November 16, 2022

Lessons My Brothers Taught Me: Charles D. McCarrick

If you are determined to run your own business despite lacking any previous experience, this Author Hour episode is for you. You’ll discover that you already possess the pieces to build your own success. Many people ask for advice on how to start a business, but rarely, how to succeed in a business. Charles McCarrick, founder of Micro-Ant, suggests starting with a question, “Why do you want to go into business?”

What’s up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of Author Hour. I’m your host, Hussein Al-Baiaty and today, I’m very excited to be joined by Charles McCarrick, who is getting ready to share his journey with all of us, so let’s jump in.

Hey, everybody, I’m here with Charlie. I’m super excited to talk about a little bit of his background and the book he’s got coming out. You know, I was doing some research here in the last few days, and I learned so many things about Charlie, and I’m excited to share with all of you, but first, Charlie, how are you doing?

Charles D. McCarrick: I’m doing pretty good.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Well, thank you for joining me today, I really appreciate your time.

Charles D. McCarrick: Oh, the pleasure’s all mine. You know, I’ve never done a podcast before, so I’m really excited to do this.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, I’m so grateful I get to be the first person to interview you, this is great. All right. So Charlie, let’s go back in time a little bit, rewind things a little bit, right? Let’s start by giving our listeners an idea of your personal background and what led you to writing your book.

Charles D. McCarrick: Yeah, I started out my career very slowly, meaning that I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was growing up, and I went into a lot of different directions. I didn’t get any formal training or education ‘till actually I was in my 20s. Up to that point, without a clear direction, I was just going wherever the wind blew me, and then finally, I thought of attending college, and I didn’t have any particular direction at that point, although I did come from a family of engineers.

So I started electrical engineering without any clear idea of what discipline in engineering I would pursue but eventually, it was electrical engineering, and I saw an antenna in one of the communications labs, and I got so excited, it had such an impact on me. So I said, “You know, this is such an interesting, exciting, to think that a technology — I really want to do this.”

I want to learn about antennas, and I knew that so few people were actually studying and had the technology and working in the antenna industry. I thought that, “Well, here’s an opportunity for me to always have a job because everybody needs an antenna, they’re for wireless communication and nobody’s designing them yet. There’s always going to be an opening for somebody like me.” 

So that’s what I studied in college, and then I went and worked for an antenna company called Seavey Engineering. I was there about 15 years or so and had a great time there. I learned so much, but while I was there, the company sold. This happened out from under me, from all of the employees, in fact.

There was, for some reason, it was done quietly so as not to alert any of the employees, and when I heard it, and I thought that I was such an important part of the team and so close to the owner, I simply felt betrayed. But as I sat back, I said, “Well, he has the right to sell the business, but let me not jump to any conclusions and see what the new owner is going to look like and how he’s going to treat me.” 

But when I met the new owner and realized that I was in for an entirely different ride than what I was used to, I knew that it was over. I was done working for any company in which my career, my future, was entirely in the hands of somebody else. I had no control. It didn’t matter how many years I put in, it all meant nothing because somebody can just snap their fingers and say, “It’s over.”

So at that point, I said, “I’m going to start my own business.” And so I went into business selling and designing antennas. The name of the company called Micro-Ant, short for microwave antennas.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: So that was my next question to you. In starting Micro-Ant, you’re obviously like, “Okay, I really want the decision making of my future and what that could look like, I want to take back the reins.” I want to be in control of that because the reality is, no matter how important you are to someone else, that importance or that value can shift, obviously, through your experience. 

So the way you dealt with that is you decided to, “You know what? I’m going to take a bet on myself, I’m going to chance it.” So tell me about that journey. You started this business, what year was this? 

Charles D. McCarrick: This was in 2003.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Okay, so tell me more. You start to grow this business, and what happened after that?

Charles D. McCarrick: You know, I started it on my own and win, lose, succeed, fail, it almost didn’t matter to me at that point. Anything was better than working for somebody else whose – my destiny was in their hands, but again, as I said, it’s a field that’s very important, but there are so few people actually supporting it from an antenna design perspectives. So I had no trouble picking up contracts to do some development work, and the development work eventually led to manufacturing of products. 

So I started hiring people on getting facilities moved on to my basement rented a space, started hiring other engineers, operations people, everything that could, you know, get a fledgling company off the ground.

