Craig Wortmann

Venture Partner

What in the world of tech do you find to be the most interesting?

I worked for IBM 25 years ago, selling technology. That makes me old enough to be constantly amazed by how technology affects one of my main interest areas: our patterns of communication. Some of this takes us a step back, I think, but I’m mostly thrilled at how our reach and richness has been expanded.

What is one tactical piece of advice for entrepreneurs that is contrary to popular wisdom?

You have to be the first salesperson in your company. You don’t have to be the world’s greatest salesperson, but you HAVE to know how to sell. Too many entrepreneurs are tripped up by bad myths. My favorite: “If I build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to my door.” Not true, Ralph Waldo.

What is your life philosophy?

Be curious. Work really hard. Treat your communications like they will hang in a gallery. Give stuff away. Hug your wife and kids every day. Get up early. Practice creative ways to thank people. Teach. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Find quiet. Hang out with your high school friends and laugh until it hurts.

What is your favorite book? Why?

Today, it’s Alexander Hamilton. I’m in awe of Chernow’s scholarship. I can’t quite fathom how he can know a 200 year old subject in such depth. For me, it is deeply inspiring. Also, the book is full of insights into our current world. It shocked me how similar the politics of 1795 are to our current day. Scary!

How do you spend time away from work?

My wife and two kids and I spend a lot of time in Wisconsin. I grew up (partly) on a farm near WI, and my wife grew up camping with her family on various lakes up there. So, we love being near the water, water sports, taking photos of the birds, making dinner and just reading on the deck. It’s our patch of quiet.

Craig Wortmann is a Clinical Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and the Founder of the Kellogg Sales Institute. Craig designed, developed and teaches the award-winning course called Entrepreneurial Selling, recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top Ten” courses in the U.S. He also teaches a communications course that helps people ‘show up, stand out, and break through’ in all forms of communication.  Prior to Kellogg, Craig also developed Chicago Booth’s Building Leadership Capital course, a four-day, in-depth executive education series he has brought to senior executives worldwide. At Chicago Booth, Craig was the recipient of the 2012 Faculty Excellence Award, given to the professor who has had the greatest positive impact on the students.

Craig is also the author of “What’s Your Story?”, a book that looks at how leaders and sales professionals use stories to connect, engage and inspire. In his book, Craig demonstrates the powerful impact stories have on the three most common performance challenges – leadership, selling and communication. Craig’s writing efforts also involve his work as a regular columnist for on the subjects of sales and entrepreneurship.

Craig has been a sales person and entrepreneur for more than 25 years. From IBM Corporation as the #2 performer in his year-long classical style sales training class, to a Dean Witter company covering three-quarters of the country selling to large retailers, Craig is an expert in all things sales. After earning his MBA from Kellogg in 1995, Craig joined the Forum Corporation and quickly became the firm’s new product launch and client recovery specialist. In 2000, Craig was recruited to join start-up WisdomTools as its CEO which he sold to a larger firm in 2008.

Craig founded Sales Engine Inc., a tools and services firm based on the belief that a company should treat sales as the engine of their business. As a professional speaker and sales advisor, Craig helps to develop the knowledge, skills and discipline necessary to build a successful sales engine. In 2009, the venture backer’s behind interactive marketing and web strategy firm, ClearGauge, sought Craig to become CEO while running his Sales Engine firm. Craig executed a turnaround by building a sales engine, cutting significant costs and developing a new web presence. ClearGauge was then acquired by a larger agency.

In addition to running Sales Engine and teaching full time, Craig has partnered with the Pritzker Group helping to advise its portfolio companies on growing sales. Craig also sits on the board of Innovative Health, a Phoenix-based reprocessor of medical devices.


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