Yasmin Bashirova is the Chief of Staff at an e-commerce start-up on a mission to bring trust and simplicity to the peer-to-peer used car market.
She graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. and M.S. in Energy Resource Engineering. After graduation, Bashirova worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York City, where she provided data-driven financial analyses for capital decisions such as M&A deals, IPOs, and LBOs.
Combining her engineering and finance background, she delivers data-driven results for projects in the finance, product development, and marketing sectors. Bashirova’s top skills include research, data analysis, economics, and strategic leadership. She also speaks four languages, including Azerbaijani, French, Russian, and English.
We recently got a chance to Interview Yasmin Bashirova about strategic finance management for start-ups.
How did you get started in strategic finance management for start-ups?
Starting out as a Chief of Staff at Shift, I had to wear many hats and found strategic finance to be most aligned with my background. In a growth stage company, the strategic finance arm is crucial for scaling the company in a sustainable fashion, so it’s been exciting to be a part of an impactful team.
In your experience, what does strategic finance look like at a start-up as opposed to a big business?
I never worked in a strategic finance arm of a big company, but a guess would be that the experience is most likely more focused / niche vs. broad. When you’re in a small company, as the team is still small, you have an opportunity to work with more business partners and capture more business management and decision-making than you would in a big company FP&A role.
What was the biggest takeaway for start-ups during Covid?
Managing your runway early on is crucial. As we saw during COVID, start-ups that weren’t well-positioned for the recession and couldn’t pivot in time ended up not making it through the difficult macro environment.
How do you think your background in engineering has prepared you for success in the field of data-driven finance? And more specifically, would you say your background has any perks when it comes to finance for start-ups?
I think studying engineering in school prepares you for any kind of job, even if your role doesn’t end up being super technical in scope. Engineering teaches you how to become a structured thinker. In computer science, for instance, I learned how to decompose large tasks into smaller manageable steps. This type of mindset is something I encounter every single day in my work in strategic finance. If a business has a problem, the answer is rarely a binary decision dependent on one variable, so isolating for different components that drive the issue is an engineering approach that I use in strategic finance on a day-to-day basis.
When it comes to finance, how do start-ups strike a balance between short-term growth and long-term resilience?
It’s tough to summarize this question in a quick interview, as this is the billion-dollar question that many companies are dealing with every day. From my perspective, the business model needs to have a profitability path in sight as the business scales. The heaviest costs from the unit economics components need to decrease as the network effect becomes more prevalent. When operational or corporate expenses are growing linearly with the company’s topline, that’s when issues start to arise because the business model will never become profitable unless there’s a sudden change in the profitability profile.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while coming up with a financial strategy for a start-up? And how did you overcome it?
Start-ups are resource constrained relative to big companies, so the biggest challenge I faced was building out tools and dashboards from scratch. In order to come up with a strategy, you need to understand the state of affairs for key drivers and challenges for the business, and getting clarity is not the easiest thing in start-ups as the data is not perfect. I overcame this challenge by partnering with operational and technical leaders and letting their expertise drive the analysis from the bottom-up vs. judging based on my assumptions.
What are some tools that are essential to your craft? If you have a problem related to strategic finance, what kind of things can you rely on to help you find an answer?
Most of my work is done in Excel/Google sheets. The majority of my analysis relies on pivot tables and excel formulas like index match, as well as scenario planning using what-if analysis. It’s tough to point to one tool as the panacea for the problem; usually, the combination of all is what you need.
An Interview with Tamas, London based Economist and founder of Alpha FX Acacdemy
Tamas is the founder of Alpha FX Acacdemy. He is an ‘economist by qualification and banking professional by experience’. Tamas teaches practical trading methods which can be immediately applied. thereby helping his students take full advantage of the Forex and Capital markets. His main goal is to shorten the learning curve for his students without compromising on the quality of strategies taught.
Tamas, thanks for talking with us. Kindly describe your journey as an Entrepreneur so far.
I moved to the UK when I was 19 and had low-level jobs in catering. I quickly realized that I need to change my life so I applied to University and studied Economics where I graduated as one of the top students.