Siblings Are Unconventional Teachers

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that, man. I mean, you know, I was young, it was like 2005 or so when I started a small T-shirt printing business in my friends barber shop, like, his basement, and so I know that feeling of like, “You know, I just want to do something that I can control,” you know? And this is while I was going to college.

So I can relate to you in that way. The name of your book is, Lessons My Brothers Taught Me, and I think that’s so powerful because man, I mean, I owe pretty much my whole life to my brothers and the things that they taught me throughout life, whether they knew they were teaching me or not, you know, those were the things I picked up because I was the youngest brother.

So tell me about your siblings and kind of the things that they taught you about how you operate life and potentially business?

Charles D. McCarrick: Yeah, well, I have four brothers and a sister. I’m the fifth in line, so that I’m next to the youngest, and I called them lessons but I didn’t call them lessons at the time, and I don’t think they would have called them lessons. These are experiences, really, in which I was getting the sharp end of the stick so to speak, and by lessons, when I was launching the business and I was daily involved with these issues, like customers trying to take advantage of me or vendors and whatnot, I said, “Jeez, I don’t know anything about business. How am I possibly going to succeed at this?” 

I don’t have a background, I don’t have, you know, in business school, I don’t have an MBA. It dawned on me that everything, whether it’s business or it’s actually between people. Any successful transaction requires honest people with integrity, that we’ve set expectations for, and things are really clear, and you’re still going to get, in spite of that, in certain situations and circumstances, where you have to deal with things, and there is no text book that is going to get you through every possible instance, especially when this instance is caused by somebody having say, less than ideal character or out to teach you or putting you in a position where I’m in a huge disadvantage.

As I thought back, I was at these situations many times with my brothers, and I had to negotiate my way thought it. You know, in self-respect or other, and anything that I faced in business was not nearly as difficult as growing up with my family, and that’s not to say that I didn’t have a wonderful childhood, and I love my brothers and there’s no question and my sister in all of that but still, you know, siblings, brothers, sisters, they can be hard on one another. 

They can really put you through the ringer. It’s no different in anything else you engage in, particularly business. There are other people who are there to put you through the ringer, right? Your loss is their gain, and you have to be ready for it, but other times, you find yourself at the middle of it and you have to figure out how to get through intact, and so when I talked about the lessons my brothers taught me, what I mean by that is, experience I lack in terms of business training was made up for by various situations and lessons and whatnot that I went through with my brothers, and was able to apply in my professional life.

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Yeah, I love that so much. In a way, growing up with a lot of siblings, because there’s so many different personalities and dynamics and the way they see the world, even though you grow up in the same roof. I know for me, I’m literally right in line with where you are in the family. 

I’m second to last, I got an older sister, younger sister, four older brothers, and we grew up through a very traumatic situation where I have to go through a refugee camp to come to America, and I got to grow up in America and so for me though, my brothers, they sacrificed a lot. 

In a lot of ways, I learned what not to do and how to communicate. I almost – I feel like I grew up too fast in a way that, like, they didn’t have time to think of me as, “Little brother, I will take care of everything for you.” It was more like, “Come on man, we’re doing this together, and we’re going to…” even though we’re 10 years apart, and so I looked up at them as like my protectors but also training me to live that life. 

They faced a lot of hardships, and so I learned so much for that, and I’m always very grateful for the lessons they taught me, and you’re a 100% right. A lot of those lessons help me so much in building my business. Two of them, you know, ended up working with me in my print shop for quite some time, and I love that so much because we got to grow together in different ways and learn so much from one another, and I think that’s so important. 

The people around you can help build your resilience. When you go out there in the world and you start building a business, like you said, you’re facing and dealing with people and the more different types of people that you’ve managed, to deal with peacefully and accordingly, I think that can help you create success.

You talk about this idea, which I really love in your book, and a lot of people ask like, they want to start a business, and they get really excited about starting a business, especially when you’re young. But you say this idea, “Why do you want to go into business?” and then doing that assessment. Can you share a little bit more about that? 

Why Do You Want to Go into Business?

Charles D. McCarrick: When I suggest to people that I ask themselves and answer the question, “Why do I want to go in business?” because I think that is going to set you on the trajectory that you will ultimately follow in the type of business that you’re going to have. 

