Steve Marks is a proud entrepreneur with decades of experience that includes cultivating a thriving business, Main Street Gourmet, through multiple exits.
He is a two-time winner of the United Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year award and was twice listed on the INC. 500 list for the fastest growing US companies. Whether you are just getting started in business or are a longtime veteran, his story will provide dynamic insights and valuable lessons into the roller-coaster journey of the entrepreneurial world.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Steve Marks: I am a retired CEO and co-founder of Main Street Gourmet, a supplier of bakery products to national and regional food operators. The company’s strategy is to acquire niche-oriented food companies that can serve existing customers and provide entry into new customers and products.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Steve Marks: I am going to disagree with your premise. My dream was always to have my own business. Ever since I was a kid. My only jobs growing up were jobs that didn’t have a boss. Whether it was a door-to-door lemonade stand, mowing lawns, or washing cars, I stayed in that lane. My next-door neighbor was a business professor at the University of Akron, and he counseled me to go into accounting. He said that every business needs accounting and if you have that skill, you can go into any business. I would go on to become a CPA and work for a large accounting firm, waiting for my opportunity to become an entrepreneur. I wasn’t concerned with the type of business, just that I wanted to be in any business.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Steve Marks: Over the last 40 years, I would journal and chronicle about things that happened to me or lessons I learned along the way, often through quirky ways or bizarre circumstances. Once I retired, I had this collection of work staring at me every day. I had never shared it with anyone. I decided to put it all together in a book to convey and articulate my dream to be an entrepreneur and the great (and sometimes not so great) experiences I have had.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Steve Marks: In a short sentence, I would describe it as an emotional roller coaster. It’s not for everyone. I think that there are several different attributes or traits that must be present to be a successful entrepreneur. You can argue all day whether they are innate or learned but I think they are vital for success. I think the three most important ones are:
- Risk-taking, one who is not intimidated by taking calculated risks,
- Taking initiative and acting decisively and
- A person who encompasses a life force of independence.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Steve Marks: One of our strengths at Main Street Gourmet has always been our culture and continually refining, adjusting, and nurturing it. My business partner and I both had jobs in our past that we didn’t like and so I think we were conscious of that when hiring people and developing positions. We have always made culture a priority. When people like the company and what it stands for, it’s easier to get things accomplished.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Steve Marks: Organizations that can pivot and do it quickly will be the ones most successful (especially in an environment with turmoil). Successful phases of a pivot include deciding decisively and getting everyone in the organization to grow in the same direction. Leadership is key. I would encourage business owners to involve as many people in their organization as possible. Illicit ideas from people in the trenches and others who don’t normally participate in decision-making.
In this covid environment where many businesses are in jeopardy of failing, all ideas need to be brought to the table. This can mean using non-traditional sources. How excited would your workforce be if they came up with an idea that became reality? You never really know which ideas can turn a company around. Testing ideas and getting them in motion is critical.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Steve Marks: I make Muffins!
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Steve Marks: Well, I can read my wife’s mind. It still doesn’t help with arguments.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Steve Marks: My new book is actually out now and its title is “The Muffin Man Chronicles: Recipes On Entrepreneurial Success!”
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Steve Marks 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 Steve Marks or his company, you can do it through his – Facebook
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