Interview of the Week : Mike Colicchio

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Social Media is weird. You can get to know someone without ever meeting that person face to face. And you end up “meeting” them online but sometimes will end up forgetting how you guys met and through which mutual friend. But when that person is Mike Colicchio, who cares how you met? The daily posts of his beautiful getaway vacations (I hate him for those photos), his great family meals, and, of course, his rock performances, among so many more fun things, always keep you second guessing, “Who is Mike Colicchio?”

Most people are proud of where they’re from, but Mike should probably be the cheerleader for New Jersey. Actually, wait, Mike in a cheerleading dress wouldn’t be a good idea. But you know what? He would probably put one on for his home state. Or maybe just to get a few laughs. He’s that type of guy. It was fun to learn about his background. Normally, accounting is viewed as a “boring” profession, but what’s boring about not only working across the United States, but Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, and Brazil, where he is known to celebrate Carnaval in a traditional get-up? He mixes business with pleasure because he can. He’s that good. I did not know how talented he was until Nick Stellino went on about our mutual friend’s talents. More about that encounter later.

After a decade with accounting giant, KPMG, he traveled the world with Degussa and also Celanese. He told me what he did with them, but it’s all very complex. Just the job descriptions are heavy. Mike Colicchio helped build corporate groups in the areas of taxation and corporate accounting, participated in acquisition and divestitures, including a full start-up of a New Zealand chemical site, leading the 2005 Celanese IPO, and managing ERP enabling technology implementation projects. From that, he went to Hungary and Brazil, taking his talents and know-how to hungry companies seeking his intelligence. In Hungary, Mike started and operated a Global Shared Services Organization for Celanese. Mr. Colicchio went on to work in 30 countries in 4 continents. Back in the States, he is currently an Operating Director for Arsenal Capital Partners in New York City.

His professional resume is important but comes second to his love of family. Of all that he shares on social media, it is obvious where his heart is: at home with his twin daughters and his wife, his sweetheart for over three decades. He loves to be around the table with good people and he loves to be the energy to make that gathering happen. Earlier this year, Mike had the great idea of organizing a dinner for Nick Stellino, super chef and super nice guy. He sent out the emails and asked the Men Who Dine to organize. The whole night was described in an earlier article of mine. It was the first time I met Mike Colicchio face to face and I asked myself then, “Who is Mike Colicchio?” He was in great shape, having recently shed some pounds and changed his diet and lifestyle. Mike Colicchio is always evolving, but at the core is a great New Jersey native who loves his state, good food, and his family and friends.

Piazza Life was privileged to catch up with Mike Colicchio.

1) What was it like growing up in New Jersey, as an Italian American?

​Very enjoyable. We lived in the Italian-American section of Elizabeth (Peterstown or The Burg) and we went to the Gran Centurions Swim Club in Clark each summer. We had a big extended family and essentially were immersed in being Italian-Americans. ​

2) How mad would you be if Bruce, Bon Jovi, and Frank Sinatra were all discovered to be New Yorkers and not from Jersey?

​I would say that anyone making such claim would be mad. Next I’ll hear that Frankie Valli, Derek Jeter, and Jack Nicholson aren’t from here also. They all are and plenty more.​

3) What made you get into Accounting? And did you ever think a career in what is usually considered “boring” would have taken you to so many different and exciting places, such as Brazil, Hungary, Germany, and New Zealand, among others?

I was always interested in business and money. My brother Tom and I were very entrepreneurial teenagers. We would buy and sell things like concert tickets and clothing. I kept track of the money. It wasn’t a lot but I just started keeping track. I took an income tax class in HS and started doing my parents tax returns at 15. I met an accountant one day and he seemed successful so I thought let me try it on for size. I majored in Accounting at Seton Hall and after my first class I knew that it was for me. I got it immediately. That’s the way it is for this field that most people avoid.

​No. I never imagined that a career in accounting could be my ticket to seeing the world. There are two misconceptions about accounting. The first is that it’s all math, the second is that it’s boring. Accounting is all about logic and balance. Math just happens to be the programming language. As for being boring, I’m sure that certain aspects can be boring but I was fortunate in that I never really did “accounting”. I was an auditor, advisor, tax guy, mergers and acquisitions analyst, group builder, leader etc. Nothing boring at all about these roles. Challenging and fun.​

4) You usually publicly post pictures of your most recent paradise in which you find yourself, full of bright sun, beautiful waters, and happy people. You also usually post those pics in the winter for all us who are stuck in the North East to see. Why are you such a cruel person?

I was not born cruel. It developed over time and was really propelled by the explosion of social media. All kidding aside, I have many friends from throughout my life that have not had the ability to travel and to see the amazing gifts that our earth has to offer. I enjoy having them see the world through my eyes and lens.

5) You frequently mention how you eventually will move to a sunny climate. Where is your ideal place? Which are in your top 5 list?

​I’d like to spend a piece of each year in Italy, Ireland, New Jersey, South Carolina, Aruba and a wild card location.

6) Do you believe in an After Life?

