Steve Markman of Markman Speaker Management: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Charles Purdom

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur  we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Markman.

Steve Markman founded Markman Speaker Management, LLC in 1994 in the Boston area. He has nearly 35 years of experience in the speaker and conference industry. He helps businesses secure speaking engagements that are used primarily as a marketing, PR, business development, and thought leadership strategy. Clients come from all industries and sizes, from start-ups to the Fortune 500, and have included IBM, Bank of America, Subaru, Ropes & Gray law firm, and hundreds of others. His early experience includes heading up the conference divisions of The Conference Board and The Interface Group, producer of COMDEX. He worked for Forbes following graduation with honors from Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Steve Markman: My “Aha Moment” came when I was on a job interview after losing my job as a vice president for a company that had just undergone a merger and I held a redundant position. I decided right then and there that if at all possible I would try to go out and start my own business and not have to work for someone else, especially since I had lots of ideas already in my head of what I could do. I wanted to be the master of my own destiny. I felt that there was no more risk of starting my own business than there would be working for a company and getting fired. This was the first time I had ever lost a job after 20 years in the workforce.

I started my company with the intention of creating and producing the content of conferences that would be produced by organizations who wanted to outsource some of that activity to me to lessen the burden on their full-time staff or expand their event offerings. One of my first clients was Clemson University for whom I expanded their conference division. I sold a conference sponsorship to IBM Consulting (now IBM Global Business Services) and after the conference, I was approached by the person responsible for marketing that division. He asked me if I could do a pilot program to secure speaking engagements for their consultants on a worldwide basis. I agreed to launch this program and it was a huge success — I landed speaking engagements for a half-dozen IBM consultants in areas ranging from business transformation to IT strategy. I decided to add the speaker obtainment service to my services. It soon became my primary service as I started working with many company clients as well as major PR firms who outsourced the speaker obtainment service to me to help them with their own clients.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Steve Markman: I believe I was a natural-born entrepreneur because soon after I entered the workforce after graduating from college I had ambitions to run my own business — even though I had no idea at the time what that business would be. I just knew in my gut that I could do it successfully and liked the idea of being in charge of my own destiny.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

Steve Markman: My father inspired me to want to start my own business someday because he always owned his own businesses — they were small businesses such as a dry cleaner and a candy store — but I observed that hard work paid off and I liked the freedom that owning a business brings even though it could mean working long hours at times.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Steve Markman: I believe my company stands out for a couple of reasons. One is the personal attention I give to all my clients as a solo entrepreneur. The second one is the success rate I have in accomplishing my clients’ goals — landing speaking engagements to create visibility that can generate leads for their business. I have built up a lot of success so that I am considered to be an authority in my field. For example last year one of my clients — a medium-sized market research firm — got a great customer lead from a major health insurance company because an executive from that insurance company attended a virtual presentation he gave and followed up with him after the event to set up a meeting to discuss the market research help they were seeking.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Steve Markman: 

1- High level of confidence- when I shifted over from only doing conference development to adding my speaking obtainment service I was confident I could do it based on my previous experience working with conference speakers.

2- Willing to take risks — I knew that if for some reason the change in my services did not work out, I could always go back to doing the conference development service. Even when I started my company I wasn’t afraid of failure because I knew I could always return to being an employee since my last position was as a vice president.

3- Ability to take the initiative and work independently — I am a driven, self-motivated person who does not need a boss to provide assignments. I can work with clients who can depend on me to focus on them and accomplish their goals. I am driven to success and self-motivated which is crucial to being a successful entrepreneur.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Steve Markman: Sorry, can’t think of any.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

Steve Markman: I think having a work-life balance is crucial, for yourself and for your family, so setting boundaries, like leaving the office at a reasonable time, e.g., early evening to have dinner. I set this for myself and always made sure I had dinner with my family.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Steve Markman: Building trust comes from leading by example and demonstrating honesty and credibility in what one says. If someone wants to be an authority in their industry they should write articles, give speeches and create thought leadership while achieving positions in their field that are respected by others.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Steve Markman: There is a lot of competition in many fields and the Internet allows many opportunities to stand out so you need to be “out there”.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Steve Markman: I think many businesses fail because the product or service wasn’t really thought through enough. And they need to ask themselves if they are cut out to be an entrepreneur.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

Steve Markman: The highs and lows are always present. The highs come when you land a new client or accomplish a goal or objective. The lows come when you lose a client or miss a goal. While that can happen in a “regular job” as well, sometimes as an entrepreneur you feel like there is more at risk because you don’t want a low event to be the start of a pattern. However, if you have confidence that feeling won’t be paramount, and you will focus on the highs as dominating your life.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Steve Markman: When the year ended for that pilot program with IBM and I was told that the client was happy and would renew my contract, I knew then that I had another viable service that might even become my primary service, which it wound up becoming. That was a real high for me.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Steve Markman: When the pandemic hit and marketing budgets quickly shrunk several of my clients put me on “hold”. That made me feel low…but my confidence level quickly told me it was going to be temporary so I didn’t stay in the “low” gear for long.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Steve Markman: I spent a lot of time beefing up a service that I had started before the pandemic — a customized coaching/training program where I would teach businesses the techniques and strategies of how to obtain speaking engagements for marketing purposes. I realized that I could now conduct many more of these programs since they would be virtual on Zoom so I could do them on a worldwide basis with no travel needed. And I expanded the target clients — from being mostly for larger companies to also creating training programs for entrepreneurs, sole practitioners, and small businesses.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Steve Markman: Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulties. I believe resilient people have an inner toughness and will of mind to move forward and overcome obstacles that might get in their way. Sometimes resilience is a learned behavior and sometimes it is an innate trait.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

Steve Markman: In my case, I believe resilience is an innate trait I am wired with, rather than something that arose from obstacles I experienced.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

Steve Markman: Absolutely I keep a positive attitude. I believe that my having a positive attitude even in difficult situations has gotten me through those times. My optimistic nature helps me do that as well as lived experience — having proven to myself that when things don’t go my way, eventually the ship turns around and goes in the right direction and things do get better — whether that’s because of things that I did to make it better or luck, or both.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

Steve Markman: A positive attitude has a way of allowing good things to happen — I really believe that. I once told a client that it may not be a bad thing that only a dozen people showed up for his presentation because you never who those people are. Sure enough, one of the attendees was with a major company who wound up hiring my client for a large consulting assignment.

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

Steve Markman: “ The moment you start believing in yourself you start trusting your capacity, your ability, and your inner strength.”

When I lost my job in 1994 I never stopped believing in myself which enabled me to take the plunge and start a business on my own.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Steve Markman: My website is I can also be found online on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

Did you enjoy this interview? Check out similar interviews:


Related Articles

Leave a Comment