After that, I had the chance to work for some of the leading companies in finance and banking such as Thomson Reuters and one of the largest banks in Europe. Then I changed my career and moved to asset management and worked as a Fixed Income Trader at a Hedge Fund Bank in London. I spent years as a trader and had the opportunity to trade in capital markets in several assets ranging from futures, equities, bonds, and of course foreign exchange.
How did your background in Finance help in starting your new journey?
Working in a professional environment and managing over 600 million dollars in bond portfolios helped me to completely change my view to money and risk management. The strict rules and regulations formed my psychology and the way I look at returns. Most people fail because their attitude towards money and risk management is unreasonable. You cannot be a millionaire overnight, it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Many people say that Trading is full of risks. However, many traders make huge profits? Why are many people afraid of trading?
Traders who make huge profits usually spent years of studying financial markets and charts. New traders often mislead by social media and fake mentors who post insane profits and promise the world. People who are afraid usually have had some bad experience and lost money.
Many people assert that trading needs a long learning period. How can experienced traders shorten the learning curve?
Absolutely true. Successful people in every profession spend years of studying and have years of experience. However, general professions have options to be studied at university, college, and in form of courses. Despite university education in finance, working on a trading floor and trading, in reality, is completely different. Experienced traders often offer education and mentoring to teach new traders about their mistakes, experiences and this can shorten the learning curve. However, the market is very diluted with fake mentors who never had any education in finance or experience in trading at a bank, hedge fund.
Tell us more about your tryst with Fx trading?
I started FX trading on my own account when I started working as a US equities trader at the hedge fund. Even though I was a professional financier, I made huge losses at first. Then I took a break and analyzed my mistakes. I quickly realized that in order to succeed in FX trading I must change my mentality and apply the same rules in my personal trading as what we had on the trading floor: risk management.
What are the top 3 mistakes people make when they start trading?
I would say, Impatience, greed and impulsive trading are the biggest enemies of any trader.
Tell us more about your book on Price action techniques and their relevance in trading.
It is a great introduction to price action trading. People over mystify trading, looking for the holy grail strategy but there is no secret, just simple rules to follow. Price Action book helps to change the way people look at the charts and answer their questions, correct their mistakes.
In your view, with the advancement in trading algorithms, what is the future of trading, and what will remain constant in the world of trading?
Algos were present 10 years ago, they are present today and will evolve further. The problem isn’t algorithms, the main issue is the high frequency of which area algorithms are executed. However, there is one weakness of algorithms that can be the advantage of corporate and retail traders.
Algos monitor the same charts and analyze the same data just like human traders and their strategies are mostly based on price action events and technical indicators, for example, simple Exponential Moving Average crossings. Since algos run on billion dollars portfolios they bring liquidity to the market which can be at the advantage of the everyday trader if he or she knows what to look for.
The new gold scalping course has an indicator-based strategy that works very similar to the indicator-based algorithms. Once the indicator strategy shows a clear entry signal then it is often in confluence with large liquidity flow to the market. That flow is created by algorithms at big banks. so all you have to do is ride the inflow of money.
An Interview with Michael Eisenga – Former Mayor of Columbus and Entrepreneur
Michael Eisenga is a commercial real estate investor, entrepreneur, and proud father of three boys. His wide range of skills includes commercial real estate investing, property management, assisting living facility operation, leadership, strategic planning, public policy, and community outreach.
We recently interviewed him to know more about his life including his entrepreneurial journey.
Michael, Thank you so much for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.
My best days at work are when I arrive, and essentially, everything is running smoothly. And when I’m checking into things and following up on things, everything just seems to go like clockwork.
My days that aren’t so great at work are the days when big decisions have to be made. And sometimes they’re big and important decisions, and there’s not a lot of time to make those decisions. I never like to be in a position where I feel like I have to be rushed to make a decision, but unfortunately, things like that happen. Or if there’s some type of other crisis
What are the projects that you most enjoy working on?
What I like is to be able to focus on is the big picture and vision of the businesses and how we’re going to continue to expand, improve ourselves as far as the services and the cares that we’re offering, how we can make the facilities we have better. Then also, looking at opportunities to maybe expand and grow the business as well.
