Robert H. “Bobby” Schottenstein, chairman, president and CEO of M/I Homes Inc., has two mentors to thank for his entrance into the business world — and not surprisingly, he’s had two different careers.
His father, Irving Schottenstein, was his biggest influence in the real estate development business. Irving Schottenstein’s first cousin Mel Schottenstein was a Columbus lawyer.
“Irving and Mel were business partners,” Schottenstein says. Both have since passed away.
“They were the best of friends. They were just absolutely incredible men; each was a very impressive leader in his own right.”
The exposure to individuals who can be mentors is essential to develop an entrepreneurial spirit, Schottenstein says. In particular, he says his father’s character, integrity and commitment to doing things right was absolute, and he learned those values as such. Secondly, the two men were very successful in business.
“The combination of those two things helped set me on course, and gave me balance,” he says.
“A lot of the work of Junior Achievement is taking the time to expose young people to just those kinds of things to help broaden their horizons, to give them perspective, to give them hope, to help shape their dreams. I just can't say enough about how important that is.”
Schottenstein says there are a lot of unknowns in business to a newcomer, and one person can make such an enormous difference in an individual's life in terms of inspiring them or directing them.
“There is a lot of mystery in business,” he says. “What does it take to start a business, to be successful in business? And what is the X factor?”
He says Mel Schottenstein was his strongest influence when it came to the legal field.
“From the earliest age, I always wanted to be a lawyer,” Schottenstein says. “Following graduation from Indiana University, I went to Capital University Law School, and I loved it.”
After nearly 14 years in private practice as a business lawyer, and a lot of internal debate, Schottenstein decided to be in business in a more direct sense.
He left the practice and joined M/I Homes, which has grown rapidly and is one of the largest homebuilders in the country.
“Though I had a fair amount of business knowledge and certainly a lot of real estate and legal knowledge from my years as a lawyer, suffice it to say I didn't know a whole hell of a lot about home-building,” Schottenstein says.
He started at the lowest level, which he calls the foundation of the company — construction of new homes.
“You can't fully understand and appreciate business unless you really begin to understand what it takes to create the foundation of the business,” he says. “That was a very intrinsic value that my dad held, and he was right. I spent my first two to three years with M/I being just immersed in what I call the foundation of our business. Then I went into sales and other parts of the business.”
Schottenstein says he believes would-be entrepreneurs should first follow their hearts.
“Follow your passion,” he says. “It is hard to do anything really well, but it is extremely hard to do something well that you don't love. Try to find something that really excites you and that you enjoy doing so it's not work.”
A second piece of advice is to work with people whom you respect.
“Work for good people,” he says. “If you work for good people, good things will happen to you. If you are lucky to find something you like and even luckier to deal with people who you like, you are really riding downhill with the wind at your back.”
How to reach: M/I Homes Inc., (888) 644-4111 or www.mihomes.com