It’s difficult to imagine Betty Liu, the host of the daily morning program “In the Loop” on Bloomberg Television, making coffee and egg sandwiches at Dunkin’ Donuts or folding tee-shirts at a tourist store. But she has. Liu learned a lot from those summer jobs. Primarily that she wasn’t cut out for retail. Instead she pursued a career in financial journalism – first at Dow Jones Newswires then at the Financial Times. In 2005, CNBC Asia made her anchor for China’s morning TV show “Squawk Box.” (Liu speaks Mandarin and some Cantonese; she was born in Hong Kong and came to America at age 3.) Now at Bloomberg, she’s proven to be a ratings draw (with 240 million viewers daily around the world–particularly in Asia, according to Bloomberg).
Betty Liu has a knack for getting corporate titans to reveal their fears and mistakes. She’s been called the “CEO whisperer.” Warren Buffett tends to save a little something special for her (she’s interviewed the Sage of Omaha multiple times). And she pulls confessions out of mistake-averse CEOs like JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon (who admitted to Liu a period of not doing his best during a falling out with then-boss, Sandy Weill), Tesla’s Elon Musk (who “feels fear very strongly”) and AOL CEO Susan Lyne, who said she’s made mistakes believing a good idea made a great business. Liu’s book, Work Smarts: What CEOs Say You Need To Know to Get Ahead, is filled with pearls like this she’s gathered in the field. One warning: You may not be able to string them together into anything wearable–CEOs often contradict each other. For example, Liu recently reported from the Milken Global Conference that her pal Warren Buffett’s advice is the opposite of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s. Buffett says “do what you love,” while Katzenberg, who basically created the animated film business as we know it, says instead, “Love what you do.” In other words, do what you’re good at and the love will follow–skill before passion. Liu somehow intuited this advice years before she heard Katzenberg give it. Because Liu is very good at getting people to talk–that’s her skill–and you can see she loves it.