Making an Impact on the Community

There are many wonderful people doing  work all across America and the world to impact and improve communities. People like Mark Stuart at The Hands and Feet Project helping orphans in Haiti, or Katie Davis of Amazima who has been working in Uganda, Africa since she was 18. While I admire global ministry work, there are tremendous people doing great work in our own backyards. For example in my home town of Nashville, TN, Papa Joe has been an inspiration through his Elijah’s Heart ministry to help at risk children. Heck, the guy has even had a movie made about his life! Unconditional was an amazing film sharing Joe’s Nashville story for life survival as he kept working to help children.

After years of supporting other organizations, this year I guess it’s my turn. Last year I started writing my first book, The Millionaire Choice: Millionaire or Not. You Can Choose. I finished my writing during the summer. Just a few short weeks ago, the first 2,500 books were delivered to my driveway where my wife, the delivery guy, and I managed to transport them up the drive via a dolly to a space in my garage. Just a few short days later, I made my first delivery of 1,000 books to Knowledge Academies, a charter school and group focused on improving their community.

Art Fuller, Founder and President of Knowledge Academies, selected The Millionaire Choice as their platform book to teach financial principles for building wealth to the local community. By distributing 1,000 copies to their students, families and local community Knowledge Academies plans to have a huge impact on the children, their families and the community.

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When I began writing, I never imagined the first people to read my book would be children and families from lower income areas across America. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me.

Before I began work on The Millionaire Choice, a friend sent me a statistic from CNN. The statistic shocked me, and then the realization hit me. The statistic showed that white Americans net worth was over 15x that of black and hispanic Americans. Newer data from PEW Research shows the gap to be 10x-13x.

After the shock wore off, the reality hit me. There’s a very simple reason the wealth divide between white, black and Hispanic population is so great. Financial Education. The simple fact is many more white people have access to financial education than do black or hispanic people. The next logical question is “Why?”

You see I first started learning about personal finance at the age of 25. While I came from a lower middle class family, I became a millionaire by age 40. I broke free from my family’s financial mismanagement cycle. As my career grew, I found myself working in the personal financial education space for over 15 years. As an executive for one of the top companies in the space, I was heavily involved in strategic and business planning. That’s why the reason financial education isn’t available for poor communities is so simple.

The sad reality of why financial education isn’t delivered to the black and hispanic communities is there isn’t any money to be made. Businesses can’t make money off broke people. It’s why financial advisors who know money don’t go knocking on doors in poor communities. They can’t make money. It’s why financial education speakers and companies don’t have a plan or strategy for the poor communities in America. A business is driven by making profit and you can’t make very much profit off broke people. Noone is making a real effort to bring financial education to our poor communities for the simple reason it isn’t profitable.

That’s why I’m both surprised and excited that the first real adoption of my book has come from a lower income community nestled in the corner of my home town, Nashville, TN. I hope that I am able to make a difference in the lives of a community and people that need it.

 

 

A 2017 Reading List for Success

Whenever I go through the airport heading to my flight, I make it a point to walk through the bookstore. 90% of the time something will catch my eye and once again they have me hooked. I’m a sucker for a good book.

However on this particular morning while heading out to Salt Lake City for a cold snowy week, I reached a conundrum. I found a particularly enticing assortment of books. While I tried to narrow my selection down to just one book, I couldn’t. My next choice was to expand to two or three books which I quickly eliminated as a viable option seeing as I had three books witb me already. Hmmm. Such an unfortunate predicament.

Finally, it occurred to me. Any one of these books would be an amazing read, and seeing as I had only read two of the books, why not make this book display my reading list for the year? And thus was born my business reading list for 2017. I say my business reading list because I have various other spiritual, adventure, and scientific books already started.

As I found this shelf to be filled with very relevant topics for my new adventures in 2017, I felt it only fitting to share the list with others. Enjoy.

Part of Leadership. Learn to Relax.

