Justin was born in Los Angeles and raised in St. Louis area. Growing up as an only child, Justin was naturally very close with my parents. “Things were good.” Justin said humbly. “They were born and raised in East St. Louis area, where it’s low income and poverty stricken. I would always see them working hard. Over time I saw them go from getting by to doing pretty well for themselves. I just feel blessed to see that example in the household.”
Justin and I sat down in Washington DC on a Friday afternoon. He was only in town for a day so it was perfect timing to connect and sit him down for some important questions. Justin is a graduate of Southern Illinois University. He’s a licensed financial adviser with Eagle Strategies in Chicago, IL. Impressively, Justin works with clients across the country where he helps them plan for their financial future. He’s been featured in Black Enterprise magazine for his phenomenal services and mission to enhance financial literacy. Outside of finance, Justin has created a holiday charity called Kicks 4 The City! He and his team have taken that project from one city to eight cities nationwide. The growth of the programs is something he talks more about during the interview. Justin’s work combines a unique approach of learning from the past and developing the opportunities of the future. We present a financial visionary in this week’s #ShineHard Conversation…
Watch the Interview!
Who did you look up to as a kid?
Justin: I definitely say my two older cousins. It’s kind of interesting how who you look up to growing up is not always the same person when you get older. I’d say present day, it’s certainly my father. He’s a financial adviser as well. He’s 28 years in. Started in his early 30’s and has really just grown his business. As far as being a man and a real person, he’s definitely set that example for me. I’m blessed to have him in my life.
What does it mean to be a financial adviser?
Justin: As an adviser it my obligation to teach and plan with my clients as they share their overall financial goals and objectives. One of the things for me is that even though dad is a financial adviser, he doesn’t give me anything. And that’s something that I really do respect about him. Making me work and allowing me to go under water and understand the struggle of building your own business. My day to day is, long work hours and sometimes going into the office on Saturdays, but when you are building and growing your clientele, you have to put that type of work in.
What’s your strategy for gaining clientele as a financial adviser?
Justin: A lot of it is through introductions and referrals. I’ve never really believed in the “cold calls” per say, but sometimes you have to do that. I think it’s naturally understanding what you do and the benefits you can bring to the clients. From there it’s building that relationship and setting realistic expectations because it’s fair to say that everybody’s not a great fit. It’s good to be able to pick and choose who you work with, but obviously that’s a luxury reserved to those with longevity in the business.
What is your passion and when did you know?
Justin: I found out around 24-25 years old and I will never forget what made me search for that passion. You know in life, we talk about what we do and we talk about how we do it, might even mention awards or accolades. I got challenged one time by our managing partner when I was in St. Louis, he asked me, “WHY are you doing what you are doing?” and I never forgot that question because I couldn’t answer it at that time. It took me a few weeks to search and discover the answer.
To answer your question, I really do have a passion to give back. It sounds crazy, but giving back can be on so many different levels. That can be knowledge, time, relationships, or financially. I really have a purpose to serve and share what I have.
What have you learned from being a minority in business?
Justin: You have to work. It’s about being consistent and I think in life sometimes we get excited on the ups or we get down on the lows, but I never forget what I was always told… “When things happen you either react or respond.” I’ve learned that you can’t really take days off when you’re early in the game. There are people our age who are going that extra mile to be successful. It comes down to, “Where do you want to be?”
Tell me about your non-profit program, Kicks 4 The City?
Justin: Blessed man! Started off as an idea based off a relationship I made with a homeless gentlemen in St. Louis. He was 23 and I was 24 at the time. It’s started as a concept where we just gathered as many shoes as we could for those in need. Four years later, we’re in eight cities and we’re looking to collect 10-15 thousand pairs of shoes. Due to everyone’s hard work, input, and feedback, this drive has grown extremely fast. With proper control, the larger it grows the greater impact we can have.
How can people donate to K4TC?
Justin: We try to create a platform that is accessible to everybody. It could be as simple as donating new or lightly used shoes from your own closet to becoming a full fledged ambassador in your city. In between there are volunteer opportunities where you can donate your labor and actually help distribute the shoes collected. Instagram is @K4TC and website is Kicks4TheCity.org.
Whats been the biggest challenge in your career thus far?
Justin: I’ve learned a lot. Going through the maturity pieces of what you need to do versus what you want to do. Also understanding that if there is a current lifestyle that you want to live currently or for your future family, you have to work hard. I’ve always believed the saying, “Hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I keep that in the back of my mind and it challenges me to keep pushing year by year.
What are your career goals and what is your “WHY?”
Justin: I want to be one of the best financial advisers nationwide while giving back in some way. You balance that ideal clientele along with some clients who need to be taught in order for them to understand what they need to do. I have a passion for teaching and a person can’t teach what they don’t know. If we want things to be better for those that follow us, we have to teach. I am aiming to make a difference across spectrums. Especially with Kicks 4 the City! I can really see this project being a large annual drive that connects the shoe community with those in need. We are targeting some powerhouse shoe companies to partner with in the near future.
What is the #1 Factor to your success?
Justin>: Well one, having faith. Sometimes we can say that so liberally, but if you really believe in prayer and working hard great things will happen for you. Also, I’ve grown more open-minded and I want to be coached. Being an only child, that has been a process for me. Once I became more open to criticism, I saw myself growing into a much better man.
What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
Justin: I think sometimes, the lack of support. Or to take it a step further, genuine support. A lot of times you see people that want to support others because there’s something in it for them. Not enough times are we supporting each other out of mutual respect or because we believe in what that person is doing regardless of what benefit it has to us. That’s definitely something I would like to see change.
What advice would you give to aspiring financial advisers?
Justin: Definitely get a mentor, I think that’s first and foremost. Also, you gotta understand what you want to do. It’s not about the money. It’s not about the potential awards. It’s about you being happy. For you being able to wake up every morning and know you’re making a difference out there. Lastly, we need to research the industry, competition, and obviously hard work. You get back what you put in.
Johnny: Absolutely. You can’t cheat the grind, it knows how much you’ve put in! Justin keep putting in work and welcome to the@ShineHardFamily!
Interested in learning more or connecting with Justin?
The Program: @K4TC