Interview – Mark E. Walker – premier business and life strategist for athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs that are committed to playing for life.

Interview – Mark E. Walker – premier business and life strategist for athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs that are committed to playing for life.

Mark E. Walker is the premier business and life strategist for athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs that are committed to playing for life.  His new book LIVE! The Life That’s Meant For You.  One Day At A Time is now available.

Mark E Walker-Ph-50

Mark you have been working with athletes, entertainers and entrepreneurs for many years, I know you are quite selective with who you work with, what is your philosophy on picking clients or business partners?

My philosophy starts with a client or business partner that is 100% committed and dedicated to their career or business, authentic, and mutual respect. But is also open-minded enough to listen to alternative approaches.

I know you got your start in the music industry. What was your biggest take away from that experience?

It opened my view from a world perspective that a product that is created in the US or maybe in one market could be appealing to a group let’s say in Australia. So as a result, it has allowed me to look at the world from a larger perspective, and understand that there are micro communities that relate to my product all throughout the world.

How does being a college athlete help you relate to the athletes you work with today?At Blair HSYounger Mark

It gives me a bit of insight as to the dedication and the commitment that is required for them to get to the next level.

Growing up in Jamaica must have been incredible. What about that do you think about or manifests itself in you today?

I had an amazing childhood growing up in Jamaica. That experience gave me an exploration nature and a “no problem” attitude, which is essential in dealing with my clients in business today. Things happen daily that are not part of the original plan. But it allows me to quickly adapt and make adjustments and not worry about what was and focus on creating solutions.

What made you write your new book “Live! The Life That’s Meant For You, One Day AtScreenshot 2014-04-28 12.24.27-1 A Time”?

I have come to realize that most people don’t take the time to enjoy and live every day. But instead, many wait for the weekend or vacations to live and be happy. So I started sending out Facebook posts based on my reflections on life and business. Friends began to tell me that they looked forward to reading my posts. After some time had passed, I started to get asked from multiple sources over and over again if I had my quotes in a book. So, this is what prompted me to write this book.

 

You have so many great principles in the book. One that spoke to me personally is “Courage invites critics, so don’t expect everyone to support your vision”. Can you elaborate on this?

I have always had people tell me that I was crazy because I never did the predictable. Over time, I have come to realize that it takes courage to go against the grain, the crowd, or the norm. After studying most people who have become trend setters or created inventive products or services, I recognized that often times they were doing things that went against the conventional wisdom/norm at the time.

What one thing would you tell a young aspiring entrepreneur who came to you for coaching?

You must be willing to fail in order to become successful.

You served in the U.S. Army early on in your adult life. What did being in the military teach you and how does being a veteran today impact your life?

The biggest take away from the military is that anything is possible if you have a plan of action and a team that is totally committed to accomplishing a task. Nothing is impossible.

By being a veteran, I am part of a larger extended family of comrades, which has turned out to be an extended network.

I’ll turn the tables on you and ask, you where do you see yourself in 5 years. How do you personally live the principles you share in the book?

In 5 years, I see myself releasing a few more books such as one that would delve into specific strategies for entrepreneurs, expansion on my seminars to larger venues, expanding my reach to help more entrepreneurs and business owners to bring their visions to life, and a regular business correspondence role on a TV network.

All my quotes are part of me and my life’s journey. I live them daily. However, some days are better than others while always looking for the message.Mark E Walker Life & Business Seminar

What did I forget to ask?

You didn’t ask me what inspires me. I am inspired by the possibility of helping others to accomplish their dreams.

Mark is conducting a “Life & Business” seminar June 7, 2014 in L.A..  If you’d like to attend information is here.

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J. Smoke Wallin interview with Michael Schwartz – James Beard Award winning chef/owner of Michael’s Genuine of Miami

J. Smoke Wallin interview with Michael Schwartz – James Beard Award winning chef/owner of Michael’s Genuine of Miami

Re-Posted From Wine 2.0 in 2011

I recently had the opportunity to sit down at with Michael Schwartz, chef/owner of Michael’s Geniune in Miami.  http://www.michaelsgenuine.com/   Michael’s Genuine is located at 130 Northeast 40th Street
Miami, FL 33137 (305) 573-5550

Michael is an amazing chef and a great person to hang with.  Michael just published his first book – “Michael’s Genuine Food”  

Aside from the incredible food and dining experience, I had the chance to ask Michael some questions about his background, his cooking philosophy and importantly to all of us, his views on wine.

