Never compromise your ethics, even for a big payday. Vet your clients and the people you do business with, in the same way companies screen employees, and the way we all do with new friends and romantic partners. Reputation is everything, and nowadays, brands and careers can end with the wrong association.
As part of my series on lessons learned by accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Teichberg.
Mike Teichberg based in Miami Beach, Florida is the full-time Miami-Dade Director with Jewish National Fund-USA and Founder of InventivHR. He is a mentor at The Founder Institute and serves as an advisor to several startups in the technology and healthcare sectors.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico of Cuban descent, Teichberg’s undergraduate studies in Pre-Law & Entrepreneurial Leadership at Tufts University brought him to Boston. He remained in Beantown for more than a decade, where he began his career in Human Resources working for large non-profits as they grew through mergers and acquisitions during the Great Recession. He was recruited into the for-profit world to scale high-growth education technology startups. He has led teams & supported operations in more than fifteen countries including Argentina, Australia, Bhutan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom.
Teichberg’s work in talent acquisition and company culture innovation was formally recognized by South Florida Business & Wealth Magazine in 2016 when he was named HR Professional of the Year in the Education industry. He was the head of HR for two of Miami’s Top Ten Most-Valued Tech Startups in 2017, as named in South Florida Business Journal. His past employer accolades include A Best Non-Profit To Work For by WorkforGood.org, A Top Workplace by Boston Globe five years in a row, and an Inc.500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America three years in a row.
He was motivated by the recent rise in anti-Semitism and a lifelong passion for Israel to switch careers and focus his full-time energy back in the non-profit world in support of Jewish National Fund’s $1B Ten Year Roadmap to further develop Israel and support all who call it home. His firm, InventivHR continues to support small to midsize businesses, non-profits & startups through a network of consultant partners. Since 2014 he has been living in Miami with his wife Rachel and their pets Meatball, Kiwi, and Ruby.
Thank you so much for joining us Mike! Can you tell us the story about your career path?
Immediately after college, I did not have a clear career path. Due to the deteriorating situation with Puerto Rico’s economy, it made the most sense to stay in the Boston area to begin my adult post-college life. I met with thirty staffing firms and temp agencies in the Boston area, which helped me develop an excellent interview presence and the good recruiters helped coach me and improved my resume. I realized they would be presenting my candidacy to their clients at no cost to me and, in many cases, for jobs not listed publicly.
After a handful of administrative temp assignments, I landed my first assignment as a Human Resources Assistant, supporting my first mentor, Lisa Amaya Price, a career HR leader in the biotech space. In six short months, she taught me the fundamentals that served as a master class in HR. In my early career, I rose through the ranks in progressively larger HR roles at a variety of non-profits.
I was an early user of LinkedIn and secured my first executive HR role, and several subsequent leadership roles, from messages received on the platform from recruiters. Over the years volunteering as a job coach, based on my experience, I have always recommended that job seekers at any stage of their career, work with staffing firms and establish LinkedIN profiles.
I spent the second half of my HR career working with executive teams at high-growth education technology startups. I designed high-volume recruitment programs in order to hire thousands of employees, as they scaled. The work was rewarding at the time and I learned a tremendous amount about business, collaboration, and leadership. However, as a son and grandson of successful business owners, I wanted to take what I had learned about growing tech businesses to try and grow a services business of my own.
The daily adrenaline rush of the hunt for new clients felt exhilarating and exciting. No bosses. No politics. No structure. Being out in the wild, the safety of corporate America became apparent immediately. Building something from scratch kept me going, and it was a fantastic ride. In the end, I built a business I am proud of, but learned I wasn’t truly passionate about Human Resources. I realized that I loved and excelled at prospecting, business development, connecting people, and innovating new solutions to solve problems, more than delivering HR services. This is what brought me to my new career in fundraising. I am approaching my two year anniversary since I became a full time non-profit fundraiser building a social ecosystem of giving for a purpose. The work with Jewish National Fund-USA is incredibly rewarding, and I get to use the skills I loved from InventivHR and my former HR career to make a difference.
We all know launching a business is difficult in the beginning. Can you tell us how you navigated the start of your entrepreneurial journey?
I spent two months before formally launching the business setting up one-on-one meetings with my connections on Linkedin that I had amassed over the years. My strategy was to learn from the success stories of former heads of HR from leading global brands, who had launched their own HR consulting practices over the past two decades. Connecting with people at different stages of their business, helped me create an initial business model taking into account what had and hadn’t worked for them early on.
The early days consisted of attending at least three community/networking events a week, cold calling business owners from membership directories on Chambers of Commerce and other organization websites, writing cold emails and sending LinkedIn messages. I found that the key was connecting with former colleagues and securing the first few B2B clients through their word-of-mouth referrals. The game-changer was landing partnerships with other consulting firms who had clients we could service. Client acquisition was quicker, cheaper, and more reliable.
