Never be complacent. Complacency will cause you to miss changes in technology.
With a professional career as diverse and decorated as Stuart Conrad’s, it’s no wonder he’s such a difficult man to keep up with. Having spent years in the communications field, Stuart has used his passion, dedication, and intellect to build a career that he can be proud of, with management positions in Investor Relations and Corporate Planning at MCI being a prime example. Beyond that, Stuart has also served as a communications officer with the U.S. Air Force, as well as serving as the Chief Intelligence and Computer Systems Officer for the USAF Tactical Air Command in his final active-duty assignment. During his military career, Stuart Conrad was also recognized as the top Communications and Computer Officer for the Air Force. Once Stuart Conrad left active duty, he continued to serve as a member of the Air Force Reserves, and his final assignment was Chief, White House Liaison Branch under President George H.W. Bush.
Outside of his time with the Air Force, Stuart Conrad was also the co-founder and Managing Partner of Advanced Image Resources, LLC. Based in Georgia, the company focused on the development, manufacturing, and distribution of bio-based solutions for the printing industry. In this capacity, his company received the Presidential Green Chemistry Award for its work. Beyond this, Stuart also served as the Managing Director and Head of the North American Telecommunications Research Group at Deutsche Bank for seven years, where he was selected as a Wall Street Journal “All-Star” for his stock-picking on multiple occasions. Following his time on Wall Street, Stuart Conrad co-founded 3 Squared Capital Advisors in 2000.
As for education, Stuart Conrad received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from The United States Air Force Academy before receiving a Masters Degree in Corporate Finance from the College of William and Mary. In 1994, Stuart also earned the designation of Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
Outside of his busy professional life, Stuart Conrad is also a husband and a father to triplets – two boys and one girl. Stuart loves getting to spend time with his family, especially enjoying outdoor activities such as skiing and golf. For Stuart, golf is the perfect way to disconnect from the distractions of his busy life as well as a way of spending time with close friends. Perhaps his favorite activity is skiing which he regards as a wonderfully fulfilling family-oriented activity that helps him channel his passion for the outdoors, dedicated family time, and competition.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I imagine that the original seed was planted back in the late 1960s when I received my first share of stock in McDonald’s. Fifty years ago, my father gave me the opportunity to own a piece of a company of my choosing. Being the highly informed seven-year-old that I was, I chose McDonald’s, and it had nothing to do with my love of their French fries. In subsequent years, I invested in more stocks and even cattle as well. In spite of obtaining a degree in Electrical Engineering, and serving in the Air Force, I continued to pursue education and training in investments and portfolio management. My spare time while in the Air Force was consumed with obtaining a graduate degree in Corporate Finance and completing my series 7 certification along with other security representative designations. Ultimately, I pursued, and was rewarded, the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) designation about the time that I moved to New York to work for a major Wall Street Investment bank.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical day consists of initially getting up to speed on any developments that occurred overnight in national and global news. Fortunately, laptops and tablets have replaced the need to scan through multiple newspapers. Next, I make my best effort to review any financial developments from both a macro perspective as well as granularly with companies in my portfolio or on the watch list. Hopefully, there will be time for breakfast before settling into my analyst routine and gathering and analyzing data for various companies. All this as to be done in conjunction with market activities and real-time valuations. Investment decisions will need to be made based upon my calculation and perception of value relative to the price of that value in the marketplace. With the numerous sources of data and the immediate access to that data, bargains are not often readily visible or available. That said, the greatest benefit I can obtain is not by staring at a computer screen and watching stocks tick up and down. I believe my greatest gains will come from constantly pursuing knowledge and spending the time and energy analyzing that data.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is a function of getting to a place where I feel my effort and intellect give me a competitive advantage in making an investment decision. Of course, that’s much easier to say than to actually do. One of the benefits of doing the work over many years to obtain the CFA designation is the breadth of the industry skill sets one acquires. That designation involves intensive work in the areas of economics, accounting, security analysis, portfolio management, quantitative methods, and corporate finance. All these skill sets come into play when evaluating the day-to-day investment decisions. Overlaying the entire process is the core ethics that is a cornerstone of the CFA designation and a key and uncompromising fabric that defines my everyday life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Identifying trends and their impact is a key aspect of the investment decision process. Many years ago, I solidified my career by focusing on the intersection of a trend towards deregulation of the U.S. telecommunications markets and a trend towards massive increases in the capacity of fiber optics and transmission bandwidth. These two major developments created significant investment opportunities. Today, there are numerous trends in technology that are playing out. One trend, in particular, is the oncoming role of 5G Wireless. This technology will increase speeds from current 4G networks by as much as 100 times. This will be a significant boost for artificial intelligence, gaming, smart cities, etc. Trends like this garner my attention because they impact so many industries and create so many investment opportunities. For example, I am making specific investments in wireless infrastructure companies. This trend also affects handset manufacturers, chip manufacturers, and software companies building numerous apps hoping to leverage this technology. I expect to see significant capital investment dollars aimed at preparing for and exploiting this trend.