Sunday, January 27, 2008

David Mammano

David Mammano

“I get paid for this?”

Dave and I met at his office (an everyday house gone media empire home base) in Victor, New York. I was first struck by the fun everyone seemed to be having there. They all seemed to enjoy what they were doing; jokes, laughter, and productivity pervaded the air. It was inspiring. Then I sat down with Dave, founder and CEO of Next Step Publishing, Inc. Here I found the culture source. A giddy, energetic, and motivated man with a passion for helping high school students wake up in five years saying, “I get paid for this?” A feeling he has been blessed with since the inception of Next Step Magazine 13 years ago. The publication has a readership of nearly 1,000,000 all over the United States. It is my pleasure to feature Dave’s insights on work, family, and life. ~JWN

VIP: What got you into the career plan that you have taken? In addition, I also noticed you had an incredible afro in high school…

David Mammano (DM): I see you’ve checked out the website. ( Yes, I had a very desirable afro. (Laughs). I went to college to be a dentist and then I changed my major to be a TV reporter. After that, I changed my idea to be in sales for advertising. I worked for the school newspaper at the University of Buffalo and loved it.

I found my calling through bouncing around a lot. A lot of students don’t. They go to college and they don’t know why they’re in college. A lot of students say, “I had to go to college. It was an expectation. I’m here and I’m majoring in this but I don’t know if I like it.” Then when they graduate they might realize that they’ve wasted four years of their life and a $100,000 plus.

That is exactly what the magazine is about. It is to help you while you are in high school with the information that you need so you can end up at college and say, “I picked this place because I like kids, I did an internship, and this is what I want to do.”

That’s what our magazine offers; a lot of articles that will enable you to hit the ground running with life after high school while you’re still in high school.

We’ll do a lot of college prep articles; how to choose a major, how to assess yourself, how to find out what your factory installed equipment is.

There is a theory and I happen to agree with it that when you’re born 65% of you is just who you are. You can’t change that. The rest is parents, environment, upbringing, and opportunities. For example, my sister and myself; same mother, same family, same house, same dad, same upbringing, same everything but we’re completely different. She’s not a bad person. I’m not a bad person. We’re just completely different people.

So, how do you explain that? It’s that 65% factory installed equipment. The rest is the other stuff; drive, environment, all that.

When you’re in high school it’s great to find out what that kind of equipment you have so you can
lean towards that direction for your career and major. We do stuff like that for the magazine and online. We’re actually adding the Holland Career Assessment tool to our site.

Students can find out a little bit about who they are and then learn about how to take that information and find the right colleges and choose the right major. We help them through the SAT process and the financial aid process. We help them explore different career ideas and we advise them on internship ideas.

We also help them a lot with life skills. College, career, and life are our three main categories. That can be public speaking, how to dress for success, how to write a resume, how to budget your time, items like that.

If someone is a true “Next Stepper;” they read the magazine, they’ve signed up on the website, and they get our e-newsletter “Next News.” Then they’ll really be able to do the research necessary to hit the ground running when they get out of school. Instead of most students who after college say, “Now what do I want to do?”

Dave's two wonderful children; Gianluca & Melania

The chat then moved to our mutual passion of leadership…

DM: I was just at an all day seminar yesterday with my leadership coach John Engels. I took an eight month course from him and I meet with him on a regular basis. He offers a retreat every year which reintroduces the principles and philosophies of his Advanced Leadership Course. Although I’ve learned them about a dozen times, it’s always good to go back, take a deep breath, and be there for the day in a different environment.

John Engels is great. He’s got some incredible ideas. His website is

VIP: Who are three people that you would like to meet?

DM: I would like to meet Abraham Lincoln. He endured so much adversity in his life yet saved the country. Just the way he lived his life was very honorable. Team of Rivals is a great book about him.

Another person I’d like to meet is Benjamin Franklin. His ingenuity was incredible. He was a business man, philosopher, actor, scientist, diplomat, and ambassador. It would be fascinating to have some drinks with him.

Those two are dead. So, let’s try to find somebody alive that I would like to meet. I think it would be interesting to meet Nelson Mandela. I think he has a modern day Ghandi type of presence. He’s somebody who has lived through such turmoil in his country. He shows the ultimate of stoic patience. Character wise it appears that there aren’t many flaws.

If I could add a fourth it would be Selma Hayak because she’s just so darn hot. (Laughs).

VIP: What is your favorite candy bar?

