Without Integrity, Nothing Works: If you are making promises to other people and don’t keep them, look at your own life and you will see you are doing this not only with yourself but other people. We often apologize when we break these commitments but it’s not about morality, you just didn’t do something you said you would by the time you said you would do it.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Schneider.
Michael Schneider is the President and Founder of NEXT Events, which offers unparalleled networking and matchmaking experiences exclusively for key-decision makers in the interior design industry. Founded in 2020, NEXT Events connects buyers to suppliers in an engaging environment and through interactive events — crafted to ensure the progression of meaningful relationships.
Michael has spent the last 15 years leveraging relationships and developing innovative ways for his clients to market their business. Schneider founded the Boutique Design brand in 2005, which was recently acquired for a second time by a publicly traded company for $40+ million. As a serial entrepreneur, Michael is looking forward to reinventing and transforming the interior design industry all over again with NEXT Events. In his spare time, he enjoys fitness, flying planes, and hanging out in his upstate home with his wife, four sons, and rescue dog.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Westchester County, New York and attended public schools in Ossining, a village in Westchester. I have one older brother who is also an entrepreneur with an SAS company. I have memories as a child of many focused projects, collecting cards, building elaborate tents in our bedrooms and swimming in our backyard pool.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”― George Bernard Shaw
I consider myself a person of action and want to accomplish as much as I can in this life. When I read this quote, I find deep motivation to achieve. I realize we only have a limited amount of time in life, and I want to accomplish all my heart-felt goals in life. In my personal and professional life, I am action oriented, and I’m not afraid to take chances. The greatest regret that many people have in life is regretting not making choices based on fear. I want to ensure that I have no regrets when I look back on my life.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. My grandfather’s favorite book piqued my interest. I have read and listened to it many times. Simple and obvious suggestions that when you put into practice they work. It is a great reminder of the power of listening. God bestowed humans with two ears and one mouth for a reason. The power of listening will not only save lives but also make you friends. Most people just want to be heard and understood. By listening and acknowledging that you see their point of view, that person can just be with you and have the power of expressing themselves without judgement. Even if you do not agree with them, just listen!
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I founded the Boutique Design brand, which encompassed an industry leading B2B magazine, Boutique Design, a leading trade fair and conference for hospitality’s boutique and lifestyle design community, Boutique Design New York (BDNY) held every November at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City; and several conferences and events. As owner and published, I sold the Boutique Design brand in 2008 during the financial crisis and remained involved with the brand until it was sold again at the end of 2019.
I then launched NEXT Events, a company dedicated to providing networking and matchmaking experiences exclusively for key-decision makers in the interior design industry. Our events would connect buyers to suppliers in an engaging environment and through interactive events — crafted to ensure the progression of meaningful relationships. I have spent the last 15 years leveraging relationships and developing innovative ways for his clients to market their business.
Before the pandemic began, we scheduled our first event, All Aboard Design. This matchmaking cruise organized for buyers and sellers in the hospitality design industry was set to sail March 12, 2020 out of Ft. Lauderdale to Mexico aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ship. This was the same week that the United States Department of State issued a no cruise order. Perfect time to launch a new business! This was a blessing in disguise since I would not want to put the health and safety of our attendees in jeopardy. Since then, we repositioned this matchmaking event as a “land cruise” at The Sweetgrass Inn, Charleston, located at the Isle of Palms, South Carolina for April 2021.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the pandemic?
Knowing that we could no longer plan in-person events for the immediate future, I immediately pivoted with a nimble business strategy. In May 2020, I decided to move full steam ahead with virtual matchmaking meetings and events for buyers and sellers. With the launch of NEXT Virtual Meetings, we began facilitating 30-minute zoom meetings between buyers and suppliers of interior projects. These virtual events keep companies engaged while many professionals continue working from home and offer new ways to connect with a target audience regardless of limitations, leading to cost efficient, and value-added opportunities for all parties involved. Since the introduction of NEXT Virtual Meetings, we have expanded outside of the hospitality design industry and targeted design professionals from various industries such as healthcare and multi-housing.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Since travel and meeting was no longer an option, it was a natural inclination to continue supporting our industry with virtual meetings. I knew it was something we could implement easily at a tremendous value to the industry. I realized the status of face-to-face events for the time-being was on hold. Thus, we pivoted immediately and launched NEXT Virtual, a platform to assist buyers and suppliers to continue doing business in the comfort of their own home. This took much courage and focusing on being in action. Leaving the emotion out of your choices and realizing you always have a choice opens opportunities. If you keep a level head in a crisis, you will be surprised what opportunities are available.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Exceptionally well in terms of covering my compensation and making our investors happy. As far as scalability, that remains to be seen. We have plenty of evidence to suggest our customers are being specified for projects because of the meetings. We are looking into other virtual ways our customers present to their buyers.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Leeza McKweon, an investor and consultant. She provided the structure and support behind many of our launches and NEXT Virtual was no different. I came to find Leeza on upwork.com, a popular freelancer website. We originally collaborated on a now defunct Brooklyn Saver, a local printed discount guide for Brooklyn. The best thing that came out of that project was meeting Leeza, and I am very grateful to have access to such a talented and bright person. She is a huge asset to NEXT.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
We have more than 30 virtual matchmaking meetings in a week, and I am the “fly on the wall”. I have seen people make interesting connections with each other and strengthen their business relationships. It’s rewarding to see those relationships bloom! One recent example is a well-known furniture company looking for another alternative to connect with interior designers, retailers, and design firms, with a number of in-person trade shows cancelled or postponed in 2020. Through the NEXT Virtual Meetings platform, the furniture company participated in face-to-face virtual encounters via Zoom video conferencing with new clientele. The company’s leadership not only offered screen shares of slides for its new collections but also gave a virtual tour of the company’s 400,000-square-foot warehouse via the founder’s segue — taking customers on a virtual journey.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Delegate: You cannot build a business without outsourcing some tasks, specifically things you are not efficient or competent with.
- Be in Action, Skip the Emotion: I’ve come to learn from Landmark Worldwide that I will accomplish more than I could imagine if I get outside my head and just take action.
- Pick Unreasonable Goals: Deadlines are the solution to procrastination.
- Uphold Accountability: It is easy to blame others for failures but ultimately you are in control of your choices.
- Without Integrity, Nothing Works: If you are making promises to other people and don’t keep them, look at your own life and you will see you are doing this not only with yourself but other people. We often apologize when we break these commitments but it’s not about morality, you just didn’t do something you said you would by the time you said you would do it.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I, too, was victim to being glued to the news morning, day, and night. We spoke to a child counselor and she suggested turning off the news and being more present for our kids. It was not until we took this action with our kids that I realized news in the background is not only a distraction but increases stress levels and anxiety. Suffice to say, as soon as we skipped this practice, we were all better off. It is not about being misinformed — I still read the News app and listen to 1010 WINS and get everything I need in five minutes or less.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would challenge everyone to give back. Not just write a check but take a selfless action and do something that inspires you. You will have a feeling of fulfillment that you will not be able to explain and this action will come back to you ten times as great.
“The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
― Muhammad Ali
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
President-Elect Joe Biden! I would love the opportunity to pick his brain and discuss these concerns regarding healthcare, climate change, and many other issues facing our world today. Now more than ever, we need to listen to each other.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!