This month’s spotlight is on EO Chicago member Michael Stratta, the founder and CEO of Arcalea, a 2019 and 2020 Inc. 500 fastest-growing consultancy that specializes in marketing and data science. A proud father and husband, he earned his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, where he is currently a Master of Science in Data Science candidate. He previously founded and exited two prior companies before starting Arcalea. Check out this brief snapshot of his entrepreneurial journey.
EO Member: Michael Stratta
Years in Business: 5 years
How long have you been a member of EO Chicago, and why did you join the organization?
I’ve been a member of EO for 10 years, on and off. I originally joined because I didn’t know any entrepreneurs and someone told me, “There are others!”;)
What was your first job?
Mowing lawns. And I sold magazines door-to-door. Not sure which was first.
Can you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Where did you start and where do you hope to go in the future?
I was sitting in a cube downtown on the 23rd floor and someone said to me, “Man, you could do this for the next 30 years!”
And what I heard was, “Do this for 30 YEARS… 30 YEARS… 30 YEARS…” At that moment, I decided to quit.
My goal is to finish my career as an entrepreneur and mentor others to break free from corporate.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
No two days are ever the same. And secondly, as entrepreneurs, we have the ability to change lives: internally through talent development and mentoring, and externally through the people whose lives, businesses, and careers we affect. The development of people and organizations is the most rewarding aspect of my work.
What daily challenges do you face at work?
Right now, the coronavirus pandemic. Fostering and maintaining culture and human connections via video conferencing is a challenge every business is facing. Balancing new family, work, and school demands are daily challenges we are all facing.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
That depends greatly on the stage of life and who I was at the time. As a first-time father, the most recent advice was to slow down, recognize that time passes quickly, and make time to enjoy and appreciate each and every day.
What are your goals for the future of your business?
Maintain our culture through our next phase of growth.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
Two things: First, machine learning (ML) is fundamentally changing business. We have developed an IP which uses ML to determine (basically) identify the weighted success factors in organic search: white-boxing the black box for any business. What’s so cool is we found that the answer is industry-dependent, which provides unique, actionable intelligence for our clients.
What brought you to Chicago?
My first job out of college!
Who or what inspires you?
Innovation. Potential. Possibilities.
If you could go back in time five years and share advice with your past self, what advice would you share?
Two things: “You can do it,” and “Appreciate every moment.”
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
Five years ago, I got the opportunity to build a new business again from scratch (Arcalea) and I wasn’t sure I could do it again. In 2019, we ranked #149 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies. The events that occurred in between were the greatest challenges of my career.
How do you find work-life balance?
I make a list of the things that make me feel “happiness” or achieve “balance.” These are daily actions, thoughts, or feelings, and can include things like “work out” or “have morning coffee” or “express gratitude to my wife.” This list is surprisingly long when you really fill it out, but unless we approach each day with intent, we seldom achieve everything on the list. So I use this as a guide for the day, and it helps me close in on that balance.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
Archeologist. Firefighter. Astronaut. I’m still a kid, and I’m still adding to that list.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
Used to be Travel. Nature and hiking. There is a soccer league in Chicago that I love to participate in whenever possible.
What’s one thing left on your bucket list?
I still haven’t seen the Great Wall.
What are you currently reading?
Range by David Epstein
If you could recommend one podcast, what would it be?
What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?
Taco Bell—or Taco Bell Cantina, if you want to drink with dinner.
What is your favorite part about working in the Chicagoland area?
Chicago has all of the benefits of a major metro area, and yet maintains its Midwestern culture and values. From that perspective, it is a great place to work.
What is your top Chicago activity?
In summer, I enjoy hiking at Starved Rock (which is not in Chicago). In a normal year, it’s other people’s boats.
Where’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
Cape Hatteras, NC.
Thank you to Michael for sharing his story for our September member spotlight. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global business network of more than 14,000 entrepreneurs in 195 chapters and 62 countries. EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
If you’re interested in becoming an EO Chicago member, check our membership requirements and submit an application to join today.