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An Interview with Michael Eisenga – Former Mayor of Columbus and Entrepreneur

Originally published on timesofstartups.com

Michael Eisenga is a commercial real estate investor, entrepreneur, and proud father of three boys. His wide range of skills includes commercial real estate investing, property management, assisting living facility operation, leadership, strategic planning, public policy, and community outreach.

We recently interviewed him to know more about his life including his entrepreneurial journey.

Michael, Thank you so much for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

My best days at work are when I arrive, and essentially, everything is running smoothly. And when I’m checking into things and following up on things, everything just seems to go like clockwork.

My days that aren’t so great at work are the days when big decisions have to be made. And sometimes they’re big and important decisions, and there’s not a lot of time to make those decisions. I never like to be in a position where I feel like I have to be rushed to make a decision, but unfortunately, things like that happen. Or if there’s some type of other crisis

What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?

What I like is to be able to focus on is the big picture and vision of the businesses and how we’re going to continue to expand, improve ourselves as far as the services and the cares that we’re offering, how we can make the facilities we have better. Then also, looking at opportunities to maybe expand and grow the business as well.

When it comes to your business, what was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

I think that moment for me was when I transitioned from being a small business owner, where I was essentially doing all of the jobs to being able to delegate. I realized that I had delegation skills to bring other people on board to do the day-to-day operations with me overseeing them, which allowed me to focus on, as I said earlier, the overall vision of the business and growth opportunities, and things like that.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

I would say the most important part of my professional journey was my decision to become self-employed. When I initially started my mortgage banking company, that’s when I first became self-employed. And I had worked for others up until that point. I was concerned—I had never been in that position before. I was in my 20s at the time, and I thought, “Boy! Am I going to have the drive and ambition to wake up in the morning and go to work because it’s me?” Before, I’ve always had to make sure I show up to work because I had a boss. And if I didn’t show up to work, I’d be in trouble, and I could eventually lose my job.

I felt confident about the industry and the business that I was opening, and I knew it would be successful because I understood it. But when you’re taking that leap from being an employee to being a self-employed person—and I hadn’t taken the leap yet at that point to be an employer—I wondered how that would work out and if I’d be successful in that kind of a role, which I was.

What risks is your company facing?

The biggest risk right now with assisted living is really where you are located and doing good market studies gearing toward the private pay residents. Because if you miss the mark on that, you may be forced to take a lot of the public pay residents. And while we certainly want to see that everybody has a nice place to stay, the public pay managed care companies that administer those programs are continuing to cut rates. In fact, I’m dealing with one of the providers right now who’s trying to cut our rates again, too.

Eventually, we will probably have to just phase-out of the entire public pay scenario because there’s just such a difference between what they’re willing to pay for a resident compared to what our private pay people are paying. It can’t be justified. It’s not feasible to take off that kind of a loss on your units. That is probably a risk.

I think there’s always some risk with regulations. As time goes on, it gets to be more and more costly to meet those regulations. I’m always concerned about being in a business that’s heavily regulated by the government because you always hope that the government is going to keep regulations that are feasible and rational. But you never know.

That’s essentially what brought down the mortgage industry. When I first got into it in the mortgage industry, there probably weren’t enough regulations, and there were abuses that took place. And as a result, however, the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other, whereby it made it to the point that the business is not profitable anymore. A few big people out there are doing a lot of volume, and they have the connections. But what they really did was they knocked the small operators and the medium-sized operators to a large degree out. And even the large operators are not making a lot of money; they’re taking on a lot of risk for the business they’re writing, and there’s not a lot of margins. It’s become a commodity business, and commodity businesses are never very profitable.

What would you do with unlimited resources?

I would probably try to do what I’m doing right now but just on a larger scale with expansions. Looking at larger properties, I may even look at getting into some additional industries that I may have some interest in that could piggyback on what I’ve already been doing. But I guess right now; it’s not something that I’ve thought a lot about because no matter who you are, you don’t have unlimited resources. So that would probably be a direction I’d go.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

I get into the swing and the flow of things, usually during a business day, especially if I have a time crunch, where I’m trying to get something put together for a meeting or forwarded on to a third party to take a look at. I can’t think of anything specifically. But that does happen, and then all of a sudden, you realize that the day is almost over, and you might be at work a little longer that day just finishing it up.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

When I’m not at work, I have three boys, and I spend my time with them. I share placement with my ex-wife, so if I don’t have them all the time, I spend time with friends and family, dine out, do some traveling here and there. I’m kind of a movie buff. I like to watch movies. I like to play cards; I like to swim. That’s what’s keeping me busy outside of work. I enjoy going to events. I’ve hosted fundraisers; I go to fundraising events and things like that.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

In the past, when the mortgage company was open, I made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I mean, we did mortgages that lowered people’s payments and gave them extra money every month. And sometimes we saved them tremendous amounts of money every month. I mean, that was gratifying. We were able to get people in homes that maybe wouldn’t qualify someplace else.

In the assisted living industry, we make a big difference. We provide housing at an affordable price to people who need assistance. But yet, in many cases, they’re still very capable. But it’s a lot cheaper than going to a nursing home, and it’s a lot cheaper than having somebody at your house 24 hours a day. We provide services on top of that. We provide meals; we provide activities; we provide care. So we’re providing a nice place for our residents, but we’re also providing peace of mind for our residents’ families. So that’s a good feeling.

Then, of course, I look at the people that I employ. I’m providing them with opportunities and employment, and a paycheck. So I think that makes a difference to a lot of people.

You can learn more about Michael here and here.

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