December 8, 2009
I had the pleasure of interviewing Erik Marks as our newest member of our 40 over 40 group. It has been an honor getting to know the founder of such a great social enterprise as TisBest. He was a pleasure to speak with, and I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know him as I did.
Erik is a social entrepreneur, who founded TisBest Philanthropy and the TisBest Charity Gift Card — www.tisbest.org— a very timely and useful resource for gifts this time of year. . He is a member of Social Venture Partners, volunteers at his local Union Gospel Mission and supports the Nature Conservancy and Sierra Club.
Erik also serves as general counsel at EDG Commercial Real Estate, a medical real estate services firm.Prior to that, he was a business transactions attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann and Perkins Coie. He graduated with highest honors from Williams College (Philosophy) and Harvard Law School, and is married living with his wife, 2 stepdaughters, 2 cats and a volatile quantity of fish in West Seattle.
How did you earn your first dollar?
My sister and I ran a lemonade stand. It was a great little business at a dime a cup, until our wholesale supplier (Mom) started invoicing us. Our mom wanted us to learn lessons about business, and we did. Among other things we learned that when marginal income decreases, hours worked also decrease.
What do you appreciate about being over 40?
I think the best thing is a changing perspective on time. I am more willing to take on long term projects. When I was 34, I decided to leave my career as a lawyer. At the time I gave myself 3 years to try out something new. Well, I am still trying something new 8 years later! I have made this interesting and counterintuitive observation: a 70 year old person is more likely to take on a 50-year project than is a 20 year old person.
What or who inspired you to get where you are today?
I had a couple of friends who started very small and grew their own businesses – Chris Martin at CleanScapes and Scott Shapiro at Eagle Rock Ventures. They both worked at large and respected organizations and then made a conscious choice to work for themselves instead. When I made the decision to leave the law practice, these friends counseled me not to just find a “job” but to do what I was passionate about. Today I am thrilled to have spent my time creating and nurturing the TisBest Charity Gift card concept.
What advice do you have for the under 40 crowd?
Opportunities are like investments – they both grow at a compound rate. We all know what that means for money – life is finite, so invest early. Opportunities follow the same growth curve. If you want to pursue something in your professional life, get started early so that the opportunities in your new field have an opportunity to grow. If you are in a career path that you want to change, change now so that you can start creating opportunities in your new professional field. Waiting to change careers has a major cost because opportunity follows a compound growth curve.
What are you passionate about?
Surfing and fishing. But you probably want a “serious answer.” I get pretty wound up about internal consistency in our legal and moral systems. An example would the state lottery. Supposedly the State regulates gambling because it is not good for people (like illegal drugs and prostitution). And at the same time the State runs the lottery – and not only that the State has now started ADVERTISING the lottery, and the message in the advertising focuses on the value of the winnings!!!! This makes me sick – the government is on the one hand saying that gambling is bad and regulating casinos and on the other hand the government is running its own lottery and ENCOURAGING people to participate. Yea, that gets me passionate.
How do you balance work and life?
Still trying to figure that out! I will go to my grave trying to figure that out! The best avenue is a continuum between your personal life and your work life, combining the two.
What other career would you like to try?
What other person would you like to meet – living or dead?
President Obama – he is intellectually and political honest. Rare in a politician.
What superpower do you want?
The ability to remain calm at all times.
Anything by Hemingway or Steinbeck. I have read For Whom the Bell Tolls at least four times. And East of Eden is a great book – it teaches you to not complain about your life. The closing scene puts tears in my eyes just to think about it.
My gas guzzling camping truck -12 miles to the gallon is pretty hard to justify, so I try to use it only when a regular car will not work. It is set up so I can drive out on any river bar and have everything I need to camp right there with me.
What is your favorite quote?
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Published by Gina Peckman