Chuck Hinckley is a financial advisor from New York, New York, and is the CEO and Founder of C.C. Hinckley Co. He graduated with a degree in physics from the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, before spending time as an officer in the US Navy. After his military career, Chuck went into engineering by working for GE Power Systems. It was there that he found an opportunity to make money on the financial side of the business. With strong math and analytical skills, he started developing power plants in the international market, starting with gas turbines and biomass plants before moving into the wind and solar space.
Chuck Hinckley started his own firm, C.C. Hinckley Company, in 1998 and sees an incredible shift in in favor of renewable energy. He asserts that he and his company will be at the forefront of the energy source movement.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I had an anchor client in GE Capital that asked me to start my own business, and that’s what got me started. For the first few years, I worked exclusively for GE Capital.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I think my industry is very exciting because it has changed and evolved so dramatically over the last 25 years, and it is something that will continue to change in the next 25 years. It really is proving to be as dynamic as any industry has ever been.
What keeps you motivated?
I enjoy working. I have a natural enjoyment of having a busy and productive day. I think I’m naturally self-motivated.
How do you motivate others?
The main way you motivate others is to lead by example. I hope that the people who have worked for me over the years realize that I was right there with them. I was doing what needed to be done right by their side.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
It has been up and down ever since 1998, but largely because there have been times where some of the tasks we’ve worked on spun out into big companies. I was the CEO of two of them – Noble Environmental Power and American Wind Capital – but I’ve kind of always ended up coming back to my own firm. I am in the fourth or fifth cycle of that and I enjoy it. Even when I went back out on my own in August of last year, the business was doing well, and I’ve grown the business. In fact, I’m thinking about hiring more people and opening another office.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My biggest role model is absolutely my dad. He was a smart, hard-working and thoughtful guy. He was big into self-educating. He kept learning as an element of his life. He was a very good role model to have.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
My work/life balance has always been weighted towards work. I’m okay with that. I’ve just accepted that I love to work. I think it’s the most important piece of the balance for me.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
I’m asked that question a lot by people who want to be investment bankers or get into renewable energy. My general response is, “Great! Go to an Ivy League school and get a 3.8 GPA.”
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
It definitely has been dealing with the things that didn’t work out. It’s not easy to start a business and have it grow into a big business, and then have the global financial meltdown of 2008. If you’re me, you’ve seen your net worth just bounce all over the place. It’s a challenge to put that behind you and just move on, but that is in fact what you have to do when things don’t work out. You have to realize they didn’t work out and quit pretending they were working. That’s very difficult for some people to do.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
I’m not sure they were wildly commercially successful, but there are two things that I am most proud. One, I loved building power plants in Africa. My motivation was economic, but I really took enormous satisfaction from improving the lives of my African employees, colleagues, and customers, and I did wind up making money on those projects.
The other thing is there are places around the country where you can drive 20 miles and during the entire trip you can see wind turbines that I’ve put up. You can see things that I’ve done from outer space. Go to Google Maps and you’ll see my work. That was very rewarding because not only did the projects make electricity that we sold into the power grid and reduced our reliance on fossil fuels, but there was a real human element to it too. That effort changed the lives of thousands of lives in New York, Michigan, Texas, New Hampshire, Maine, etc. It gave the farmers sources of income that they needed for times when commodity prices were low, and they would have been in big trouble without the wind lease income. All of my employees from that era largely still work in the business, and now here we are 15 years later and people who I hired at entry levels are running companies in the sector. It has all been very personally rewarding.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
I think I’m very close to my nuclear family- my wife and kids, my brothers and sisters, and my mom. We have a very close-knit family. I appreciate my wife and kids every day. That’s how I try to spend my time when I’m not at work, with my kids and my wife. That’s definitely what I do outside of work.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I think I’ll still be working, and I think the company will be bigger. I think the future is bright. It really is a play on the future, and in a good way. As a society and an economy, we have to become more energy efficient. We have to transition to renewable energy sources, and we have to electrify our transportation system. We can’t waste what in reality are precious resources like water. I think the next five years will be great.