I'm A Former Trader Who Now Owns A Food Truck: Ask Me Anything
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 break into trading? Was it your first job after university?
Trading was something I wanted to do for a long time but naturally it is competitive. I started in back office, then moved to risk management, then to middle office and eventually into front office. 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 Goldman or JPM was taking a large punt I would just piggyback and copy. Information is everything.
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, prop trading for myself. 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 ebook on Amazon. It was very therapeutic writing it. I'm looking forward to a sequel, working title "Trading-In Commodities: From Precious Metals to Pork Bellies."
going to hunt this down in Hoboken.
Yes and Jersey City.
Would be delighted to have you try us
I am curious to know what kind of revenue a food truck can bring in...
How much revenue are you bringing in? (ballpark)
What are your margins looking like?
Margins are healthy. Restaurants aim for 4:1 on food but this ratio drops the higher end you go. They rely on selling alcohol to survive. We have lower overhead (but much greater risk) and aim for 3:1, but it varies. That's just food. Add labor, insurance, rent, permits it disappears quickly.
Look up food truck economics on Pricenomics. Interesting read on food trucks and all the nitty gritty
After reading this I actually searched around a bit and did read this article. Definitely interesting...
Isn't everyone. My first day I brought in $10. Good days can run to $5k. Good trucks with good locations can easy bring in $500k p.a.
A very interesting read. In my sleepy part of the mid-west the real winner with this food truck craze has been the owner of a liquor store who rents out his downtown parking lot to food trucks.
Smart guy. Every municipality has it's own rules about what you can and can't do. Make's expansion difficult.
Why is AMA in the title?
Ask Me Anything
1-2 extra employees on the truck?
I imagine margins aren't too bad if food costs don't soar (no organic).
It is one chef and me full time. Now it's the busy season and a second vehicle is on the way total staff will will be 6. I customise my menu to my market. I'll be involved in farmers markets this Summer and will have organic procude and grass-fed beef.
@justjoshinyou I can't tell if you're trolling or not..
Neither can I
I wouldn't post margins or profits here because if chicks google your name (and their somewhat smart) ... let's just say betches be crey crey.
This sounds like an idiotic life....... I'm not even being mean. Please for the love of God, don't waste your valuable MS on me.
Gee, I sure wish we were all as cool as you.
LeveragedWanker - you probably never worked in banking your whole life or have just started. There is more to life than money when you have it. With an attitude like that you'll crash and burn a few times, it will humble you out. Good luck.
OP - very cool idea the food truck, I am seeing a lot of my friends leaving the floor to go and start something they always wanted to do. A friend of mine is now going to help coach a premier league football club. Another one is selling shoes that she creates. One day i'll break out of my golden handcuffs, just you wait!
I'll happily respond if I know what the question is. Sorry don't know what MS means
Mad props for the name, I LOL'd.
In case the interviewee is available for answering questions, there must be a tremendous life style change from trading to running a food truck. How was it handling that change? Also (apologies in advance if this seems blunt), do you genuinely believe this has potential to be a long term career with a sustainable income?
Thanks, I get a lot of smiles with the name. Honestly the change wasn't bad for me but I'm the type that's not afraid to get his hands dirty. Many, many days I'd stand there and ask myself "What am I doing?!" but the satisfaction you get from building something tangible is immense. Like planting a seed and watching it grow, it feels like a miracle. Your second statement, not blunt, reasonable question. I went in to this with the view of see where this goes. I believe it will take 3 years to understand what the full potential is. I set intermediary goals. Last year one vehicle, see if I like it, see if people like what I'm doing, etc. In 2 weeks I started making money, in 2 months I started making a realistic income, in 3 months I had earned back all start up costs. I've ordered a second vehicle and am looking for a restaurant. As I see it right now, by the end of this season I won't be in the trenches anymore, it will largely run itself with minimal oversight. The worst case is it will be a side earner generating 6 figs net. franchising? Selling out? World domination? All possibilities.
