You’re not built (or meant) to go this road alone. Prioritize your family and build your team. Develop your skills as a leader so that you can inspire and empower others to go the distance to bring your vision to life. Protect time for the ones you love most.
With over 17 years of experience as a financial educator, Danijel Velicki, is committed to equipping and empowering his clients with the resources and information to confidently thrive across all facets of life.
While serving clients from a variety of industries – military servicemen and women, everyday entrepreneurs, seasoned medical professionals, and even lawyers – Danijel discovered that many of his clients were feeling lost and overwhelmed when it came to navigating daily life choices that impacted their wallet and their long-term sense of stability. Masters at their own crafts, their access to education outside of their expertise had been non-existent, severely limited or packaged up in a bright shiny sales pitch. Simply put, they knew exactly how to perform an intricate heart transplant, but they struggled to balance a checkbook. After the loss of a friend and business owner, who had no real plan in place to financially protect his family in the event of an emergency, he decided that it was time for a change. No longer would he allow people to get by at a disadvantage, simply because they didn’t know what they didn’t know.
Danijel believes that the lack of trustworthy financial information available online is a secondary failure to our society’s complete avoidance when it comes to basic financial education in our school systems. He’s committed to fixing the problem, and developed Sqwire as a relatable channel of actionable financial insight that will help individuals understand how their money works so they can make better decisions and develop healthier long-term financial habits.
He designed Sqwire as a stress-free, no strings attached, educational curriculum that allows students to move through self-paced lessons covering the “hot spots” of everyday finances that most often cause confusion and a sense of inadequacy. His goal and his commitment is education. As Maya Angelou so eloquently stated, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Sqwire is all about accessing the information to know better, so that individuals can do better.
A little professional and personal background about Danijel…
Awarded the distinguished “40 Under 40” and “Entrepreneurial Excellence” designations by Inside Business, Velicki is living proof that the “American Dream” is well within reach for those who remain steadfastly committed to implementing the fundamental resolves and personal habits that mark seasoned leaders from all walks of life. Growing up in Zagreb, Croatia, Danijel moved to the United States in 1995, earning his Bachelors of Science in Management and Marketing. The rapid growth of his professional ventures continue to reflect his proficiency and passion for his craft, awarding him the ability to pivot and evolve as an agile leader in local business and beyond.
Whether working with the United States Navy SEALS or regional hospitals and medical staff, Velicki’s exceptional commitment to his clients and his community are reflected in his genuine interest, functional education and top notch customer service. Velicki designed both his financial curriculum and process management with a service over sales approach that is fundamentally grounded in life skills, personalized partnership and a thorough understanding of the complex issues that individuals, companies and families are facing across today’s financial climate.
A devoted family man, Danijel spends his free time with his wife, Melissa, and their three children, Maja, and twins, Ella and Noah. When not spending time with family on their summer vacations to his childhood home in Croatia, they can all often be found at his local gym, Crossfit Chesapeake, encouraging individuals and families to pursue physical health and wellness.
Block by block, step by step, Danijel has crafted an exceptional dialogue that promises to add value and build momentum for entrepreneurs, individuals and families from all walks of life. Deeply and personally vested in the individual success and future preparedness for each and every person he encounters, Danijel has made it his life’s mission to encourage others to roll up their sleeves to dig deep into the fundamental resolve and habits that allow his clients to confidently navigate their financial future.
Where did the idea for Sqwire come from?
After serving individuals and families across so many different industries for so long, I kept encountering one common issue. It came up again and again…and again.They were at the top of their game in their individual fields, but outside of that, more specifically, when it came to how they were managing their finances, they were lost. They had never received financial education of any kind, and now they were ashamed to admit that most of the choices they were making with their money came as a result of a “fingers crossed guess-timate” that they hoped wasn’t causing too much damage or risk.
That wasn’t ok with me. I knew something needed to change.
When my friend passed away without any real plan in place to financially protect his family, I felt like I had let him down. I decided I couldn’t wait any longer to make change happen, and I would no longer let people I know and love live life just getting by. The truth is, we fail as a society when we don’t provide the education needed for everyone to thrive. I knew I could do something about that, and more importantly, that NOT doing anything was contributing to that societal failure. If I didn’t participate in the solution, I remained a part of the problem.
