The following is an interview I conducted with Tyrone Greene, with whom I started chatting when I visited his food truck, The Dark Side of the Moo. He's a former trader of precious metals who has made the leap to leave Wall Street and work for himself, and I think his story will be of tremendous value to WSO. Enjoy!
1. How did you? Was it your first job after university?
Trading was something I wanted to do for a long time but naturally it is competitive. I, then moved to risk management, then to middle office and . It was down to two things, hard work and luck. There was a re-organisation of front office when a new head took over. One of the actions was to shift some of the older high earners out and get some fresh meat. I was in the right place at the right time. It took 6 years, 5 promotions, and 3 countries (I started in London, moved to Toronto then finally New York to become a trader).
2. Trading is obviously a very high-stress world and has a steep learning curve. How did you adjust to life on the floor, and how did you handle the stress?
Well working for a Bank we were called trading "upstairs." Downstairs refers to the actual trading floor or pits where you see the shouting going on, that's more stressful. It's a good question. There is no real magic formula to handling the stress, work hard party hard! It's important to not get caught up in the numbers or you won't pull the trigger. A small position is 10 lots of Gold, that's 10 x 100 oz. At $1600 an ounce it's $1,600,000 notional value. Don't think of it as a $1.6m bet, just 10 chips, beans, whatever, works. You have to have a gamblers mentality. Hate to be blunt but you need balls, you can't learn that, with that the stress is less daunting.
3. Where did you get the idea for Dark Side of the Moo? Did you plan to do it from the start of your career, or did the idea just come to you one day at your desk?
The idea came at dinner. The day after Thanksgiving a few weeks after Superstorm Sandy. I was at dinner with friends and we started talking about working for ourselves and what could be done. Someone (might have been me I don't recall) mentioned how there were a bunch of foodtrucks that came into Hoboken where I live in the aftermath due to the flooding and no power. That was it. A light bulb went off in my head and I thought, "I want to do this."
4. When did you finally make the decision to leave finance?
It was a slow process. I lost my job at the Bank in 2009. I was getting burnt out and increasingly disillusioned. An outsider might presume it's a meritocracy where the best trader make's the most money. Not true. It's very much a case of shared information about who's doing what, picking offpeople befoer they pick you off. We were a small Bank, when I ran the precious metals options book you'd know which Bank used which broker. If we heard that
So after leaving I was in no rush to jump back in. A few months later I got a job at a hedge fund. Now for the big bucks right? But that was a terrible environment, every few hours "How much money are you making?" After 3 weeks I left.
Then I started trading for myself while I tried to figure out what to do next. A good day led to another, etc and before I knew it I had my job,. It was great fun being my own boss, seeing the profit and loss and knowing how much I made. But, after about two years I was getting claustrophic. I'd spend 18 hours watching the screens or my iphone. I needed to get out of the house. So what to do next? I wrote a book about my trading experience. Then I decided to go into business anaylsis/consulting for trading platforms. It wasn't very exciting but there was an element of creativity that appealed to me. While studying for certification Sandy came along and that was that. It really was a case of one day I'm a trader, the next day I'm going to set up a food truck, an epiphany if you will.
5. How did trading prepare you for running your own business?
Most important lesson is networking. I hated that notion before but you never know who can do what for you down the line. Information is everything. Befoer it was who is trading what, now it's "There's this event..." Another aspect would putting your balls on the line. Every day in trading you do it and then you need to figure out what do you do if it goes wrong? Am I right but the market is wrong? Do I take the hit or double down? Someone once told me, can you explain why you have the position you do? Why are you bullish Gold right here, right now? If you can't then get out. So similarly I had to have conviction in what I was offering, on the days it didn't work you have to ask yourself objectively (if that's possible) "Am I doing the right thing? Do I need to change me menu/marketing/banding, etc."
Other than that I learnt more from working in McDonald's for 5 years!
6. How did you get Dark Side of the Moo off the ground?
It was easier to start up than you might think. I might have set a land speed record. But making it actually work took longer. I went from my 'A-ha' moment to hitting the streets in 4 months. When I get into something I give it absolutely everything so I spent 60-80 hours a week researching menus, ideas, legal issues, health code, tax, all kind of things. Once I figured out a truck would be difficult to run in Hoboken due to law changes I then searched for a cart/trailer. I found a vendor in China, looked into the importing consequences and pushed the button. I started with pulled pork and that was all. I'm told mine is pretty decent and it seemed that it would be easy to serve. I figured burgers would be a suitable menu addition. I couldn't think of a good name related to pulled pork so tried burgers. "Dark Side Of The Moo" came to me in a dream and I woke up laughing. Googled it, then took it. I held an online logo design contest with the mandate of "cartoon cow but not chilidish, non-descript expression, sunglasses." I love my logo. The winner was from Jordan. The internet allows so much for a business like this these days like social media. I had to learn Facebook, I never had an account before this.
7. Do you ever have days when you miss trading?
None. I still follow the markets. My background is Economics. The markets are the purest form of perfect competition in the real world. More buyers than sellers, the price goes up, simple. [NOTE, I am aware that it is NOT as pure as I had previously thought]. There are times when I think I can see a big move coming and do nothing and kick myself when it happens. I still put on the odd trade but nothing major, just for kicks. The rush I get now from someone posting a great review or a customer coming up to me and saying "That was amazing" is huge. I also feel it's real. Sure making money is real but what did I do to make the world a better place?
8. If we want to read more about this in your book, what is it called and how can we order it?
Sure it's called Gold Fix: Life on The Bullion Desk by Fabian Krazinski. It's an. It was very therapeutic writing it. I'm looking forward to a sequel, working title "Trading-In Commodities: From Precious Metals to Pork Bellies."