Michael Nova’s inspiring story has been featured on Entrepreneur.com and many other publications.
He has developed a proven track record of overseeing multiple businesses & creative projects simultaneously. As president of Nova Music Productions, Inc., Michael was featured in the New York Times as a pioneer in helping independent music artists take control of their own careers to achieve success in the music industry. Michael then created Nova Disc and Nova Custom Printing, divisions of the corporation that would focus on offering services to businesses exclusively. Over the years, Nova’s clients grew to include NASA, MTV, BET, Google, L’Oreal, Halston, Palm Pictures, & The United Way, and many others.
Because the business was doing well, Michael found a calling to give back to the community. He co-founded Metrofly, a non-profit organization that hosted fundraising events for charity. Then, with the intention of also making a difference through his work, Michael fully funded, wrote, directed edited, and produced the film portion of the multimedia project, “X: The Human Condition” for Hypnotical Entertainment, while composing and co-producing the music. During production, Michael lost his eyesight due to illness, but manifested a miraculous recovery, inspiring people around the world with his story.
The project has received rave reviews globally, from Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia to North & South America. To date, the majority of all proceeds have been donated to charity. Michael then founded the worldwide community website, RiseUpEight, with its mission to inspire people to overcome challenges in life. The website profiles everyday people as well as celebrities overcoming adversity.
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Table of Contents
Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Michael Nova: My name is Michael Nova. I’m a serial entrepreneur, recording artist and filmmaker. My business corporation, Nova Custom Printing, serves clients nationwide with branding and marketing solutions to help their businesses grow. When I’m not doing that, I focus on my mission in life, which is to inspire people to overcome adversity through both our music and our worldwide community website, RiseUpEight.
My motto is “don’t look at adversity as your enemy, look at it as your ally.” I say this because adversity strengthens us to become the people we are meant to be. Of course, going through adversity is not easy, but looking back, you can see that you would not have achieved success without it.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Michael Nova: I’d always find ways to be creative as a child, and eventually found my way to music. Around 1998, I began putting together the music group, X: THC and the music and multimedia project, X: The Human Condition, which was created initially as a kind of “message in a bottle” to inspire people to realize that if you feel somewhat lost, like you didn’t fit in anywhere, like an outsider, that you are not alone. This particular project took over 12 years to complete because everyone I brought the project to in the music industry rejected it as being “impossible” to achieve. Instead of giving up, I decided to fund it myself. Meanwhile, I had started my music corporation, Nova Music, three years earlier, in 1995. The Corporation focused on working with independent artists in the music industry.
This was before the new music industry where artists are now taking complete control of their careers. In the early 90s, major labels still ruled the industry. We were at the forefront of helping independent artists, and as the corporation grew, we found ourselves serving more and more clients outside of the music industry. Still, I knew enough about the industry to launch the multimedia project despite the lack of funding.
Unfortunately, I became so enveloped in the project that I was spending less and less time running my business, to the point where I found myself near bankruptcy. Then, during the post-production of X: The Human Condition, I became seriously ill and nearly lost my sense of sight permanently. At the same time, I was afflicted with several other serious health issues. My prognosis was bleak. It was a dark time literally in my life. Facing bankruptcy and serious illness, I had to work my way out of all of that at once.
It was an uphill climb, but eventually, I managed to come through all of it stronger and with more focus than I had ever experienced before. I achieved a miraculous recovery and now dedicate myself to helping others understand that nothing is impossible, despite what the experts might say. As I became stronger and stronger, I began collecting stories of other people who overcame adversity and founded the website, RiseUpEight.org, based on the Japanese proverb, “fall down seven times rise up eight”.
The website features profiles of people overcoming challenges in life, from the desperation of overcoming serious illness to the darkness of homelessness to the tragedy of childhood hunger to getting out of incredible life-threatening situations. Through all of this, I become more and more of the belief that adversity really molds us into becoming what we are meant to be as human beings. As for my business, we went from serving unknown music artists to now working with Fortune 500 companies. I applied the lessons learned from my personal experience to my business.