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I tend to be a very competitive person. I carry that spirit from the various sports that I love into the business world. However, It’s not that I am trying to beat someone else. I am always trying to achieve my highest potential. I do not like being lackadaisical in anything that I take on. Hence, I am not one to sit back and be content owning a basket of index funds. I believe I can do better than that for my investors and for myself. Some stocks will outperform other stocks and I want to own those stocks. Nobody can do achieve that 100% of the time, but I want to have a pretty high batting average. With that mindset, it was very gratifying to me personally when I was selected as one of the Wall Street Journal’s All-Star Stock pickers on multiple occasions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
One of the challenges that come from having a very competitive spirit and a lot of energy is taking on too many endeavors at the same time. There have been times in my carrier when I took on so many challenges that it became overwhelming. When those times occur, performance is affected. When I was able to completely focus on an idea or an opportunity was when I believe I have been most productive. There is a fine balance of having a broad platform of core competencies and being a subject matter expert at the same time. So, if I had to give myself some advice many years ago, I would tell myself or others that you don’t have to be an expert in everything and its ok sometimes to put on the blinders and tackle the big project in front of you.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
One thing that is true about me is that I care deeply for people. It’s not so much that people don’t agree with me as opposed to people sometimes not understanding that about me. This is a big driver of my passion as a money manager. I truly want to perform for my clients. It pains me on those occasions where the portfolio falls short of the client’s objectives. This compassion for people carries through all aspects of my life and career.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
As an entrepreneur, I have never stopped being inquisitive. Maybe this started as a 3-year-old boy always asking why, but It’s the way I am. I have an intense desire to understand the logic behind things around me. As a pilot, I needed to know why the planes fly. As an investor, I needed to know how companies make money. And as an entrepreneur, I needed to know how the company makes and sells its products. I encourage others to have that same spirit when taking on a business project. Know your business – from acquiring the raw materials, to assembly, to sales. If you get that part right, it’s a heck of a lot easier to stare at a P&L and make critical strategic decisions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Never be complacent. Complacency will cause you to miss changes in technology. Complacency will cause you to lose touch with your customers. Complacency can result in you losing awareness of your employees. It’s ok to be content, just never be complacent.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When the internet bubble burst back in 2000, the nature of our business left us totally exposed. We were running a global telecommunications and technology fund for a major global investment bank. There really was nowhere to hide. The final blow came on September 11 in 2001. That said, I’ve always believed that regardless of what happened in the past, or what just occurred 5 minutes ago, there is always a right next step. The choice you make next is the most important decision that’s on the table. Closing down a business might seem draconian, but it was the right step to do going forward. We were not going to let business losses from the tech crash drive us to make bad business decisions. Closing the business down was difficult, but it was the right thing to do. How a business failure is overcome is by waking up the next day and making wise decisions looking forward. Failing is tough. Dwelling on failure is even tougher.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My one business idea which I am waiting for someone to develop is a way to track down the nasty scam artists that send viruses to my PC or call me and tell me my PC is broken and needs repair even though I have a Mac. Or maybe even catch the guy that calls and tells me the IRS is getting ready to arrest me if I don’t send him money. Maybe the concept could be a global cyber bounty hunter.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I have spent recently was on taking my wife out to dinner. The underlying concept is the value of family above and beyond any entrepreneurial ideas. Ultimately, it’s a matter of focus and remembering what the most important things in life are.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I have to recognize the importance of the underlying operating system of my MacBook Pro that, in conjunction with large widescreen monitor, allows me to run and view numerous applications simultaneously. Using multiple windows and the panoramic space allows me to be very productive while staying on top of email, chat services, market conditions, and various spreadsheets.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
A great book for young entrepreneurs would be Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. While there are the overall societal and philosophical lessons that reinforce the dangers of big government and threats to individual liberties, there are numerous business lessons throughout the book. The book highlights businessmen that worked their way from the ground up and who coveted principles such as respect, personal responsibilities, and innovation.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote sits on my desk in the form of a replica of the Eagle and Fledgling statue from my alma mater the U.S. Air Force Academy. The quote reads “Man’s flight through life is sustained by the power of his knowledge.
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.