Born out of my passion for education and commitment to solving a very real problem, the idea for Sqwire came to life and we’re leading the charge to cultivate financial literacy on a nationwide scale.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m an early riser. The quiet of the morning helps me clear my head and ready myself for the day. I journal and read obsessively. I devour books of all shapes and sizes. I own a CrossFit gym as well, so you’ll typically find me there by 5:30AM, starting the day off right with a good workout (truth be told, if it doesn’t happen then, it’s not happening at all!). After that, once the kids are off to school, it’s time to hit the meetings and hit them hard. I like to be busy and connecting with other people fuels my creativity, focus and commitment to my work.
I live and die by my schedule. I rely on my calendar to help me compartmentalize the many responsibilities vying for my attention. I follow my schedule and give myself permission to be fully present in that particular moment, setting aside future responsibilities for their appropriate place in my day. I constantly have my eye on the mission and revisit it daily. I’m always reviewing the big picture and working towards the long-term vision. It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of day to day business. I work hard to keep my eye on the prize.
I have an amazing team! They fill the gaps in my own skills and talents, are passionately committed to our success and stand with me in our view of the big picture. The expertise and ability they bring to the table make everything possible. I literally could not do this without them.
As the day comes to a close, you’ll likely find me back at home. My wife, Melissa, is everything to me, and providing the very best that I can for our children – daughter, Maja, and twins, Ella and Noah – is my life’s purpose. I’m a family man, through and through.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a bit old school when it comes to getting my ideas out of my head and into the world. There’s nothing I love more than a giant white board and a brand new pack of markers. My team and I regularly meet to scribble our ideas on an office wall. The momentum that comes from “free range” thinking has helped unlock some of our most powerful strategies. Everyone has a voice, and we can do much more together than I can do alone. My ideas are the spark. My team fans the flame and brings the fire!
It’s important for me to have the self-awareness to admit that I’m a true visionary, in every sense of the word. Dreaming big is my happy place. But dreaming will only get you so far. Bringing our ideas to life relies on having the right team in place to properly execute on the vision. I trust my team to go the distance and they never disappoint. Their talent for process management, competitive strategy and accountability for getting it done never cease to amaze me.
No one succeeds alone.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Technology. That might seem like the obvious answer. Sqwire wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have the technology to deliver financial education in truly consumable, widespread fashion. For 17 years, I’ve taught the same information and concepts to as many people as I could encounter, but it relied on in-person connections, which made my “impact” barely a ripple on the surface of the global problem of financial illiteracy.
Technology has exponentially propelled my impact and influence to a nationwide scale, practically overnight. I can now deliver the same information – with similar creativity, personality, visual elements and human connection – that I did for years, one family at a time, in person. Our online curriculum and web platform deliver self-paced learning in “digestible chunks” that allow me to be present with every single user, without actually being present. I can check in with our users, in real time, by utilizing social media and video platforms to “go live,” I can design compelling videos that break down key concepts in simple order, and I can corral financial experts from all over the world with a simple swipe. Access is at my fingertips, but more importantly, access is at our Sqwire users fingertips. We can literally be present with them, wherever they go, whenever they go.
