As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Czajka of Macro Money Concepts. Chuck has been in the financial services business for more than 35 years. Originally from Connecticut, Chuck moved to South Florida in 1982. Chuck attended the University of Connecticut and served with the United States Navy. Chuck is a Certified Estate Planner (CEP) and a Registered Financial Consultant RFC). He has a life and health insurance license and has had his own company since 1989. He specializes in a “macro-economic” planning process that educates, counsels and guides clients through the maze of financial information to help them reach their maximum financial potential.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I got off active duty from the United States Navy not having a clue what I was going to do. While bowling with friends one night, a friend said that I should go into sales. My family had a lot of people in the insurance business so I started to investigate what being in that business actually was. My Navy background helped me realize that I enjoyed meeting people, so what better career than the insurance business?
I was extremely lucky to know and meet the right people at the right time. They set me up in the right position to move toward success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I guess one funny story was when I was interviewing a podiatrist. For some reason, it stuck in my head that this was some sort of dentist, so my conversation centered around the dentistry industry. He let me go on and on for about 20 minutes before he told me that he was a foot doctor. He told me that I might need a dentist to get the foot out of my mouth. That taught me that I need to really know my stuff before each and every interview.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Think and Grow Rich by Napolian Hill. It really exposes the money making secrets of many people who helped create this country. It explains marketing and how to brand yourself in a very competitive world.
The book starts by talking about desire. Without desire, nothing else really matters. It was interested to learn how over 500 extremely wealthy men like Henry Ford and Dale Carnegie made their fortunes.
My business is about leadership, so combined with the Navy, this book talks about two forms of leadership. The first is leadership of consent, with the sympathy of your followers. The second is leadership by force, without consent and sympathy of followers. The book goes on to say that the history of force cannot endure. In the business of financial services, force is never a good thing.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently working on a process that will be a key element to our overall financial process. It is “generational planning.” The fabric of this country is the family. I believe this is silently being ripped away from us through many factors. But in recent history, generating generational wealth was the way families grew and thrived.
Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the central focus of our discussion. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
The first purpose was that I wanted to be in a business that would help people, families and small businesses. Being raised in a not-so-wealthy environment taught me the value of money. I quickly realized that many, if not most people, don’t really have the basic knowledge of how money really works. So, first and foremost, my purpose was to develop a system that would not only educate people, but save them from being conditioned into traditional financial planning as we know it — to help people reach their maximum financial potential!
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Failure is not failure in my book. It’s simply a way that an idea or process didn’t work. Every time something didn’t work, it opened more opportunity. I guess you could say that we never look back.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
The majority of our lead generation process is through educating people. It is my passion. We do a number of financial seminars throughout the years as well as conduct client educational seminars. People don’t want to be sold; they want to be educated. When they know where your passion lies, they want to do business with you.
If a fellow CEO would ask you for advice about whether to bootstrap or to look for VC capital, how would you help them weigh the pros and cons of that decision?
I guess that depends on the level you wanted to start out at. It’s not cheap to get started, but the last thing I wanted to do was start a business with a load of debt. The beautiful thing of our business is that there are many opportunities that are low cost. I refinancing my home to get the needed startup capital. I paid it back within six months. A decision for more capital could be made later, after you get your feet wet. This business is not for everyone.
What measure do you use to determine the value of a company? What advice would you give to other leaders about how to get an optimal evaluation of their business?
To me, it’s the profit and loss statement. There is a tendency to spend a lot of money on branding and advertising. That’s all good as long as the income overrides the outcome. I see many successful financial people out there, but when you drill down, they could be six months or less from bankruptcy.
What would you advise to a founder who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
I did this many times over the last 40 years. Our business is always evolving. Every time it seems like we have plateaued, we have a client event. Don’t be afraid to ask them what is important in their financial life. Ask what they would like to see now, three years from now, five years from now, etc. You would be amazed how much information you gain from asking these questions. It will allow you to seek a different and exciting change.
What are the most common finance mistakes you have seen other businesses make? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Getting complacent. Many colleagues who have attained great successes in the past seem to get complacent. However, the life blood of our business is meeting new people. While it’s easy to sit back when you have a few bucks, you owe it to yourself to keep your business growing. If you’re like me, on the back nine of my career, creating a succession plan is not only a good thing for you and your family, but it also helps all the people who counted on you for financial advice.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.
- It’s not easy! You will experience a lot of rejection. It’s important to remember that they are not rejecting you.
- Education — enough is not enough. Continuing to learn is a mainstay of this business. Every day new ideas and products are created to help people succeed.
- Manage your money. If you are not managing your wealth, how do you expect others to respect the advice you give?
- Take time for yourself and family, it’s important to recharge your batteries. I always took Fridays off as my personal day. It served as a backup if I needed to meet clients, but for the most part, it is an unproductive day for many industries. You will burn out quickly if you don’t take time for yourself.
- Outstanding service. If you say you are going to do something, do it! It will get you noticed. My clients are able to get in touch with us 24/7. Go out of your way to get in touch a couple times per month. They are important to your success and they want to feel that.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Work with the right people. As the saying goes, you can’t please everybody. And you really can’t — believe it. Working with the wrong people will burn you out and take time away from the people who you’re helping that respect you.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to start a movement against traditional financial thinking! More people have been hurt financially by the “follow the herd” mentality. People are troubled and confused in our country. It seems to me that they are being bombarded by the media, bullied by salespeople and are bewildered by the millions of things they feel they need to know. Traditional financial thinking, and most plans generated by this thinking, have failed us time and time again.
How can our readers follow you online?
Our website does a great job keeping people informed and up to date. Simply go to www.macro-money.com.