42 minutes | Jul 15, 2020

Episode 64: Learning How to Pivot — Al Zdenek

This week on The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast, Wes speaks with Al Zdenek, Executive Vice President of Mercer Advisors and former President and CEO of Traust Sollus Wealth Management, which was purchased by Mercer in 2018 for $420 million. Prior to the exit, Traust Sollus managed more than 150 clients, and with the acquisition, Mercer now manages more than $12 billion in assets, with 29 national offices. Those $420 million didn’t come easy for Al. In fact, his journey from startup to success is riddled with course-corrections. With pivots. However, because Al kept his eyes out for the opportunities that made sense and avoided every hot and up-and-coming trend, he became one of the top wealth advisors in the world. On the podcast, Al teaches us how to gracefully change directions in business, speaks to the incredible value of mentors, and so much more.   The EnTRUEpreneurship Takeaway: “To any young entrepreneur — surround yourself with really great mentors… You want people around you that are going to get in your face and help you. They’re not going to coddle you — they’re going to question you." [On finding mentors] “You just have to ask. There are lots of people in business that want to help… All you have to do is realize you’re not the smartest person in the room. What you want in your room is people smarter than you." “Entrepreneurs need to learn how to pivot. Your market will change. There are other opportunities that will come up. Don’t chase every nut out there like a squirrel. Chase the ones that allow your company to produce what’s leading to profitability and to the way you want to run it." “I found my passion. I didn’t just want to be wealthy or whatever. I wanted to help people. I wanted the people who were having the same problems I did to either avoid them, or if they were in that, to recover from them." “If you have a weakness or there’s something you don’t like to do in your business, get someone else that does that compliments you." “If you’re not willing to be a risk-taker, you’re not going to be a great entrepreneur. I didn’t know I was an entrepreneur [at first]. I just knew that I liked risk, I liked challenge, and I liked people."   Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed: 3:07: Al retells how his young hunger for entrepreneurship turned into a career in wealth management. 6:44: Al discusses why he believes senior leaders in some of his earlier jobs were quick to see potential in him and decided to fast-track him up the corporate ladder. 8:32: Zdenek explains why he decided to leave his cushy jobs in corporate America to start his own company from scratch. 11:18: Zdenek describes the moment when he realized his company had real potential but shares some critical missteps that nearly tanked his business. 14:31: Al describes how he navigated his company through the recession and how this difficult time grew his character as an entrepreneur. 23:44: Zdenek discusses the importance of having smart mentors, especially when trying to grow a business as a young entrepreneur. 26:56: Al shares about some of his own mentors that helped guide his company through its growth. 31:38: Al discusses the events leading up to his company’s exit and the emotional toll that this event had on him. 35:36: Al gives some advice for entrepreneurs who are going through or are considering a company exit. 37:58: Looking back, Zdenek shares some practical advice for young entrepreneurs that he wishes he would have known from day one.   Bulleted List of Resources — Al Zdenek -     Personal Website -     YouTube -     LinkedIn -     Facebook -     Twitter   Mercer Advisors -      Company Website -      LinkedIn
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