 

“Schwartz’s culinary innovation  puts him at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement. He’s now on a national stage, based primarily on his straightforward, ingredient-driven cuisine, as well as his commitment to supporting local farmers and responsible, seasonal food sourcing.

He was recently honored with the prestigious 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef and has appeared on national TV shows including Top Chef”, Rachael Ray’s Rachael’s Vacation, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, After Hours With Daniel Boulud, Simply Ming with Ming Tsai, and Fresh Food Fast with Emeril Lagasse.”

J. Smoke Wallin (JSW):  What got you into cooking?
Michael Schwartz (MS): Well I grew up in Philadelphia in the ’60s and ’70s.  The closest I came to cooking as a kid was cutting up the Stroehmannwhite bread for stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner!!  My mom didn’t make much from scratch…  Things changed when I was 15 and I got a job bussing tables at Dilullo’s, a Northern Italian restaurant in Philadelphia.  The place was ahead of its time and really swanky, importing expensive, high quality ingredients from Italy. After about a year, I had worked my way into the back of the house.

JSW: What has been the greatest thing about starting Michael’s Genuine?
MS: Meeting great people and doing great things with them.

JSW: When you decided to open another restaurant, why Grand Cayman?

MS: Well it was less of me deciding it was time to open another MGFD than realizing we could when DART approached me.  I have to admit I was a little skeptical at first.  I didn’t think it was possible to replicate the experience of the restaurant, which has so much to do with the process – the responsible sourcing that is so important to who we are.  But I went down there and met with them, and liked who I met and what I saw. There was an emerging farming community poised to embrace a restaurant like ours and we’ve just been learning and growing with each other.  It’s really great.  We’re getting great variety of local product down there, even this past summer – thai eggplant, callaloo, herbs, peppers, amazing mangos, and local pumpkins… Of course there are things we need to bring in, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

JSW:  What made you want to write your book?
MS: I’ve always wanted to do a book. Again it was all about timing and relationships. Some executives from Clarkson Potter were in town and ate with us and said they wanted to publish my first book.  I pulled together a proposal and two years later, we have MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat.  I’m really proud of the work we did to pull it together – I got to work with some pretty talented people, like my photographer Ben Fink.  The photos are beautiful and really capture what the dishes are all about – simple preparations using really fresh product. 
 

JSW: What is your wine philosophy at Michael’s?
MS: Our philosophy is just like food. It starts with the best producers and great product. I’m very lucky to have a sommelier like Eric Larkee. He’s always one step ahead of the game. We’re able to keep prices very reasonable and offer a creative, yet edited list. I’m lucky to have talented friends like Dennis Scholl and Richard Betts with the Betts & Scholl label… Jim Clendendon of Au Bon Climat..The list goes on… We’re of course trying to always to be responsible in every aspect of the business… So I know Eric gravitates towards producers that are using natural methods… and we recycle our corks and bottles (for water service) whenever possible. I’m looking into glass cutters right now so we can recycle the bottles for drinks glasses too.
 JSW:  Describe the perfect meal.
MS: One with my family, cooking food from our friends.

JSW: What’s best about being Michael?
MS: What kind of question is that?! I would say I’m lucky for the people I’m surrounded by, so that’s what’s best.

JSW: what has been your biggest challenge?
MS: Spending as much time with my family as I do with my other family at work.
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JSW: What can we expect when we buy your book?
MS: Well it’s definitely a Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink greatest hits to a certain degree, which is what I wanted out of a first book.  It’s divided similar to how our menu is set up, with a bunch of the dishes that we know and love, and some new things too.  I think what I’m most happy about is that the book really works.  So many times, especially with recipes you find on the internet, nothing works.  My compulsive organization really worked to my advantage on this one!

JSW: When can we get you out to the Bay area and up to Napa to enjoy some wine and share your book and story with our friends?
MS: Um, soon!!
Vanderbilt Business: How I Did It

Vanderbilt Business: How I Did It

Note: This is the first in a series that Vanderbilt Business (the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University) is doing on Alumni to share their stories.   Interestingly, I have subsequently left Lipman Brands and sold the majority of my interests in Napa Smith Brewery.  So it is already a little out of date in terms of what I do (the first question), however,  the rest of the Q&A is not.   That’s why the title is a little bit off.. I’m not done doing what I’m going to do (stay tuned).  I hope to encourage and inspire those who aspire to achieve their success in any way I can.  Hopefully this interview gives a bit of insight to some and is encouraging if you need it.  Kind Regards, Smoke

VBusiness-Masthead

 

LINK:

Have you ever wanted to ask someone questions about their career path? How I Did It asks those questions for you. Serial entrepreneur and beverage magnate J. Smoke Wallin, MBA’93, starts off this recurring series.

jsw at NSB pub

COPY OF INTERVIEW:
Q. What do you do?

