Where did the idea for Ascendant Capital, your alternative asset management company come from?
Ascendant Capital was born out of a desire to bring advisors something they couldn’t get elsewhere, and to build a worldwide network of advisors whose businesses we can enrich by connecting them with best-in-class sponsors and asset managers. At Ascendant Capital, we add value to each advisor’s business through unique alternative investment products, so in the end, we seek to amplify their offerings and strengthen their clients’ portfolios.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When I am not traveling, I begin most days at the gym with my COO while we discuss the day’s most pressing tasks. So, when I am in Austin, I usually have the advantage of downloading and organizing my priorities before the workday starts. My days on the road can get a little more complicated. When I’m not in Austin, I’m usually strategizing the future in our NYC office or in other major cities meeting with prospective clients. Today, for example, I woke up in New York. I started the day with sales team meeting, planned a Due Diligence event, hired a key employee, refined global marketing strategies for the firm, led a debt strategy meeting, and met with the second largest broker dealer in Canada to discuss expanding our product north of the border. This is the speed at which I operate best. I love what I do, and I love the momentum of good business.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas typically pop into my head in the silence of late evening or early morning. When a good idea lands, I form a meeting around it with the team to implement a strategy. My executive committee is critical as a sounding board to this process. Collaboration with other experts is the key. As the saying goes: I don’t want to be right; I want to get it right.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The trend that excites me most is the movement away from investing in traditional asset classes to investing in alternative investment. When I first started investing, stocks and bonds were the currency of the field. But with stocks and bonds, you are subject to the whims of the market. With alternative investments, you may be able to generate returns that are not subject to these fluctuations.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Hard work is the bottom line. I work 18 hours a day, but I do what I love, so its not really “work” at all. This mindset—doing what you love and doing it unstoppably—is the key to success in any industry.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I was young, I didn’t focus on the person across the table enough. I cared about other people, but I wasn’t 100% focused on them. I still had my bottom line in mind. I quickly learned that it is all about taking care of other people, and that if you do so, you are automatically taken care of. The best advice I could give my younger self would sound something like the golden rule: serve others, and you will serve yourself.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
There is a famous saying in my industry: “you know you have struck a good deal when both parties walk away unhappy.” This is wrong, and worse, it is bad for business. When you focus only on what you want, you can’t make a good deal. I believe that, in every negotiation, you can and should create a win-win. Focus your time around what the person on the other side of the table wants, then structure the deal around what they want AND what suits your needs.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Be direct; be transparent; be proactive. Take full accountability for getting a job done rather than waiting for others to do their part.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Ultimately, I have learned to train and empower others. When you can trust your team to do the job as diligently and efficiently as you would, you can delegate important tasks, trust that they are getting done, maximize your time, and grow your business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure was partnering with people who did not share my values. Now I only work with those who, like me, prioritize taking care of others before themselves.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers (this should be an actual business idea, not business advice)?
I have always felt that there is an untapped market in third-party hedge fund administration. The level of quality in that space is, I feel, inferior. If you could set up a best-in-class administrator and pair it with a sales engine to ramp up business, you would have a company that is very easy to monetize.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)
I waited tables and worked as a janitor while I was in college, so I know what its like to work really hard just to make ends meet. This is why I make it a priority to take care of those in the service industry. My proudest dollars are usually spent in gratuity to waiters, waitresses, bussers, and hotel staff. I recently left $100 in the tip jar outside of a food truck in Austin where two women were busy making tortillas. It brings me so much joy to think of the smile on their faces when they found it after such a hard day’s work. At its core, Ascendant Capital is still just a service organization, and I love to take care of our partners in service.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Without a doubt, I would recommend How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. A classic in sales and business in general, this book wins longest shelf life in my library. It may be an oldie, but it’s such a goodie that I make it mandatory reading material for all Ascendant Capital sales representatives. Imagine the last party you attended: who was the most interesting person you met? In all likelihood, this person was also the one who made you feel like YOU were the most interesting person at the party. This is the theme of How to Win Friends in a nutshell. When we are other-oriented, others orient themselves toward us as well. While this book is full of quick-draw communication techniques like using someone’s name consistently and asking thoughtful questions about their interests, it also insists that all your interactions are 100% genuine and compassionate. As the old saying goes, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
What is your favorite quote?
“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.”
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
No one is more influential to my way of thinking than Dr. Wayne Dyer. His spiritual guidebooks and meditations explore the conflict between our egos and our divinity, teaching us that the borders between what we have and who we are belong to the ego, while the true self—the divine self—exists without borders. I love his work because it inspires us to realize ourselves without limitations, and as a result, it inspires us to manifest our dreams in reality. He also teaches us to take control of our destiny by taking accountability for our past, no matter how hard that past may have been. When we learn to view past traumas as the necessary stepping-stones to present enlightenment, we learn how to own our history and transform our future. These concepts are the cornerstones of my office at Ascendant Capital. By accepting accountability and manifesting our reality, there is no limit to what we can achieve together.
About Ascendant Capital
Ascendant Capital, LLC (“Ascendant Capital”) is a boutique alternative investment firm headquartered in Austin, Texas. For more information, please visit www.ascendant-cap.com.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.