In what ways can you oversee the truck from afar? I never met a bartender who didn't try to rationalize skimming a few bucks off the top.
Dark Side of the Moo is pretty cool; they have a nice selection of different sausages (made from a variety of game--e.g., alligator). They frequent the pier in Hoboken and it's nice to have a few beers (on the pier) and then grab a bite.
Kudos for going after something you really enjoy! I'll say hi and introduce myself the next time around!
Thanks chron3k. I love what I do.
I liked this, but you should take the Ask Me Anything out of the title.
See below. He's answering questions now.
Great to hear about your new career! Not sure if you've seen this yet, but Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income guy) just launched FoodTruckr to help guys like you. Might be worth a look if you haven't seen it already:
Definitely worth visiting his truck/cart. Menu is unusual and the food is tasty!
@Bobb : I know, that's so arbitrary and bizarre. Past 11pm drunk crowds must be peak hours!
Would you mind expanding on your experience with the logo competition? What was turnaround time like and what costs are involved for something like that?
my best friend's half-sister makes $74 an hour on the computer . She has been out of a job for 8 months but last month her check was $20328 just working on the computer for a few hours. go to website ................ w-w-w.j-o-b-s-e-g.c-o-m
Drive that baby outside KKR, and I'll pop down with H.
This is very sad, but warms my heart when quitters find all kinds of excuses to quit. World needs discoball makers too.
Why would you choose this business? I bet it's not a easy job though.
Didn't read other comments. Just curious, how interested in food were you before you started this? Did you do a lot of cooking?
Or was this more of a - I'm tired of looking at a screen all day I need to talk to people sort of decision? I've noticed a lot of people getting technology "burnout", needing to detox these days
Menu looks fuckin' tasty
Interesting story. I went from the food business to finance, and you the other way around. I wish you the best!
Logo and menu are awesome. Definitely wanna try the kangaroo burg
Thank you for your post, great read!
What do you think are the growth opportunities of your business once it reaches maturity?
Et ut assumenda vero. Atque nihil natus sit hic possimus eum. Similique quaerat nihil nulla. Id facere et nesciunt qui natus at qui. Quibusdam est quia itaque sit explicabo.
Nulla voluptas sed et rerum non accusantium beatae. Et magnam suscipit quaerat maxime veritatis. Odit sunt non est nobis repellendus nisi. Nemo sed perferendis molestias unde voluptas aut.
Voluptatibus molestias iusto quidem animi ex vitae ab vitae. Quo tenetur nam recusandae quis. Quam doloribus dicta quis. Accusamus ratione dolore optio officia. Dolores quam magnam unde rerum deserunt.
Molestias laboriosam vero autem esse. Totam asperiores magnam esse autem. Dolorum ut odio maxime ut consequatur.
See All Comments - 100% Free
WSO depends on everyone being able to pitch in when they know something. Unlock with your email and get bonus: 6 financial modeling lessons free ($199 value)
or Unlock with your social account...
Necessitatibus eligendi incidunt quis vitae est voluptates est. In ex provident consequatur rerum quod. Cupiditate commodi facere provident dolore maxime ut fuga.
A at deserunt saepe eos iste doloremque. Repellat tempore doloremque perferendis culpa est. Molestias incidunt neque eos distinctio. Culpa quia explicabo et voluptatibus. Consequatur qui vero autem.
Et adipisci culpa sed nulla. Qui est accusamus omnis consequuntur. Numquam rerum reprehenderit sit itaque.
Inventore labore quia animi pariatur nulla. Aut dicta voluptatem expedita minima aspernatur et sequi rerum. Possimus accusamus deserunt expedita eius officia nam aliquam atque. Placeat cumque dolore cum velit. Et odit porro est.
Beatae molestiae consectetur consequuntur velit. Saepe quis officia officia autem accusantium. Ut asperiores et tempore dolore voluptates nostrum. Quia impedit dicta atque dolores in at earum. Animi molestiae repellat quo.