Desiree Perez is the Chief Executive Officer of Roc Nation, a New York City-based business empire that began as an artists’ and athletes’ management agency. Perez co-founded the company with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, and she served as the Chief Operating Officer from 2009 to 2019. In 2019, she was appointed to her current role.
Born in New York City to Cuban immigrants, Perez’s entertainment industry career began with 15 years of nightclub management experience. In that capacity, she cultivated a well-rounded skill set that included financial oversight and artist acquisition talents. After booking Jay-Z for an engagement, later in life, the two began a business collaboration that continues to this day.
Desiree Perez’s Roc Nation purview includes short- and long-term strategic development initiatives. She evaluates the feasibility of new verticals, business ventures, and targeted projects. She verifies that the organization’s existing endeavors remain on track. Finally, she ensures that Roc Nation’s stable of artists and athletes receive the best possible representation.
With her natural talent for bringing people together, Desiree Perez has helped to negotiate every major Roc Nation deal of the past decade. Highlights include Jay-Z’s $200 million global touring deal with Live Nation and Rihanna’s lucrative sponsorship contracts with Samsung and PUMA.
Perez has also been instrumental in the execution of major events such as Jay-Z’s “Made in America” Music Festival, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021. While retaining a “big picture” perspective, she also oversees each major undertaking’s execution.
In addition to her management oversight functions, Desiree Perez also heads Team Roc, the company’s philanthropic component. She provides leadership on social justice issues such as prison reform and expanded opportunities for minorities. She also champions these causes in her personal life.
Perez feels that Roc Nation’s priorities and activities reflect similar goals and motivations as many of its artists, athletes, and community members. She is confident that the company’s substantial resources, impressive platform, and global reach have the capacity to drive needed change.
Today, Desiree Perez looks toward the future. She relishes the opportunity to help the multifaceted Roc Nation organization continue to make its mark on the world.
Where did the idea for Roc Nation come from?
Back in 2009, Jay-Z had a vision. He was inspired to help artists and athletes build their careers, and he wanted to do it in a different way. I also saw his vision, and together we founded Roc Nation. Since then, the company has grown into many more areas of influence.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I don’t really have a typical day, as everyone is different. I’m always on phone calls with partners from inside and outside of the company. I also take many meetings.
Every day, I block out time for strategic thinking, as I always want to keep Roc Nation moving forward. I keep Jay-Z’s original vision in mind, and I look for opportunities that align with that.
At the same time, I look for areas where change is really needed. I think about how we can use our resources to accomplish those goals. I look at both the short-term and long-term timeframe.
With so many projects and priorities, good time management is key. I have a system that helps me to stay on top of everything.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing an idea to life requires a great deal of teamwork. At Roc Nation, we have an amazing team. Everyone has their own skills and talents, but we’re all focused on the same goals.
First, we dive deep into the idea, and we explore its source. We talk about how we can make it happen and who will see benefits from it. Once we believe the idea is right for Roc Nation, the team jumps into action and does everything necessary to execute it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There’s something very exciting about social media. It has this amazing ability to connect people in so many ways. First, social media gives people a way to communicate and share with each other. Besides that, social media provides a way to get the word out fast when it’s necessary.
We saw a lot of attention to important social justice reform initiatives gain steam in 2020 from the use of social media, and that really was a pivotal time to see this new way of communicating achieve something good.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
With so many projects going on at once, I have to stay organized to keep them all on track. I have my own system, and I stick to it no matter what. When new projects come up, I integrate them into the flow.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When you’re young, you tend to think you know the best way to do everything. When someone offers ideas on a way to improve a process or get a better result, you don’t want to hear it.
Over the years, I have learned that listening to others often makes sense. Sometimes, you find out they really do know a better way to do something. It’s foolish to think you know everything better than anyone else.
So, I would say that listening more is important. If the person has personal experience with your current project, or has solved your current problem, that’s even better.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m definitely a morning person. I start my day early, usually about 4:30 a.m. That’s when I do my best thinking and I’m the most creative. I don’t have any distractions so I can just go with the flow.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
When you get a great idea, you think you’ll remember it and can come back to it later. When you’re managing a project, you think you can keep everything in your head. However, it doesn’t work that way. You’ll always forget something important.
That’s why I write everything down. I also make lists, lists, and more lists. It helps me to prioritize my tasks and keep all my projects on schedule.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
When you’re trying to solve a problem or put together a complex project, you can’t possibly be an expert in every part of the process. That’s why it’s important to get feedback from different subject matter experts.
Put everybody in one room, and give them all the background details. Listen to their opinions and ideas, and you can solve the problem or formulate the strategy. Then, put solutions into action.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
By nature, I’m a very impatient person. I don’t like to wait for a project to come together or for someone to finish a task. In the past, I got myself into trouble with this attitude.
Now, I realize that everything moves at its own pace, and my impatience won’t make it go any faster. When I can be patient with the process, everything comes together the same (if not better) in the end.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I purchased some software that will improve our business operations. I’m a big fan of computer programs that help the company to save money or operate more efficiently. Plus, I like the challenge of learning something new.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I couldn’t do my job without my Excel spreadsheets. They help me to plan projects and track expenses. Plus, I can run customized reports and projections.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Everyone should read “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein. Basically, he talks about how segregation in the United States has resulted from federal, state, and local government policies. The book also puts our criminal justice system in perspective.
What is your favorite quote?
Hands down, it’s this one: “Life expands in proportion to one’s courage.” It’s from writer Anais Nin, who I admire for her fortitude. Whenever I’m tackling something new, or I’m going through a rough patch, this quote helps me to keep moving forward.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.