30, President of RocketBike Digital Agency, Portsmouth
Business community involvement:
President of Olde Towne Business Association (OTBA), Founding Director of 757 Accelerate
Board of Directors for Portsmouth Partnership (a major force for progress and economic development in Portsmouth for more than 70 years); Founding Director and Vice Chair for Virginia 21 Action (a 501(c)4 nonpartisan political organization that promotes legislation important to young Virginians from college students to young professionals across the state); has donated over $70,000 in services to the Olde Towne Business Association since 2017 through RocketBike; part of committees on how to help the homeless in Portsmouth; participated in free speaking engagements and taught classes for events and organizations like the Virginia Velocity Tour, ODU and the Franklin Business Center; gives free advice and consulting for new businesses in Coastal Virginia
Something that makes you stand out in your industry?
I’m naturally creative and have a knack for recognizing connections between things. So, I’m a quick problem solver and tend to pick up new skills without formal instruction. This ability makes it easier for me to keep up with the changing marketing landscape, understand a range of businesses and industries and develop novel ways to help our clients beat the competition. I’ve been able to develop a strong foundation in everything we do from design to development to advertising, making me more effective in planning and leading projects on a day-to-day basis.
Something or someone who keeps you motivated?
The line between my work and hobbies is blurry, if a line even exists anymore. So, passion for what I do is a big motivator. More importantly, I get to work with the most incredible and talented partner who lights up the room and makes every day a blast—my wife, Casey. She’s my secret to success, and RocketBike wouldn’t be where it is today without her. Knowing how lucky I am makes it easier to work the extra hours and push through the more stressful days.
What’s a challenge you’ve had to overcome to find success?
The most frequent challenge for me has been learning to let go of the intangible vision of perfection I have in my mind for a given project we’re working on. Knowing when to stop tinkering is hard, but it’s important for creative work where there’s a direct relationship between time and cost. Being more mindful of that has made a big difference in our profitability and ability to grow our team.
Most important aspect you look for in a workplace?
Positivity, empathy and respect are incredibly important for a productive team. This is especially true for the kind of creative, highly collaborative work we do. Fear and negative reinforcement kills morale and only incentivizes people to work hard enough to get by. Negativity is toxic and expensive in terms of turnover, lost productivity and underperformance. People should feel like their boss wants them to succeed and feel comfortable sharing concerns or bad news without being punished.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current position?
I’m already involved in a couple ventures outside of RocketBike, but I can’t imagine doing anything other than running a creative(ish) business. That said, there are probably a few parallel universes where I continued pursuing a music career or became a writer for SNL (after failing the audition). After spending so much time helping other businesses, I would love to get into the venture capital world at some point. I’m a huge history nerd and fascinated by the impossible balance of idealism and pragmatism in government, so politics has always been interesting to me. Life is too short!
What new idea or development are you most excited about in Coastal Virginia right now?
I’m thrilled we have our own Ikea, and I’m very excited about waterfront development projects in the works here in Olde Towne Portsmouth. Another big project I’m excited to see is Drew Ungvarsky’s Assembly. That will create some serious gravity to attract more creative and technology professionals to our area. If I wasn’t so invested in Portsmouth’s future, I would move our office there in a heartbeat.
What do you think is Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is the inefficiency and zero-sum mentality that is a result of having seven independent cities so close to one another with so few shared resources. There are positive signs of more regionalism, but our disjointed and redundant governance is a fundamental disadvantage that hinders progress, wastes tax dollars and creates unnecessary tribalism based on the city we live in. Unfortunately, any solution would need significant public support and require elected officials to voluntarily give up power. I don’t see that happening any time soon, but I hope we get there one day.
Favorite place in Coastal Virginia to go on the weekends?
I love walking around Olde Towne and going to the flea market and farmers’ market on Saturdays or taking the ferry over to the new Waterside.
From his nomination:
“Max works tirelessly to improve the lives of not just his employees but the community around him. As his wife and business partner, this makes me endlessly proud and occasionally hesitant to introduce him to new people, groups and ideas. I know we have limited capacity, and he is always looking for ways he can improve the lives of everyone he comes in contact with, whether that’s through offering advice, offering to partake in an event, donating services or making a connection to others in the community. We only have 24 hours in a day, dude!”
—Casey Greenhood, wife and business partner