Powerful Secrets to Success from a Marine
Chris Maloney, Co-Founder at CauseEngine
by, Chris Dessi
My first “Success” interview is with Chris Maloney. I love this guy. Chris and I met when he interned for me. Chris is a military veteran. He’s also an entrepreneur, and reservist. Chris even invited me to speak about digital & social media to his colleagues at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Chris has helped Silverback Social work on social media campaigns. He also worked with us on last year’s Westchester Digital Summit. I consider Chris a huge success. I should have been paying him to consult for me rather than have him intern. He wanted to learn about digital marketing. So he took an unpaid internship to immerse himself in our industry. He taught me more about operations and how to run my agency than I could ever teach him. He’s also a great guy, and a great friend. Here we go.
CD: Chris, when we first met you were spending weekends flying missions for the US military. You were also spending alternating off weekends down at the New Jersey shore helping your Dad renovate your hotel. You found time to work on your MBA at Fordham University as well. All this while being one of most valuable employees at Silverback. How do you manage it all? Do you have a secret regarding your time management?
Chris Maloney: I’m definitely better giving time management advice than heeding it. I’m a habitual procrastinator and try to fill my schedule and take on as many tasks to avoid the creep of laziness. The past two years in NYC have been a sort whack-a-mole of missions, mostly self-generated, to figure out what the next chapter would be after about ten years active duty in the Marine Corps. When I find work quality degrading, I know it’s time to stop, reprioritize, and cut whatever excess exists – then re-attack.
Since my time at Silverback, I’ve throttled back on motel operations and my Dad continues to run the show down in Strathmere, NJ. I was doing too much last year with a full-time MBA, internships, trying to run a veterans organization at Fordham, revive an old American Legion in Greenwich Village, and fulfill my commitment to the Marine Corps reserves. Right now I’m focusing on my last two MBA classes, the reserves, and mostly CauseEngine, a company I co-founded that connects talented freelancers to nonprofits to drive operations and social impact.
OPEN was one acronym I took on last year. I asked Gerry Byrne, a Fordham Alumni, Marine Vietnam Veteran, and former publisher of Variety magazine, almost the same question you’re asking me. He said to OPEN your day: Organize, Prioritize, Execute, and Navigate.
CD: I have a tremendous amount of respect for the military. I was even more impressed when I met the men and women that you serve with. What do you think about on Memorial Day? Like, is it a profound day of introspection for you? Or are you spending the day out and about experiencing as much as you can in this great country of ours?
Chris Maloney: I’ve noticed many servicemen and women that get bent out of shape because the majority of America doesn’t know the meaning of Memorial Day. I get it but I don’t subscribe to the “I’m a veteran, hear me roar” mindset. Besides heading to veterans’ cemeteries with my Dad when I was younger I didn’t have a clue either. It wasn’t until I went to the Naval Academy and then served and deployed a few times that I really grasped the meaning of the day. To be honest, everyday is Memorial Day for me now. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the likes of Michael LiCalzi, Travis Manion, Brendan Looney (this list could go on for awhile) and attempt to live my life reaching for the standard they set. The official day is more a tip of the cap for me, acknowledging those men and women that stepped into the arena and laid it all out for their country and more importantly, their brothers and sisters serving beside them. My introspection is also directly proportional to my alcohol consumption! America was, is, and will be in good hands – for that I’m grateful, and hope our citizens are too.
CD: During your tenure at Silverback you had a harrowing experience when lightening hit your plane. What was that like? Did your training kick in, or did you have a true “oh shit, I’m a deadman” thought?
Chris Maloney: A little lightening was no big deal! I’m kidding. I was scared shitless. My thought process: Did that just happen? (That’s never happened before.) Am I alive? Yes. Are we in the air? Yes. Is the aircraft flying the way it should be? Yes. Are we on fire? No. Ok. We need to land now. Luckily I was in the plane with some very experienced Marines and crew-members and landed safely without an issue.
CD: I’m obsessed with CrossFit. It’s changed my body. I also feel like I need to work out to be successful. I have a clear mind, and feel more focused after I work out. How much does your fitness regiment contribute to your success?
Chris Maloney: I’m like the Irish guy in the movie Braveheart when I don’t workout – “not right in the head.” I can’t focus. I really think when you work out in the morning you set the tone for the day. We are meant to move. I don’t belong to a CrossFit gym but think the workouts are the best around.
CD: Why the military? What got you there? Are you from a military family? Were you affected by September 11th? I’m so curious what draws guys like you to service? What’s your journey been like?
Chris Maloney: Those are some big questions. My Dad served over 30 years in the Marine Corps. He was a helicopter pilot, flew President Reagan and was the Commanding Officer of a squadron as a reservist. As a little kid I wanted to be like him and his fellow Marines. I sometimes forget that my Mom was an Air Force nurse for a few years too. I think she outranked him when they met. Both my grandfathers served in the Navy and Air Force as well so, yes, I guess you could say I come from a military family but it was never forced on us growing up.
