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Michael Buono: “Why Mentoring Others Can Prevent Burnout”

I spend a considerable amount of time mentoring those around me. I truly enjoy guiding others and offering a different perspective to a challenge that they may be facing. In turn, this is also personally beneficial because I am able to let go and delegate, knowing that they are capable of taking on the responsibility. […]

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I spend a considerable amount of time mentoring those around me. I truly enjoy guiding others and offering a different perspective to a challenge that they may be facing. In turn, this is also personally beneficial because I am able to let go and delegate, knowing that they are capable of taking on the responsibility.


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Buono, Principal and CEO of New York Renaissance Group and Mulberry Development LLC.

Michael Buono is Principal and Chief Executive Officer of New York Renaissance Group and Mulberry Development LLC, New York’s leading full service real estate development and construction management firms. A seasoned developer who draws from deep expertise garnered during his tenure within the international financial sector, Mr. Buono expertly manages the economic and operational intricacies of the firms’ vast portfolio of projects.

Mr. Buono’s proven ability to create efficiencies of scale without compromise of quality is exemplified across the luxury hospitality, retail, commercial, residential and community infrastructure sectors. Among his many credits is the development, design and construction of luxurious private residences and award-winning hospitality destinations AKA Central Park, The Freehand Hotel, The Plaza Hotel and Residences, and the reimagined Sound View Hotel. Mr. Buono is also responsible for the development and creation of retail locations for leading brands including Bally, Yves Saint Laurent, DITA, Bottega Veneta and Tory Burch, among others.

Prior to New York Renaissance Group and Mulberry Development, as a senior executive with the Sydell Group and GFI Development Company, Mr. Buono was charged with overseeing the development and construction of the acclaimed 168 room, $105 million dollar NoMad Hotel and Restaurant, featuring the 2012 James Beard Award recipient Daniel Humm. He also managed the $140 million dollar transformation of the turn-of-the-century Breslin Hotel from an SRO to the trendsetting Ace Hotel that we know today.

Mr. Buono has also held prominent positions with international firms KPMG, Booz Allen & Hamilton and Hoffmann-La Roche.

Mr. Buono received a BA in Finance and Economics and an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University where he is both an active alumnus and member of the university’s Executive Scholar’s Mentoring Program; and continued his education through the study of Structural Negotiations at Harvard Law School. Mr. Buono is a member of the United Nations Agency for Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development; and has been honored for academic excellence by the National Business Honor Society, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Beta Gamma Sigma.

Born in the US and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mr. Buono resides with his wife and two children in New Jersey.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Ibegan my career in finance. I could have easily maintained a corporate job and made a nice living with the ability to check in and check out — but I always want more. I spent years exploring and trying to figure out what really motivated me, and identifying what I was passionate about. Through this process, I discovered real estate development which allowed me to merge my analytical skills with tangible results.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

I think the one challenge throughout, and something that I struggle with, is that leadership can be lonely. You have to learn to rely on a sixth sense, your gut. You have to weigh how you institute the right controls, learn how to delegate, and create layers. At the end of the day, I am my own architect. I have to implement and make the right decisions at the right time.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

A lot of hard work and sacrifice. I am a student of what I do and at times it impacts my personal life and ability to be around loved ones. Success has come in learning to achieve balance. I guess it also helps to be married to a therapist [laughs]!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Time management is essential. Daily hit lists are the key to prioritizing and productivity.
  2. Know when you have outgrown your professional inner-circle.
  3. Carefully analyze and evaluate opportunities, and know that it is ok to say no.
  4. Take care of yourself, proper diet and exercise will ensure that you can functions at your best.
  5. Whether it is exploring something brand new or finding a new way to do something you’ve done a hundred times, never stop discovering.

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I spend a considerable amount of time mentoring those around me. I truly enjoy guiding others and offering a different perspective to a challenge that they may be facing. In turn, this is also personally beneficial because I am able to let go and delegate, knowing that they are capable of taking on the responsibility.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I had a wonderful mentor who gave me an opportunity to reinvent myself when I wasn’t where I wanted to be with my career. He was a veteran in the real estate industry and taught me a lot of the basics and helped lay the foundation. In addition to serving as an advisor, he also became a friend creating a sense of trust that allowed me to let my guard down and fully embrace the lessons he taught me. At the very onset, I clearly remember him saying, “I want you to challenge me because through conflict there will be growth.”

My ultimate take away was learning that you have to put yourself in situations where you are pushed and even uncomfortable. Those moments will test you, but overcoming them will create an amazing growth, and an improved person as a result. I don’t like the feeling of becoming comfortable because that means I’m not pushing as hard as I should be.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I want to teach my children as much as possible and offer them the opportunities that weren’t offered to me growing up. I speak to them like equals. The other week, my young son and I had a misunderstanding so I tried to make it into a learning opportunity. We set up a meeting at 8am the next day in my office and we negotiated a deal to figure it out.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

I want to create amazing structures that will last long after I am gone and a business that my children can continue to grow. But with that said, they are still very young, and above all, I want to empower them to pursue their own passions.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I would encourage people to be more mindful and thoughtful about our environment. Great change can come about by gaining a true understanding of the positive impact of our collective actions.

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