When it comes to your business, what was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?
I think that moment for me was when I transitioned from being a small business owner, where I was essentially doing all of the jobs to being able to delegate. I realized that I had delegation skills to bring other people on board to do the day-to-day operations with me overseeing them, which allowed me to focus on, as I said earlier, the overall vision of the business and growth opportunities, and things like that.
What has been the most important part of your professional journey?
I would say the most important part of my professional journey was my decision to become self-employed. When I initially started my mortgage banking company, that’s when I first became self-employed. And I had worked for others up until that point. I was concerned—I had never been in that position before. I was in my 20s at the time, and I thought, “Boy! Am I going to have the drive and ambition to wake up in the morning and go to work because it’s me?” Before, I’ve always had to make sure I show up to work because I had a boss. And if I didn’t show up to work, I’d be in trouble, and I could eventually lose my job.
I felt confident about the industry and the business that I was opening, and I knew it would be successful because I understood it. But when you’re taking that leap from being an employee to being a self-employed person—and I hadn’t taken the leap yet at that point to be an employer—I wondered how that would work out and if I’d be successful in that kind of a role, which I was.
What risks is your company facing?
The biggest risk right now with assisted living is really where you are located and doing good market studies gearing toward the private pay residents. Because if you miss the mark on that, you may be forced to take a lot of the public pay residents. And while we certainly want to see that everybody has a nice place to stay, the public pay managed care companies that administer those programs are continuing to cut rates. In fact, I’m dealing with one of the providers right now who’s trying to cut our rates again, too.
Eventually, we will probably have to just phase-out of the entire public pay scenario because there’s just such a difference between what they’re willing to pay for a resident compared to what our private pay people are paying. It can’t be justified. It’s not feasible to take off that kind of a loss on your units. That is probably a risk.
I think there’s always some risk with regulations. As time goes on, it gets to be more and more costly to meet those regulations. I’m always concerned about being in a business that’s heavily regulated by the government because you always hope that the government is going to keep regulations that are feasible and rational. But you never know.
That’s essentially what brought down the mortgage industry. When I first got into it in the mortgage industry, there probably weren’t enough regulations, and there were abuses that took place. And as a result, however, the pendulum swung from one extreme to the other, whereby it made it to the point that the business is not profitable anymore. A few big people out there are doing a lot of volume, and they have the connections. But what they really did was they knocked the small operators and the medium-sized operators to a large degree out. And even the large operators are not making a lot of money; they’re taking on a lot of risk for the business they’re writing, and there’s not a lot of margins. It’s become a commodity business, and commodity businesses are never very profitable.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
I would probably try to do what I’m doing right now but just on a larger scale with expansions. Looking at larger properties, I may even look at getting into some additional industries that I may have some interest in that could piggyback on what I’ve already been doing. But I guess right now; it’s not something that I’ve thought a lot about because no matter who you are, you don’t have unlimited resources. So that would probably be a direction I’d go.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
I get into the swing and the flow of things, usually during a business day, especially if I have a time crunch, where I’m trying to get something put together for a meeting or forwarded on to a third party to take a look at. I can’t think of anything specifically. But that does happen, and then all of a sudden, you realize that the day is almost over, and you might be at work a little longer that day just finishing it up.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
When I’m not at work, I have three boys, and I spend my time with them. I share placement with my ex-wife, so if I don’t have them all the time, I spend time with friends and family, dine out, do some traveling here and there. I’m kind of a movie buff. I like to watch movies. I like to play cards; I like to swim. That’s what’s keeping me busy outside of work. I enjoy going to events. I’ve hosted fundraisers; I go to fundraising events and things like that.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
In the past, when the mortgage company was open, I made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I mean, we did mortgages that lowered people’s payments and gave them extra money every month. And sometimes we saved them tremendous amounts of money every month. I mean, that was gratifying. We were able to get people in homes that maybe wouldn’t qualify someplace else.