​Absolutely. I attended Catholic school every second of my schooling. Kindergarten (St. Vladimir’s) First through Twelfth grades (St. Mary’s) and College (Seton Hall). If I learned anything, is that there is life after death in some form. I don’t think it’s a physical reincarnation but a spiritual one. Without this belief in an Afterlife I would be even crueler. :-)

7) You are a big family man, frequently sharing stories of your parents from childhood, but also of your own twin daughters. You are obviously very proud. What does it mean to be father to Jen and Kim and a husband to Sue?

​It’s a very nice and peaceful feeling. I’ve been with my wife since she was 18 and I was 20. In these 33 years I’ve been away often for business and never once has she complained. She is a beautiful, very kind, and understanding person and I can’t imagine what I would have turned out to be without her. My daughters are wonderful. We are friends and parent/child. They are very responsible and enjoy all the crazy adventures I’ve taken them on with me. I am really glad that they are great kids.

8) Food is big in every Italian home and yours is no different. You love to come home from your travels and put something great on the table. What are your favorite things to make and why?

​Every Sunday my Mother Beverly cooked all day long. She started with eggs, bacon, toast, tea, pastries, pancakes and orange juice. During all that prep there was a pot of meatballs, sausage, braciole simmering in gravy, yes, once the meat is in there it’s gravy, ​just waiting for the macaroni, italian bread and salad. When I’m weary of the road, my favorite meal is just this. Mom taught all three of her sons how to cook, one really paid attention well, and we all know intuitively how to make this Sunday Italian-American meal.

9) Would you rather not wipe your butt for 3 months or not brush your teeth for 5 years?

​I’d rather not wipe my butt for three months. First, I like to smile and after five years that wouldn’t be that pretty. Second, three months is much easier than five years…of anything. Third, ​well, there is no third!

10) You recently decided to change your lifestyle? You always were into fitness but since 2013 you changed your diet too. What sparked this change and what are you doing that is different?

​In October 2013 I learned that my years of eating too much of the wrong things had resulted in my having Type 2 diabetes. I read what I could and listened to Doctors and other health professionals and decided that only I could control this. I was always an athlete and even at my heaviest (268 lbs on a 5’11” frame) I could ride a bike for 50 miles. I was living in a state of denial. Once the reality of illness hits, you can either ignore it or attack it. I am not the retiring kind. I enjoy doing things that are difficult. I embraced this challenge and with the help of an excellent nutritionist (Mike Duffy) I learned that there were certain musts I must eat and others I must eliminate. Gluten, casein, soda, artificial sweeteners, sugar, wheat….all must go and they did. I was advised to eat much more raw foods, fruit, vegetables, nuts, quinoa, protein including supplements, water, coconut oil and a few other things that are good for me and tasty. I got into spin and running again. Fitness is a lifestyle now and I feel great.

11) If you didn’t do what you did, what would your other dream job be?

​A very easy question. A singer in a Rock and Roll band. I have been singing since I was old enough to talk. Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys were my first musical obsessions. I sang in bands in high school and would jump up at any occasion to sing with a band. I was never much into karaoke but occasionally did it with friends. In 2007, when I took a four year assignment in Budapest Hungary, then I got the bug for real. One of my first hires (an accountant) was a singer in a local band that played monthly in a pub. I started rehearsing with them and would sing a few tunes with them each show. When we returned to NJ in 2011, I called my friend Vinny LaVecchia and asked if his band needed a singer. I rehearsed and they asked me to return. I haven’t left since. We play an eclectic mix of Rock and Roll covers from the 50’s through the 90’s. We played a gig this past Saturday night and it seemed to have been well received. I’m glad I didn’t pick it as my primary career as I’m not good enough to make a living doing it but I’m loving that I am doing it now!​

12) What’s a day in the Life of Mike Colicchio look like?

​Depends if I’m home or on the road. Each day involves a big protein based breakfast before 7am, some sort of exercise for at least an hour, emails, texts, investment checks, phone calls, presentations, social media, reading (I love to read), crossword, ​a smoothie, dinner with my wife and daughters, sports on tv or in person (Big Yankees and Yankees fan, play time with my dog Cooper and if I’m really lucky a round of golf or time with my brothers, cousins, friends or Mom. Every day, and I mean every day, includes listening to Bruce Springsteen. I just love everything about his music and person. I listen to lots of music. It’s always on. I like being active and I don’t require a lot of sleep but I like to be in bed around 11. (2892)

3 thoughts on “Interview of the Week : Mike Colicchio

  1. Great read and had time to talk with him over 18 holes of golf. He is as nice as his Facebook page suggests, even nicer

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Mike is a great guy who I’m fortunate enough to have connected with via Facebook. He is an inspiration to me and many others on a daily basis. How could you not admire his love for life, and the positive manner in which he enters each and every day. And now he’s walking the walk, by making major changes and living and eating a healthy lifestyle. yes indeed Mike Colicchio is a man to admire and to mirror.
    Respectfully, Joe Caruso Edison, NJ

  3. Nice to get to know Mike a little bit better in this interview and yes, his job is complex! He’s a positive, down to earth guy and when we met, it seemed like we knew each other for years. Thanks for a nice post on a good person that deserves all the accolades.

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