Self Improvement

Starting a Company Feels Like You Are Unemployed

I have had numerous friends and family members negatively affected by the shakeout at Zenefits, so I was hesitant to write this post, but this quote from Parker Conrad, the founder of Zenefits, is a key one that I wanted to reflect upon.

“When you start a new company, it kinda feels like you’re unemployed,” Conrad told Axios shortly after his Demo Day presentation. A program like Y Combinator can motivate and bring structure to a founder’s work, he added.”

I couldn’t agree more about the unemployment bit. At the beginning, even with great co-founders, starting a company is a mental challenge and feels a lot like unemployment (save for all of the hard work you are doing). No paychecks. Sparse email traffic. No direction. Limited accountability. Total schedule flexibility. (more…)

Being Different and Finding Your Career Groove

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

I love this quote and often use it to keep things in perspective, especially careers.

When reading professional biographies and interviewing job candidates, it often seems as if careers are a linear process. However, as I grow older, while it is true that some people enjoy careers that are truly linear, I am coming to appreciate that careers are more like a journey with a rough destination in mind. Individuals are constantly striving to reach their long term career goal, while having fun (however you define it) and picking up pieces of knowledge at each stop along the way to help them do so. (more…)

Life’s Lessons from Byron R. Wien, Vice Chairman, Multi-Asset Investing, Blackstone

I recently came across the below life tips from Byron R. Wien, Vice Chairman, Multi-Asset Investing, at Blackstone. Good reminders to keep life heading in the right direction!

1. Concentrate on finding a big idea that will make an impact on the people you want to influence. The Ten Surprises, which I started doing in 1986, has been a defining product. People all over the world are aware of it and identify me with it. What they seem to like about it is that I put myself at risk by going on record with these events which I believe are probable and hold myself accountable at year-end. If you want to be successful and live a long, stimulating life, keep yourself at risk intellectually all the time.

2. Network intensely. Luck plays a big role in life, and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible. Nurture your network by (more…)

I’m Back!

After 3+ years of hibernation due to the silence required by my technology investment banking role at Credit Suisse, I’m excited to be back to writing!

When I left off in 2012, my posts were getting increasingly long and complex, and as a result, more time consuming. I enjoyed long-form writing when I had a lot of free time. However, nowadays, I have less time for writing due to increased demands from work and a growing family. As a result, now that I’m back to writing, it may be more sporadic and it will certainly be more brief and less heavily edited. (more…)

Remembering to Keep it All in Balance

As school comes to a close and I head off to do ibanking at Credit Suisse, keeping it all in balance seems to be a closing theme.  During my TEC (The Executive Committee) meeting last week, I discussed this issue at length with my mentor, Pete.  He reminded me that it’s great to be successful in business, however, it’s even better to be successful in business and life.  Pete then told me the stories, lives, and careers of people he knows.  Some sounded great, success in business, family and friends.  Others sounded downright miserable, complete with family members suing each other. (more…)

Succinct and Timeless Business Advice

A few weeks ago I got some timeless advice from a guest speaker in my TOC program, an on-campus forum for MBA students to interact with classmates and seasoned executives to better manage one’s business and career.  The guest speaker, who requested no attribution for this post, gave me and my classmates the below advice.  This is one of the best, succinct, lists of management principles I have come across, so I thought it would be nice to share it here for a broader audience.  The italics are my own notes.

Lessons Learned Along the Way

The three critical elements of a company are: Market, Management and Money.  You need all three for a good business.  Never forget, growing companies need money.  Growth is affected by external financing needs, margin, ROE, etc.

The Market

  • Know now your company’s value proposition (i.e. why customers should do business with you). (more…)

A Note on Competition: Avoid the Obvious

“The more challenging and potentially lucrative the waters you fish in, the more likely they are to have attracted skilled fisherman.  Unless your skills render you fully competitive, you’re most likely to be prey than victor.” – Howard Marks

Which is better: Seizing the ripe opportunity in front of you, or hunting down a mediocre one on the fringe? I would argue the latter, which I want to demonstrate with something that has been a big part of my life – surfing. Yes, surfing. I realize this is a stretch for non-surfers, but with this story I think you will see the parallels to opportunities in your life, whether they are business or personal ones. (more…)

Charlie Munger on Picking a Career

Warren Buffett’s right-hand man, Charlie Munger, has a great 18-page article on the art of stock picking.  The first half of Munger’s article turns out to be more about broad business principles than narrow number crunching. As someone who’s searching for the next career step, I particularly like this quote.

“Every person is going to have a circle of competence. And it’s going to be very hard to advance that circle. If I had to make my living as a musician…. I can’t even think of a level low enough to describe where I would be sorted out to if music were the measuring standard of the civilization.

So you have to figure out what your own aptitudes are. If you play games where other people have the aptitudes and you don’t, you’re going to lose. And that’s as close to certain as any prediction that you can make. You have to figure out (more…)

Blackstone, BlackRock and 360 Degree Reviews

I’m back from New York after meeting with executives at a lot of top Wall Street firms, both sellside and buyside.  During my meeting with Tim Coleman, Head of Blackstone’s Restructuring & Reorganization Group (and also a fellow Gaucho!), he cited the strength of Blackstone’s culture as a key asset, an asset cultivated, in part, by an annual 360 review among Blackstone employees. According to Tim, the 360 review process prevents coworkers from unfairly “dumping” work on others. Wouldn’t you think twice before unreasonably working someone until 4AM if you knew that person would have the chance to air the dirty laundry at the end of the year?  In Tim’s world (i.e. Wall Street), a 360 review seems like a great check for what sometimes can be a brutal culture.

This morning I ran across 360 reviews again while reading a great article about the rise of BlackRock.  360 reviews are an aside at the end of the article, but the mention of their use at another great firm began to make me think further about their use. Should companies include a 360 review in their annual review process? (more…)