By Michael A. Morris | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Leven, who until last year was the president of Las Vegas Sands and, now in retirement, is the chairman and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium (some retirement), received the Hunter Conference Award for Excellence & Inspiration on March 27 during the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference in Atlanta.
I attended the award ceremony in support of Mike. I really didn’t think I would find something noteworthy for the Jewish Times, other than a member of our community being presented with a deserving award from his peers, but I was wrong.
I could tell you what Bernie Marcus or Kirk Linsell from Loews Hotels said about Mike. I could tell you what Jon and Rob Leven said about their dad. I will tell you that Hunter Hotel Advisors deserves kudos for creating an award ceremony that lasted only 25 minutes. The message I really want to convey, however, is just how inspired I was by Mike’s speech.
I should not have been surprised. I am inspired every time I hear Mike speak. For example, Federation’s campaign launch four years ago, called Boot Camp, drew record attendance, and Mike’s perspective was the topic of conversation for months. His talks are always a grand slam. Maybe that is why Rob and Jon said their father is their mentor, source of inspiration and always their dad first.
Mike has been in business for 54 years, he told his audience. He decided, instead of a speech, that he would offer 54 pearls of wisdom for his years. With very little commentary, prepare to be inspired by one of the hotel industry’s greatest businessman, one of Atlanta’s greatest businessman, or maybe just an exceptional businessman and remarkable person.
In no particular order but first off his list: Brains are no substitute for hard work. Everyone deserves respect. Asking why is OK. Making a mistake is OK. The customer is not always right but is still the customer. The boss is not always right but is still the boss.
Listen more than you talk. People don’t always do the right thing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Honesty and truth can get you in trouble, but that’s OK. Competitors are not enemies. You still have to learn when you are older. When you have to fire someone, never take their dignity away. Someone always makes more money than you, and someone makes less. The balance sheet of life is more important than the balance sheet of business. Don’t miss your kids’ events; they grow up too quickly.
Democracy is tough and difficult, but it is the best option invented. Capitalism is not perfect, but it provides opportunities and is fair. Reading biographies teaches you lessons you cannot learn by yourself. When you are mistreated, never lower your standards. Do someone a favor rather than receive one. Bad things happen to good people, but good people handle them better.
Sweat the small stuff; that’s what life is made of. Temptation will always be around the corner. Be proud to be an American. And lastly, the best word in the English language is love.
Imagine, just imagine, what the world would look like if we all adhered to those principles — if we even attempted to live by those words of wisdom. I will remind you as I remind myself, if you have the opportunity to hear Mike Leven speak, just do it. Or perhaps I should say, open the door every time opportunity knocks.
I will end with one of the things Bernie Marcus said about his dear friend: Mike is the definition of the word mensch.