I think that executive and C-Suite leaders must be motivating, similar to a great coach in sports. You have a certain responsibility to be motivational. There are some executives that scold people when they make a mistake, but it is ultimately the leader’s responsibility to train their team properly and lead them in the right direction.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alan Mruvka. Alan Mruvka is the co-founder and creator of E! Entertainment Television. Yes, that’s E! Entertainment Television. Alan literally created the first ever 24-hour celebrity obsessed news station in America, what he considers one of his most distinguished accomplishments to date.

Now in its 31st year, E! Entertainment Television is his monumental success, having revolutionized a genre of entertainment and celebrity-based news, and is now a Comcast company that is valued at over twelve billion dollars. E! Entertainment Television was groundbreaking at the time, as it became the first Entertainment program that ran celebrity news 24 hours a day, a vision Mruvka had that many doubted. To this day, his idea and concept for the network is extremely successful and is one of the few U.S. general-entertainment cable channels that broadcasts daily with millions of viewers.

Mruvka is an avid philanthropist. He is a supporter of and is involved in several charities including Wounded Warrior Project, St. Joseph’s School for the Blind, Special Olympics, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and others. Mruvka also recently announced the establishment of the StorageBlue Scholarship Fund for sending underprivileged inner city kids to the prestigious St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey. Even further, Mruvka recently announced a corporate partnership with Goodwill, establishing the BlueWorld Initiative, where StorageBlue drivers collect and bag unused clothes from customers while making pick-ups.

Mruvka is now gearing up for a multitude of new ventures in 2021 in the entertainment and business spaces with some groundbreaking concepts. Alas, he is not a one-hit wonder. An architect by training, he has embarked on taking his passions into his second act — humanizing Self-Storage with his company StorageBlue, and Award-Winning Storage Facilities — that he plans to further reinvent post-pandemic.

Alan Mruvka, a self-trained entrepreneur, studied architecture at the University of Miami and New York’s Pratt Institute where he developed his passion for real estate, project development and community revitalization. He holds over 30 years of experience in the real estate and entertainment industries, and draws upon his many years in the self-storage industry to launch his newest venture, StorageBlue, which is growing rapidly and will eventually become not just a storage facility, but also a lifestyle and entertainment brand. He currently lives in New York and Miami.

Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I was younger, my mother would have to bring the television into the bathroom just for me to take a bath, and I’d just sit in there for half an hour and watch sitcoms. It’s been in my blood since I was very young. Even when I went to school for architecture, I had the desire to study film and television. After I finished school, I was practicing real estate development but had a very strong desire to get into the entertainment business. One day I went to a seminar in Los Angeles on ‘how to sell your screenplay with motion picture studios,’ but all the panel members were just talking about the high cost of advertising nationally. I sat around that day and I thought about what an MTV of movies and television would look like — instead of music videos, it would show movie trailers, interviews with the stars, behind the scenes footage, and everything about movies and television that someone would want to know.

I met up with Larry Namer, who was my partner at the time, and we took a look at the cable industry. We realized that cable was like a newspaper with headlines: CNN for news, ESPN for sports, the Weather Channel for the weather, CNBC for the stock market, but there was nothing for the entertainment “sector.” We decided to create this entertainment section and discovered that we needed $6.9 million to get it going. We took our business plan back and forth from Los Angeles to New York, all while renovating buildings in Jersey City, as I was in the real estate and construction business after college. I didn’t know how to raise money — basically, when you go to architecture school, you attend art school for five years, so I was just learning on the job while trying to raise nearly $7 million. Larry and I got rejected, as I figured, over 400 times on the journey to and from New York.

One time after another round of rejections in Los Angeles, I snuck my way into First Class (I had a method because I had no money at the time) and ended up sitting next to a guy in a suit who was speed reading a stack of Hollywood Reporters. I struck up a conversation with him, pitched him the idea, and he flipped out in the best way possible. He said he would give me 30 days and “it won’t be a question of whether you can get the money, but the question would be whose money you’d want to take.” He turned out to be an in-house investment banker for Warner Communications. We found our investors and got started right away. In the beginning, we had five executives and 20 interns from the University of Texas who lived in our studio. The small team got the network on the air in three months.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense,” — Winston Churchill. The message I take away from this is to never give up. My father also had a quote; being a big boxing fan, he would always tell me to “Keep on punching.” This was because in boxing, when you’re in a bad spot, you’ve got to punch a way out of it. I say that to everybody: “Keep on punching and you’ll get there!”

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?