I turn ideas into actionable things. Whether working on community issues, industry issues or business ideas, time and time again, I tackle a challenge by manifesting something that was not before.

J. Smoke Wallin
Wallin
In recent years, I have been looking for ways to acquire or create new brand businesses in the beer, wine and spirits space. This pursuit has taken many a twist and turn, and the process has not always been pretty. Today I run several businesses.

I am president and CEO of the Napa Smith Brewery and Winery in Napa, Calif. I acquired the brewery in late 2010 with some partners. We sell in 10 states and Sweden, the U.K. and Hong Kong.

I serve as managing director of Lipman Brands, a brand marketing and sales company. My task has been to build out the infrastructure (systems, process and people) for Lipman Brands to be a national selling organization.

I am chairman, CEO and founder of eSkye Solutions, a technology dot-com I started with a number of Owen alumni back in 1999. Though we have changed our business model a number of times, acquired numerous companies and sold our winery software division in 2007, we continue to build our national account pricing business with large retailers and brands.

And through my holding company, I am still engaged in various consulting projects for new brands, existing businesses and startups. This is a minor part of my job, but it keeps me in touch with new ideas, people and opportunities.

Q. What’s your educational background?

I started as an engineer at Cornell, then was in the hotel management school and then settled on agricultural economics (Cornell’s undergraduate business program). It turns out my time in hospitality management and the agricultural economics department—with a huge emphasis on the grocery and consumer packaged goods industries—gave me a great initial preparation for the beverage industry. At Owen I had a triple concentration in finance, marketing and operations. My view was I wanted to be a general manager/entrepreneur so I needed to learn about all those areas.

Q. What was your first job?

My first job out of Cornell was with Seagram in their management training program. After a summer at Seagram, I had the opportunity to join them full time or join their distributor, National Wine and Spirits. I joined NWS when it was doing $150 million annually. When I left 14 years later, we were a $1 billion operation.

Q. Tell us about your consulting and brand work.

With eSkye, we were doing business with beer, wine and spirits companies all over the world. At one point we had over 250 wineries making or selling their wine using our software. I ended up advising many clients on not just their technology but also on their distribution and business strategy.

I got a bit frustrated with trying to get an old, sleepy and successful industry to be creative in their business strategy. This inevitably led me to want to own my own brands so I could demonstrate my ideas in real life. Starting a new business takes a level of commitment that has to overcome huge obstacles. To make such a commitment, one has to be fairly passionate about whatever it is one does. I have been passionate about the brands business for some time now.

Q. What would you say was your big break or opportunity?

Growing up with a mom who was (and is) very independent-minded, hard-working and stubborn. Becoming a wrestler in high school and later at Cornell. No sport teaches better discipline and self-reliance. Select coaches, teachers and mentors along the way who saw potential in a kid with big ideas and no wallet.

Q. What was—or has been—your biggest challenge?

Overcoming financial distress when either markets or circumstances have gone against me at select moments. …The good news is, if you can get through those times and never forget them, it makes for a wiser, more humble perspective. This is something I think I was meant to learn.

Q. What was—or has been—your greatest thrill (or accomplishment if you’d prefer to answer that)?

Biggest thrills: Closing on a $110 million bond deal for NWS as CFO, closing on a $60 million equity deal for eSkye as CEO and acquiring the Napa Smith Brewery. Also a handful of sales closes over the years that were big enough to materially impact that particular business.

Biggest accomplishments: I would say seeing some of the people I hired, believed in and worked with go on to be very successful in their own right. That includes some Owen grads and many others along the way.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’ll give two:

Don’t let fear prevent you from pursing your dreams. Nothing great was ever accomplished by someone who simply thought great things. It only happens in doing.
Enjoy the journey. I spent a lot of energy focusing on outcomes: raising money, IPOs, deals and sale closes. Those are important, but enjoying the process of getting there, each and every day, needs to be constantly remembered. This is where we spend most of our time and if that is so, how do you want to remember most of your time?

Easier said than done, but you asked for advice.

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