Technology is giving us an actual chance at solving the very real problem of financial illiteracy. Technology is giving every individual, every family, in every home, access to the information that will help them make better choices and live better lives, in full control of their finances and future. It IS possible. Now THAT is exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am quick to admit my shortcomings. I know my strengths, but more importantly, I know my weaknesses. A lot of people spend a lot of time working to improve in their areas of weakness. This is not wasted effort, self-improvement is always a great thing, and I always embrace learning new skills. But time is a luxury you don’t always have as an entrepreneur, particularly in a competitive arena. I focus more on optimizing and maximizing my strengths. I want to do the stuff I do really well, even better. Best. The stuff I’m not so great at? Delegate. Outsource. I hire the talent and empower the team to do what I can’t. I’m not scared that their strengths are my weaknesses. I’m excited by it, and in truth, incredibly grateful. We work harder, faster, smarter. Admitting that I can’t do it all, I don’t know it all…that my team is my lifeline…and when they thrive, I thrive, we thrive…THAT is my greatest strength.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I spent way too much time stressing over things happening in my life that just didn’t matter in the long run. As long as you come up with a plan of action, every problem turns into a solution in process. It shouldn’t take any more emotional/mental/spiritual energy apart from identifying and acknowledging the problem, and putting the appropriate solution plan in place. Work hard today so that tomorrow is easier!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is a tough one. I honestly couldn’t come up with one major thing that I hold absolutely true that many people fundamentally disagree with me on, so I got to thinking and asked myself, “Where do my team and I most often disagree?” My assistant and I most often butt heads when it comes to my willingness to overlook situations where there are people she perceives to be taking advantage of my success. She calls me Bruce from Finding Nemo, and claims my “Fish are friends” mentality sometimes needs to be slightly adjusted to “Eat this fish.” Long story short, we’re both right and we’re both wrong. I love her loyalty and tenacity for protecting our mission and she loves my willingness to give people another chance. Sometimes she’s too tough on them, and sometimes I’m too soft. I want to always believe the best in people, and the reality is that sometimes it’s just not there. She’s incredibly wise and has laser beam discernment. She’s also gone through a lot in her life and can at times let her skepticism burn bridges too swiftly. Many times people will knock your socks off when given a second chance. We’re a team because we practice radical self-awareness, and are willing to listen to each other enough to meet in the middle. We both have something to learn, always. We’ve both turned to the other and said “You were right. I was wrong.”
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
READ. READ. READ. And then read some more. Always be looking ahead to leaders who have gone before you. Study their successes. More importantly, study their failures. Model what worked, evolve and/or avoid what didn’t. If you don’t have an official mentor (or three!) in your life, which I highly recommend, reading is the next best substitute. Technology has given us access to the life stories, expertise and insights to some of the most brilliant minds this planet has ever seen. Take advantage of our ability to pick their brains and learn all we can. There is no excuse for making the same mistake over and over, repeating the cycle or claiming we know it all. There is too much great information out there. For those who claim their business keeps them too busy and they never have time to “sit still and read,” that’s a poor excuse and you’re doing yourself a great disservice by not carving out (and fiercely protecting) time for you to read and learn.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Keep your eyes firmly focused on THE mission. Keep it close, very visible, and revisit it daily. Surround yourself with trusted peers and colleagues that will hold you accountable to the mission and aren’t afraid to call you out if you wander too far. As entrepreneurs, we’re drawn to ideas and opportunity. We can visualize what “could be” as what “will be.” We aren’t afraid of risk and taking a leap of faith (or ten) is in our blood. Sometimes that passion (thrill) for the “chase” can present itself as shiny object syndrome. There have been times where I’ve gotten distracted by a new idea or opportunity because I can visualize the potential success. In reality, it’s a misalignment with my mission. Sometimes I need a hard gut check to be reminded of that. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, and if you should too often where you shouldn’t, the things that matter don’t get the attention they need and growth slows or more dangerously, stagnates.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Failure is the best friend of explosive growth. If you’re not failing, you’re not aiming high enough. Failure has taught me that nothing can stop me from achieving my goals. I’ve fallen, I fall, time and time again. I have always gotten up, dusted off my knees and started running again. Each failure marks a crucial lesson that helps me run better, faster, stronger. I can overcome anything if I surround myself with the right people and see failure as an opportunity, not an obstacle.
Our first iterations of Sqwire weren’t great. The technology we were using had too many limitations. It was rigid and lackluster, difficult to navigate, overly complex. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about delivering effective online curriculum and it showed. I was trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.
Overcoming that obstacle meant a good dose in humility. I had to be willing to receive negative feedback and see the reality that it wasn’t working. I could have kept pushing and responded abrasively to the constructive criticism I was receiving from people I trusted, and who quite frankly, knew better than I did. That would have been a very ugly exercise in ego which would have resulted in making a very solvable failure a permanent one.
