Entrepreneurship

A Founder’s Journey Comes With Turning Failures Into Learning Experiences With Steven Giacona

A Founder’s Journey Comes With Turning Failures Into Learning Experiences With Steven Giacona

MP spoke with Steven Giacona, CPA®, MST, TEP,  Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Managing Member of Round Table Wealth Management (RTWM), an independent financial advisory firm with four offices and an AUM of over 1.6 billion, about his entrepreneurial journey. Giacona brings over 30 years of experience to RTWM.

Giacona is a member of the firm’s investment committee; daily, he oversees the firm’s investment managers, custodians, and other strategic partners; manages client relationships; develops risk-based asset allocation models; researches and advises on the public as well as private investments; and designs business, estate, and income tax transactions. His expertise includes non-traditional investors, philanthropic entities and planning, business owners, and international families.

Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and Managing Member of Round Table Wealth Management Steven Giacona, CPA®, MST, TEP / Photo courtesy of Steven Giacona, CPA®, MST, TEP

The Journey

The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?

I have learned that despite being on my own in a “risky business,” I am more risk averse than I thought. 

Also, I’ve learned that managing people is similar to raising a family—open communication and trust are paramount to success. 

Recognizing the diversity of my clients and staff and embracing that we all have different experiences and personalities was one of the many achievements in my self-discovery.

Video response provided by Julie Lowe, Success Coach and Founder of Socially Aligned

The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur?

The saying “it is lonely at the top” is not an understatement. 

As a CEO, the breadth of knowledge of the organization and related strategic and tactical plans are often too much information for someone not in the leadership seat to comprehend. 

This, accompanied by the confidentiality of many issues, results in a CEO being unable to vent, share, or gain explicit perspective from peers and colleagues. 

I have experienced this “loneliness” over the twenty-plus years of the firm’s existence. It was troubling initially; however, I grew with the business and became more compartmentalized in how I communicate. 

Additionally, I discovered healthy outlets to talk with regularly (through people unrelated to the business).  

The Psychological Warfare 

Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?

I would never describe myself as having self-esteem issues or low self-worth, and I attribute my success to my self-confidence and conviction. Yes, more work and less sleep are typical, but over time that becomes the norm. Having achievable goals when implementing the vision is essential when measuring success. Small successes rejuvenate the mind and body. 

Newer entrepreneurs often equate their personal success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?

When I set out to build Round Table Wealth Management, I gave myself one year to prove its success and defined success as a level of profitability. 

If achieved, I would continue. 

If not, I looked at it as a learning experience. 

The hard part was during year two, after achieving my defined “year one” success. 

To use baseball as an analogy, measuring success or failure in small bites or base hits is one way. Another is to look toward hitting home runs each time. 

However, I have learned to focus on singles and doubles as an entrepreneur. 

If it continued long enough, there would be ample runs on the board to win the game. 

Additionally, success or failure is not always measured at the firm level. 

Anytime I lose a client, no matter the size, it reflects on me. 

This is a ridiculous standard to apply, but after 30+ years in this industry, I still reflect on what I could have done to change the outcome.

The Mistakes

What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?

1. Not Considering a Long-Term Path

A business, like any transaction, has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Too many entrepreneurs think about the start of a business and the operation. Rarely do they envision a path towards an end. Operating without goals is like driving with no idea where you desire to go.

2. Thinking They’re the Smartest Person in the Room

Thinking you are the smartest person in the room is a dangerous attitude for an entrepreneur. Be humble and look for guidance from peers. Start a study group, develop a board of advisors (and listen to them!).

3. Not Being Flexible

Markets change, so stay flexible. What sounded like a good plan today may need to be tweaked or adjusted in the short- or long-term. Changing (or improving) a plan does not mean you got it wrong.

The Successes

What seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?

As I think about this question, it boils down to only two:

  1. Whether to keep growing, or 
  2. Maintain the status quo. 

I believe that when there is wind in your sails, you should set them tall and go full steam ahead. But, when the wind dies down, it is acceptable to regroup and rest. 

I have found that many entrepreneurs want to build a lifestyle company, which is okay. 

Others want to build empires, and that is ok too. 

Know what you want. 

Focus on that goal and execute! 

Success will be the outcome. 

What are three ways you have managed to boost your productivity without causing burnout?

  1. Getting regular exercise.
  2. Detaching as much as possible when I’m out of the office.
  3. Delegating and trusting others to step into my shoes when I’m away.

The Advice

How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?

Be disciplined about work time and leisure time. 

Develop manageable goals and make sure you set personal time to disconnect

Schedule breaks and time to read into your calendar. 

Stick to it!
What role has intuition played in your success as an entrepreneur, and why do you think this is the case?

Everyone does not have good instincts. 

Separating yourself from the crowd is scary but often necessary. 

I have learned that regular group thinking is unsuitable for an organization, and one focus is also problematic. At the end of the day, engage and collaborate with others to learn. 

However, trust your gut. 

Remember, no one knows your business as well as you do. 

Topic Contributors

Questions based in part on topics and comments provided by:

  1. Alicia Nagel, Founder at Alicia Nagel Creative
  2. Rob Volpe, Chief Executive Officer at Ignite 360
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