In the assisted living industry, we make a big difference. We provide housing at an affordable price to people who need assistance. But yet, in many cases, they’re still very capable. But it’s a lot cheaper than going to a nursing home, and it’s a lot cheaper than having somebody at your house 24 hours a day. We provide services on top of that. We provide meals; we provide activities; we provide care. So we’re providing a nice place for our residents, but we’re also providing peace of mind for our residents’ families. So that’s a good feeling.
Then, of course, I look at the people that I employ. I’m providing them with opportunities and employment, and a paycheck. So I think that makes a difference to a lot of people.
An Interview with Joey Klein, Founder and CEO of Inner Matrix Systems
Joey Klein is the founder and CEO of Inner Matrix Systems, a personal mastery training system for high achievers. He is the author of “The Inner Matrix: Leveraging the Art & Science of Personal Mastery to Create Real Life Results.” He has been interviewed by Self Magazine, INC.com, Yahoo Finance and NBC. Klein has coached leaders from some of the world’s top companies, including IBM, Coca Cola and the World Health Organization.
We recently got the opportunity to interview Joey.
Joey, Thank you for talking with us. For someone who helps others achieve their personal best, every single day must be a satisfying day. However, tell me about your best days at work.
The best days at work are when I get to execute my art — personal development and transformational work — and make a difference in people’s lives, whether working one-on-one with people or with an audience. I like doing what I can to be able to see lives change. Those are definitely my best days.
Your clients come from different backgrounds and are generally high achievers. In your view, who are high achievers? Also, What does your training system focus on?
Our clients are high achievers, looking to get an edge inside what they do. A high achiever is anyone looking to do what they do in the best way they can, whether that’s an entrepreneur running a large organization, or a mom or dad wanting to master parenting in a particular way, and everything in between, from pro athletes to artists.
Our training system focuses on developing what drives our choices, decisions, and actions, which are our internal mechanisms, our emotional intelligence, and our thought strategies, etc. We train people to manage their inner game to perform at the level they want to achieve.
Helping others achieve their goals must be a great reward in itself. However, what was your biggest “aha” moment?
My biggest “aha” moment was when, after years of training people, I realized I couldn’t train people the same way I was trained. When I studied with my mentors, it was extremely intense. They were very direct and, what I would call, extreme high intensity. That level of intensity trained a resilience and capacity that supported me to create extraordinary outcomes for myself. When I started training people at the request of my mentors, I brought that same high level of intensity and expectations to the space. And when people opted out of training with me, I was dumbfounded. I didn’t understand why they didn’t show up for the training that would lead to the outcome they had named for themselves.
That type of training does not scale well. My mentors were training only a few people at a time at that level of intensity. It never occurred to me that there were so few of us because we were the only ones willing to show up for that type of training. I was trying to take the same intense regimen that worked in a small group of people willing to be up to it and have it work for hundreds of people at a time. And when you’re trying to build a company in that space — when you have a 10% retention reality — that’s not great. It doesn’t work out. What I realized is, although many of us are driven to be high achievers who want a better life, not everyone has the desire to be trained in an intense way. I learned to meet people where they are at and to give them the next step based on wherever they are in their own development. It was a game-changer.
This new way of training is much more enjoyable for me. I realized that few people are ready and willing for the type of training I had. But if you meet people where they are and nudge them along the way, they often learn how to drive at that all-out intensity.
What has been the most important part of your journey?
The most important part of my journey has been learning the difference between developing a high-capacity heart — in other words, cultivating my love of training people by developing their capacities — and the idea that this would easily translate to professional success.
I love training people and supporting them to develop themselves to create what they choose for themselves. However, this on its own does not create a business. Early on, as I developed my training system, I started studying business and realized I needed to develop a high level of capacity and aptitude for it if I really wanted to change lives and do what I love doing at scale. To have a large impact and influence the lives of thousands of people, there needs to be a structure in place.
The skillset and the aptitude necessary to build out business structures, team cultures, and operational systems that can deliver a product or a service at scale is the thing that makes impact possible. Taking on an intensive study of business, entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, and all of the logistics that make a business run, work, and grow is what makes the impact that we have today possible. Without that, we could still have an impact, but it wouldn’t be as big as what we’re after. And while there’s nothing wrong with an intimate impact, you’re only influencing the lives of 50 or 100 people as opposed to thousands or millions.
