Hochberg developed his business chops as the longtime president and chief operating officer of Lillian Vernon, a mail-order company his mother founded and that he helped turn into a publicly traded powerhouse. A former deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration, he became a bundler for the President Obama’s campaign and later served on his transition team.
He chats with the Loop about how he literally got his start in a mail room, his unlikely kinship with John McLaughlin, and his terrifying trainer.
What’s your favorite non-work-related Web site/app/magazine?
I check out the New Yorker’s Web site every Monday to see that week’s cartoons. I’ve been collecting the original drawings of these cartoons for 25 years and I have more than 100. One of my favorites, which is hanging in my office, shows a group of cavemen protesting their supposed political officials. One shouts: “Why is the arts budget the first to get cut?!? You know it’s the only thing that separates us from the monkeys.”
Fill in the blank: People would be surprised to know that I _________.
Have a SmarTrip Card, and when I can, I commute by bus.
What’s your dream job?
What motivated you to go into public service?
My mother’s family fled Nazi Germany in 1933. They lost everything. But my family was able to start over here in the United States. I was at my mother’s side as she built a business that became one of the great success stories of American entrepreneurship. Every day I’m grateful for the opportunities that this country has given me. If I can give back a little of what was given to me and help other American businesses create jobs and build a better future, then I’m an even luckier man. I have to admit I get a little choked-up when a hardworking small-business owner tells me about their success building a business through exporting overseas. It’s hard to explain just how proud people are to say that their businesses are “Made in America” and succeeding. But I get it. And it gets me up every morning.
Favorite TV show?
I actually don’t watch a lot of television, but I have to admit one of my favorite time slots is Sunday morning. I jump on the elliptical machine at the gym and watch all the political shows – what I sometimes call “Yell TV.” I definitely burn more calories on Sunday mornings.
Which character from that show do you most identify with?
John McLaughlin. He and I used to see one another occasionally on flights to Florida in the winter. As we departed the flight, I’d say: “Bye, bye!” and he never seemed annoyed.
What subject, other than your work, do you know the most about?
Food and design.
What’s the best job you ever had?
The best job I’ve ever had is without a doubt my current one. However, next on the list would have to be a summer during high school I spent working for “Good Housekeeping” in the mail room. It was my first “grown-up job”.
Fill in the blank: I’m scared of _________________.
Matt, my trainer; before the morning weigh-in.
What’s one word you wish people would use to describe you?
Background Check is a Loop feature in which we grill various government types about their lives on and off the clock. Please send suggestions for future subjects to firstname.lastname@example.org.