You grew up in Decatur, the youngest of four boys from a middle-class family. How did your childhood shape you?
I was always highly motivated to prove myself. At an early age, I was expected to work and to contribute. First, it was unpaid household chores. Then, I became an entrepreneur, running a lawn business and learning many lessons, including the importance of customer service. In college, I worked as a bank teller handling thousands of dollars a day. This taught me that money is just paper and to let go of the emotion.
After graduating in four years with both your BBA and MBA, you were hired by the accounting firm Ernst & Young in the tax consulting practice. From there, you moved to corporate finance, working with private equity firms. Then what?
After five years at E&Y, I was asked by a private equity firm to be the CFO of a company that was in bad shape. Being part of that turnaround further sharpened my entrepreneurial skills and led to more work as an outsourced CFO. I was then recruited by Afterburner, where I was CFO during the time it was twice named to the INC 500 list of fastest-growing companies.
Assisting individuals began when I was doing CFO work and execs would ask for turnaround help regarding their own finances. Reviewing their financial pictures lead to advising them on how to grow their personal wealth.
You used to spend 90% of your time doing CFO work; now you spend 90% of your time helping people with their personal finances. Why the shift?
Working with individuals is more rewarding to me because I can help more people. I set people on the right plan and then check in with them every six months. I like the personal interaction and love seeing the progress. In this role, I can have a more sustainable impact on people’s lives.
And, it’s what I know how to do; I can create wealth over time using tried and true business principles. I see myself as the Personal CFO of You, Inc. It’s great seeing clients be amazed with what they’ve accomplished after five years.
How does your CFO experience complement your financial coaching approach?
Small business owners have a unique situation. I get the small business guy. I’ve been in those trenches. With my experience, I often start by helping them run their business so it generates cash to then pay debt down. I worked with a woman where, for the first two years, we just focused on the turnaround of her company. Then, once we had stabilized the business, we began focusing on her personal wealth development.
Businesses need to produce a cash flow that then allows the owner to create an exit plan. Small business owners shouldn’t only count on the sale of their business to fund their financial future.
Quite a few of your clients are women. Why do you think that is?
Our approach of planning, saving, and reducing debt resonates with women. Women are sometimes better investors than men, because, when it comes to money, women are less emotional. They are more receptive to our strategy of creating an individualized plan and following it.
Most people are familiar with the Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) designation; however, you are also recognized as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®). Why?
Divorce is extremely stressful with numerous decisions that can impact the rest of a person’s life. Being able to advise my clients as to what’s best for their situation is crucial. By passing the four exams and receiving this certification, I am better prepared to help clients deal with financial issues during divorce such as valuing and dividing property, retirement assets and pensions, splitting the house, and tax problems and solutions.
At IRC, we want our clients to be the CEO of their divorce and we see ourselves as part of the team that includes their lawyer and perhaps a realtor, accountant, therapist, and others.
You are also an Ironman competitor. How did that come about?
In 1996, I realized I was 75 pounds overweight and needed to do something about it. I happened upon the Ironman Triathlon on TV, which I had never heard of and thought it was crazy. But then I heard about the challenges some of the competitors had overcome and thought, “If they can do it, then surely I can get off the couch, lose the weight and cross my own finish line.”
I had my goal and gave myself two years to do it. I then found the right coach to help me create a detailed action plan of when to swim, bike and run. And it worked. Two years later I finished my first Ironman and I’ve done more than a dozen since.
Similarly, achieving a financial destination requires a detailed action plan. And, much like the Ironman motto of “Eat, Train, Sleep,” the simpler the plan, the greater the likelihood of staying with it.
What makes you and IRC Wealth different?
First, there’s the experience I have outside of managing money: my work as a CPA, CFO, and entrepreneur. I understand the challenges of a small business. I also think experts should practice what they preach. I only recommend strategies that I, myself, follow. Then, transparency is very important. We want you to understand what we’re doing so you can make own decisions.
And finally, we know our strategy works. There are core principles used across every plan. But each plan is custom-built because every person has their own unique needs. It’s not my plan – it’s yours, for You, Inc. Financial resources vary with everyone.