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A Discussion With Chicago’s Brian Hynes On Adapting to Work Life Balance During the Pandemic

Brian Hynes is a highly successful entrepreneur from Chicago, Illinois. Although he didn’t always picture himself in business, he has made a reputable name for himself within the government finance industry. From a young age, he exemplified a keen interest in law, which is what led him to achieve his undergraduate degree from the University […]

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Brian Hynes
Brian Hynes

Brian Hynes is a highly successful entrepreneur from Chicago, Illinois. Although he didn’t always picture himself in business, he has made a reputable name for himself within the government finance industry. From a young age, he exemplified a keen interest in law, which is what led him to achieve his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois and his law degree from Loyola University Chicago. Despite twenty-two years in the field and an impressive litigation track record, he decided to retire from law to pursue business full-time. Over the years, he has founded various specialty finance companies, including Vendor Assistance Program, LLC (VAP), MuniBuy LLC, Bluestone Capital Markets and Blue Stone Finance. Today, he discusses his career and offers invaluable advice for individuals entering the workforce, as well as those looking to shift career paths. 

Why did you decide to create your own business?

“Although I didn’t realize it until later in life, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I spend a lot of my time pondering new ideas and developing ways to improve current processes. One of the main reasons I decided to pursue entrepreneurship was to gain autonomy and push my limits. Being my own boss, I can implement ideas without having to go through corporate red tape. At the same time, I’m able to achieve a better work-life balance. Creating a schedule that works for me means I can devote more time to my family and friends and the hobbies I’m passionate about.”

What does a typical day consist of for you?

“I have made a habit of waking up early to get the most out of my day. My alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. sharp, which is when I start getting ready for my morning workout. By 7 a.m., I’ve already had a cup of coffee and reviewed my agenda for the day. As soon as I’m in the office, I begin answering pertinent emails and phone calls.

My assistant is always close by to remind me of any pre-scheduled meetings. The nature of these meetings varies from everyday business operations to larger issues that could affect the future of the business. I also embrace an open-door policy, where I encourage employees to come and speak to me regarding their concerns, questions, and suggestions outside their regular chain of command. Consequently, I am usually busy from the moment I enter my office until the end of the workday.”

How do you motivate others?

“Everyone is different, and this affects the methods I employ to motivate people. For instance, some people are driven by rewards, while others prefer recognition. Because of this, there are a couple of things I do to help inspire my workforce.  

First and foremost, I hire skilled employees that I don’t feel the need to micromanage. By giving individuals autonomy, I trust they will get their work done without me having to look over their shoulders. There are a growing number of studies that indicate embracing independence in the workplace leads to greater job satisfaction, creativity, and productivity. I also make sure that employees understand why they have been chosen for a particular role or project, so they have the confidence to take control.

Additionally, I make a point to show appreciation for all of my employees for a job well done. Occasionally this is done using a handwritten note, and other times, employees are praised publicly for their work.”

How do you maintain a solid work life balance? 

“When you own the companies that you help run, people are often under the impression that you have a lot of free time. Usually, this is not the case at all. Entrepreneurs tend to work long hours to make sure their businesses stay afloat. However, there are a few behaviours I’ve adopted over the years that help me balance the demands of my career and personal life.   

I set strict work hours for myself that ensure I am home by 6 p.m. each night, or else, I might find myself working until midnight every day. While it’s been pretty smooth sailing, maintaining a strict schedule has been slightly more difficult amid COVID-19, as work hours and personal time tend to get blurred while working from home.

I also prioritize tasks in terms of their level of importance and urgency. In the morning, I like to complete the most pressing responsibilities, saving the less essential and non-urgent tasks for last. This way, if there is something I was unable to accomplish during the day, it’s likely a non-urgent assignment that can be pushed to the next day.

Finally, social distancing has forced me to learn and implement new technology, like Zoom and GoToMeeting. Fortunately, these platforms have made meetings with stakeholders more convenient and helped to increase efficiencies by saving time and money.”

What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?

“To quote John C. Maxwell, a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. In addition to coming up with fresh new ideas, I can clearly communicate my thoughts to employees and relevant stakeholders. Excellent communication is critical for getting others on board with my ideas and directly impacts the success of my business strategies. 

Furthermore, leaders must set a good example for their team members. When the going gets tough, employees look up to me to see how I will respond. In general, I remain calm in high-pressure situations by focusing on problem-solving efforts. 

I also understand the importance of delegation and employee empowerment. One of the core tasks of a leader is to delegate responsibilities to employees. The purpose isn’t to make my life easier, but to enable my workers, inspire teamwork, and encourage autonomy.”

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

“One of my law mentors once told me, ‘the number one reason people give up so fast is that they tend to look at how far they still need to go instead of how far they’ve come.’ Since then, I’ve learned to celebrate small victories as well as major accomplishments. By keeping track of your progress, you can improve your self-confidence and ensure more future successes.”

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

“The biggest life lesson I’ve learned is that self-doubt is the enemy of success. While it’s normal to struggle with self-doubt at some point in your life, this insecurity can be crippling if you let it hinder you from achieving your goals. People that continually doubt themselves run the risk of worrying about things that are out of their control and events not going according to plan. To avoid this, focus on making well-informed decisions and learning from your mistakes.”

Outside of work, what defines you as a person? 

“I am a family man, dog person, and outdoor enthusiast. If I’m not at work, you will probably find me exploring new hiking paths and appreciating the raw beauty of nature. I also enjoy visiting the beach with my family and five dogs.”

What trends in your industry excite you? 

“The government finance industry continues to new and emerging financing tools. It’s exciting because these tools can lead to lower costs which equals lower taxes”

Explain the proudest day of your professional life. 

“I am proud of having the courage to step away from two great careers (lobbying and law) to focus solely on entrepreneurship and growing my businesses. If I hadn’t had the strength to redirect my life’s work, then my companies might not be as successful as they are today.”

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