Michael Teitelbaum has been a leader in the marketing space for decades. He has launched and run several companies.
Currently, he is the president of Baltimore Magazine and can help you reach over 300,000 people each month with Baltimore Magazine's print, digital, and event marketing solutions.
[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]
Umar Hameed 0:06
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone. This is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to the No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster. Get ready for another episode.
Umar Hameed 0:35
Hello, everyone. Today I have the pleasure of chatting with Michael Teitelbaum. He is the president of Baltimore Magazine. Michael, welcome to the program.
Michael Teitelbaum 0:45
Thank you, Umar. Pleasure to be here.
Umar Hameed 0:47
So it's been about three years since you took over the reins of the magazine.
Michael Teitelbaum 0:51
Umar Hameed 0:53
You had a really good position before you started this adventure. What made you leave the certainty of what you were doing to go into the publishing business?
Michael Teitelbaum 1:06
So prior to this, I was a partner in a content marketing agency. And pretty simply, I was made an offer to buy out my interests in that company, and opportunistically, I sold my interests, and then cast my net to figure out what my next adventure would be.
Umar Hameed 1:30
Did you have an idea of what it would be? Or were you just open to all opportunity?
Michael Teitelbaum 1:35
I would say I'm always open to all opportunity, but my entire adult life has been spent in marketing, advertising media as a business leader within that field, so that that's where I spent most of my time...
Umar Hameed 1:56
This opportunity came up, any hesitations for you stepped in?
Michael Teitelbaum 2:01
No, I actually, was given two other opportunities at just about the same exact time both with advertising agencies, which I have a lot of experience with as well. I've had my own digital agencies, I've worked with digital agencies. My last company was a content marketing agency. And then I came across someone in my network who had just consulted with Baltimore magazine and said, you know, the guy that's running Baltimore magazine, is looking to retire and they haven't yet started their search. But if you're interested, I'll connect you and the rest is history. It was, ironically, my second job at a college was as an account executive with Baltimore magazine many moons ago. And
Umar Hameed 2:57
It's not interesting.
Michael Teitelbaum 2:58
Umar Hameed 2:59
Michael, when you, so did you actually end up buying the magazine or are you an employee?
Michael Teitelbaum 3:04
I am an employee, I run Baltimore magazine as the president, I'm allowed to be pretty darn autonomous in how we run the organization. But I am not an owner, I do not have equity in Baltimore magazine.
Umar Hameed 3:23
You know, when you're talking with the principals, and you get an idea of what the situation is, and then you step into the actual job, how did you as your team, what's reality, what isn't? Like, what was that process, like to get acclimated into your new environment?
Michael Teitelbaum 3:40
I literally met with, and we, we were about a 40 person company at the time, and I literally met with each person one on one over a few weeks, along with attending group meetings, you know, for the various departments, editorial, design, marketing, digital, so forth, and so on. But it was those one on one meetings, that gave me a real good sense of the organization.
Umar Hameed 4:09
As you looked at some of the employees that you were interacting with, with some people that stood out, as you know, this person could be doing a lot more could be a bigger contributor to the organization.
Michael Teitelbaum 4:22
Um. Never been asked that question. I, you know, I don't know what that was clicking in my mind at the time. What I was trying to identify was, what their roles were, first of all, how they felt about the organization and their role within the organization, whether they felt they were at capacity or had the opportunity to grow a bit. So I guess that's the closest thing connecting to your question. And just an overall sense of the value that they brought to the organization and or what do they like? What don't they like? What improvements do they think could be made and so forth and so on? It was, well, first impressions aren't the only impression, obviously, I, it gave me a really good sense of who are the, who are the folks that are really engaged, and really, just behind what Baltimore Magazine is all about. And those, that and those that were there, as a job as opposed to a career, those were few and far between but there were a couple of those that it was more of a job than a career.
Umar Hameed 5:41
You've had a lot of experience working with people. And sometimes you find people that just need mentoring, or grooming or permission to grow. Tell me about one of those stories where you, you know, help someone overcome themselves and really step into who they could be.
