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Introducing: Mike Erato

Published on 6. March 2024
Mike Erato

Hello Mike! Happy to have you with me today. Could you let our readers know who you are?

I live in New Berlin, Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee and 90 miles (144 km) from Chicago. Married to my lovely wife Cindy for 43 years, I am the proud father and best friend to my two daughters.

Val is 38 years old, married, and has two boys, my grandsons, Oscar, six years old & Miles, one year old. Val is the Marketing Communications Manager at a Milwaukee-based specialty coffee roaster.

My daughter Gina is 29 years old, married, and in her final year of a Ph.D. program, doing her internship at a university in Rhode Island, located on the east coast of the US. Next year, at this time she will be a Doctor of Clinical Psychology.

You are the most experienced team member of PATCHBOX. How did your career kick off, and how did you end up at PATCHBOX?

It is very kind of you to say “most experienced” rather than “you are the oldest!” The short answer is I started a business when I was 20 years old and sold it nine years later. After selling my business, I was fortunate enough to stay home with my daughter Val for about a year while I figured out what I wanted to do.

That’s when I was introduced to Sales. I was told sales is very similar to owning your own business. The harder you work, the more money you will make, and your success is all up to you. I started at a small company that was acquired by a bigger company, which was then acquired by a bigger company, and finally acquired by Ricoh USA.

I’ve held many positions in sales and sales management. During my last seven years at Ricoh, I was a Global Account Manager selling document management solutions, hardware, software, and services to global companies.

I was responsible for a team of about 100 associates worldwide. I left Ricoh in 2018 and took some time off to travel and pursue a “hobby business.” I purchased two kickboxing gyms, where I both managed the business and served as a trainer for a couple of years.

That is a LONG story to get to PATCHBOX. While on LinkedIn, reconnecting with past associates, I saw PATCHBOX. I researched the company and really liked the Alex & Sepp story. The products are simple, yet so innovative. I was fascinated and saw there was an open position in the US. After interviewing with Alex and Sepp, the deal was sealed!

You are also the first PATCHBOX employee who is not based in Europe.

What are the advantages and what are the disadvantages of having all the colleagues overseas?

I truly appreciate the advantages of working with a diverse group representing multiple ethnicities and cultures. The disadvantages are minimal due to how engaging and responsive the team in Vienna is. However, it would be nice to collaborate with colleagues in person.

Unfortunately, we are far away from you, but customers are all the closer.

Do you enjoy the sometimes long business trips in the US? What was the longest distance thus far?

I’ve been to trade shows in California on the West Coast, which is 2000 miles (3218 km) from my home office, and also in Florida on the Southeast Coast, which is 1200 miles (2014 km) from my home office.

What is the biggest difference to working at PATCHBOX compared to your last jobs?

The obvious is the size of PATCHBOX compared to the last companies. I’m not treated like a cell on a spreadsheet, and the people at PATCHBOX are MUCH nicer! (Do you think you would be a great addition to our team? Click here to join us!)

What are the biggest cultural differences between an Austrian and a US company?

When you take a vacation, you are on vacation, totally disconnected from work. In the US, we take our laptops and phones on vacation, keep up with email, and are always available for a call or meeting.

Despite the long distance, you got to meet your colleagues in real life at our headquarters in Vienna. What is your impression of the team and the city?

Meeting the team was a priceless experience. When I came home, family and friends asked me how I liked Vienna. I really enjoy Vienna, the history, food, safety and Vienna people are friendly. However, meeting and working with my colleagues made the trip so valuable and memorable. I’ve never worked with colleagues that I felt so connected with despite the distance between our offices.

Now to get on to some easier questions and fun facts about you:

Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?

Working out! Exercise for the mind and body.

You, sir, are ageing like fine wine.

Despite your experience of 65 years, you are still very active and even compete in Spartan Obstacle Course Races. How did you prepare for that?

I’ve played sports most of my life, starting in 4th grade. American Football, Kickboxing, Racquetball, and Pickleball. I love to compete with myself.

About eight years ago, a gym owner asked me to join him in running a Spartan, combining trail running and overcoming 20+ obstacles over the course of about 6+ miles (9.7+ km). For me, training includes hill and step running, bodyweight training, and lots of burpees.

Spartan obstacles and courses vary from race to race. I ran a Spartan in Boston last month. Here you can find out more.

What is one of your favourite movies or TV shows?

The Godfather is my favourite movie. I like John Wick and the Equalizer movies. Any old John Wayne cowboy movie.

What is your favourite thing about your career?

Sales is helping people run their businesses. They have a problem, and I have a solution. I try to think of myself as a problem solver and not a salesperson.

Which three items would you bring to a deserted island?

Dumbbell, kettlebell and jump rope. I don’t leave home without them!

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