Lawrence S. Chu is a Managing Director at Moelis & Company where he provides financial and strategic advice to large cap companies globally, with a concentration on the communications, media and technology sectors. Mr. Chu has over 20 years of experience in this role. Prior to joining Moelis & Company, Mr. Chu was appointed Special Adviser to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Before the FCC, Mr. Chu was a Managing Director at Greenhill & Co. and prior to that, was a Managing Director at Evercore Partners.
Mr. Chu graduated magna cum laude (Phi Beta Kappa) from New York University with a degree in Computer Science. He is President of the Board of Trustees as well as a member of the Nursery School Board of Directors and Governance Committee of The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York. Mr. Chu is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Friends Academy in Locust Valley, New York.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
Growing up poor, my only hope for a secondary education was a scholarship. As any good son of a Chinese immigrant can attest, working hard in school is honoring your family’s name. When in college all of my peers who were driven wanted to get into the banking field. I decided if that is where I can go to challenge myself, that is what I will do. So, I forged my way, sleeping under my desk 100+ hours a week. I was motivated by pure girt.
How do you make money?
The field of advisory banking is truly based on relationships. One’s reputations often speaks for itself, therefore, it is paramount to be fully involved in every aspect of a project, and to always give your honest advice even if not what the client necessarily wants to hear.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I was basically profitable from day one since the costs of my business are largely just me. That said, obtaining clients and revenue is the hard part.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
A few years into the early part of my career, I left banking for a nine-month stint at a communications company, MPower in Rochester, New York. I had worked on the team coving this client and when I got an offer to run corporate development I went from a young pauper trying to survive NYC to soaring the corporate edge. But then, it quickly came crashing down when the company tanked into bankruptcy. I doubted the decision I made. Later in my life, I see that was one of the best decisions I made for myself. That experience gave me such insight into the corporate world, which has made be a better banker. I will always cherish it, and Rochester. Though I do not miss the winters there.
How did you get your first customer?
I got my first customer through a lot of work. I provided the right advice and stayed in touch. My first customer knew my capabilities and trusted me. To this day, all my business is reference based. I am very thankful to have such talented and dynamic clients.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Primarily it is word of mouth. There is nothing more crucial than client relationships. Especially in my field, large cap M&A and the corporate board rooms are much smaller than you would think. A reputation for honesty and integrity are critical in business and in life.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
The possibility of missing my daughter’s first day of school. A conflict arose on my schedule as a board session was called for one of my client’s. They had been approached with a hostile takeover letter and I was needed in person on the other side of the country. I struggled with not being there for such a monumental moment in her life. But my duty called. Fortunately for me, in inclement weather prohibited my clients from arriving to the west coast so the meeting was moved and I made it to school drop off without incident. And I was able to be a part of a terrific photo op for the family album.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
My sincere enthusiasm for the story that each client portrays to the markets. My goal is to get each client to see the larger picture and how their choices live in the history they are weaving.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Being asked to serve in the Obama Administration. I spent seven months as a Special Advisor to the Federal Communications Commission. Serving my Country made me proud, and doing it as an unpaid employee, volunteering my time. It is truly a rewarding experience to give back to my country in any way that I can.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
The technological advances that are relevant today make my business ever changing. It keeps me interested and on my toes. Immediacy of communications and change is a profound change in the lives of every business.
What business books have inspired you?
“Building a Story Brand” by Donald Miller. While obvious on many fronts, it highlights a way client centric way of thinking that is very helpful. I’d highly recommend it to others.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
Global Entry. I travel so much that it and TSA Pre Check are a requirement.
Name one item you cannot live without.
My wife and my daughters. They are my everything and the only reason I work.