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Heavy Hitters Share Their First Jobs

Baltimore Other

Everyone has to start somewhere. (Einstein started out working in the patent office.) Check out what these folks did before they found their true calling.

Baltimore Development Corp CEO Bill Cole


Bill, the Baltimore City councilman who replaced Brenda McKenzie (her last day was Aug. 21), tells us his first job was at the Harborplace Hooters. Before you start to worry about the dress code Bill will institute at his new office, we should clarify that when he worked at that Inner Harbor locale, in 1986, it was occupied by Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor. “But," he says, "it's more fun telling my kids I worked at Hooters than an ice cream shop!”

Federal Realty Investment Trust Don Wood


Under Don's watch, Federal Realty has built some of the nation's most transformative retail projects, such as Santana Row in San Jose, Calif., and Bethesda Row in Maryland. At 15, he started his own lawn-mowing business in Clifton, NJ, with a catchy slogan: "Professional Results Without a Professional Price." He started the biz to make extra money but kept the service going through college in the early '80s at Montclair State. (The beauty about cutting grass is that it never stops growing.) "It taught me everything about customer service and how to deal with different types of people," he says, adding that how he handled customers and managed a small staff won over a recruiter at Arthur Andersen, his first job out of college. The business also gave him experience in cutting deals: After taking the Arthur Andersen job, he sold the lawn-mowing service for a five-figure sum.

Cresa CEO Jim Leslie


Jim started selling seeds and greeting cards door-to-door at age 12. (Diversify your deliverables.) In high school, he progressed to oven man at a pizza place in his hometown of Lincoln, Neb. The first job taught him how to make things happen, he tells us, while the pizza job was about letting things happen. As CEO, he's learned that there are both of these types of people inside an organization, and each is important to success. You have to respect that or you’re not going to effectively lead them, he says. “My parents taught me that no matter what your role in life, you should always appreciate and respect everyone's contribution, because together they make a winning team."