Michael D. Johnson | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Michael D. Johnson


Pittsburgh-based Elite Transit Solutions provides shipping and logistics management services for clients across North America.

The Mistake:

I started my business in the wrong place and it took me a while to realize it.

One thing I have been preaching about, to anyone who will listen, is how great a place Pittsburgh is to start a business. It’s been a great fit for me, but I didn’t start it here.

If I would have known when I was starting my business how detrimental it would be to have it in Miami, I would have just started in Pittsburgh. Everything from the client base to hiring to networking was a hundred times better here.

When I opened the company I was already living in Florida, in Jacksonville, and had always wanted to live in Miami, so I moved down there. But about a year after opening the Miami office I wanted to have a second location up north and decided on Pittsburgh.

Almost right away it was a better fit. I was having a hard time finding qualified employees in Miami; a lot of the population is transient, or people who don’t live there year round, or are just wealthy.

But the work ethic in Pittsburgh is very different; I was able to find people who got what I was trying to do a lot more quickly, people got on board a lot quicker, and it allowed me to keep the pace of the company growing. I didn’t realize how rewarding it was going to be, to provide people who wanted to do the work with something they were interested in.

Pittsburgh obviously has a strong work ethic, and is in a little bit of a renaissance period right now, so I got very lucky with the timing. And Pittsburgh is just a ridiculously accurate example of my personality. I think Miami was what I thought I wanted when I was younger; more of the party lifestyle. But Pittsburgh has that hard-working mentality, it’s always been a place that produces things. That’s what I needed when I was trying to grow my brand.

You have to find people who believe in you and what you’re doing if you want your business to grow. 

The Lesson:

Know the personality of your business. It’s an extension of yourself and your own personality, so make sure you’re in a place where you feel comfortable.

I think it was something I had to learn personally from experience, and it’s hard to know what you don’t know. But when you find that right fit, you’ll know it.

You have to find people who believe in you and what you’re doing if you want your business to grow. 


Follow Michael D. Johnson on Twitter at @mjohnsonAU.

Picture: Michael D. Johnson | Photo courtesy of Elite Transit Solutions.

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