A veteran of the United States Navy, Skylar Bonné may have left the military to go into the world of high finance, however, he remains steadfast in giving back to help veterans in need. After serving in the Navy as a naval aircrewman operator, he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Economics from Penn State University. In addition to his undergraduate degree, Bonné has also completed coursework in sustainable business strategies from Harvard Business School and is certified in Business and Financial Modeling by the Wharton School.
Bonné used his education and training to land a job with AmeriVet Securities, an investment bank that has earned a significant standing in its advocation for diversity and inclusion in finance. AmeriVet is owned by an African-American disabled veteran, making it a unique operation that employs 50 percent of its staff from qualified veterans. Bonné’s work with AmeriVet matches the exciting, high-energy pace he had in the Navy while providing him the chance to give back to his community.
His placement on the Equity Capital Markets Desk makes him a part of a year-long training program designed to help veterans transition from the military to a career in financial services. In addition, he mentors veterans enrolled in college that want to pursue careers in finance. It is a rich and fulfilling work life, one of incredibly long hours that merge into his personal life, but Bonné would not have it any other way.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I started with an internship at AmeriVet, and after making a significant impact, they really allowed me to take on a lot of responsibilities and grow into a full-time position. I work directly with the CEO and the head of my business vertical at AmeriVet, which is kind of unique for a young guy like me.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start work at 6am by reaching out to clients from the previous night’s work. When a company goes public, it prices at night and then it trades in the morning, so we don’t find out how many shares of stock we’re getting until then. In the morning I am normally calling my clients to allocate the stocks. We have a meeting at 9am, and then we’ll start working a little bit more on doing the paperwork as part of last night’s activities. In the afternoon, we’ll review what’s going on later that night.
A lot of my job is talking to CEOs of large companies and figuring out ways we can help them achieve their financial goals. I’m constantly talking with vets who either want to get jobs in financial services or make their way to college. There are also quite a few Vietnam vets that I talk to and try to help.
I was on the news a few months ago for a lot of this work and I have this one guy who had actually heard me on the news talking. He was a Vietnam vet, and when he came back he struggled for a long time. Now that he’s older and unemployed, he’s facing foreclosure on his home because he can’t work. I took the time with him to file his disability claim, got him a foreclosure lawyer, and helped him figure out ways to improve his current situation.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to think I’m pretty action-oriented, so if I see an idea that makes sense, I am pretty quick to pursue the course of action I think is best for expediting that idea. I’m in a super fast-paced business, which is something I really like, and it means you really do have to be quick with testing your ideas.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am working for a minority and disabled veteran owned firm, so I’m very excited about the shift towards inclusion. A few years ago, the industry was predominantly white males, and there’s really a large shift towards hiring diverse companies. That’s something that excites me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I spend a lot of my time working and I don’t sleep a lot. That’s how I am. I really need to put a lot into my work at this point in my career, but it’s also a part of my personality to be like this. I’m a hard worker. That’s absolutely who I am. This industry is an 85-hour work week, so it’s a place where I can be myself in the long-term.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid of failing. Everyone fails every day and you learn from it. Everything is a learning experience.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I think that hard work beats out intelligence every time. Many would say you need to be smart to be a computer programmer or to go to Harvard, but I would say that somebody who works four times as hard as that person is naturally smart and can do a lot more.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly review the approach that I am taking in my business activities. For instance, let’s say I’m pitching a company: I’ll constantly go back to my strategy and review what I’m doing to make sure I can do it better and better. I’m in a state of constant improvement, constantly critiquing myself to make sure I’m always adapting and learning.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being humble and understanding that everyone has something to teach. Everyone has a distinctive set of experiences. Just because I know one thing doesn’t mean I know everything. I should keep my mind open to others and try to learn from them.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The military is very fast-paced so it’s easy to get over-heated. There were times when I had unnecessarily yelled at a mentee when he was just trying to learn. That was a failure, because he was looking at me like a leader, someone to look up to, and I shouldn’t have yelled at him even if he was asking me something at an inappropriate time. I should have said it wasn’t the right time and later on we’d go over it. Looking back I wouldn’t make that same mistake again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am an advocate for community involvement, so I would have to say some type of app that notifies you of volunteer initiatives based of your geographical area.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A friend of mine underwent major spinal surgery back in December. He had wanted to be a pilot in the Navy. He’s a reservist right now. After going through the spinal surgery, the Navy told him he couldn’t become a pilot and his entire life got flipped upside down. After his surgery he couldn’t walk for a few months and is still in recovery. I took him out for dinner last week. For me, family and relationships are really important. Being able to do that with him, for the first time in over four months, was very powerful for both of us.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Excel. It makes it easy to organize every part of my life.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
What It Takes by Stephen Schwarzman. He’s one of the most successful people in the world. He grew up in Philadelphia in a lower-middle class family and believed in the simple tenet that if you worked hard anything is possible. He went from that to being a billionaire that JP Morgan, Citi, MIT and Harvard Business School are all coming to for advice, just by making his simple point about hard work. With him, the proof is in the pudding. It’s not a self-help book. It’s a book of life stories.
What is your favorite quote?
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,” by Friedrich Nietzsche. The quote means that if you have a purpose in life, you can do anything. I got it from a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. It was compiled from lessons he learned while being imprisoned during the Holocaust.
• Make a positive impact on the world.
• Hard work is more important than anything.
• Everyone has something to teach.
• Be humble and keep an open mind to learning.
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.