Michael Teitelbaum 5:57
So I'm going to leave out roles and names, of course, unison, but there was one person in particular, who was tremendous, and, and so talented at their craft. But as a leader in the organization, they didn't have those human interaction skills, those so, you know, I call them soft skills. But you know, soft skills are important skills. And that's what I worked on with this person was, how to understand others by listening intently. And how to coach and mentor those people as opposed to just doing the craft of what this person was, you know, responsible for.
Michael Teitelbaum 7:01
So, Michael, for this particular person, did they fully realize that this was a situation, or wasn't news to them?
Michael Teitelbaum 7:09
Totally news to them, I would say, words, like shocking and surprised came out of this person's mouth.
Umar Hameed 7:16
You know, that's really fascinating, because it's so easy to see where other people need to kind of get those insights. And oftentimes, it's so blind for us to see ourselves, by the way, that's why God invented spouses they [garbled] know.
Michael Teitelbaum 7:31
But I will let allow me to dig into that just for a second.
Umar Hameed 7:35
Michael Teitelbaum 7:35
Because, so we use a tool. And I've been using this for a dozen years now called predictive index. And I'm not...
Umar Hameed 7:44
Michael Teitelbaum 7:45
Umar Hameed 7:45
Michael Teitelbaum 7:46
...[garbled] with predictive index, but it basically provides insight into what motivates behavior. And so we use this tool, not just for recruitment to make sure that the right people are in the right roles based on what motivates their behavior. But we also use it to help have more effective communications between existing staff. And by using this tool with this particular individual, not only did I showed them what they're all about, but then we went through the people that were on the team that this person supervised, and how important it is to understand what their motivating behaviors are, so that they can be a better coach and mentor. So, by the way, it is very hard to talk about a person without even revealing their gender. So I apologize.
Umar Hameed 8:49
I do that all the time, because I've helped people get breakthroughs kind of in their unconscious that get in the way. So whenever I tell a story, I have to change, I actually changed gender, and I changed names, change geography, so I can actually tell the story that sounds like you know, easier to understand, rather than the person who shall be unnamed, just takes away from the magic of the story.
Michael Teitelbaum 9:10
Umar Hameed 9:12
That story that you told, you know, someone not realizing where there was stuck and all of a sudden getting that insight and then overcoming it. We're in your career did you get one of those moments where you realize that, "Wait a minute, I'm not as effective as I think I am," and how did you realize it and how did you overcome it?
Michael Teitelbaum 9:29
So my earliest memory of having greater insight into myself and my own strengths and weaknesses was by reading a book called, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Umar Hameed 9:46
I just reread it recently, like about a week ago.
Michael Teitelbaum 9:48
Oh, wow. Okay. So...
Umar Hameed 9:52
Michael Teitelbaum 9:53
Yes. And I was in my mid 20s. So it's going back quite a while. I had lived my entire life up until then, kind of looking at the world from the inside out. And, and what I mean by that is, I kind of figured everybody viewed the world, the way I view the world, and that I was at the center of the universe. And that I was, you know, everybody cared about what I had to say and what I thought about and, and actually, the opposite is true, as I discovered by reading this book, that the way to influence to win friends and influence people, is not by showing them how great you are, and not by, you know, telling, making them aware of how smart you are talented or whatever, it's by showing that you care and under care about them, and we'll take the time to understand them. And, and that, over time became a natural curiosity that I developed...
Umar Hameed 11:06
Michael Teitelbaum 11:06
...about other people. It's a, you know, it's, I've been operating under that for now decades. And it's a it's a game changer.
Umar Hameed 11:21
What's interesting is, the human condition has not changed in a very, very long while Talmud, there's a quote in there that I often quote, it's like, "We do not see the universe as it is. We see it as we are," which is a perfect example of what you were talking about seeing the world from the inside.
Michael Teitelbaum 11:39
Umar Hameed 11:41
Michael, when you came into Baltimore Magazine, I've worked with a lot of corporations. And one of the fundamental things that's a problem in organizations is people don't know roles and responsibilities. And this communication problem, usually somewhere in the mix. So when you came in, did you notice of any any of that stuff going on? And if you did, how did you fix it?
