedented. I can knock out that negotiation. It’s been held up for months in red tape, and I got on the phone with the president of this company and just knocked it out.” (Her podcast is called Just B with Bethenny Frankel.)
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