For instance, if you want to go into business, simply because, as I did, you did not want to work for corporate America, your goals are a little bit different. If you go into business because I don’t know, you want wealth or you simply want freedom to make your own decisions or simply that you want to be able to create and you don’t want to have any constraints upon you, well, that is going to play a large role in the directions that you take. 

Understanding why you want to go into business, I think, is a critical, and first step to take. A lot of times people will tell me that, “Well, because I simply don’t want to work for anybody else,” but you’d have to remember that person that you work for or that company that you work for, they’re shouldering a lot of the responsibility and the risk that you don’t have to as an employee, but now it’s all yours as a business owner and an entrepreneur. 

So pointing out or asking people just to weigh it all for us, the good with the bad, the benefits with the drawbacks, before you take that step, and when you have convinced yourself that you have an answer to that question that makes sense and that you can get behind and is fueling your determination, then you’re ready, because first and foremost, it’s a frame of mind, right? 

Taking that step and taking that leap, that leap of faith in yourself, and to be able to compete and to succeed in the marketplace, in order to do that, you really have to be in that right frame of mind, more than anything else. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Man, I can’t agree with you more, Charlie, I think you are 100% right. I think my why when I was young, and I started my business was very similar to you, in the sense that I don’t really care to work with someone else, but I also was really interested in graphic design and art. I mean, that was my whole life, and so I really wanted to do something that had to do with that; work with my hands, make something that other people wanted to buy, and other people thought was cool. 

So my why was to figure out a way to weave what I was naturally gifted with and what my father was able to teach me, it was art and color and composition, and those things for me were almost like a natural gift that I have honed in overtime, but it came when I was starting college. 

I was like, “I don’t want to wait until after college to pursue art,” in a way, and I was studying architecture in school, but I also was like, “I also want to make it fun.” So I started printing t-shirts and then getting out there and starting to, like you said, compete in the marketplace and put myself out there, and so I had to do it in a unique way. I had to get people to believe in what I am doing and why I was doing it and showing them, “Oh this is cool, your old graphic, but I can make it better in this way.” 

You talk about that as well, your personal qualities and how to turn them into a successful business. It is literally your subtitle, How to transform your personal qualities into a successful business. I love that because that’s exactly what I did, I leaned in my personal qualities around art and was able to go after that why and pursue that, and so what do you mean by that, and how can someone really learn from you in that direction? 

You studied how to make antennas and how to design them and how to [do] all of these things, and then you leaned further into that and, from my understanding, you even had patents, and all of that great work led to something. So how does someone lean into those personal qualities? Where do you discover them? 

Charles D. McCarrick: Well, you discover them within yourself, looking and reading other people that you are interacting with. Whether you are interacting with them on in a social setting, whether you are within the family and home setting or whether it is in a professional setting, and these are transactions with vendors and customers and partners and the like. What is the key ingredient to all successful interactions is we have people that are open, honest, transparent, and can communicate well, listen well, they have integrity. 

You could read these things in person, you can look at somebody in a very short time size up whether or not they care, that they have passion, whether you could trust them, whether you are willing to place your faith in them, all interactions we make, whether it’s professional and personal, these are all based on faith, faith in the other person that you’re working with. 

Like in business, if you come across as an individual that is well-liked and people trust you. You articulate their needs very well, and you demonstrate competence, then you’re far out more route to be their choice, and they’re more likely will want to work with you, and the other side of the coin is true, whether it’s a customer or whomever you are working with, you sized above, it’s individual, it’s people. Now, you could talk about some famous company, and that we all have heard and name it, you know, Starbucks. 

You can draw conclusions about Starbucks, you can say things about Starbucks, but in reality, it comes down to the people behind it, right? You look Starbucks as this huge name, this faceless enterprise, and it’s hard to assign any kind of character to it, a personal character, traits of that because all of those come down to people. Now, Starbucks started by people, but the company once was not the same company that it’s now because it all gets deluded. 

So if you want to be successful at anything, not just business, then you have to be a person that others are willing to deal with, and I used the word salability. In other words, you have to be able to sell yourself to these people that you have integrity, trustworthiness, and the wear it all to execute whatever transaction the two of you decide on. So that’s what I mean by personal character, and that is one of the four S’s that I mention in the book. S number one is salability, personal characteristic, and trait. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that so much because you are a 100% right. At the end of the day it’s like, no matter what product you’re selling or project you are trying to produce or whatever you are trying to build, when you think about business, we seldom think about the qualities that you bring into the table as to who you are or who you want to become. 

