By Michael Mark, Creative Director & CEO @NYCA
I had my doubts but I’ve come to believe I am a good businessman. I have no formal business education, no MBA. I haven’t endured a single course in accounting or management. I have trouble with spreadsheets; actually they bore me. Math and I are allergic to each other. I have the title CEO but I don’t pore over the stock pages. I feel less than at ease with the corporate set when I try to be one of them. I don’t care about the cost per square foot of our offices. I do realize it’s important but it doesn’t touch me. I don’t get emotionally involved with leases – though the fact that they have my personal guarantee does make me wince randomly. I do care greatly about health care as that is taking care of my staff and their families.
By all traditional measures, we are a successful enterprise. We have grown most of the seven years we have been up and running, with some natural dips and spurts along the way. My success metrics – they call them KPIs these days — are based on customer satisfaction, employee quality, a thriving culture, profitability and a consistently excellent product.
But I don’t really run the business. Values run my business. And they have been the reason for getting us where we are today. And as the chairman, I elect them to the board each annual session.
We value integrity – doing what we say every single time. We value honesty – the truth must be told loudly. We value compromise and flexibility – people need to make room for each other; you get more ideas and have more comfortable days that way. We value acceptance – we celebrate the mutant idea and mutants in general. I just have to make an NYCA t-shirt with that on it one day. We value the grow! idea – the rare idea that is inspired enough to positively move a client’s business in the marketplace. We value openness, transparency – let all see all; truly, my door is always open and I hope our hearts and minds are just as wide. We value the present and the future – that’s why we launched the Learning Grove, which teaches grade schooler’s sustainability. We value courage – we’re brave enough to tame our egos and determined enough to take on the demon of convention. We have value flexibility so, as Dylan says, we “have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift.”
I was told, “You won’t be good in business, Michael, because you’re not competent in the intricacies of running a business.” It scared me so I went to learn as much as I could.
My teachers are many and are always working on me.
I learned fairness from Rabbis and Priests with whom I studied. I learned love from my family; I got a graduate degree from my grandmothers. Generosity came from lessons by my friends. My wife teaches me patience, though we agree I am a slower learner and need to wear the dunce cap often. My staff teaches me forgiveness – they forgive me every day. My clients school me on listening – hearing the message between the words, around gestures, inside the pauses. My competition teaches me perseverance. My dog gives me daily lessons in loyalty during our long walks. My garden teaches me about hope in the face of darkness and cold. My heroes in history show me how to stare down fear, and travel shows me there are miracles everywhere. My children teach me humility. My partners teach me trust. My reading teaches me that I am never alone, that I will never get it perfect and that there’s always another page to learn from.
My business education is classroomless, deep and broad, and I am indebted to all my great teachers as I continue to be a student.
I am still earning my MV, Masters of Values.