Manju Mastakar – She didn’t follow the path, she created one

  1. Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers.

Armstrong Capital & Financial Services is a firm that specializes in financial planning and wealth management. Before we give advice, we endeavor to comprehend all of the client’s financial obligations, both short and long-term. We provide them a detailed picture of how their finances would look in ten years and what their annuity will be when they retire. At Armstrong, we specialize in end-to-end financial planning, our main services include financial planning, mutual fund advisory, and wealth management. Our Financial Plans are the key distinction; they are comprehensive and serve as the foundation for our Advisory we keep coming back to our ideas, followed by Advice.

  1. Give a brief overview of your background and your role in the company.

I began working at the age of 19 as an intern in a CA firm, where I got an opportunity to audit stockbrokers and traders. In the early 2000s, I worked as an advisor for reputable stockbrokers, offering equities to HNI customers. In 2007, I relocated to Bangalore and worked for a global bank. After being laid off by the company in 2008 due to the recession, I decided to establish my own business.
That is when my entrepreneurial journey began. The customers I had worked with were left without an advisor, and they became my first clients; encouraging me to continue my journey.

From a small home office, I started my new professional life, my motherhood and entrepreneurship journeys started together. In 2010, an investor approached me and I decided to take my venture to the next level. Although I had a decade of corporate experience working at various levels in the Securities business, entrepreneurship was totally different. From 2014 forward, the company did well, by then we had a strong customer base, and I had additional workers to assign work to and we grew as a team.

  1. Kindly mention some of the primal challenges that you faced during the initial phase of your journey.

As with every other entrepreneur, I endured several problems and setbacks in the early phases of my career.

Funding – I had no trouble raising seed funding, but it was far more difficult to get growth capital; investors would question, “How are you different?” Why are you doing this when there are so many others who are doing the same thing? I needed to find long-term investors who were prepared to put money into my company as part of their retirement plans. I needed to raise a smaller sum from a larger number of investors.

Multitasking – In my first year of the company, I just had one other person on my team. Therefore, we had to multitask. I was responsible for marketing, sales, client meetings, after-sales services, software uploading, and virtually everything else, including authoring the text for marketing materials. Many of these tasks were new to me, however, I learned how to do them over time.
Reinvestment – Because our firm is entirely driven by people, I had to keep investing in resources and technology improvements to help the top-line growth. To attain scalability, I needed to invest in the firm, which meant lesser earnings and a limited budget for incentives and increments. Employees who choose to work with me understanding that we are plowing profits for a better tomorrow stayed put and stuck along others walked out.

Credibility – We had a HUGE competitor – MNC banks’ wealth management divisions with a strong brand and cutting-edge technology. We had to compete with them, and our clients would ask harsher questions about our investment solutions proposals. They’d start with a little investment to test the waters, and then gradually increase the amount once we’d proven we were doing a decent job.

Every day there was a new challenge and today when I look back I bundle all those experiences into one word that’s called struggle.

  1. What were the past experiences, achievements, or lessons that shaped your journey as a successful women leader?

There was always gender inequality, and very few women desired to work in the financial markets. The market was dominated by men, who spoke in a regional dialect peppered with expletives and profanity. This would make the work much more difficult because a fresher expects a lot of motivation at the entry level.

Before recommending, I had to do a lot of research — please note that this was before Google when information was not readily available on the internet. I needed to go to the library and look for magazines, books, and shareholder reports, read them, and take notes before writing a research report. My colleagues, supervisors, and clients all praised these reports. My seniors, who had years of market experience, would ask me about my opinions and recommendations.
Research is a must. The important traits that have helped me come a long way have been hours of hard effort and a customer-focused attitude.

  1. Describe some of the vital attributes that every transformational leader should possess.

If a leader wants to innovate, he or she must listen to younger people, allow them to make decisions, and ask less WHY?? Young minds are the finest at conceiving new ideas.

A leader must have a deeper understanding of the individuals who work with him or her; this understanding will enable him or her to allocate the new task/innovative task to the appropriate employee.

When it comes to innovation, a leader must be patient. There will be many mistakes and detours in the route of innovation, and it will take a long time for customers to accept it. The concept and its variations will continue to evolve. As innovation takes a long time and a lot of money, the leader must be patient and inspire employees to persevere. The leader may be frustrated, but flaunting it will make things worse. A successful leader is one who maintains the pressure, compartmentalizes within, and encourages others outside.

  1. Do clients typically accept your recommendations?

Every recommendation could not be a winning strategy; I advise my customers to consider the long term; stock markets change, and every recommendation we make may appear to be a losing proposition in the near run. We keep to our shortlisting method and present customers with a few alternatives, explaining the rationales and numerous scenarios that may arise, and including them in the decision-making process.

  1. How did you treat your employees and what do you do to keep them motivated?

Our employees are the face of our company, therefore, we promote a lot of mentoring learning since we deal with a lot of client emotions. By sharing these experiences, employees learn from one another. We also put a lot of emphasis on internships as a means of developing and refining emerging talent, and we have a program just for them. We are open to fresh ideas from newcomers, and we frequently offer students from different professions a chance. To innovate, I believe you should have never learned it before.

  1. What has been the key to your success?

I believe in developing business processes and tools that make it easier for someone with low skills to take on a high-skill job. For example, we’ve produced a number of macros that simplify difficult financial calculations so that even a low-skilled employee can complete a financial plan or a reallocation plan.

Another key element is time management. I assign non-productive activities and concentrate on the essential business.
Keep investing in the business – some ventures fail, while others succeed, and the ones that do pay out well, so I keep trying new things.
Nobody can teach you how to run a business; only mistakes can teach you so keep trying something new every time, and your success rates will rise.

  1. In a Nut Shell how did you grow your business and how do you stay motivated ?

When I started Armstrong Capital & Financial Services, out of my home office I was the single person, then I moved to a business center and hired 2 more employees, later on to a shared office and then a bigger facility. I would say start small keep your overheads in control. On the Business front first I concentrated on our products, such as the financial plan and the research required for fund recommendations, then on customer service, which is necessary for quick transactions, and finally on business growth sales and pre-sales. Building a self-sustainable business requires a lot of time, work, energy, and patience.

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