Steven Lacaj was born and raised in New York City, New York. Throughout high school, he maintained a top position on the academic honor roll, while simultaneously captaining the varsity football team. After graduating, Steven was awarded a full scholarship at Pace University which eventually led to the beginning of his career as a registered representative.
As his career progressed, Steven Lacaj continued to gain knowledge and accumulate experience in the notoriously competitive financial services industry. He learned the value of cultivating client relationships and managing these relationships daily. He then went on to become one of the founders and managing members of Legend Venture Partners. Legend Venture Partners is a private equity firm located in New York City. Currently, Steven Lacaj is the fund manager for Legend Venture Partners and is intently focused on his career in private equity.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
During my career as a securities broker, I was always infatuated by the private market and the process a company would partake in to become a public company. Most people do not realize there is an entire market in private equity that is widely overlooked by average investors. Although the private equity market has been gaining more recognition in recent years, this market was considered untapped at the time. The thought of building a position in a company experiencing aggressive growth with a catalyst of going public that commonly propels the share price and valuation was extremely attractive to me. I knew that if I accumulated a significant position in these types of companies, it would serve as a building block to long-lasting and potentially lucrative relationships.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually begin my days by waking up at 5 am. I start by exercising and having a fruit-filled breakfast. I find it’s important to begin your day positively, as it sets the tone for the rest of the day. To this day, I’m the first one in my office and the last one to leave. Once I’m there, I read my customized news feed, which is focused on finance and geopolitical topics. Some of my favorite publications include The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and The New York Times. Being informed on current events helps drive my decisions, spark conversations, and keeps me in the loop. I also speak to many people on a daily basis and the purposes of those conversations vary. I’m constantly looking for opportunities and cultivating relationships, which involves frequent meetings. On weekdays, I typically work 12 hour days. I live by the quote, “If you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life.”
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I have an idea, I tend to think of each and every scenario from both an optimistic and pessimistic perspective. This process helps me to differentiate between realistic and unrealistic ideas. Essentially, I take my thoughts through imaginary toll booths before I take the next steps to bring them to fruition. As meticulous as I may be prior to implementing ideas, I am also careful to maintain caution because the unknown is always a factor.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I like seeing that young people are beginning to invest earlier. Whether that may be through stocks, cryptocurrencies, or even NFT’s, I feel it’s important to get familiar with any type of investing as early as possible. In most cases investors go through a learning curve and sometimes that means losing money through trial and error. The younger you are when you start investing, the more time you have to earn and bounce back, if need be.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Self education. Some of the most influential people were self taught including Einstein, Tesla, and even Elon Musk. I also believe in knowing every aspect of my business before assigning a task to someone else. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” That’s what Einstein used to say, and I’ve always taken that as a great approach to learning.
Self education is a habit that I have been cultivating my entire life. As an entrepreneur, making sure that you have a full understanding of your business is crucial to the success of that business. Being educated in your business builds your confidence and can even open up the door to new opportunities. It also gives you a different perspective on your business that you might otherwise overlook.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Make more time for your family. Sometimes as an entrepreneur, it is very easy to become obsessed with your business, especially if you love what you do. But you cannot forget to make time for your loved ones, as they are the ones that will always be there for you in good times or bad.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I strongly believe anyone can accomplish anything as long as they really try hard and set their mind to it. This constantly gets proven as we see mankind perform amazing feats—you only have to look as far as Elon Musk to prove it. But I’ve seen many people reach their goals through perseverance and relentless ambition. Unfortunately, most people simply do not believe in themselves enough to fuel the ambition and persistence needed to achieve their own goals.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
LEARN! Albert Einstein once said, “When you stop learning you start dying.” Every aspect of life, every experience provides a lesson. I always like to say, “You never lose, you either win or you learn.” This mindset provides a whole new perspective on mistakes and failure, and for some, a new lease on life.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I always look at my business from the client’s point of view. I put myself in my clients shoes. This helps me get a better understanding of what is good about the business and could be improved, but more importantly, what is bad about my business and needs to be changed. By putting myself in my client’s shoes, it becomes a lot easier for me to see the mistakes I am making as a business owner and how those mistakes can be rectified.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
To single out one failure wouldn’t be fair to the rest of them. I believe it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you don’t repeat them and you extract whatever lesson the mistake taught. The best way to overcome any failure is to learn from it, grow from it, and prevent the same thing from happening in the future.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m a big fan of the show Shark Tank. What the ‘sharks’ typically look for when they invest in a new business is whether the company and/or product in question identifies a problem and provides the solution. When I invest in a business, I usually look for the same thing because providing solutions can lay the foundation on which to build a great business.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Donating to charitable organizations is very important to me. So, if the question is what’s the best money I have personally ever spent, donating to worthwhile nonprofits would be at the top of the list. Giving back to the needy and homeless here in New York City is something I always encourage and definitely practice as much as I can.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I make a lot of use of Microsoft Excel, as well as Apple’s version of similar spreadsheet software, which is called Numbers. These programs definitely allow me to stay organized and keep meticulous records. I use them on a daily basis, and my desk would definitely be a mess without them!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. This is a book that I always recommend to my friends and employees. It helped me have a better understanding of why the average person who does not have an entrepreneurial mindset thinks the way that they do, as opposed to someone who does have an entrepreneurial mindset. It explains exactly why the way that the ‘average person’ thinks will only limit their own success.
What is your favorite quote?
“What the wise do in the beginning, fools do in the end.” — Warren Buffet
- Loving what you do is key to being happy and running a successful business.
- Your belief that you will succeed must be greater than your fear of failure.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; it’s part of the process.
- You are what you think about.
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.