Michael Teitelbaum 12:03
So yeah, there was definitely some of that net, some of the roles are very clear. And, you know, for instance, an editor. And editor knows what their job is, their job is to track down stories, report on them and, and write about it. A designer, their job is to design these stories and make them come to life, whether it be in print, or digitally.
Umar Hameed 12:37
Michael Teitelbaum 12:38
Where there was some confusion was a, I would say, between marketing and sales to some...
Umar Hameed 12:48
Oh, my God, that never happens.
Michael Teitelbaum 12:53
And I would even say that, so we, you know, finance and operations is, can I they're connected in terms of the people that are responsible for finance and operations.
Umar Hameed 13:05
Michael Teitelbaum 13:06
But their role can then conflict at times with the people that are actually doing the operating, if you will. So, you know, we, what we did was we said about having clear job descriptions, which is, I think step one is to make sure that they're clear job description,
Umar Hameed 13:30
Michael Teitelbaum 13:31
But then also understanding that, you know, we're not living in a perfect world where everything is black and white and and clearly ordained, and never shall you venture past the wall, if you will. You know, it's it's about it's about understanding your primary roles and responsibilities, understanding the people who can help you accomplish the things that you are responsible for, and learning how to work together as a team to accomplish them.
Umar Hameed 14:07
Absolutely. I was doing a consulting gig with a large catering company over the two day retreat to transform the culture. One of the things I ended up doing was asking the head of sales, so elite comes in, then what happens? The person Well, when the lead comes in, this person looks at it, and if it's this, it goes this way, if is that that way, then what happens? So we take them through the process of initial lead to a happy wedding and the couple referring clients, and that entire process took 60 steps to do just the way the nature of the beast. But what was interesting was before the retreat, everybody in the company knew that the salespeople are a bunch of lazy sob bees that basically go out in the golf course and goof off half the time. And about two months after the retreat, one of the kitchen people was complaining to the chef like those, those frickin' sales people and I overheard the chef say, "No, oh my God, you have no idea what they have to do to get us clients so we are employed." When everybody knows the roles and responsibilities when it gives appreciation for what they do. And also, oftentimes it clarifies, you know, how our entire company works.
Michael Teitelbaum 15:16
Yeah, I, I just had a situation not a 60 step process, mind you, but literally a situation about an hour to go, where, you know, we are already beginning planning for 2021. And...
Umar Hameed 15:29
Michael Teitelbaum 15:29
...planning process is, what is our editorial calendar? What is our events calendar? What are the special advertising sections that are more like sponsored content, or advertorials, and they all need to work together. And we have this one section that the sales team meets and gets that, well, I'm sorry, the sales team gets together and they are doing their planning. And they caught they come up with the idea that this one special section should take place during these months. And it which is different than it has been in the past? Well, they can't make that decision all by themselves. Because there is an editorial team that needs to agree that the content is appropriate during those times of the year, and...
Umar Hameed 15:37
Michael Teitelbaum 15:41
...that they have the operational capability of delivering at those times during the year. And so I become aware of the fact that sales is may be already making decisions on things that they can't make unto themselves, they have to collaborate with another important department within the company that can actually deliver on the product that they want to sell against. So just an example of, you know, job descriptions, if you will, and how different departments need to come together in a collaborative way to agree on something for the good of the entire organization.
Umar Hameed 17:09
Absolutely. Michael, when you came into the organization, there was a culture already in place. And I'm sure some things work really, really well. And some things maybe not as well, how did you ascertain? What was working? What wasn't? And then how did you envision a new culture? If in fact, you did that? And more importantly, what did you do to make that part of the new reality?
