We had the good fortune of connecting with Craig Greiwe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Craig, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Although I’m a nearly-native Angeleno of 20 years, I grew up in rural Indiana, surrounded on three sides by cornfields and the fourth side, by a dirt road and a forest. Poverty wasn’t just a news headline, it was a profoundly personal and real experience. I know the feeling of standing in the grocery store, trying to find the sandwich that had a little more meat in it so that I could split it in half to eat across two days instead of one. I know hunger pains, and desperation. The choice between food and clothing. The need to work full time as soon as the law would allow, or even before. Why does that matter? Because every choice, every dollar, every decision mattered. Even the tiniest mistake could spell doom in the form of hunger, missed rent, or a car repair beyond reach. I became thoughtful and careful because I had to. I made bold decisions because I had to. I was kind because no one was kind to me. I believed in what I said, and I tried to do the right thing because life was hard, and you didn’t need to make it harder. And I carried that same thoughtful, careful, ethical approach to life with me as I grew up. Now, although I’m a senior executive in my field, I have a comfortable income, and I no longer face desperate choices, I am still the same person. I am thoughtful, bold, and careful. I am empathetic and kind. I am focused on the needs of others and how we meet them with innovation. “It’s too hard,” is never a response when trying to solve a problem. And for that, I am a better businessman, better marketer, and better person. Growing up in desperation made me understand that all the choices we make, and how they impact others, matter.
What should our readers know about your business?
I’m currently the Chief Strategy Officer of legendary firm Rogers & Cowan PMK. In that role, I created a business consulting practice that seeks to do the impossible. We look at where society is headed 5 or 10 years from now, and try to help our clients meet the future instead of react to it. I don’t think there’s anyone out there quite like us, especially when it comes to understanding culture and people. And now, as I get along in my career, I’ve turned to doing the same with my non-profit, Rise Together. There, we’re trying to engineer a better future for LA, one that truly represents the people and brings real change. At every step, what I’ve done has been so outside the box, it was hard for people who think linearly to understand, whether at R&C or with the city of LA. I spend my life convincing to believe in me and my team, and themselves, and to take a risk. Doing that is a matter not just of hard work, but resilience and an endless willingness to metaphorically hit your head against a brick wall. What I learned is not that you have to be the smartest person in the room (I’m not), but that you need to be the most determined. You need to put up ten times as many “shots on goal” just to get one in. But when you do, it’s worth it. It betters not just you and your career, but society. We can shift the future to a better place, but only if we’re willing to rise to the impossible challenge such an effort requires.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There’s a Dorothy Parker quote that LA is 72 suburbs in search of a city, and that’s true. Our fair city is one of, if not the most, diverse, disparate, and far-flung metropolis in America. We have massive communities of almost every ethnicity, race, national origin, and culture. To try to squeeze them all in during a single week would be a fool’s errand. But hitting some incredible highlights would demonstrate a lot about who this city is and what makes it so special . I’d start at the Watts Towers, the most unexpected and beautiful piece of art I know in the city. From there, head to Olvera Street for a flavor of an “old school” LA. The next day, in spite of how stereotypical it is, you have to hit up Hollywood. Paramount, the Walk of Fame, Musso & Frank’s, even a studio tour or two. Go behind the scenes and hope you get a tour guide who really opens up the secrets. One night out on the classic Sunset Strip should be balanced with a trip east to Sunset Junction – and in either place, you have to catch a live band at the Roxy or the Echoplex. Finally, if you’re not fully exhausted by the end of the week, wind your way from the beach in Venice all the way up to the edges of Malibu. Dig your toes in the sand and find a sunset to relish at one of the incredibly innovative restaurants that dot the Venice and other beach communities. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not be here in any capacity on my own. But for the grace of God and the help of powerful, strong men and women who took me under their wing, taught me everything I know, and embraced my failures with patience, I would not be where I am. My early mentors of Kristin Cotich, Courtney Rogge, Debbie Miller, Nancy Kirkpatrick, Jeanine Ullman, Mimi Slavin, Sharon Black, and Ryan Stankevich were a slate of strong, powerful women at the top of their careers. More recently, Philip Bobbitt, Dennis Rice, Christine Grimm, and Mariana Agathoklis are not just colleagues but the best teachers. And many of my staff–I learn from folks generations younger than me every day – Jade Ajose, Pam Chinawah, Sydney Thomas, Courtney Allen. If you aren’t learning something from every person, you’re not doing it right.