Lawrence Chu

Do not hold on too tight to what’s comfortable because you fear failure. There will be mistakes and failures, but that’s how you learn.


Lawrence S. Chu is a Managing Director at Moelis & Company where he provides financial and strategic advice to large cap companies globally, with a concentration on the communications, media and technology sectors. Mr. Chu has over 20 years of experience in this role. Prior to joining Moelis & Company, Mr. Chu was appointed Special Adviser to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Before the FCC, Mr. Chu was a Managing Director at Greenhill & Co. and prior to that, was a Managing Director at Evercore Partners.

Mr. Chu graduated magna cum laude (Phi Beta Kappa) from New York University with a degree in Computer Science. He is President of the Board of Trustees as well as a member of the Nursery School Board of Directors and Governance Committee of The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York. Mr. Chu is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

I was a computer science major, but I knew that I didn’t want to be a programmer. Plagued by uncertainty, I noticed that banking was an increasingly popular profession. I knew it was something I could succeed in because I was willing to work hard, so I took a chance, and dove in. I’m really glad I didn’t let uncertainty hold me back.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There is no typical day in my field, and that is one of the main reasons I enjoy my profession. There are so many moving pieces to each deal I handle, so organization is critical. I believe that this is something that transcends just my industry. Disorganized professionals may be able to get by for a time, but will ultimately find themselves unable to balance all of their competing demands.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Better or worse, my mind never turns off. When I am sleeping, working out, having coffee, etc… I am constantly playing out different scenarios for deals in my head. It may not be ideal from a health perspective, and I don’t recommend this for most people, but it works for me. My clients benefit from the fact that I am always thinking two steps ahead. Great ideas aren’t confined to weekdays between the hours of 9 and 5.

What’s one trend that excites you?

As someone who is very passionate about health and wellness, the increasing understanding of health and nutrition. The leaps in advancement of innovation and technology over relatively short periods is amazing to me. Take the Human Genome Project for example. Scientists are now able to link specific genes to diseases, and develop more effective treatments. Healthy people have more time and energy to devote to personal and professional pursuits.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I believe that fitness and nutrition play a critical role to professional success. Regardless of where I am, and how early I wake up, I always start every day with a work out. Even a moderate workout helps prepare me for the day and set my mind in the right state. It may sound counterintuitive, but exercise is also a great cure for jetlag. My trips overseas are often very brief, and I simply do not have the time to let my body adjust gradually. Eating a sensible diet keeps my mind clear, and energy levels up. Traveling is no excuse for me in this area either. I have found that most hotels and restaurants are happy to accommodate dietary preferences.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Do not hold on too tight to what’s comfortable because you fear failure. There will be mistakes and failures, but that’s how you learn. It’s so much easier to bounce back when you are young and just starting out. In the end, if you never swing a bat then you will never hit a home run. This is a realization that I wish my younger self had arrived at much sooner.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

We need a third major political party in America, a Moderate Party. Increasingly elections, particularly local ones, are “won” in the primaries with both parties pandering to their core bases. However, the majority of Americans are more moderate than the parties they find themselves forced to identify with. For example, I am socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. I’m not comfortable towing a party line, because I simply do not fit into either party.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

During both personal and professional conflicts, really try to see the other person’s perspective. Your counterparty is less of an adversary, but more of a partner trying to solve their own issues as well. You might even end up with a friend, or at least a friendly connection at the end of it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

My business is advice, judgement. Always giving the right advice, particularly when not to your advantage is critical. Any assignment and/or client I have today came through some sort of reference. In an increasingly “transactional” world, I cherish reputation and character.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In the 90’s, I went to run Corporate Development of a publicly traded communications company, Mpower. It was the telecom boom and I was worth a lot of money on paper. In just a handful of months the bubble burst and I was selling off and shutting down Mpower’s assets to try and avoid corporate bankruptcy. It didn’t work, but I learned much more on the way down than on the way up. This experience spared me from some even bigger failures down the road.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Given the current culture of dining out with increasing frequency, having a nutritionist on demand via app that allows you to quickly receive information about a restaurant’s menu, etc. giving guidance about what you should order/eat.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Global Entry. I’m constantly traveling, and it’s saved me so much time going through security and customs. I highly recommend it if you travel internationally more than once per year.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

The Week news service. I read anywhere from 3-5 papers in the morning. And while that’s a lot of sources, they tend to cover the same stories and have similar perspectives. The Week does a nice job of laying out everyone’s views, which is so important in our current media landscape. News channels increasingly report news in the way their viewing base would like to hear. Regardless of the direction you lean, it’s important to see every point of view — especially those you disagree with.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Building A Story Brand” by Donald Miller While it tells you things that seem obvious, it really provides perspective of clients objectives and goals. Everyone I know who has read it, finds it relevant not matter what field they are in.

What is your favorite quote?

It’s silly, but probably Curly’s advice to Mitch (Billy Crystal) in City Slickers….“find that one thing and everything doesn’t mean sh*t.” For me it’s my girls, my wife and our two daughters, I do everything for them (including driving a pink Jeep).

Key learnings:

– Organization is crucial to productivity
– Eat well and start each day with exercise because fitness and nutrition also have a significant impact on your professional success

– Yes, there will be mistakes and failures, but that’s how you learn. The younger you learn this, the better.