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Success Spotlight with Mike Wien – Founder and President, The Specific Edge Institute
After spending 28 years in senior marketing positions with Frito-Lay, Pepsi, Omni Hotels, CitiBank and Deloitte, Mike Wien left the corporate world 12 years ago to become an adjunct professor of marketing and franchising academic advisor at Georgia State University, a consultant dedicated to helping people in professional services become more effective at growing their business and an Ironman Triathlete who is a regular competitor in the World Championship. This unusual combination of real life experiences has given Mike the content to write a book and develop an inspirational speech that focuses on creating a competitive advantage when the two primary points of differentiation are reputation and relationship. He weaves relevant stories from his business and triathlon careers into a speech filled with practical ideas for being more successful in attracting new clients and living a more fulfilling life.
Mike is the founder of The Specific Edge Institute, an organization dedicated to helping companies become more effective in growing their business by creating a meaningful competitive advantage and leveraging it. Mike specializes in helping people responsible for growing a business create marketing and business development strategies and personalized plans to uncover often overlooked ways to grow revenue. Mike helps people and organizations create competitive advantages by out-thinking and out-maneuvering their competitors instead of just outspending them.
Mike has an MBA in Marketing from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and a B.S in business from Colorado State University. He is active in his community serving on four not-for-profit boards including the Atlanta Track Club and USA Triathlon, the governing body for triathlons within the United States Olympic Committee. On the competitive side, Mike has competed in 40 marathons including Boston (11 times), New York (7 times), Chicago (3 times) and the original marathon from Marathon to Athens, Greece. He has also completed in 11 Ironman triathlons including four World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. His best showing was finishing second in the world in his age group in 2011. Mike is sponsored by Timex, Trek Bikes, Castelli Apparel and Mizuno running shoes.
How do you define success?
Success is about living life with passion and purpose. It is about developing meaningful relationships with interesting people you care about and care about you. It is about looking forward to getting up every morning to tackle a new challenge or adventure. It is about having the ability to celebrate all the great things that happen and to be able to learn from the setbacks.
Can you talk about your journey and career path up to this point?
I knew from high school that I wanted to be involved in marketing. I sold Fuller Brush door to door during the summer and sold advertising for the high school paper during the school year.
I received an MBA in Marketing from Northwestern University (Kellogg School) and started my marketing career with Frito-Lay after graduation. I am the guy who spent $29M to launch FANTASTIX, the biggest disaster at Frito-Lay in 1978. But that learning experience proved to be a critical point in my career as the company asked me to leverage that knowledge and launch another new product – TOSTITOS.
Frito-Lay in the 1970s was a sales driven organization that was migrating to be more customer or marketing driven. I loved being a part of that transition. I was transferred to Pepsi (the parent company) and left two years later to apply basic consumer products principles to the hotel industry as Chief Marketing Officer at Omni Hotels World Wide. CitiBank was looking for someone with consumer products marketing experience and service marketing experience to apply those techniques to banking and I became the Group executive in charge of marketing for CitiBank Illinois. Seven years later, and after a 5 year tour with a community bank, Deloitte tapped me to run marketing for the 14 offices on the East Coast because of my consumer products and services experience.
After 28 years, I ditched the corporate world 12 years ago to teach marketing at Georgia State, start a speaking and consulting company to help smaller companies (the Davids) effectively compete with the giants (the Goliaths) by out thinking, not outspending their competitors.
How has challenging yourself as a triathlete helped you in business?
Success as an Ironman Triathlete is all about concentration, discipline and endurance. The same can be said for success in life and in business. As a triathlete, I learned to live a more exciting life with passion and purpose. What a great metaphor for life. This metaphor has become the audiences favorite section in my speeches and has given me a point of differentiation or a specific edge as a speaker.
You have accomplished so much in your life. Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am very proud of my 40 year relationship with my wife as my partner in life. I am also proud of my three boys. Two of my sons are making a positive impact on the world. My oldest son has the mental and physical development of a 10 month old and has had a positive impact on so many of the people he is close too.
What has been your biggest failure and how have you learned from it?
FANTASTIX - “Success is best built by those turn obstacles, failures and disappointments into learning experiences for moving forward.”
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
From my uncle Ken Cowan - Always leave a campsite in better condition than it was when you arrived….because you were there.
The Fundamental Round
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite book: Malcolm Gladwell – David and Goliath
Favorite movie: Titanic
Favorite athlete: Michael Jordan – Chicago Bulls
Favorite sports team: Chicago Cubs
Favorite song: For Good - From the Broadway play - Wicked
Favorite quote: "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill
Biggest role model: Lew Hollander
Animal you most resemble: Cocker Spaniel - Energy and enthusiasm
You can connect with Mike here:
Mike Wien Twitter
Mike Wien LinkedIn