Saul Markowitz | Crain's Pittsburgh

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

Saul Markowitz


Saul Markowitz just celebrated 20 years at the helm of Markowitz Communications. He and his wife, Bonnie, opened the firm on April Fools’ Day 1997 (a date whose significance he only realized later on). Markowitz began his career in the public relations department at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and worked for the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts and the Pittsburgh Zoo before striking out on his own.

The Mistake:

I never found time to take a break.

I always felt like I needed to keep working. My goal was to get as much done in my career while I was in my 20s so I could open my own agency. I just worked nonstop, taking on as much as I possibly could.

When our son was around 3 years old, my wife wanted to take two weeks off. She wanted to go to Disney World, and I said, “How can I leave my office right now and go away? There’s no way.” She was saying, “Oh, it will be fun. We need a family trip.” I just couldn’t see it. We were arguing about it when I got a phone call from my brother-in-law. He said, “Did you hear the news?”

Turns out this client of ours, a really great guy, died suddenly of a heart attack. He was just mowing his lawn and it hit him. He was like me, held everything in, never took a break, not even for his family. He even had a kid around the same age as my son.

I remember seeing him right before he died, and he was just exhausted, red in the face, not getting enough sleep, but always kept going, going. Now he was dead, and all I could think of was his son and how this guy was just like me, never taking a break, never slowing down.

I hung up the phone with my brother-in-law and screamed to my wife, “Book the trip!”

You have to find the time to find that time, for family and friends, for things that are not work.

The Lesson:

You have to find the time to find that time, for family and friends, for things that are not work. I started playing in an ice hockey league, just to do something to get me away from everything for a while. I play in the old man league, we call it the Iron Lung League, and there are a lot of guys like me, who need that time for themselves away from work. We have doctors, lawyers, PR people, even the mayor [Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto] played with us for a while.

I think that experience helped me a lot. Because I’m still a crazy PR man and a total workaholic, but I know I don’t have to be at the office all the time for everything. And the people who work for me know that their home lives come first, they work remotely when they need to and we make sure everyone gets the time they need.

Follow Markowitz Communications on Twitter at @MarkowitzComm

Photo courtesy of Saul Markowitz.


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