One of my favorite books, especially to quote, is Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

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

StorageBlue is disrupting the $40 billion dollar self-storage industry. Self-storage historically has been known to not have the best customer experience, and I came into the industry with an eye on disrupting that stigma. As the first company in the industry to provide free pick-up, we take a majority of the stress out of the process through this as well as contactless pickup.

What new projects are you working on now?

We just announced the release of “Too Much Junk,” the first-ever original song and music video designed to promote a Self-Storage brand. Featuring recording artist and reality star Betty Idol, this is StorageBlue’s first production since launching its Entertainment Division, StorageBlue Entertainment, earlier this year.

Produced by myself and music industry veteran Debra Baum, the video was directed and choreographed by Miami native Cultura, who is known for her work with the multi-platinum three-time GRAMMY Award winner, recording artist Maluma. The music video, alongside its namesake track, focuses on merging lifestyle and pop culture with the self-storage brand, StorageBlue, and introduces a new and innovative way of promoting the self-storage industry in an excitable way through original music and content. The project assembled a 40+ team / crew to successfully execute my vision in merging lifestyle and pop culture into the lifeblood of everyday brands we know and love like StorageBlue.

With the creation of “Too Much Junk” for StorageBlue, we are taking the first step in disrupting advertising as we know it, simultaneously executing all these missions in a unique and excitable way. This campaign is just the beginning of what’s to come under StorageBlue’s Entertainment Division.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

When speaking to anyone and everyone, I tell them to watch as much intelligent television (news, talk shows) and read as much as possible in order to generate ideas. I can brainstorm multiple ideas after picking up a single newspaper. Not every idea is a good one; I’ve had some ideas that aren’t successful, but if you reach a dead-end, keep going and come up with another idea. Ross Perough once said, “The recipe for success is a teaspoon of idea and an ocean of execution.” You have to want to live and breathe your ideas. Gen Z has an advantage because they are experts at researching online. If you are into something, know anything and everything about the history of it. Great artists today will always share their influences from generations ago. You must be a student to the game.

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?

Persistence is one of my key character traits to achieving success. The more I am told ‘no,’ the more it drives me and makes me want to succeed at something. Rejection is a part of life, and sometimes you need to get a little angry so that you have to have a rage in you to get something going. That is how you fuel success.

I am a very hard worker and am constantly going 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I love the work I do, and believe everyone should feel that way about what they do with their lives. I ask all of my employees to keep a notebook full of their ideas and goals, and I find that very helpful when it comes to being productive.

Being flexible and open to a strategy shift has also been a big part of my success. Even setbacks you have to view as an opportunity. If you’re fired from your job, you now have an opportunity to regroup and decide on your next move.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?

I am not very big on titles and believe that every single person within the company plays an important role. To me, everyone is an associate and I thank them all equally for the work they contribute.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

One myth is that a C-Suite executive does not work as hard as other people in the company, but that is not true in any sense. One of my secrets to getting executives on the phone is calling them directly in the evening, as they typically take their business home with them.

What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?

I think that executive and C-Suite leaders must be motivating, similar to a great coach in sports. You have a certain responsibility to be motivational. There are some executives that scold people when they make a mistake, but it is ultimately the leader’s responsibility to train their team properly and lead them in the right direction.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Sometimes, it’s underestimated how hard we actually work and how passionate we are about what we do and the businesses we run.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.

(1) Always have a great attorney by your side. When I was at E! Entertainment Television, I didn’t work closely enough with an attorney when I was dealing with the board of directors, which is something I ultimately learned from.

(2) More research and taking advice. I always say that the only thing worse than not knowing, is thinking you know and not knowing. In the past, my ego made me believe I knew more than I did. Now, I am much more open to admitting when I don’t necessarily know something.

(3) Be a student to the game!

In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?

One of the most important ways to create a fantastic work culture is through communication. One fortunate thing to have come from this pandemic is the uptick in video conference calls, which allows everyone to come together as a company, creating a great opportunity for open communication. Through these, I feel as though I am closer with my employees now more than ever. I even had one employee tell me that they’d worked for another storage company for over 15 years, and never once met the CEO of the company.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to start a mentoring movement for kids that come from broken and struggling homes. I have a scholarship for a school in Newark, NJ called St. Benedict’s and it’s an amazing place for kids who come from less fortunate situations. One of the reasons they’re so successful is because they have large groups where students talk with each other about what they have going on in their lives and support one another. The school has a 98% graduation rate and the philosophy is to prioritize the wellbeing of children. I would push that idea further to open spaces like St. Benedict’s for all children.