Entrepreneurial Beginnings: Marc Perry of BuiltLean.com

As an entrepreneur myself, I’m always interested in seeing how others got started. Marc Perry and I have connected in the past but I never really knew about his life prior to creating BuiltLean.com and considering he used to work in finance as a hedge fund manager no less, I thought it would be interesting for him to share his story with us.  After reading the story myself, Marc and I have very similar values and I can fully understand why he left a very lucrative career in finance to start his own company from scratch. Marc recently retooled his first major product that I actually used last year as a test case to lose 30+ lbs, BuiltLean Transformation.

How Much Money Do You REALLY Want?

Do you know the answer to this question?

I’m going to share with you how my experience working in the hedge fund industry, which is one of the most exclusive, high paying industries in the world shaped my perception of money and how much money I want to make. I hope that sharing my story will help you think critically about how much money you really want.

I was able to break into the lucrative hedge fund world right out of college, primarily because the man who hired me (who was worth tens of millions of dollars) liked that I played lacrosse at Yale. It turned out he loves lacrosse too and loved the idea that I could help coach his son’s lacrosse team. I got lucky!

So why are hedge funds so lucrative and what the heck are they? Well, a hedge fund is simply an unregulated pool of money in which only wealthy individuals and institutions can invest. It’s the creme de la creme of the finance world, even after experiencing a tidal wave the last couple of years. Hedge funds are so lucrative because they make money by charging a percentage of their total assets as a “management” fee and then also take home a piece of the profits, known as a “performance” fee.

So let’s say you’re a hedge fund manager managing a $1B hedge fund and you charge the standard 2% management fee and a 20% performance fee . Let’s further assume that you had an investment return of 10% for the year on the $1B you manage. In this scenario, you would take home a cool $40M ($20M for the management fee and $20M, or 20% of the $100M investment return). Not bad, right?

I met too many managers to count who were making this type of money, saw their estates, and was able to peak into the lives of the super wealthy. I came from an upper class household with my dad being a successful doctor, but he didn’t make anywhere near the kind of money these guys were making. I had a buddy who received a $200K bonus from the hedge fund where he worked, and he was only a couple years out of college.

I originally went into the hedge fund industry because I wanted to get some financial experience so I could one day start my own company, but I was quickly lured into the promise of making millions and having a lifestyle you see on TV. I became obsessed with making a killing and anything less would be a disappointment. I was just out of college, and I couldn’t believe I was interviewing CEO’s of major companies who were themselves multi-millionaires and twice my age, and they were courting me.

One day, my boss asked me if I knew about the Golden Rule, to which I confidently replied, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. He paused for a second, looked at me like I had four heads, then replied firmly, “No!”. He continued, “Those with the gold make the rules”.

It turns out hedge funds have a lot of gold. When you work in finance, and especially a hedge fund, your job is about money; you manage money, you invest it, you come up with ways to make more and you think about ways to hedge your risk of losing it. Most people don’t go into finance because they think it’s fun, because it’s not. The hours are brutal, on average at least 12 hours per day and it’s a high pressure job. The decisions many finance professionals make directly earn, or lose money on a daily basis so you have a lot of highs and lows. It’s all about making money, that’s the culture. If you make a lot of it, then you are well respected. If you don’t, well than you’re not going to get much respect to say the least.

After my second job at a hedge fund 5 years into my career, I considered looking for another to make more money and find a more established fund. I went on a bunch of interviews at some high profile funds, and when I came home, I thought that each position looked less interesting and more miserable than the last position. It became painfully obvious to me I didn’t want to be a hedge fund manager.

I could probably find some way of being happy in the hedge fund industry making a great living, but I really didn’t enjoy the work. It was just too intangible and analytical for me and I’m a very right brained, creative kind of guy. I wanted to build something and help other people in a more tangible way. I also couldn’t stand the prospect of being tied to my desk for the rest of my life just because the markets were open, obsessively checking stock quotes. I wanted to have more control of my time and how I spend it, which is simply more important to me than a certain amount of money.

I ended up doing the unthinkable and left the hedge fund world despite a solid 5 years of building up equity in my career and spending too many late nights working to count. I went from eating filet mignons at investor meetings, to running around New York City as a personal trainer training clients in their apartment gyms in order to barely survive. There were many reasons that I left the finance world, but I honestly believe the greatest thing I can offer the world is my passion for and knowledge of fitness. I believe I have the ability to help inspire millions of people to improve their health.

So after this whole experience, what money means to me is freedom to spend time on things that I enjoy. I’ve never gotten a lot of satisfaction from buying “stuff”, I would much rather spend money on experiences. One of my life goals is taking friends and family on a once in a lifetime trip (still working on the details) where I pay for everything. That’s something that gets me really excited.