Within my first two months of launching my business, I landed a recruitment contract worth close to $100,000. This was a big deal as a startup. It quickly became apparent that the client was a toxic leader and not respectful towards others. I was concerned for the psychological safety and long-term well-being of candidates I was submitting for interviews.
While immediately it seemed painful and possibly naive to lose the revenue potential, I couldn’t in good conscience place someone in what I knew was a toxic work environment, in addition to risking my company’s and my own reputation. Upon further research, I found online reviews and further evidence confirming my own concerns.
I knew I had to fire the client and so I terminated our agreement. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of qualifying potential customers and any associations you look to make. Before “cancel culture” became rampant, I had the instinct and moral compass to walk away from a bad business owner. With years of experience, hiring staff, I had access to reliable recruitment processes but had never even considered that a similar type of vetting or background check would be necessary for choosing clients.
Please tell us about your decision to pivot from a successful career in Human Resources to a new career in fundraising.
If it were just me on my own, I would have most likely continued working on the business full time for a few years, and I am confident, based on the first year’s success, that it would have scaled successfully. We were profitable after the first year, and it still provides some passive income through partnerships. When we have family or a significant other to consider, sometimes we need to be selfless and make decisions for the greater good. As the business was starting to scale, we learned the hard way that due to my wife’s lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, the stresses of running a startup meant that the best thing for her well-being would be the stability of full-time employment. Since I mentioned earlier that I realized I wasn’t truly passionate about the HR work itself, it ended up being an easy decision to step away from growing the business and ending client contracts that required my direct involvement.
The difficult part for me, and for anyone who realizes they want and need a career change is to figure out what that new career should be. Fortunately starting my business showed me what I liked and what I could be successful doing. Once I decided on my career pivot to full-time sales and business development, the sales jobs that began to materialize were selling HR services or with staffing firms. Those meetings confirmed my interest in business development, but not selling HR-related services. I wanted to focus on something I was genuinely passionate about supporting.
I had never viewed non-profit fundraising as being “sales” or being entrepreneurial. After reading, researching and meeting with a job coach, I understood what growing a fundraising campaign entailed and realized the career path was ideal for me. It felt like I had discovered a hidden gem, an industry ripe for disruption and innovation using all my favorite skills. When I found the opportunity to work for Jewish National Fund-USA, a $100M a year non-profit, it was an easy decision to make the leap to join a top rated charity with a mission close to my heart. The fact that JNF is a household brand in the Jewish community was an added bonus. To prepare for my new career, I read how-to books, networked with career fundraisers in Miami-Dade, and signed up for JNF’s formal fundraising training in order to hit the ground running.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
The role I am in now, running JNF’s annual fundraising campaign for Miami-Dade county in support of Israel, is my dream job. The position requires all of my favorite skills — business development, establishing new partnerships, marketing, networking, project management, creativity, and hosting events. I am now approaching the end of my second year in non-profit fundraising, and I love it. This shift has been the most fulfilling period of my entire professional career.
InventivHR continues without my daily involvement, and while I enjoy volunteering my time as a mentor and advisor to share my HR expertise, I feel fulfilled pursuing my full-time passion for doing fundraising work connecting community members and Foundations with infrastructure and community building projects in Israel.
Fundraising was already going through an evolutionary change pre-pandemic with social media, accessible technology enabling virtual programming, and shifting attitudes of millennials. Like in many other industries and businesses, the pandemic accelerated the inevitable and forced the transition to virtual meetings and events. I now use digital marketing and hosting virtual programs to meet the new generation of business-oriented philanthropists. This new multi-channel strategic approach makes the work exhilarating and, funnily enough, like scaling a startup to find investor partners.
Early on in my career, I learned that I had a natural knack for good project management, organization, and innovative solutions. As I moved into different HR roles, I developed a great practice that served me well in my first 90 days at a company, and this also works well for anyone starting a new career or a new venture. Developing a 30–60–90-day plan with components of a needs assessment and analysis of the current state, ensures the quickest way to be effective, learn the business/industry, and get to know the people.
Identify what procedures and systems are already in place at your new company or that exist in the marketplace, in the case of entrepreneurs starting something new. What do department heads or clients need to make their jobs easier, how do they work internally and with others, identify gaps, and make recommendations on what can be improved. By meeting with stakeholders, you can map out a project to-do list in the case of a new job, and if building a new business, this is extremely helpful in creating your product or service offering.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting out and what lesson you learned from that?
