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Business is Indeed Personal

With Mike Esterman

I have done many things in this lifetime. My first job was working in an ice cream parlor, and after that I worked in a movie theater. I was the popcorn gal, scooping up popcorn into small and large "buckets" on Friday and Saturday nights, while most of my friends were out having fun.

Later in life, I worked at ABC TV, WRKO Radio, and I went on to build an extremely popular kids' sunglass brand that was a favorite among eye care professionals nationwide, as well as parents and grandparents. I presently work with Resort and Hotel brands worldwide; some of which include, Four Seasons, Ritz Carltons, Marriotts, Hyatts, etc....and I also work with many Boutique Hotels, some of which many who are reading this, may or may not have ever heard of.

Through the years, it has been quite amazing to me, how people perceive their work, as well as others with whom they work with. With the rapid increase of social media, it has become a rarity, in my opinion, to meet people in any industry that really still have a passion for what they do; have an open heart with others; are authentic; and are able to be present for another human being. It is also just as rare to meet those in business who live in integrity and appreciate those they work with - whether clients, and/or coworkers.

I began thinking of people in a variety of industries that I know, who seem to be in this minority of "people people" - genuinely liking and caring for others. I came up with a list, and decided to do a series on "Business - Authentic and from the Heart." It is my hope that some or many who read this series, who are heart centered and have a passion for what they do (or many of those even who may have lost it and struggle to get it back) - know that there are people in many industries that are staying in their own lane; building their businesses and relationships with others; while remaining true to themselves; and working with integrity and courage.

My first interview is with Mike Esterman - CEO/Founder of Two decades as a direct source in booking notables in TV, Music, and Film around the Globe.

Me: So Mike, during my journey of building my kids' sunglass brand, you were one of the nicest and most genuine people I met along the way, and you have always struck me as an extremely authentic and stand up type of guy. Where does this come from do you think? It is rare that I meet others in business who are authentically themselves, and are able to work hard, while having an open heart.

Mike: I think it goes back to my upbringing. It is something inborn. I was always like this. A real people person. At times, it can be too much heart, and less business. I like to be straight to the point, and no sugar coating.

My takeaway:

I agree with Mike, in that I do not think anyone can "teach" another person how to be authentic and work hard. Those who lead with their heart, and genuinely care about others, are rare to find - but they do exist. Mike is an example of this. It is something within, and is like a compass point that everything else springs from. If one is lucky enough to know or work with someone like Mike, they are fortunate, especially in today's world.

It is very unfortunate that most people in business treat others as "numbers" and not people. More unfortunate is that many think business is about "smoke and mirrors" - it is definitely not! Mike is an example of what a genuine and authentic people person is. He is real.

Me: With your business journey, I would guess you are a lot like I am. Did you also go through the "school of hard knocks?"

Mike: Yes, definitely. I have been the person who learns as they go. I know every aspect of my business, and I strive to always cover myself in the beginning with all I am doing. I am an optimist, and remain positive each day; but I also understand the real world. At times, many do not want to hear reality.

My takeaway:

Working with a lot of individuals and teams, I notice that those who have gone through the "school of hard knocks", are more genuine in their approach to business, as well as life. They are able to blend being positive with being realistic. This is something I have learned through the years. Those who sugar coat things, and make everything about rainbows and unicorns, are generally the ones who have not been to the hard knocks school. They are more about smoke and mirrors, than understanding that authenticity and "struggles" come with any business - does not matter the industry.

Me: How do you deal with negativity in people, when this occurs?

Mike: I can't go down to someone else's level. I can't be like that.

My takeaway:

With lots of negativity in this world, and especially when it comes up in business (which it will!), I agree with Mike. Can't go down to someone else's level. It is an energy drain, and requires a lot of what I refer to as "Energy Effort Expenditure." I always say there is an ROI on Energy, and it is not always about numbers and spreadsheets.

Me: Have you been able to create a team or do you do most of your business on your own? Those who are like yourself, I find, have challenges building teams, and finding the right people who can fully add value, integrity, trust, cooperation, and synergy to the group.

Mike: It is hard to find those who will make a full team effort. Unfortunately, it is hard to have "win wins" these days within a business team.

My takeaway:

People these days talk about "win win" in business. I agree with Mike, in that it is hard to create and maintain "win wins" within business, This is why many get spread very thin with a lot on their plate. Maybe on paper things can look like 'win wins" - but for those who lead with their heart, only they can feel whether something is truly a win. I have met and work with few individuals who really understand the concept of team work. When we do find these "team players," they are appreciated wholeheartedly!

Me: What do you do to keep from burning yourself out? Do you think sometimes business can be a "bottomless pit" - always things to do, and at times feeling not too appreciated by others?

Mike: I travel each week, so I am not in my office full time. Business should not be about "what have you done for me lately." For the most part, I keep it fresh.

My takeaway:

For those who are "people people" - being in an office all the time can be horrid! Always good to travel, and be out with others. Also important, is to not get into a "rut" with day to day business. I have been in the slumps of business, and know it is not good. Constantly keeping things fresh is definitely a "requirement" and this takes consciousness, self awareness, as well as courage to know when to step away or pivot.

Me: How do you keep things fresh in your business? And have you ever wanted to leave what you are doing and do something else?

Mike: I love to see my ideas come to fruition. I love people, marketing, as well as travel. I have been looking into an opportunity in a golf course type venue - a type of destination place which has really never been done in the area. Nothing is solid yet, but it is something where I could use my skill sets and talents; and embrace another adventure in business.

My takeaway:

It seems that people who genuinely like people, excel in their own creativity, ideas, and marketing. Along with their hard work, authenticity, and integrity, they are able to use their talents and gifts in other business arenas. I think Mike would be amazing in anything he puts his heart and mind to. Having been in the hospitality industry for over 15 years, I think a venue like the one he is thinking about would be a raving success, and a unique destination spot which would no doubt be a hit!

I appreciate tremendously the time Mike took out of his busy afternoon to do this interview. With his extremely busy schedule, he has always been able to be present, take some time, and be available for me through many years. People like Mike are extremely rare, and those in business can learn a lot from him. I have said for a long time, that business is truly about people, and Mike is an example of this truth.

To check out more about Mike, and his amazing business - visit:

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"God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame." - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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