The training industry has seen a surge in so-called ‘experts’. But not everyone provides quality training. In that context, what risks is your company facing?
There’s a great documentary out on Netflix right now called the Social Dilemma, which talks about how people don’t know what real information is anymore. Often, it’s “fake news,” so to speak. The internet gives us more access to each other than we’ve ever had before. But, because anybody can engage these platforms or put information out on them, the public is having a harder and harder time distinguishing between a quality product or service as opposed to a non-quality product or service.
When it comes to the arena that we play in, which is training emotional intelligence and thought strategy techniques, we are in the space of optimizing human performance from an internal reality. There are so many people inside the coaching or “training industry” who present well but simply do not know what they’re doing. They may have taken a weekend course to learn skills to train or coach someone, but they have never actually executed with real people or have real outcomes to leverage. Competing with this — making the distinction of how we’re qualified and why we’re different from this inundation of people simply hanging their shingle out and calling themselves personal development experts — is one of the biggest challenges that we constantly work with. We always invite our clients to engage “healthy skepticism” when engaging our training or any others. Engage the training and really lean in, and if you are able to see outcomes that you’ve named for yourself begin to happen, then continue.
We’re not the only great training company out there; there are others. But there are many out there who are not only going to miss the mark but are probably going to cause negative effects as opposed to positive ones. The unique part about IMS is that we’re a proven training system that is not reliant on a one-off experience or individual but a process designed to create self-reliance.
What would you do with unlimited resources?
There are two things I would do. Number one, I would look to market at scale. Many companies that win out don’t win because they have the best product or service out there. They win out because they’re in front of everybody regularly, and they have the resources to do that. There are lots of fast food companies that aren’t in existence today because they make quality food; they exist because they’re in front of everybody. Their marketing is really present. So, letting everybody know that we’re simply available would be a game-changer.
The second thing, because I don’t only want to make money — although that needs to be what every business does — I would put those resources towards education and support to anyone willing to engage. I think everybody deserves to have access to education and developmental support if they’re willing to engage it. Many people in the world would love to have access to education and training to develop themselves to live a better life, but they simply don’t have access to it.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
I think this is the way I strive to live every day. If I’m at work and we’re in a strategy session, I lose myself in it. I don’t know what time it is. Thirty minutes could go by, or three hours could go by. I regularly have to have somebody let me know it’s time to go on to the next thing because I’m fully engaged with whatever I’m doing. If I’m surfing in the ocean, nothing else exists. Because nothing else can exist. I love to do activities where it demands that I am not anywhere else because I find that’s where I find the greatest fulfillment. I think we tend to find the greatest fulfillment when we are fully present with what we’re doing.
Most of the discomfort and suffering that we experience is often related to being somewhere else. We are not present with life as it’s happening right in front of us. We’re usually focused on the past or focused on the future. Either on something that we don’t want to happen or avoiding something that has happened and wishing that we had something that isn’t there anymore. I think I strive to live that way where I lose myself in whatever I’m doing at the time.
Apart from training individuals and groups realize their true potential, what else do you love?
My favorite thing is being in nature. That can be skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer, and hiking in the woods. Anything active going on in nature, I’m all in. And making time to be with my girlfriend is also on top of the list. She loves going to nice restaurants, or even Netflix at home is always great.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
The biggest way I make a difference is by giving people access to naming the life they want to live as opposed to the life they feel is available for them. Giving people access to the belief and the ability to name the life they want, but then following that up with how to bridge the gap from where they are in life to where they want to go. That, in my mind, is the transformational journey.
Creating a paradigm shift is the way I think we create the biggest service. We offer the greatest benefit to people by showing them how to create a paradigm shift where we can look at our reality half a degree differently. That gives us the ability to see what’s necessary within ourselves and our environment and to go from where we are to where we’d like to go. Often, the answers are right in front of us; we have the information within us. It’s usually a small adjustment but a necessary one that needs to happen to change perspective, giving us access to possibility.
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