Two years ago, Mike Hollman was on a fast track in investment banking when he changed his career path to join Hilton. Currently, he leads the team executing corporate finance initiatives including public market offerings, capital allocation along with mergers and acquisitions.
During his career, Mike has represented real estate and lodging companies in over $20 billion of transaction volume. We asked Mike to share his personal lessons for success in corporate America.
Mike, you started your career consulting on projects in Ohio, Kentucky, Delaware and New Jersey. What did you learn from those experiences?
I discovered early in my career that a common key to success is to relate, understand and communicate with people. At that stage, I was working in change management and often found myself advising someone over twice my age on project management. Not surprisingly, my perspective was not always appreciated but I learned it is always easier to have tough conversations if you develop a rapport and really get to know the person.
How did you build successful business relationships?
My philosophy is that you have common ground with everyone – you just have to find it. I learned you don’t need to be best friends with someone, but you can find a way to relate and show interest in something they are interested in. I’m not well versed in fishing, for example, but I can be curious about it and ask questions. I also realized that leadership means the onus is on you to figure out how to connect with clients or colleagues.
You have an impressive career trajectory; can you share some advice for others looking to progress in their careers?
You must prepare for the job you want, not the one you have. Always make your boss’ life easier. Always operate above your role and seek areas to improve. It’s important to figure out who the movers and shakers are and make sure you have visibility to them either through the work you’re doing or connecting with them personally.
What is your leadership style?
I played football growing up and find many parallels between team sports and leadership: you will only be as strong as your weakest link. Being a great leader means finding ways to empower others to be better. You can’t be a leader without followers, so find a way to make sure your team will run through walls for you. I try to bring high energy to the team, find people who share my desire to do well and get things done, and show support and guidance through my actions. You also need to remember to have some fun!
How did your definition of success change throughout your career?
The decision to make a lateral career move and jump into hospitality when I was on a promising track in finance was a career risk – I came into a new industry and had to prove myself all over again. It has definitely paid off though. Working in hospitality has been a very rewarding experience and I enjoy being closer to the business and having more ownership than I would have in other roles.
Earlier in my career, my motivation was money and that led me to some good decisions but it’s not an effective strategy long-term. Additionally, I was less willing to take risks that may have had a greater impact on my long-term career. Once you get to a certain level, it’s more important to put yourself in the right role – with less regard for the compensation. As I matured, I realized the compensation will come. Trust in the process and trust in the path. Don’t second guess yourself. Play chess instead of checkers.
How do you help others replicate your success?
Many people have opened doors for me throughout my career. I am fortunate enough to have strong mentors so I am passionate about looking for opportunities to mentor young professionals. I volunteer with Management Leadership for Tomorrow and the Toigo Foundation, both organizations work to increase diversity in higher-level education and business. I’m also on several boards and speak at a number of conferences such as National Society of Minorities in Hospitality.
Mike is married with two young daughters. He received his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology with Honors and his M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.
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