None of my stories pale in comparison in hilarity to the classic tale from when my father first opened his chiropractic practice in Puerto Rico. He treated two Catholic nuns for free because he didn’t have the heart to charge them, and one day, my mother walked into the office, and the entire waiting room was full of nuns. Word had gotten out that the new chiropractor on the island did not charge women of the cloth.
While the freemium model (free basic; upgrade for better features) had already become common in tech, now during the pandemic, “try before you buy” or “donate what you can” has become commonplace for virtual service providers due to a higher volume audience nationally or internationally, whereas before they were only local.
I believe the basis of any commercial relationship, whether it is for-profit or not, should be mutually beneficial. There are too many options today for how to spend our money and our time. Consumers want a relationship, have a need for belonging, and to be part of a cause. The value you offer someone should resonate tangibly and intangibly, in a quid pro quo so that both sides benefit.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
For anyone looking to launch a business, jump into a new career choice, or even start your next role working for someone else, one of the mantras I heard repeatedly in the startup world that applies in all of these scenarios is Mary Kay Ash’s words of wisdom, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless.”
Whether you are delivering a service, selling a product, or need buy-in of multiple stakeholders for a project, people buy-in because of you. You might have a unique offering or idea better than the competition, but in the end, people buy into your abilities and your approach. People do business with people, and a cohesive team with processes and workflows produces the best results.
Based on feedback from RFP’s and clients who selected InventivHR, I know that on bids we won, we consistently stood apart because companies that typically could not afford an HR executive or had never had an HR function, loved that they could adopt progressive startup workplace programs into their companies. It was my unique experience and my rapport with them, that ultimately led them to want to work with us.
Which tips would you recommend to colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
For years, HR professionals fought for a seat at the table; to be seen as strategic. When company culture, the battle for talent acquisition, premium benefits and perks, and Diversity and Inclusion became sought after by Boards and employees, it became an exciting time to be in the field of HR. Some of the most successful companies saw the influence of HR as necessary and the function became elevated from administrative to a strategic part of the executive team.
When the coronavirus pandemic broke, the transformation and disruption that impacted every facet of society catapulted the HR function into being strategic and proactive in many more organizations to determine how to operate and manage their workforces during these times. It is also a tremendously stressful and challenging time with every state and county making their own decisions related to opening, closing, regulations, payroll, taxes, and benefit leaves, to name a few. HR professionals need to stay constantly up to date with ever-changing rules and regulations.
Despite the uncertainty, 2020 has been an ideal time to redefine my daily practices. Here is the list of things I recommend to fight burnout that I wish I had done throughout my career more effectively.
Professional Self Care Tips
- Set boundaries with a start and end time for doing work and to receive and respond to work-related communications.
- Take breaks! Set defined “work sprints” of 90 minute working sessions and then walk away for 5–10 minutes to do something for yourself.
- Ask for help and delegate to teammates. Talk to your supervisor about what you need.
Personal Self Care Tips
- Limit mobile phone time and Internet time with daily cutoff times in your settings. Delete social media apps on your mobile and limit all social media use to your desktop or laptop only.
- Exercise and meditate daily. Spend at least 30–45 minutes daily doing workout videos and apps at home or run, swim, and bike outdoors. Meditate daily for 5–10 minutes using apps or simply be distraction-free with your thoughts.
- Make genuine time for family and friends for events and catch-up calls.
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?
I was fortunate that I met the love of my life in college while we were both working at a sleepaway camp in the Poconos. Having an equally dedicated, hard-working partner with similar values gave me the stability and focus to work hard, explore the world, and continuously work on myself through my 20s.
My wife, the unstoppable Rachel Teichberg, is an inspirational speaker and consultant with Veterinary Growth Partners, based in Austin, TX. In addition to hospital operations-related support, she is an expert trainer and facilitator in emotional intelligence, workplace improvement, and conflict resolution. Rachel is a talented manager and public speaker who has spoken at national and international conferences on these subjects.
Rachel is a shining example for the lupus community, as someone who manages her disease through a lifestyle plan focused on diet and overall wellness. She represents the epitome of positive thinking by reframing her autoimmune disease as a superpower. While we all suffer from ailments, many people wait too long to seek medical care. With lupus, it forces Rachel to be more in-tune with her body, and she’s learned to identify warning signs early when stressors and other external factors are causing what would otherwise become discomfort or pain.
While most of us run ourselves into the ground by overworking, overeating, and lacking sleep, she is constantly monitoring and tweaking her routine to achieve the ideal lifestyle that eventually can put her lupus into remission. We can all stand to benefit by listening to our bodies, being selective of what we eat, and how we let things affect us. I am beyond proud of her. She is my rock and I have seen the benefits of her plan on her health. I look to apply it in my life, as best I can, so I too can benefit.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am more fulfilled than ever before professionally. As a consultant in my own business, I have offered expertise to business people who needed help and valued my opinions. Now, as a fundraiser, I feel fortunate that I can give back every day by using my skills to bring people together to do meaningful work that embodies the greatest values in Judaism, work that is both a mitzvah (Hebrew for good deed) and tikkun olam (Hebrew for repair the world).
