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Geek of the Week – Mark Lebovits

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mark_lebovits “Toast of the Town”
As a company that specializes in consumer segmentation, Environics Analytics boasts many staff members skilled at naming customer segments and target groups. Lunch at Tim’s, anyone? But only one can lay claim to naming a cocktail for a chain of high-end restaurants. That would be Mark Lebovits, and his name for a drink consisting of champagne, bitters, raspberry flavouring and an orange peel: Bitter Elegance.

The name occurred to him two years ago, when Mark found himself at the bar of the Bymark Restaurant waiting to meet his then-fiancée Jill Adelman for dinner. He noticed a group of bartenders exuberantly knocking back champagne flutes of an unknown concoction. Asked about the reason for the spirited gathering, one bartender explained that they were sampling a new cocktail that needed a name. Mark then inquired about the ingredients and, in less than a minute, suggested his bit of winning wordplay.

“I figured that Bitter Elegance was better than something like Winterlicious,” says Mark. “Later that night, the bartenders brought over two drinks as a thank-you gift.”

Mark named the Bitter Elegance cocktail now served at area Bymark restaurants.
http://www.dine.to/menus/menu_7396_document.pdf?1358880353

As the son of an adman, Mark may have genetics to thank for his quick wit and verbal agility. His easy communication style has served him well in his transition from client advocacy to his current sales role for the real estate, health and wellness, and direct-to-consumer industries. The new position typically involves working with small businesses, which plays to Mark’s strengths in building personal relationships with his clients. “My friends always joke around and call me Switzerland because everyone seems to get along with me,” he says. “The biggest satisfaction I get is hearing the positive results clients get from the strategies we provide.”

Admittedly, the sales process can be challenging. Mark recalls that his first sale of a data license took nearly a year to complete. The company developed commercial real estate, and Mark recalls multiple meetings to find the right decision-maker, discover how the company operated and then demonstrate how ENVISION and EA’s data could solve their challenges. “It was a real eye-opener to learn how long it takes some businesses to make decisions,” says Mark. “But they’re very satisfied today and want to add data for other projects.”

“My father taught me that, for every action, there’s always a consequence. So it’s important to think before you act.”

As a new salesman, Mark says that his most important mentor has been his father, who owned a Toronto-based advertising and marketing agency called The Gingko Group. Mark remembers his father putting in long days to build his business that eventually served a blue-chip list of clients including the big banks and many government agencies. Mark would occasionally help by offering ad slogans or clipping out magazine ads he particularly liked. Before his dad sold the business in the late 1990s, he had built it into a flourishing firm of close to 70 people.

“My father taught me that, for every action, there’s always a consequence. So it’s important to think before you act,” says Mark. “It made me a bit more cerebral in my thought process when working with clients, always thinking about the ramifications of any strategy. I like to characterize myself as a great listener and processor of information who is intent on solving problems and making smart recommendations.”

That circumspect attitude infused Mark’s upbringing in Thornhill, the Toronto suburb, where his mother worked as a homemaker while his father put in long hours at the agency. Mark describes his mother as a “Super Mom who could really do everything besides bake these amazing gluten- and dairy-free creations. I keep telling her that she should sell them and share them with the world.” Mark attended the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto and, in his free time, became an avid golfer and league baseball player. Close with his older  brother Efram, he recalls their childhood plans to one day start their own orthodontics practice called—what else?—Lebovits and Lebovits. Instead, Mark became more enamored of business and as a teenager began reading the stock market page. Not longer after, he began investing in companies. “My father and brother used to quiz me about the ticker symbols for different companies,” he says. “I probably still know about five hundred symbols.”

Mark went on to the University of Toronto, where he planned to get a degree in commerce. But he preferred his electives in geography and economics to core classes in accounting and calculus, and eventually earned an honours bachelor’s degree in economics and human geography. As an undergraduate, he also joined the UofT golf team, improved to a two-stroke handicap and came in 28th out of several hundred students in the First Annual Canadian University Championship in 2002. A year later, as a senior, he was chosen to play in an international university tournament at Scotland’s famed St. Andrews course. “At one time, I thought I’d have a career in golf,” Mark recalls. “Now I just play recreationally, maybe a couple of times a year.”

With a bachelor’s degree in hand, Mark considered opening a restaurant and drafted a business plan for what he describes as “a cool student bar that would serve Mexican food.” But when he couldn’t get it off the ground, he shelved the project and returned to academia, earning a master’s degree in spatial analysis from Ryerson University while working at the school’s Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity. As part of his master’s program, Mark interned at Cadillac Fairview, where he worked in the marketing department identifying retailers from around the world as potential tenants for the Cadillac malls. After graduation, he joined Bell Canada’s Sympatico unit, working with a small strategy group to help decide when and where to roll out the infrastructure for its Internet service.

But Mark longed for a job with a greater geography focus. And having once applied to Environics Analytics for an internship—a position he declined—he knew his resume was still floating around the offices. In 2008, Jan Kestle and Rupen Seoni called him in for an interview. This time, he accepted the offer to join EA as a client advocate.

These days, Mark is deep in the sales process, identifying potential clients and attending conferences to network and explain how EA helps clients capture customer insights to drive growth and expand into new markets. He notes that he has no set pitch but is always tweaking his spiel. “One thing my father taught me is to understand the person who I’m calling even before I talk to them so I can lead the conversation,” he says. “That way, if I know the person is involved with analytics, I can adjust what I’m going to say.”

MarkandJill_EiffelTower

Mark and Jill in Paris.

Perseverance is also a hallmark of any good salesman, and Mark is no exception. When he first met the woman who would become his wife in a bar, they didn’t hit it off right away. But two months later they met again at a wedding where she was assisting the event planner. This time they connected and went out for brunch that turned into a day-long date and the start of a five-year courtship. In 2011, they married.

Today, Mark and Jill—who works as a Workforce Planner for the women’s fashion retailer Aritzia—like to spend their leisure time around their Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood, classified Young Digerati in the PRIZM C2 system. Like other residents, they’re into yoga, movies, microbrew beer and checking out local coffee shops. But unlike some, Mark is an early riser, eager to check the stock ticker and pundits on CNBC. “Stocks are still my hobby,” he says. “I’m not a big trader but I like to follow the action.” He collects vintage Canadian fifty-cent pieces, mostly from the late 1930s and early 1940s when few coins were minted and they were mostly made of silver because of the war years. And due to a family history of colon cancer, he has also volunteered his time to raise awareness for the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. Presently, his volunteer work is mostly focused on raising money to help build facilities for children so they can stay active.

Fond of travel, Mark and Jill have recently visited France, Mexico, Costa Rica and New York City. Their travels have influenced their palates; back at home they enjoy preparing new and unusual dishes. “I’m becoming more of a foodie,” he observes. “I find cooking relaxing.”

Of course, Toronto’s bar scene continues to figure prominently in Mark’s life. And every year for his wedding anniversary, he need only go to any Bymark Restaurant and raise a champagne flute to toast his bride with—what else—a Bitter Elegance. Word has it that it’s truly winterlicious.

–Michael J. Weiss

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Written by Environics Analytics

January 24, 2013 at 3:58 pm

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