This meant focusing on the human element, where we placed our emphasis on never losing the personal touch with our clients, speaking to them one-on-one as human beings, and not faceless numbers and metrics. From the beginning, we wanted to be a company that helped solve problems for people. Of course, this includes overcoming adversity, which is faced daily in any business. We always aim to make a difference and never forget that businesses are made up of people.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Michael Nova: Our label printing company has 25+ years of experience in creating custom-made solutions for businesses that are looking to stand out from the competition. This includes everything from rush jobs on same-day custom stickers within hours to creating custom packaging for products, manufacturing, and installation of signage for retail and/or events and trade shows. To promote a business, we also offer promotional activewear including custom T-shirt printing. But perhaps most importantly, custom decals for shop window signage and B2B labels of all types including custom foil stickers, product labels, individual custom die-cut stickers on kiss cut sticker sheets, bottle labels, and fine wine labels are all available.
As I mentioned previously, what makes us different is that we place the focus on our clients, and serve them not as “one size fits all” options on a website that you can choose from. Instead, we work with the client on and off-line, to help them achieve their needs and grow their business through custom-made branding and marketing solutions that often mean thinking out-of-the-box. We put together custom packaging for products that sell, but we do so in a way that is achievable for small businesses. There are cost-effective options for any budget that can help your business achieve success, and so, we work with both major corporations as well as mom-and-pop entrepreneurs on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, at RiseUpEight, we highlight stories of people worldwide who overcome adversity in order to inspire others to never give up. And at X: THC we create music that explores the human condition. Our new album, “Fall down seven times rise up eight” was created to help promote the RiseUpEight website, to spread our message of overcoming adversity. Each song on the album focuses on a different type of adversity and is an exploration of the human condition in 2021. We think this is something that is needed right now.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Michael Nova: While I have a bachelor’s degree from NYU, I don’t think that helped me in either creating my corporation or running it. I don’t think degrees are important at all. I think the quality is much more important. When I started my corporation, DESIRE and FOCUS were two qualities that were indispensable to me. It’s important to have that desire to be your own boss and the independence to be able to function without supervision. The focus is indispensable because the to be pulled in several directions at once as a CEO. Everyone is coming to you with different questions and tasks to be completed, but you need to have the focus to really zero in on what’s important at the moment. To be able to delegate what is secondarily important is crucial because there are only so many hours in a day.
To be able to tell what is urgently important from what is just as important but not as urgent learned process. It takes some experience to understand what you need to focus on at any given moment, so you have to put yourself through the wringer to understand this. If you are faced with two tasks at once, you need to weigh which one can be delegated or put off to a later time, and which one you need to handle yourself, right now. You often have only seconds to decide. Which will you choose? This also means having an instinct for where to place your focus. Similarly, understand that what you focus on becomes your reality. If you focus on what is not working, that becomes your reality, and it’s easy to become enveloped in negativity.
On the other hand, if you can focus on what IS working, that can motivate you to attack the problem while not being distracted from the issue with negative thoughts, which can not only demotivate but actually hinder your progress. So to become a successful CEO, you also need to work on yourself, and grow as a person, to understand yourself and others, and to communicate effectively with both yourself and others!
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Michael Nova: The secrets to becoming a successful CEO are:
- Understanding yourself and the nature of others you are working with.
This means taking the time to get to know them and yourself. This leads to…
- Understanding empathy, and being able to put yourself in the shoes of others.
As a leader, this is indispensable because if people feel they are understood, they will feel a connection with you, trust you and respect you. This level of understanding can only grow your business.
- Understanding that setbacks are opportunities.
In business, there will always be setbacks, but in every setback, there is an opportunity. This is not just a cliché but a truth that can only be learned by experience. Whenever you are faced with a setback, ask yourself, “where is the opportunity here?” For instance, if a focus is on a particular segment of your business that is not working well, this may be an opportunity to look in a different direction, where you may find an unmet need in the marketplace that you didn’t consider before because you were so focused on this one segment of your business that is not working well.
- Understanding the meaning of leadership.
Mapping out the direction of a company and its employees is not easy. But you need to have a vision, and the focus to create it into reality. Delivering this vision to those around you in a clear and concise way, and enrolling them into making this vision a reality is extremely important. How can you enroll people into making your vision a reality? This means communicating effectively so that they can see the benefit in a clear and concise way. It also means laying out the challenges ahead of time, and how you will overcome those challenges. Of course, there will always be unforeseen challenges that come up during your journey, but being prepared for challenges, in general, is extremely important. This goes back to #3 above in understanding that setbacks are opportunities.
