5 Minutes with…Rod Kurtz

Rod Kurtz is the executive editor at AOL Small Business and all around small business expert. Prior to joining AOL, he was senior editor at Inc. magazine and small business editor at businessweek.com.

Kurtz recently spoke with our Daria Meoli about the re-launch of AOL Small Business and his unique ideas for promoting entrepreneurial thought leadership online. 

Daria Meoli: Tell me about how you’ve changed AOL Small Business. 

Rod Kurtz: I came to AOL to relaunch AOL Small Business. Essentially, the site had been a legacy property that hadn’t been given a whole lot of time and resources. Basically, I was coming in to launch an entirely new site from scratch: new design, new format, new contributors. Having covered entrepreneurs for almost a decade, I know how smart they are and how many good things they have to say.

DM: How did you come up with the idea for the video series, “27 Million and Counting?” 

RK: In my experience of covering this for almost a decade, I know that there are a lot of great entrepreneurs out there that don’t necessarily fit into any one story that we’re working on at a given time. But they have interesting things to say and an interesting story to tell. So, I came up with the idea to do this video series.

The number “27 million” is a reference to the estimated of the number of small businesses across America. The idea—cliché as it may be—is that no two business owners or entrepreneurs are alike. We wanted to create a section where, very democratically, we’d give basically any entrepreneur 60 seconds of airtime. It’s their airtime to say whatever they want. It’s not meant to be a sales pitch, but an opportunity to share their unique entrepreneurial story, how they got started, what they do, and what they like about being entrepreneur. By giving people very little criteria, what they come up with and what they choose to talk about is fascinating. 

DM: Another element on your site is the “Board of Directors,” in which you ask some of the world’s top entrepreneurs to sound off on current issues and provide advice for other business owners. The board includes heavyweights such as Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group and Eric Ryan of Method. What do you hope readers will get out of this section? 

RK: This is a group of entrepreneurs, in general, that people don’t really stop and ask their opinions on issues and I find that they’re often the smartest guys and girls in the room. This is a unique opportunity to tap into that and share it with a wider group. On the site, all of the board members are represented by cartoon versions of themselves. We look at these guys as the superheroes of the entrepreneurial world and we wanted to visually convey that. Right now, we come up with questions for the board; but as we expand the section we’re hoping to add a feature that will allow users to submit some ideas for questions they’d like to ask the board. 

I can say the absolute highlight of my job each week when I reach out to these guys and send them an open ended email and the answers start streaming in. I feel pretty fortunate not only to work with this group, but to have a job and be in a position where I’m constantly learning and constantly enlightened by these guys. Which, is certainly a nice fringe benefit for me, but I know the same thing is happening for our readers.