Episode #87 – Mike made an amazing career pivot that allows him to serve generations of families in a niche business.
Marc revisits his interview with career pivoter Mike O’Krent. Mike O’Krent, Founder of LifeStories Alive, LLC, specializes in making personal history videos for families that value their heritage. They create family heirlooms in video — digitally mastered records of life stories with personal accounts, photos, and mementos of family history. Marc has known Mike for 10-plus years, and it has been fascinating, watching him grow his very unique business. Marc and Mike discuss what Mike did in the first half of life, why he quit without a plan, the life-changing experience of interviewing Holocaust, or Shoah, survivors, and, the nudge from a business coach that set him on the second half of life.
Marc thinks you’ll find Mike’s story quite fascinating; Marc got emotional listening to it again. Listen in to get inspiration for your own career pivot.
[1:49] Marc welcomes you to Episode 87 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast and invites you to share this podcast with others. The larger the audience he can reach, the more people he can help. Please subscribe, share it on social media, write an honest iTunes review, or tell your neighbors and colleagues.
Now on to the podcast…
[2:23] Marc’s original plan was to share Part 3 of “Can Juan Repurpose His Career?” But he is delaying that for a week. Today’s episode is a rebroadcast of Episode 7, Marc’s interview with Mike O’Krent.
[2:39] Marc introduces the episode. If you hear any thumping, Marc is in Mexico, and there is construction going on around the area. You can hear about Marc’s drive to Mexico in Episode 86.
[3:52] Marc and Mike start the interview.
[4:14] In the first half of life, Mike was in retail floor coverings, in his grandfather’s business in San Antonio, Texas. He started his own carpeting business in Austin in ’98, but sold it in ’04, without an idea what to do next.
[5:11] In the early days, Mike and his grandfather went to markets in Chicago and Dallas, where 200-plus carpet mills vied for their business. By the time Mike sold his business, there were three carpet mills left. The negotiation and the fun had gone.
[5:55] Mike gives an overview of what he does in his company, Life Stories Alive, LLC.
[6:38] In 1995, Mike was volunteering for the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, visiting schools and teaching about the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg was filming Schindler’s List, in Poland, and survivors were coming up and saying they have a story they want to tell.
[7:03] Spielberg wanted to preserve their stories. He started The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. He set a goal of capturing 50,000 survivors’ stories, worldwide, and ended up with 52,000, in 39 languages.
[7:32] The foundation asked the Jewish Federation of San Antonio if they had someone to volunteer for training to interview local survivors. Mike jumped at the chance. He learned the process of interviewing people for their history. He interviewed survivors from ’96 to 2000 — it was one of the most fascinating experiences of his life.
[8:43] So, Mike had the process, and he loved the interviews, but then they were over in 2000. When he sold his carpeting business, he went to Administaff and worked, until he realized the corporate world was not for him. He still had no plan.
[10:38] Through his wife, Mike found a good business coach, who gave him an exercise: make a list of everything you’ve done, that 1) you liked and 2) you thought you did well. Exclude activities that don’t meet both tests. The next week Mike read a list of 20-25 things to the coach.
[11:54] The coach picked up on Mike’s excitement over the Holocaust interviews and asked him to talk about it. When Mike finished, the coach asked, can you make a business doing something like that? The lightbulb went on, and Mike was on his way. He planned for the resources he would need to get started.
[13:22] Marc shares how body language is a clue to your passion. A coach sitting across from you can see better what interests you than you can when you talk to them because they see your excitement through your body language.
[14:01] Mike got his first client, Bill, through his wife. Bill was a bank officer with a strong corporate background. Mike did his video for free, as a test. When he saw it, Bill called his connections and said, “You need to do business with Mike,” and handed Mike the phone! That’s how he got his first clients.
[15:44] The technology has changed. Mike started with videotapes, then DVDs, now he can upload a life story to the cloud or use other delivery methods. No matter the technology, there has always been and there will always be a way to do a life story.
[16:44] Besides personal life stories, Mike has done documentaries for businesses and nonprofits. These stories pull in customers, or donations, with their emotional appeal. When you can see the faces and the expression, that pulls the heartstrings.
[18:31] Mike had thought to franchise his business. He refers back to the franchise-type model Steven Spielberg used to capture 52,000 stories all over the world. If only Mike could duplicate himself — he has all the other processes down!
[19:30] Mike feels very fulfilled by the individual interviews he does and keeping himself productive and busy.
[19:51] Mike does only the interviewing. Videography, lighting, and sound, are hired out to professionals who accompany him, so Mike can focus on listening intently to the interviewee with no distractions. The editing is also hired out to professionals.
[22:05] Marc wants solopreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to realize they don’t have to do it all. Let the experts make you look good.
[22:50] Mike has done alright with word of mouth but is now moving to a marketing professional.
[24:55] Marc recaps Mike’s experience, common to most second-half-of-life pivoters. There was an idea to do something but no action was taken. After a period of years, there was a trigger get started. Finally, there came the realization that things do not turn out exactly as planned and there is a need for nimbleness to meet market needs.
[27:52] Marc’s last thoughts: Mike has taken a different path that most of us wouldn’t think would be very practical. But he has made it work.
[29:20] Check back next week for Part 3 of “Can Juan Repurpose His Career?”
Mentioned in This Episode:
Careerpivot.com/Episode-83 “Can Juan Repurpose His Career?”
Careerpivot.com/Episode-7 “Mike Made an Amazing Career Pivot…”
CareerPivot.com/Episode-86 “Marc Miller and His Wife are Expatriating to Mexico”
Careerpivot.com/Episode-6 “How to Prepare, Get Fit, and … Shift … with Kerry Hannon”
Website: Life Stories Alive
Phone (512) 431-8166
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