It’s incredibly rewarding to wake up every day knowing that my job is to raise money for communities and affiliates, that is doing good by building and supporting the Israeli communities of the northern Galilee and the southern Negev regions. JNF-USA builds housing, plants forests, invests in water solutions and agricultural research & development, funds historical site preservation, supports special needs programs, and provides educational and travel opportunities in Israel for Americans of all faiths and age groups.
Here at home, I help foster community locally and nationally for our donor investors, or partners, to fulfill their personal and professional needs. Philanthropically we offer individuals, families, and companies the opportunity to be part of a living legacy in Israel. I am also able to create business opportunities and new friendships, so that our partners can grow, be successful and, in turn, be fulfilled.
What are your “5 lessons learned to help people land their next job, new career path, or launch a new venture”?https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/93d09fe3854970f6e29a4e997143d162
To summarize the main takeaways from our conversation:
- Lesson #1: If you are in the job market, instead of only applying for endless jobs online, submit your resume to staffing firms, search firms, and temp agencies. If you are job hunting, looking for a career change or starting your own venture, setup and keep an up to date and professional LinkedIn account. Never be afraid or shy to approach a stranger. Always be networking and be active in your community.
- Lesson #2: By pushing and challenging yourself doing a variety of roles while launching your own business or volunteering for side projects at your job, you will learn what you like to do and what you are good at doing. You will learn how to work better with others, and by working closely with people different than yourself, some personal growth can result as well!
- Lesson #3: Approach a new job or startup venture like a consultant, and do a needs assessment to get to know the business, the people, determine what to put in place and what works. Bringing your 30–60–90 day plan to an interview process, or a roadmap/pitch deck to investors or prospective clients, is always impressive and shows that you are invested in the opportunity and exudes confidence.
- Lesson #4: Mentors and advisors are critical. Seek out people who have succeeded in your chosen career path or industry. The most successful people typically have gotten to their level of success because they are good people, and if asked, will be more than happy to share their nuggets of wisdom to pay it forward.
- Lesson #5: Never compromise your ethics, even for a big payday. Vet your clients and the people you do business with, in the same way companies screen employees, and the way we all do with new friends and romantic partners. Reputation is everything, and nowadays, brands and careers can end with the wrong association.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to most people, what would that be? You never know what your idea may spark. 🙂
When the pandemic first broke, the children in our lives, our nephew and our good friends’ daughter were facing some struggles emotionally during isolation, as would be expected at the age of eight (or any age). When I was their age, my father first introduced me to Taoism through the Tao of Pooh, written by Benjamin Hoff, the perfect primer of Taoist principles through the characters of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. My father saw the need for me then to learn about the power of positive thinking. I saw the same necessity with “my” kids and an entire generation of kids facing the most challenging global paradigm shift in a century. I decided to launch a Philosophy Book Club for them.
Together we read one chapter of the Tao of Pooh every day. Once we finished that book, they asked me what we would read next. To give them a proper introduction to philosophy, I researched and found the perfect textbook for the occasion — Philosophy for Kids by Dr. David A. White. Once we complete this book, the next step will be to select texts and books about specific schools of thought that pique their interest.
Once we complete the entire course, I would love to create a national Philosophy Club for Kids. This experience has convinced me that philosophy should be taught in school, starting in the third grade. Other than the expectations put on parents and family to raise their kids, we don’t teach how to be a good person and how to question and think critically in any significant standardized way. Philosophy forces you to think, to question, to write more effectively, to evaluate ethics, and define things from a variety of perspectives to then build your own worldview and moral code. For those who fear that teaching philosophy at young ages would lead to anarchy and atheism, I leave you with Sir Francis Bacon, who said it best, “A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about back to religion.”
While K-12 education aims to instill knowledge that we have collectively agreed all people should know, learning how to study, having a daily structure with deliverables and responsibilities, are additional and necessary outcomes and goals of our system. Somewhere along the way, getting accepted into a college seems to have become the entire focus of high school and that is hopefully changing with this current revolution of online learning and homeschooling.
More than ever, we need to make sure the next generation, and those who have become disenfranchised or indoctrinated by disinformation or fringe movements, are shown thousands of years of human knowledge to build a better world as part of our local and global communities. Teaching philosophy creates empathy and introspection that leads to good citizenry. We can do it. We must do it to get back to normal, and it starts with each of us to think and act beyond ourselves.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!