Charles D. Carey is the Managing Partner at CIG Capital, an alternative project finance and investment firm that provides project funding, while also assisting clients with services including project management, risk management, economic growth management, and financial consulting services.
Over the last 19 years as a serial entrepreneur, CEO, philanthropist, project financier and more, Carey has learned a thing or two about wins and losses, consulting, investing in, and developing brands and entrepreneurs, and what it means to be a mentor. These lessons have enabled him to grow from his humble beginnings to now managing a portfolio of over $4 billion. Today, he’s sharing some of those teachings with us.
Charles D. Carey you have a lot of monikers: CEO, Founder, Serial Entrepreneur, philanthropist… the list goes on. How did you come to earn so many titles?
I believe it’s because I’m constantly ‘doing’. I always have some sort of project going on which has opened up a lot of opportunities to grow my experience across a variety of roles. I actually can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working towards something, and that’s why I believe ambition is something a person is born with.
The first time I understood my ambition was around ten years old. I wanted to be successful, and I was dedicated. I started collecting bottles and cans to trade-in for their deposit, while also running a paper route and selling magazines on the side. At 16, my Mom gave me my first car, a rusted, old Chevy Cavalier, worth about $500. I saw the resale value of these cars was significantly higher than that – if they were in good condition that is – so immediately set to work on remodeling, before selling it for $3,500.
By the time I’d reached my twenties, I’d already started my first company, by 30, I’d made my first million, and since founding CIG Capital and growing it into the business it is today, I’ve managed to build the foundations for other passion projects, like my non-profit, the Live 80/20 Foundation.
Give us a brief overview of CIG Capital?
I started forming CIG Capital, then known as the Carey Investment Group, or just CIG CAP for short, in 2011 with the aim to provide business consulting services to companies, with a specific focus on business funding and loans. By 2013, I managed to forge some partnerships within the space but noticed a significant and recurring obstacle for many businesses: traditional loan approval and the delivery of funds was taking far too long.
This inspired me to simplify the process, so I set to work forming Business Union Financial, also known as BUF (I love my acronyms, if you can’t already tell). BUF was built on the top CRM system and is a customized, problem-solving loan originator, processor and servicer that went on to create and implement an underwriting predictive risk-modeling algorithm called livefintech.com, which is capable of streamlining business loan applications to provide funding in as little as 48 hours.
This changed the game for CIG Capital, with the algorithm becoming responsible for the underwriting and risk assessment for our project funding services. With this new technology behind us, we managed to forge new working relationships and partnerships, which in turn allowed for significantly larger projects to be funded. I knew we needed to form a new partnership group, so I pulled together a group of industry-leading partners and CIG Capital as it’s now known was formed.
What sets CIG Capital apart from other project finance and investment firms?
The first and most obvious thing that sets us apart is our creative approach to the way we work: we aim to constantly innovate and find ways that make it easier for projects to be funded. BUF and Livefintech.com are key examples of the way we find unconventional and new solutions to the challenges that many businesses encounter when trying to source funding. Aside from that, we don’t only service just one or two industries, we work across nearly every industry to secure funding for projects.
Would you say CIG Capital’s growth was unprecedented?
I wouldn’t say it was unprecedented. To me, unprecedented implies the growth was unexpected, when that was the aim all along. I think CIG Capital’s success has been equal to the amount of work and dedication myself and each of the Partners have put in; together we hold over 85 years of professional experience, and we each have our own beneficial relationships in the space. Our hard work, paired with our experience and connections is a winning combination.
Do you have any tips for business owners or entrepreneurs to succeed as you have?
Yes! I have picked up a few tips and tricks throughout my journey as an entrepreneur and in life, which can be distilled down into three main principles. These principles are: The Three Rs, Relationships, and Investing in Others.
‘The Three Rs’ each refer to ‘returns’, that is a Return on Investment (RoI), Return on Time (RoT), and Return on Enjoyment (RoE). Each are fairly self-explanatory, but the simple version is that if an activity doesn’t provide you with a return on either the money you’re putting down, the time you’re putting in, or at least give you some type of enjoyment, then it’s probably not worth doing.
The second, ‘Relationships’, is again fairly self-explanatory. Everyone understands that relationships are valuable, both in business and life. However, I believe relationships need to share certain characteristics to ensure success (and avoid stagnation) for both parties, and those characteristics are hunger, zeal, and humility. If you don’t share a hunger for progression, a zeal, or passion, to motivate one another, or the humility to put aside your ego and get your hands dirty, it’s likely your relationships will hold you back and stall both personal and professional growth.
One of the most important investments anyone can make is in the people around them, and that’s why the final principle, ‘Investing in Others’, makes my top three. In short, I believe it’s often through helping others that an individuals’ own goals can be reached, but it shouldn’t be done with an expectation of return. From my experience, living by the simple biblical truth of ‘sowing unto others naturally reaps a harvest’ means that in some form, the good you put out into the world, and give to others, will naturally come back to you. It’s also one of the key reasons why I started my non-profit, the Live 80/20 Foundation.
What does the Live 80/20 Foundation do?
I started the Live 80/20 Foundation to draw on my expertise in funding to raise capital for other non-profit organizations that need financial support. Our purpose is to solve the world’s problems with sustainable solutions, and unlike other non-profits, we don’t source funding from the community. Instead, we act like a for-profit business, and leverage our business connections to source funding from our partners to help those doing good work achieve their goals.
As for what Live 80/20 ‘does’, it’s a little bit of everything! From water crisis relief and education funding, to foster care, adoption, and housing support, we exist to support those who otherwise can’t raise enough funds to do what they aim to do. It’s our own way of ‘sowing unto others’, and the harvest we reap is about serving the bigger purpose; loving others through action, which is our model “MATT 25”, from the gospel of Matthew. Serve and love others without expecting anything in return.
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