Because there is always a huge learning curve and always working to improve those qualities, skills, behaviors, communications within yourself can help define how successful that project can be or how you lead a team or how you communicate, and I love that your book is drenched in those personal qualities, and I just appreciate that so much. So in your book, I learned a few things that I found profound. 

I think it’s for me, as a person who ran a business for almost 15 years, I had to bootstrap, and I had to learn my way through it, right? Just kind of machete my way through it, but then once I learned how I personally like to learn, I leaned into that so much more, and you touch on that, that idea of just improving your own qualities but, you know, writing a book is a huge feat, so congratulations to you. 

But if you were wrap your book up, you know, in a way that’s like, “You know, here is one thing or two things that I want people to take away from writing this book,” what would they be? 

Charles D. McCarrick: From writing the book or from the book content itself? 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Maybe one from writing the book and then one from the book content itself, how about that? 

Charles D. McCarrick: In terms of writing a book, there is an enormous amount of soul searching that goes through it. You’ve reached down really, really deep to be able to articulate [and] imprint the things that you are feeling. That is really difficult to do, and some of the concepts that I want to explain, I had struggled with so much to put into words and then I realized, I said, you know, let me just give an example. 

Let me give a real example of what I lived through and maybe this will resonate with people who have gone through something similar. I think that the best way to explain something is to describe an actual occurrence, a situation that took place and how it was that you entered it, how you operated throughout it, and then what happened at the very end, what you learned, what was your take on it. 

I think in terms of writing a book, that helped me a lot. The very thing that I was writing about, I realized was helping me to write. So it was almost a self-fulfilling circulatory process that helped to fuel me, so anybody who’s writing a book I think that is really key, especially if you are like me and you’ve never really written before, you simply don’t have the proclivity for it. 

Here’s to the content of the book, one of the things I would really like people to take away is do not substitute your own experience for what is sold to you as being skill or education. I am not saying that skill and education isn’t critical, isn’t unimportant, but experience is everything. I can teach you a language, but to be able to speak it and live it and to visit the culture behind it is all the difference in the world, and that is what I want people to take away from the book. 

Whatever endeavor you enter, primarily the thing that is going to your success is calling upon the experiences that you have lived through, and being able to look at them conscientiously, openly, honestly, know what it is that they mean. What did you learn? How could you apply them to other situations? 

That, to me, is far more important than a degree or that experience on a job. And then personal experiences, particularly the ones that you have your family and friends growing up, are the ones that shape you, the ones that put the character in you and the ones that define you. As you were saying earlier, it’s time that you spent with your family during your formative years that’s what prepares you for the world and that’s 90%. 

The other 10% comes from college, on-the-job training, but the preponderance of education you get is growing up in your family. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: Man, I love that so much. I couldn’t have articulated that even better. I mean, I think you’re 100% right. Who we ultimately become, it starts to brew at a very early age, and the people around you and experiences and the environment begin to shape that, and if you lean into remembering what that was like and the lessons learned and putting that in front of you to lead yourself with, I think that is just a powerful way to lead a life filled with experiences, that they’re just memorable and make life more enjoyable to think about and pursue. 

I can’t express this enough, if you haven’t gotten the book yet, I highly recommend it. It’s called, Lessons My Brothers Taught Me: How to Transform Your Personalities into a Successful Business. Charlie, this has been a pleasure just meeting with you, talking with you. I’m very excited for your book, I can’t wait to get my hands on it and add it to my shelf and just kind of read your experiences even deeper. 

So besides checking out the book, where can people find you whether it be online, your website, how can people get a hold of you if they want to say and reach out and say thank you for writing this book? 

Charles D. McCarrick: I think the best way to reach me is probably by email address. I do have a website, which is really a landing page for the book, [email protected]. 

Hussein Al-Baiaty: I love that. Thank you so much, Charlie, it’s been a fantastic episode just learning about you, the book, and your experiences. Thanks a lot for coming on today. 

Charles D. McCarrick: Oh, it’s my pleasure and thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.