We had the good fortune of connecting with Gene Folkes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gene, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My thoughts on risk centers on it’s potential to affect positive change. Typically, most of us, when considering risk, mention it in a negative connotation. However, when considering alternatives, seeking solutions, and identifying areas for improvement, risk is necessary to transform organizations, so that, they can improve the products and services they offer to stakeholders, and consumers. In my career as a Management Consultant and Wealth Manager, my responsibility to my clients and my organization was to identify those risk factors that could negatively impact a clients portfolio and to diversify their portfolio to minimize the downside. As a Consultant, our primary function is to assess and analyze potential risk to protect our clients exposure to unforeseen liabilities, identify potential opportunities they can capitalize on in order to increase organizational value and improve internal efficiencies. As it relates to my life, risk is not something to be avoided and it has been a constant companion that I have learned to embrace. Whenever I have taken a personality assessment, I was surprised to discover that I am not risk averse, in fact, it has served as the catalyst that feeds my desire toward being the best person I can be. In fact, I conducted a personal SWOT analysis during grad school, which helped me to capitalize on how to embrace risk and use it to become a better, more vulnerable human being. So, this idea that risk is something to be avoided, has its’ basis in fear, it is something to be assessed and managed, so that with proper application, it can serve to bring about change that positively improves the value that individuals and organizations have to offer their community.
What should our readers know about your business?
Presently, I am a partner in a Hedge Fund based in New York called MCL Capital Management and I serve as a Management Consultant for Folkes International Group, Inc., or what we love to call FIG, which is based here in DFW. Although, COVID has negatively impacted my organization, what I am most proud of is the attitude and commitment of our team. Folkes International Group, Inc. is a Veteran-Owned organization and presently, the majority of our organizational leaders are women. Now, this is not a marketing tool, it is because we chose to seek out and attract the best and brightest and these individuals embraced our corporate vision, our values and our commitment to deliver the best services and solutions to our internal and external stakeholders. Our organization focuses on providing strategic, operational, and project management solutions to solve the challenges faced by small to mid-sized organizations so that they can be more competitive with larger organizations. We guide our clients from working IN the business, to working ON the business. Our motto is “We see what other’s can’t” Our organization continues to grow, however, it is our intention to not forsake the intimate way we engage our clients for the sake of growth. Frankly, for a boutique firm like ours, this has been one of the most challenging times we are facing, there are days that have been tense, but, it is the same challenge that all organizations are facing. So, we have taken an internal look, to uncover new ways to engage our clients, grow our organization without sacrificing our values or our ability to deliver. I am also a partner in MCL Capital. My partners and I have been affiliated with Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Goldman Sachs and several other investment banks. Three of my partners are mathematicians who developed an investment strategy that has historically outperformed the S&P 500. Besides our commitment to delivering excellent returns for our clients, we also provide financial education and literacy for investors of color as well. One of the things I am most proud of is that we a re a minority-led Hedge Fund, the importance of that is that research shows that organizations led by women and people of color outperform our white counterparts by 33%. This serves to the benefit our clients, stakeholders, and community. I am where I am in business today, because of my ability to focus, be persistent, and resilient. As a man of color serving in the financial sector, it has not been easy at all. But, I believe that by holding on to my personal and professional core values, treating all my clients with respect, remaining committed to mastery, and by holding on to my faith, I could address the systemic and institutional mechanisms designed to work against me with competence, elegance, and grace. While we still have a long way to go, what I have learned is that organizations must seek to acquire talent from all walks of life in order to be transformative, create innovative solutions, and offer solutions for the betterment of humankind.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of my favorite places to take my friends that visit DFW is the Dallas Museum of Art. I have long been a supporter of the DMA, because they offer programs for almost everyone. ON Sundays, there would be jazz in the atrium, there are things to do for families as well. When I worked at Merrill Lynch, I would hop on the dart and spend my lunch hour just viewing the artwork, it gave me a sense of solace. Then, I would make sure we visited the African American Museum located on Grand Ave. We would then travel to North Dallas, take a left on Legacy drive and stop into the Asian Food Court and see a friend of mine who makes THE BEST Sushi in the area! To cap off the trip, we would visit The Smoking Lamp Cigar Lounge in Allen to smoke a cigar, catch a game or just hang out with friends that I have known there for a decade. The next day, I would make sure we took a trip to Jamaica Gates in Arlington for some homestyle Jamaican cooking. There are so many places to hang out in DFW, there is something for everyone, Inwood Theatre is a fun place to go, Of course, The Shops of Legacy has so much variety, that you could spend an entire week visiting each shop. One of the most interesting and exciting parts of Dallas is south. Music, Food, Entertainment, South Dallas has The Smoking Jacket Cigar Lounge, Fair Park, and Absinthe Lounge. These are just a few of my favorite places I would explore with my out of town friends.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Wow! There are numerous organizations and individuals that have encouraged and inspired me along the way, So, if I forget anyone, please hold it to the limitations of this interview. There are two books that inspired me, 1. Mastery by George Leonard and 2. The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steve Peters. I recall reading a book entitled Mastery by George Leonard over a decade ago. To this day, it is a book I return to because it reminds me that whenever I am faced with what initially seems to be a difficult task, I know that it will become progressively easier to accomplish and will actually become enjoyable through practice. One of the key takeaways for me is that there are no experts, only learners, so, this encourages me to seek out those learning opportunities that make me a more effective leader and a better person. The second book that influenced me is The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Peters, briefly, the book is about awareness of controlling our emotions in order to deliver our absolute best, whether that is as an athlete or as a universal tool, the concepts presented in the book can help us live a more productive life. Finally, I must give a shoutout to The United States Air Force Recruiting Academy. When I entered the USAF, I was a scrawny, shy, insecure young man, who had come from an emotionally, physically and abusive home. However, I was also very driven and I wanted to make something of myself. So, I convinced my mother that perhaps enlisting in the Air Force would help me earn a college degree and allow me support her and my siblings. It was not until I was elected to become an Air Force Recruiter, that I learned how to connect with the gifts and talents that I did not know I possessed. My attendance at the Recruiting and Leadership Academy helped me find my voice, and in finding my voice, my confidence grew. As I reflect on one of the most challenges careers in the military, I was trained to be a servant leader and I had a direct, positive impact on the lives of those men and women who desired to serve. I managed to serve. It was those skills that I learned as an Air Force Recruiter that led me to integrate my core values of duty, honor and service into every interaction with the organizations I worked for, my own organization, and with those in my community. Recently, I have been honored to have several young men from all backgrounds to engage me seeking mentorship, not that I personally feel like anyone’s mentor, but, there is a need and a sense of responsibility make myself available to listen, guide and advise them in a way that I wish I had been guided to living a life of purpose, while avoiding the stumbling blocks I faced. Ironically, I find that I am learning more from them, then they are from me. So, I consider these individuals as a source of encouragement for helping to write my story.