While I believe that relationships and experiences is what matters most to me, I must admit I’m a workaholic and sometimes I feel like a slave to money, which ends up affecting my social life and my relationships. Right now, I’m struggling to grow a business while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, but I can tell you with certainty a HUGE motivator is to one day have the freedom to go on vacation when I want, hang out with friends and family on a whim, spend time with my kids when I start a family one day, and make a difference in the lives of others.

Sometimes the financial pressure I feel is incredibly intense and I often feel overwhelmed, but I know what I’m doing is worth it. I know what I want, how I want to live my life, and the amount of money that would allow me to have the freedom to enjoy life to its fullest.

I think understanding how much money you really want is not a simple question because it requires that you understand what makes you truly happy and fulfilled, and how you want to live your life. If you don’t have this understanding, you’ll be running on a treadmill, stressed out, and unsatisfied no matter how much money you can acquire.

Marc Perry is the founder of BuiltLean.com, which helps busy people lose fat to reveal their potential with time efficient workouts and nutrition strategies. You can follow Marc on twitter @BuiltLean, connect with him on the BuiltLean Facebook Page, and watch him on YouTube, BuiltLeanTV.

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10 People have left comments on this post

» Perfecting ParenthoodNo Gravatar said: { Apr 20, 2011 - 01:04:37 }

I like these entrepreneur interviews. I’ve never worked, nor tried to get a job, in a fund or as an i banker or a top tier consultant company or become a lawyer because of the very reason that it is almost a 24/7 job. Sometimes I lament that, because you put 5 years into it, come out a millionaire with tons of contacts. But after the 5 years of hell, you have the rest of your life to do with as you please.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

5 years can take quite the toll on your health which as I understand is one of the main reasons Marc got out of the finance business. He went from athlete to desk jockey 🙂

I can barely handle working 9-5! 🙂

» Jeff @ Sustainable life blogNo Gravatar said: { Apr 20, 2011 - 02:04:03 }

Great article – i think that too often people just want to make gobs and gobs of money, figuring it will give them what they really are seeking -security. Unfortunately, it will, but only up to a point. Once you’ve gotten all that you need, you’ll want your time back.

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

Thanks. Seriously, the only time I’m truly happy is when I’m spending time with my wife and kids. I couldn’t handle working 12+ hour days. Life is all about balance.

» EvanNo Gravatar said: { Apr 23, 2011 - 07:04:54 }

Cool story but I am confused…did he just blow through the cash he was making? He was making probably mid six figures for 5 years…but then barely surviving?

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

It happens every day man, people live in the now and don’t save for the future. But in Marc’s case, you’ll just have to ask him. I know he did open a gym and has put money into his product, but never got into details of where his money went from the wallstreet days. Maybe it’s in an offshore account entrusted to his daughter..oh wait, that’s a different Wall Street

Marc PerryNo Gravatar Reply:

@Evan – That’s a great question. I was in finance for 5 years, but I didn’t make hundreds of thousands per year. Certainly what I made was far higher than the average U.S. income, but just having a decent apartment in Manhattan, taking cabs to work because the hours are so brutal etc., then factoring in all the taxes (federal, state, and city), I barely got out ahead each month. Also, I never got lucky with a big bonus (I wasn’t at the right place at the right time), so the income I was making was not huge, which made it easier to leave (thank goodness!).

The jobs I was looking at before I decided to leave were in the $150k-$200k range, but I ended up saying screw it. The people who interviewed me were SO miserable and looked terrible. The cost of taking one of those jobs is far greater than only financial, which is the grand irony of Wall Street in which many people only think about everything in financial terms, not others (health, relationships etc.). I should have said that explicitly in my article.

As of right now, my business has picked up substantially so I’m doing better than barely surviving. All the hard work and passion I put in is paying off financially, as well as other important ways (health, relationships etc.). Thanks for you question.

» Angie SeversNo Gravatar said: { Aug 19, 2011 - 09:08:48 }

I didn’t realize how stressful that line of work would be. Makes a person think 😉

Jesse MichelsenNo Gravatar Reply:

I can’t imagine how stressful it would be to have to deal with such huge sums of money with that much risk involved especially when the money belongs to clients.

» Foundation Repair San AntonioNo Gravatar said: { May 31, 2012 - 12:05:42 }

This story makes me cringe. I had a similarly stressful job that involved handling other people’s money. Not fun at all. I was constantly stressing over the smallest things trying to protect my clients and ultimately my job. I wouldn’t recommend a position like that unless you thrive on such situations.

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