Thankfully, I was willing to listen, learn and adapt. We made the necessary changes, and continue to make more changes based on more feedback, to deliver our very best. I make no assumptions about what people need or want and/or how it should work or how they will use it. I know now to ask, ask, and ask again. I am here to learn too, and Sqwire gets better and better because we continue to receive new information and continue to apply it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Please, someone reading this, go make a pre-salted bar napkin. How many times have you been to a bar and the waiter puts a full glass of beer on a new napkin, and two sips later, the napkin is obnoxiously stuck to the bottom of your beer glass? You spend your time peeling it off, putting it back on the table, peeling it off again because you forgot to shake some salt on it so that the napkin doesn’t stick anymore. Create a pre-salted bar napkin for us all so we can ditch the soggy, sticky napkins forever!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Don’t laugh. I bought two slide belts recently – one black, one brown. I just can’t do belt holes anymore. Whether I’m getting fatter or skinnier, now I just slide my belt until my pants fit right and go happily on my way. Simple, genius (obvious) idea that I adore. Sometimes it’s the little stuff!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Trello! Our team lives on this platform. At first, I was wary. My assistant swears by it, but I felt overwhelmed by the “blank slate.” The application is so flexible and customizable, I didn’t know where to start! Thankfully, she did and I trusted her to take us the distance. Now, I couldn’t imagine our daily workflow without it. I can track client updates on the go, can review exactly where prospects are in our pipeline process, and our team has a crystal clear road map to checking off the key milestones and critical details that elevate our service model above our competitors. We trust Trello to keep us focused, on task and aware of upcoming due dates. It’s the technological brainpower that fuels our back end, internal work and makes sure every one of our clients receives the same level of support and excellence. Long story, short, if you’ve explored Trello and have said “I don’t get it,” go back and give it another shot. Once you get the broad strokes in place, you’ll realize it’s one of the most powerful applications out there.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
This is probably one of the hardest questions that anyone ever asks me. I am such an avid reader, it’s too hard to pick just one. I’m going to cheat and list a couple.
I couldn’t put these books down simply because I was so captivated by the drive and conviction in both leaders.
– Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
– Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
This book really delivers an amazing look at what makes us tick and how we can own our own experience.
– The Code of the Extraordinary Mind: 10 Unconventional Laws to Redefine Your Life and Succeed on Your Own Terms by Vishen Lakhiani
This one…just read it…ALL the things. Seriously.
– The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer
What is your favorite quote?
I live by quotes. They inspire and motivate me on a daily basis.
I had this quote tucked in my wallet when I was coming to America as a young 18 year old.
“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Today, I carry two quotes with me.
“I will never, ever be outworked.”
“The true measure of a leader is what it takes to stop him.” – Robert Jeffress
- Don’t be afraid of failure. See it for the opportunity it is. Embrace humility, ditch the ego and listen to trusted feedback. Learn, adapt, adjust, grow. When you trip and fall, get back up. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough and more importantly, you’re not trusting your team and talent enough to unlock the truly rock star ideas that could really disrupt your industry and position your business for success.
- Don’t let “I don’t know” be your final answer. Admitting you don’t know it all is important, authentic and transparent, especially as an entrepreneur. But stopping there will suck the oxygen out of your ideas and your progress. Use your resources to learn and grow (read! read! read!), and where you identify a key weakness in your personal arsenal of tools and talents, position your team to fill the gaps by trusting their strengths to carry you farther than you can carry yourself.
- Embrace technology wherever possible. It’s making previously unsolvable problems solvable. BUT…don’t be afraid to go old school now and again. Sometimes all you really need is a giant whiteboard and a brand new pack of markers.
- You’re not built (or meant) to go this road alone. Prioritize your family and build your team. Develop your skills as a leader so that you can inspire and empower others to go the distance to bring your vision to life. Protect time for the ones you love most. You may be working hard for their benefit, but what they really want most is your time, your presence. BE PRESENT. Celebrate the people that make your life worth living, both in your work and especially at home. Say thank you. Over and over again. And then say thank you again. Work hard, play harder. Don’t miss out on life while you’re building one.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.