DM: Snickers. If there are Snickers around I have a tough time staying away from them. However, if you were to ask my favorite snack it would be Nutella. Put that on some bread and you could gain ten pounds in a day.

In high school I ran track, cross country, and skied. If I didn’t exercise I would be fifty pounds heavier because I eat like a stallion. I don’t eat bad food. I eat good food, but my portions are astounding. I’m Italian and I married a Sicilian actually from Sicily. She and her mother are tremendous cooks. I’ve gained at least twenty pounds since I’ve been married. Plus I went to the University of Buffalo, so you add chicken wings, beer, and beef on wick, this is what you get (rubbing his stomach).

VIP: Now, an important Buffalo question. Do you like Duff’s or the Anchor Bar’s wings better?

Dave: I was not a big fan of Duff’s. I like the Anchor Bar better because they have the more traditional wings. Duff’s wings had a little too much sauce for me.

Back to exercise…

DM: You see exercise is great for me because I’m such a hyper and manic person. It’s like a drug for me. It anchors me. I have a much longer fuse when I work out. If I don’t work out for a few days in a row I get tense a lot quicker and things will anger me quicker. When I work out, it mentally and physically puts me in another place.

VIP: What is your exercise routine like?

Dave: Actually, it’s funny. I do a fitness series called Beach Body workouts. There is cardio and weights. It is done by this guy who is supposedly a “Trainer to the Stars,” Tony Horton. It is a half an hour program you follow along to. Some of those programs get a little feminine, “Alright ladies…” This one has one woman in the background for the eye candy but Tony is a manly man so you don’t feel like an effeminate doing it.

VIP: What is your average day like?

Dave: I get up at 5 AM, read and exercise. Then I eat breakfast with my family. I have a son who is four and a daughter who is two. I’ll come to work by 8 AM. Then I will make phone calls, be in meetings, be on sales calls, and answer emails. I do get out of the office a lot. I have a lot of outside appointments. I’ll travel to New York, Chicago, etcetera. I try to be home by six for dinner with the family. Then I hang out with the kids and work on the “to-do” list from the wife. And, I try to be in bed by ten. That is my ideal day.

When I do that I feel great. When I am able to read and workout in the morning it sets the runner for a great day.

VIP: What do you usually read in the morning?

DM: I usually read books that are about my field, other business books, biographies, motivational stuff. I’m reading a book right now called Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson. My flaw with reading though is I start too many books at once.

Other good authors are Jeffrey Gitomer, Tony Robbins, Earl Nightengale, and Jim Rohn. Jim’s programs are incredible.

VIP: What are some of your goals with Next Step Magazine?

Dave: Our strategic plan is involving more and more teens into the Next Step Community; our print magazine, our website, and our social community on the website. We want to be the Facebook of college and career planning. If you want to come online and network with friends about social stuff, Facebook is perfect. But, if you want to have a focused community on helping you with your next step after high school, choosing your career, and your college, you come to us.

Let’s say you’re in high school and you’re interested in finance and you think you want to go to school in New York some place. Wouldn’t it be great if you could enter that in the website and have college students who can act as mentors for you? Or, if you want to get a job you can find mentors for that as well. So, continuing to create this focused community is the goal.

We are striving to do more and more of this stuff on whatever media it takes. Video, cell phones, etcetera. More and more in helping students find their right career. That is my hope with Next Step. I want to help high schoolers find their path.

If you like music, what if you got paid to lead a band or be a music teacher? The path you’re following, you’re going to wake up in about five years and pinch yourself saying, “I get paid to do this?” That is the goal.

Thirteen years I’ve been doing that. We just celebrated thirteen years with Next Step. That is the sweet spot of life right there. I don’t go to a factory and punch a clock. There are no calluses on my hands. I go to work, but it’s not really “work.”

That’s how I want to help students. I want to help them assess who they are and give them ideas about what direction to take that assessment in. Here are five great careers that really match who you are and then provide information about those careers, and colleges that go along with them.

We want to be THE resource for life after high school.

VIP: I’m curious about Brand University, your recent higher education marketing enterprise.

DM: I started that because a lot of my clients are colleges and I noticed they are admissions experts, not marketing experts. So, a lot of their ads, quite frankly, sucked. I created that for my college clients to teach them about effective branding, marketing, and advertising. So far, so good.

I turn that into a lot of my key note talks. It is a nice free resource for a lot of my clients. The best way to be seen as an expert is to get published right? I’m lucky because I’m a publisher.

David Mammano

CEO & Founder

Next Step Publishing Inc.