You need a combination of two things to be truly successful for the long term — talent plus a good reputation. Though we want to stand out for the unique work we do, it is the relationships we build that helps our company thrive. So many clients come to us through word of mouth — and actually end up becoming lifelong friends.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeffrey Mark, founder and president of J. Mark Interiors, Inc., a global interior design firm with showrooms in New York and Jerusalem. With three decades in the industry, Mark now manages two international teams while traveling the world to source the most unique products available for his clients, yet still prides himself on providing the utmost of attention to detail for all of his projects.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
About 30 years ago I was asked to watch over a wallpaper and fabric store while the owner went on vacation. Not knowing much about anything, I began helping people who came in and fell in love with home design. From that day on I realized that this could be a career for me for the rest of my life. I didn’t think that selling wallpaper and fabric was enough to be competitive in the market and suggested to the owner to expand into a full-scale interior design center — selling multiple products lines, providing more services and creating plans. The owner didn’t think I knew what I was talking about and resisted the change; I proceeded to open my own company, originally called Interiors by Jeffrey. Today we are now a global full-service design and architecture firm located in two bustling locations across the world from each other. J.Mark Interiors is an extremely strong brand in the design industry, in both the U.S. and Israel.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I am self-taught, and I am often asked about my background and what design university I graduated from. Whenever I tell our clients or vendors the real J.Mark story, they either don’t believe me or they are in total shock. One of the funniest things that I have encountered, and still encounter daily, is that nobody knows my real name! Wherever I go I am referred to as J.Mark and very often people will call one of our showrooms insisting that they are a good friend of mine but when they say “Can I speak to Jay?” my team automatically knows that they have no clue who I am. This happens everywhere I go. There are also some people that I have known for over 15 years and they still call me “J.Mark”. I actually have gotten used to it and kind of like it. Even when someone gets an email from me and it clearly says [email protected], they will often start their email off with “Hi Jay”! I guess the power of our brand shows up every single day — even when we’re not looking for it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a global company with clients from all over the world. Since we are based in Jerusalem and N.Y. and fly all over the world as needed, we are best known for our turn-key packages. Very often our client is an American purchasing an apartment abroad; we take the stress out of it for them by managing the entire project completely, from beginning to end. We fill the home with everything from basic necessities to luxury amenities to fresh flowers — even Costco supplies for our top tier clients. We’ve had many clients walk into their new vacation home for a holiday with their entire family in tow — having only seen the finished project via Skype!
With these constant advances in modern day technology, I am able to achieve certain goals that I never have been able to before through commuting and traditional telecommunication skills; today I am literally able to be in two countries at the same time for my clients.
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 am grateful to all of our clients, since they inspire me to push the boundaries of creativity and problem solving. I would say most of all that I am grateful to Michele, who has been with the company for over 17 years. Michele is our lead designer in NY and the showroom manager. Michele has a saying “just let it go”, and that saying has helped me and J. Mark Interiors get to where we are today. Michele knows that when things are going south a little, or the day isn’t the way we expected it to turn out, all we do is “let it go” and we move on from there — usually to much bigger and better.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are currently working on several exciting projects — ranging from a restaurant renovation in Manhattan to a dreamy penthouse in Jerusalem, Israel. I’m actually always excited by all of our projects — large or small — but the bigger ones always give us more to be excited about. I truly believe in having a good time at work and that life is always a party!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I was once told by a rabbinic leader that what we do daily brings goodness and happiness into people’s lives. After a stressful day at the office or a long business trip, there is nothing better than getting back home, and we help make it the best you can possibly envision. By creating a custom designed space that has all the amenities in place, we help bring luxury and tranquility into the home so our clients can live an enjoyable and relaxing life and make memories with their family and friends.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I can often be found reading different entrepreneurial books that I apply to my business which I live and breathe by. I’m also constantly learning and attending leadership seminars.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. You can’t do it all without a great team. I still struggle at times with delegating without micromanaging, since I’m a stickler for detail and getting a job done right, but it’s much easier when I know I have a team I can trust.
2. It’s important to find people who share your vision but also bring a slightly different outlook, so you could service your clients well and understand their needs. Our clients come from all walks of life and being able to relate to them plays a huge part in making their dream home come to life.
3. Sometimes the business side will have to take priority over the creative side. I’d love to just design and create all day but there are logistics and limitations that must be factored in to any business.
4. Having a mentor makes a huge impact, especially during the challenging times. I’ve had a few people that I’ve looked to for guidance, my father being one of the first and foremost, but many others throughout my life and career.
5. You need a combination of two things to be truly successful for the long term — talent plus a good reputation. Though we want to stand out for the unique work we do, it is the relationships we build that helps our company thrive. So many clients come to us through word of mouth — and actually end up becoming lifelong friends.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would have to say Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, investor, philanthropist, and the first person to top 100 billion as number one on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires. His success and the culture he created is something that most people could only hope for. He’s a role model for any young founder; he has shown the world how to ‘go for it’. Furthermore, I love how Jeff Bezos values family, how he sees the gift his family has been for him in his life, and how he strives for what he calls a ‘work-life harmony’. That is a tremendous goal of mine as well, as my family is what keeps me grounded during the most hectic times.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.
Originally published at medium.com