Mike Zirinsky – CEO of CMD

Life is a marathon,  not a race.

Mike Zirinsky is CEO of Manhattan-based CMD, an audio facility which produces Voice-Overs for television and radio.

He began his career at American Express Financial Advisors as a Financial Advisor (CFP) and spent 17 years managing client assets and giving financial advice. During this time, Zirinsky and three partners developed a practice which became one of the largest at the company.

Right after his time at Ameriprise Financial (formerly American Express Financial), Zirinsky changed specialties to audio, and he has since been one of the industry leaders.

He grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and graduated from Lafayette College, where he competed as a swimmer and received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics & Finance.

Zirinsky lives outside of Philadelphia and is happily married to Kellie. They have two beautiful children together, Kate & Tanner, and a Maltese named Maisy. He enjoys skiing with his kids, paddle boarding, surfing, and swimming.

Where did the idea for CMD come from?

CMD was founded by a successful Voice Over artist in 1998, and I acquired the business from him about four years ago. We started getting more and more Broadcast work, and I wanted to accommodate the clients that were coming in person, so I moved the business into a much larger space with a lot of natural light and rebranded from Creative Media Design to CMD. We still keep the original founder busy with a lot of voice over work!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Unfortunately, my days aren’t too consistent. Mornings are usually more managerial activities: weekly 1 on 1s with my full-time team members, team meetings and preparing for upcoming meetings as well as business planning and responding to emails and phone calls. I get a workout in over lunch and in the afternoon focus on new business development including new business ideas/initiatives we are launching, reviewing our marketing efforts, general business administration, and financials and then returning emails and calls.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We’ve got a creative team, and as a result, I think we do a pretty good job collectively coming up with new ideas. Any ideas the team has, we’ll talk about how can it benefit our clients, our voice over talent and CMD. Do we have the resources and capacity to make it reality? If an idea is financially viable and it makes it past these questions, we designate a team member or two to spearhead it, track our progress and hopefully make it a new part of what we do.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m not sure how new this trend is, but it seems like there are more and more talented people getting into the voice over industry; We see it on an ongoing basis through requests to be added to our VO roster.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I don’t like to sit still and feed off of new challenges.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Life is a marathon,  not a race.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Breakfast is the least important meal of the day!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I take time for me – Working out, skiing, paddle boarding. It’s easy to burn out if you don’t, there’s always more work to be done.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I try to find a reason to make it work; Not to waste potential opportunities that may not look great on the surface. When the business is presented with a potential opportunity or new idea, I make an effort to look past the short term or the obvious and try to envision “how can this benefit our business in the longer term” and “is there another angle that that we’re not considering that could add value?” For example, we’re currently in talks to potentially collaborate with a business that would be considered a competitor of ours; but we found a way to leverage both of our client relationships to refer business to each other that otherwise would have been left on the table.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Years ago, I invested in a business and agreed to be an operating partner. I just didn’t account for how much time I would need to commit to make it successful. I learned a valuable lesson about being more realistic about my time and being more conscience about my capacity.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

This was recommended to me by a friend: Developing an easier to eat, less messy, crunchy taco shell – Hard shells on the sides with a soft tortilla on the bottom! I’m not sure if it’s even doable, but seems like a good solution to the traditional full hard shells that can break in two when you eat them. Maybe it’s already available?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

It was a little more than $100, but I recently bought my seven yr old son a good skateboard. He rides it for hours, great for his balance and pushes his comfort levels; And it gets him away from the TV!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Google Docs – We use it on a daily basis for a lot of different reasons: develop new ideas, track how and where we’re getting new clients, develop and update team members’ Core Tasks, keep a database for students who want to take our VO classes (The Voice Shop), develop business plans/models for new ventures, tracking employees days off, meeting minutes, etc. It’s a great way to allow everyone to contribute when they have time or when a thought comes to mind, in real time.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I do more books on CD, but recently read “Execution– the discipline of getting things done,” by Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan. Even though it’s a book about business, most of its pretty engaging – They cite businesses and specific reasons as to why some failed, and others went on to succeed as it relates to the practice and discipline of Executing. Ram was a business consultant for alot of Fortune 500 companies, so he has firsthand accounts that make for an interesting read.

What is your favorite quote?

I drink a bunch of Honest Tea; this one’s from the back of one of their tea caps (Chinese Proverb) – He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.