Michael Teitelbaum 17:29
So one of the first things I did after doing one on ones is realize that there was not there was a management meeting that took place every week. But everybody in the management meeting was not really a manager, it was kind of like the cool kids club. And so,
Umar Hameed 17:54
Michael Teitelbaum 17:54
um, so the first thing I did was I created a real leadership team. And I, without going into a long, boring story, it was the department heads and the people that were clearly they had leadership responsibilities and attributes that suggested that they could be leaders. As part of those first leadership, team meetings, one of the agenda items was culture. And there were no core values in place. When I came in, there were some basically on written ways of behaving,
Umar Hameed 18:39
Michael Teitelbaum 18:39
but the group had never come together to say, here are the principles that we believe in that should guide our behavior. So we took it upon ourselves starting with the leadership team, but then expanding out to you know, we're not a big company. So everybody in the company had a say, partly through team meetings, and partly through a Survey Monkey surveys,
Umar Hameed 19:05
Michael Teitelbaum 19:06
to identify what the core values should be. And we came up with eight of them. And then what definitions within those eight so you know, like, I'll give you an example, integrity. So what is integrity mean? What does that mean? Well, we came up with it's to be truthful, to be credible, to be trustworthy, to maintain confidentiality, to represent the company positively and professionally in both words and actions. And so, you know, integrity was one collaboration, diversity, innovation, communication, excellence, accountability, fun. They became our core values that aren't just words on a sheet of paper, but we check ourselves and live by them day in and day out.
Umar Hameed 19:53
By any chance, Michael, do you capture stories that exemplify those values?
Michael Teitelbaum 20:00
Well, it depends on how you define capture.
Umar Hameed 20:04
One of the like, just that the the folklore of the company, because oftentimes what happens is they just become words on the wall. But when you capture stories, oh, this was going on, you know, Janet, our salesperson had this issue. This is how she handled it. That is a perfect example of living up to integrity, that story really gives a lot of depth. So somebody new hearing the words integrity, when you tell the story, they go, "Oh, I understand exactly what that means."
Michael Teitelbaum 20:32
Yeah, I don't know that we've captured it in that way where we have stories that we share, to illustrate it. And maybe the closest thing especially living in the world we're living in now is diversity. And diversity has been a core value of ours since we developed these close to three years ago. And I'm not going to suggest to you that we are perfect in any way with diversity, because diversity means different things to different people. And it means a lot of things to Baltimore magazine, where we are not as good as we could be as diversity of staff. And, and we're working on it. And part of the way we're working on it, we actually have a diversity Task Force now to help us identify, so we're not in a hiring mode right now. But we want to put down these you know, kind of rules of the road, once we are in a hiring mode whereby we can control the actions we take to attract the people that we're trying to attract. Ultimately,
Umar Hameed 21:52
Michael Teitelbaum 21:52
we have to hire the best person for the job. But we haven't done as good a job like reaching out to a Morgan State or, you know, other organizations where we have a better chance of attracting the types of people on staff that would line up with our diversity initiative. But one of the other things that is important for us from freelancers, we are doing a very good job with freelancers in terms of getting a diverse photographers and writers that support our publications as well. One of the things that I believe we're doing a very good job that we can always do better, but a very good job at is diversity in terms of our editorial coverage.
Umar Hameed 21:52
Michael Teitelbaum 22:30
And, and, in fact, this last issue, which is on the newsstands now, is, you know, the cover story is a moment of reckoning, listening to black voices in Baltimore. And it is, I mean, you know, I'm a little biased, but it is fantastic, so...
Umar Hameed 23:05
Nice. Michael, before we part company today, looking back in hindsight, what are some of the things you would have done differently or done sooner, as you took over the magazine?
Michael Teitelbaum 23:17
Ah, so I would say the first thing that pops into my head, and again, I'm not going to read, I'm not going to give clues as to who I'm talking about that there was, there were a few people that it was very clear that they, we needed to separate ways. And we did that. And, you know, that's the most painful part of being a leader, but it's necessary. There were one or two people in particular that I was a little bit slower in determining whether or not they were...
Umar Hameed 23:55
Michael Teitelbaum 23:56
A fit for the long term, Ryan, so you know, they are no longer that those those individuals are no longer with the company, but it probably took me a little bit longer. You know, the old, the old saying of, "Slow to hire and fast to fire." Those are good words. They're, they're.
Umar Hameed 24:15
They're hard to do, right?
Michael Teitelbaum 24:17
They're hard to live by sometimes.
Umar Hameed 24:18
Absolutely. Michael, thank you so much for spending time with me today. I really appreciate you digging deep and giving some insights because there's a lot of listeners, trying to figure out you know, how to be that leader, and how to grow organizations and I took notes during this Thanks so much.
Michael Teitelbaum 24:35
Thank you. Bye.
Umar Hameed 24:38
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