Be adaptable to an ever-changing environment.
Michael Eckmeyer is a guidance counselor and school administrator with eight years of experience. He is also a licensed real estate agent in New Jersey. Michael earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and Economics from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He then went on to earn two Masters from Wilmington University, one in School Counseling and one in School Leadership. His current title is Supervisor of Guidance.
Michael’s love for education was born through his own experience as a student. He often looked up to his teachers and coaches to fill a void in his youth. He wanted to pay that appreciation forward by helping his community and being a role model for today’s students. He has been a coach, a guidance counselor, and an administrator throughout his career.
In his free time, Michael puts his real estate license to use by selling homes. He also loves to travel and play several sports, his favorites being football, golf, and hockey.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I grew up without a father, so as a young child, the people I looked up to the most were the educators and coaches in my life. I initially started coaching football, wrestling, and track for about six years. The next natural step for me was to enter the education field so I went back to school for my masters. I wanted to make a difference as my teachers had for me.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m up by 4:30 in the morning so I can get my workout in. I’m at the building no later than 7 am. I prepare for my day by writing a to-do list and I’ll get started on that right away. I like to be in the halls as the students are coming in so I can engage them first thing. I have meetings throughout the day, with my principal or with other counselors and parents. A lot of my day is spent focused on post-secondary planning. Of course, there are emergencies that will come up with students and their families that I need to help with.
How do you bring ideas to life?
If I have an idea about something I want to implement, I first do research. I’ll go online and look for others who have done something similar. I check trends and find a lot of ideas from social media platforms. If I think something will benefit my students, I’ll draw up a plan and discuss it with the principal. Together, we determine if it will be helpful and if there is any cost involved. If we decide to go forward, we’ll bring together others we need to put it into action.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One of the most positive trends I am seeing right now is that the trades are really making a comeback. Post-secondary education is not for everybody. Some kids are more interested in being hands-on and those classes have been something a lot of districts haven’t focused on. More recently, I have seen wood shop and metal shop start to make a comeback. We can attract those kids who aren’t as much into just sitting and learning science and English all day. I think the fact that those skills classes are coming back is good for not just my students, but all students in the country.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am very conscientious about what I do and how I spend my time. I always strive for perfection. I don’t like having loose ends. When I start something, I am very thorough, and I try to plan for every contingency so there are no surprises. Part of my to-do list each morning includes making sure my team has crossed every T and dotted every I in whatever we are working on right then.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to be prepared for the unexpected. When you’re twenty and just getting started in education, you have to be ready for anything. I would say listen more and take notes. Pay attention and learn from those who have more experience. I think most young people starting in education have excellent ideas and motivators for students, but not necessarily how to implement them. You definitely have to be ready to make mistakes and learn from that also.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that we need to reshape our education system. I think there needs to be more focus on where the students’ interests are. Today is all technology, but our kids can’t have their phones out in class. Instead of fighting the battle, I think we should embrace it. Let the kids use their phones for research instead of all the kids having to go to the library. We need to find a way to work with emerging technology as opposed to trying to stymie the students based on an antiquated way of teaching.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would recommend everyone to spend time in thought. Focus on what you want for your present self and future self. I do this each morning and I really feel like it helps set my tone for the day. I also recommend laughter. Laugh as much and as often as you can. Make sure whatever you do, it’s something that will bring you happiness.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I have grown because I am a great listener. I surround myself with people who have experience and I take in their knowledge. I have taken that knowledge with me as I have moved through the ranks and I really feel like it has helped me be better at what I do.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As a guidance counselor, you are faced with difficult choices at times. At one point, early in my career I had to assist a female student with an unexpected pregnancy. A lot of parents are not aware that certain things are fully protected under privacy laws and this was one such situation. When the parents were made aware of the situation, I was called before the board to explain why I hadn’t broken privacy and I had to show proof that I was legally in the right. I regret that the student and her family had such a difficult situation going on, but my position requires me to follow established guidelines. I’ve had to learn how to balance between what parents want to know and what those guidelines allow me to share.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
An idea that I have had is to design a Bluetooth headphone that can read text messages as they come in. That would allow users to not have to look down while they are walking and still get their texts. I’m not sure if this has been invented yet, but I think it would sell well. I also recommend investing while young. Research real estate as an investment option. It has its ups and downs, but it’s one of the few markets that has a pretty consistent income potential.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My real estate license is the best $100 I’ve spent recently. My license gives me the ability to sell homes and make thousands of dollars, definitely well worth the investment.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use LinkedIn frequently. It is a more professional social media platform that allows me to connect with other educational professionals or even network in other fields. I don’t use many social media sites, but I have found this to be a great resource.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend everyone read Commitment to Excellence by Vince Lombardi. It teaches how to be accountable for your own actions, as well as how to strive for perfection. It also touches on how to be an effective leader, whether dealing with children or adults.
What is your favorite quote?
With great power comes great responsibility. I say this to my kids frequently as a way to demonstrate the importance of self-awareness and accountability.
● Learn from your mistakes
● Listen to those who have been there
● Be adaptable to an ever-changing environment
● Strive for perfection and accountability
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.