My greatest inspiration is my father, who worked his way up from nothing to creating his own business. He always used to say to me that life is not a straight road. There will be many twists and turns in your life that you will need to manage effectively. This has been true for me, and I learned to take the detour when it is given to you. It is important to understand when a roadblock is in front of you and how banging your head against it won’t break it down. Instead, you need to go around it.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Michael Nova: Business dropped off 50% during the pandemic, so instead of wringing our hands and worrying about the situation, we focused on what we could improve during the downtime. Because of this, we were able to completely revamp our website, and as a result, have achieved increased sales since the relaunching of the website. This is part of what I was explaining earlier in turning a setback into an opportunity. If you’re faced with a setback, try to figure out where the opportunity lies, and focus on that. Again where you put your focus is what becomes your reality. Of course, all of this is secondary to health, because if you are ill, your focus will need to be completely on getting well.
I understand this on a deep level because I went through a serious illness and had to focus completely on that. Thankfully, we have not been affected directly by COVID, and our hearts go out to the millions of people that were directly affected. There is no amount of business that can make up for the loss.
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Michael Nova: One of the greatest mistakes I’ve noticed business leaders make in general is growing too fast. Our business always had the intention of growing slowly. We knew if we grew too fast, it would dilute our strength, which is maintaining the personal touch with our clients and treating them as we would like to be treated ourselves. Instead of running headfirst into automation and how to save time and grow the bottom line, we realized that our current client base needs to be catered to with care, and not treated as numbers but as people.
This meant sacrificing automation for humanity. It also means less clientele coming in, but more loyalty from the clients you do serve. Because of this, we have maintained our client base for decades. This does not mean that we don’t take in new clients, but it does mean treating each one respectfully, as an individual. conversely, we’ve watched as some of our competition has grown, and then suddenly, when faced with the crisis of 2001, 2008 and now, 2020 had to go out of business because they couldn’t maintain their growth
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Michael Nova: What allowed our business to grow and thrive placing the focus on serving the client. The focus is never on making an extra buck, it is making the client happy and satisfied. This creates loyalty with your clients. They will trust you and come back to you time and again, and this is why we’ve maintained our business relationships with our clients for decades. We grew the business and still grow the business through word-of-mouth.
That is not achievable unless you have clients that love your work. I think in 2010, the focus I placed on the music and film multimedia project took my focus away from the business, and from that, I learned that you can’t lose track of your business even though you are enveloped in other projects. The focus must always be on running your business if you want to be successful. It’s perfectly fine to work on other projects, but never forget that your business cannot run itself.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Michael Nova: The #1 challenge in our business right now is getting back to where we were before the pandemic. Many of our competitors had to go out of business, and we dropped off 50% during the pandemic. While the business is recovering from that, we are still not back to where we were at a pre-pandemic level. We are working towards that and had our best month since before the pandemic recently. Things are looking up!
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Michael Nova: The most useless skill? I don’t believe there is one. As I go through all the skills I’ve learned, I can see instances where they were positive. Although in general, I don’t think I needed to become an NYU graduate to become CEO of my Corporation, I still think all the skills I learned were applicable in some way. I do think though that there is no substitute for experience. Having worked for others taught me what it is like to be an employee, and as a result, I can understand my employees on a much deeper level.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Michael Nova: The most difficult decision I had to make was to cease advertising in all of its forms and to focus completely on word-of-mouth to grow our business. While advertising brought in new clients, we found that it was taking away from serving our current base of clients with the level of service that they deserve. While hiring more employees right now solves the problem, we don’t feel that would be the right direction for us at the current time. Focusing on our level of service is of the utmost importance, because that is what our company was built upon.
We have not noticed any drop-off in volume of business despite the lack of advertising, because we’ve got more referrals this year than ever before. Not only have we saved money, but we’ve been able to refocus our efforts in a positive way that benefits both our clients and our employees.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Michael Nova for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Michael Nova or his company, you can do it through his – Facebook
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