My journey in a few sentences: I received a commission in the Marine Corps after graduation and began bouncing around the country training to be a pilot. For the most part, I was based out of San Diego and ended up deploying to Iraq once and Afghanistan three times. I did one tour on the ground with the infantry, serving as a Forward Air Controller – the guy who calls in air strikes or medevac flights. 9/11 served and still serves as a reminder of why we do what we do.
CD: You’ve seen military success. Now business success. What do you consider your biggest success thus far? What else do you want to do?
Chris Maloney: Biggest success was playing a small part in helping everyone in our company (Kilo Company, 3rdBattalion 7th Marines) come home alive from Afghanistan in 2010. We were blessed with some incredible leadership and some very aggressive, but smart, Marines and Sailors.
I’d like to have an impact wherever I go. Right now that means building out the CauseEngine brand and platform. I’d love to see this company take off and be the single source powering the social sector – giving professionals and freelancers an outlet to use their skills doing good (and getting paid) and giving nonprofits a place to find on-demand talent to grow their impact and cause.
CD: You run a hotel with your Dad, you have a business partner. You’re doing lot’s of entrepreneurial things. What’s that been like? Do you see yourself continuing to create businesses with Dad? Has that been difficult?
Chris Maloney: My Dad and I are pretty stubborn and that sometimes leads to an Irish Marine standoff and not a lot of communication. Like I said, I’m passively involved right now. I think doing business with family always has risks but I wouldn’t make the blanket statement that people should never do business with family or friends. I’m one of three founders at CauseEngine and the managing director, James Brobyn, was my college roommate. We never worked with each other so it’s been a learning experience, especially operating remotely. James is in Wilmington, DE and Mackenzie Padell is in Virginia Beach, VA. We are finally grabbing an office space in Philly so that is exciting and will change the dynamic. To note, both James and Mac are former successful executive directors and incredible humans. If you want to support some high impact veteran organizations, check out the Travis Manion Foundation and 31 Heroes Project when you have a chance.
CD: You’re presented with stressful situations while on military missions. How do you cope? Do you meditate? How do you define “down time.” Does that mean time with family, or does that just mean beers with the guys. How do you unwind?
Chris Maloney: Easier said than done, but leave the emotions out of it, operate like a surgeon, and deal with the feelings after the mission.
I’m Catholic but not a Bible thumper. For me, attending Mass is a good place to center my chi and have some quiet time. I try to go every week. My family and friends are unbelievably supportive and a big part of why I moved back to the east coast. I like to carpe as much diem as I can during my down time and there’s always something to do in NYC and Philly.
CD: Best day of your life?
Chris Maloney: October 14, 2010.
CD: Worst day of your life?
Chris Maloney: October 14, 2010.
CD: Those who read this blog know that my Father has been a huge influence on my life. Is there someone in your life that had helped to define the man you’ve become?
Chris Maloney: Both my parents. My Dad is your old school, no BS, mission oriented, workaholic and my Mom should be nominated for sainthood. She’s the glue and does everything for our family. Both have huge hearts and I’ve learned equally from them. Besides my parents I think many of my coaches and fellow Marines helped define who I am. As a kid I loved Murdock from the “A-Team” and Baloo from the cartoon “Tailspin.”
CD What’s your daily routine. What time do you usually go to bed? What time do you rise?
Chris Maloney: Usually in bed by midnight and up by 7am but sometimes I don’t have a choice when my motivated girlfriend gets up at 5am.
CD: How do you define success? How much does luck account for your successes in life?
Chris Maloney: For me success is making a difference in the world or in someone’s life. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I’d like to be successfully lucky. I have no idea what I just said!
Just be a good person. Stand up for what is right. Give the fucks. If you care enough about something or somebody you’ll find the right opportunity and make luck happen. If it doesn’t happen, take a breath, maybe a Jameson, and try harder. Put the left in front of the right, keep moving, and occasionally give high fives to people you don’t know. Enjoy it all and don’t stop believing. That’s success!
God Bless America, or The Star Spangled Banner?
Star Spangled Banner – the lyrics and the context are pretty awesome.
My daughters know that I hate witches. What (if anything) used the scare the hell out of you as a kid?
The Jersey Devil. Google this thing. I swear it was in our backyard when I was growing up.
Do you have a saying that is your life motto?
I’m a pretty big Teddy Roosevelt and MLK fan.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” –MLK
“Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.” –Teddy Roosevelt
Two of my own:
“Always the people, never the place.”
“Home is where the fart is.”
What keeps you up at night?
Coffee from my 8-10pm classes and not amounting to anything.
When did you consider yourself a success?
I don’t yet, but I think having a family would change that.
Rap or Rock and Roll?
Rock and Roll. Most music these days is mindless crap.
Stick shift or automatic?
Automatic. Smarter, not harder.
Muscle Car or Italian Sports Car?
Hulk Hogan or Rowdy Roddy Piper?
Hulkster. The Ultimate Warrior and the Bushwackers were pretty cool too.
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