I’m an active guy. Slowing down is not something I do well. At work, I stay busy. At home, I stay busy.Even when I go on vacation, I don’t vacation. What is this “relaxation” you speak of?

So here’s a great example of what I’m talking about. I planned a family trip to Disney a few years ago. Nevermind the fact I erroneously planned the trip during one of Disney’s peak seasons, spring break. Let’s start with who was on this adventurous and daring trip. My wife. My sister. My 6 kids. My 60 year old mom and dad. My 65 year old mother and father in law. As if that wasn’t enough, our days started early and consisted of me with 1 kid on my shoulders and 1 on each hand. I had 3 kids by myself, while all the other adults had 3 between them. Why can’t they keep up with me? (I was a little oblivious to the fact I was toting four elderly grandparents through an overcrowded Disney park…turned out one of of them was coming down with an upper respiratory infection!)

While the mornings started early (6 or 7 am), the evenings ended late. After all, we’re staying at a Disney hotel, and I needed to use that extra hour they give you after the park closes. Most days, everyone else wrapped early, while I kept a few of the kids out till 12:00 or later. No wonder I was tired when I got back from my vacation! I believe I walked 8 miles a day!

Now things are starting to change. In the last several years, I’ve been blessed to have some wonderful friends come into my life who live a much different vacation lifestyle than I do. Now I’m learning to chill. I’m learning to actually sit on a beach and relax by a pool for longer than 30 minutes at a time. I don’t actually have to be doing something all the time! It’s freaking amazing!

Here’s a great relaxation tips article from one of my favorite blogs…LifeHacker.com.

Now, the reason for the timing of this post is that my wife and I just returned from Sandals Grande Resort in St. Lucia. It was an amazing trip and probably my favorite resort and vacation to date. Let me emphasize this was a “no kid” vacation. We didn’t take our kids, but even better there were no kids at the resort! Some parents may judge me for leaving my kids behind, but I really don’t care. I’ve earned it. Now, you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking a trip without your kids. It’s healthy for you. Our trip was a short one spanning Wednesday through Sunday. Keep in mind we have six kids, so 1 day away from six kids is equal to 3 days away from 2 kids.

My wife and I really enjoyed St. Lucia and Sandals, so I feel I owed them a shout out since they took such good care of us. Thanks Sandals! Hopefully we’ll see you again soon!

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Strategic Planning

I love planning. Absolutely, love it. I don’t think I realized how much I enjoyed planning until more recently as my job responsibilities have changed. I enjoy looking into the future to create vision and devising plans on how to achieve that vision. Thinking through the details, all the angles, all the possibilities. It excites me.

I guess I should have realized this sooner and worked to leverage that side of who I am. Even as a youngster the signs were there. Learning to play chess and enjoying the complex strategy needed to win. Visualizing what moves your opponent would make and what your options would be. Some matches even able to predict 7-10 moves ahead what my opponent would be doing. Other areas where planning tendencies manifested included putting together neighborhood fishing, basketball, and football tournaments.

In June, I transitioned from CIO to COO. My new set of responsibilities include Strategic Planning, PMO, and Internal Communications. While I’ve lead Strategic Planning for many of our Ramsey Solution digital efforts over the past 15 years, I’m now leading the company’s entire strategic planning efforts, and it is a challenge.

I’m excited about the progress we’ve made this year in developing some process and structure around our top level planning. In the past, we have been a bottom up very entrepreneurial culture. While we are still maintaining that very entrepreneurial bent, we are balancing it with some top level direction that connects our many businesses and products in a stronger way. With this change, we hope to reach even more people and impact their lives.

As I’ve reached out to other leaders at companies of all sizes, it has been interesting to discover how many companies don’t do any top level strategic planning. I’ve been asked several times from companies smaller than ours to several times larger than us, “are you getting any value out of strategic planning? What are you doing?”

For those of you who are interested, here a few of the resources that are influencing our strategic planning efforts.

Patterson’s StratOp Process

Traction – EOS (Entreprenuerial Operating System) by Gino Wickman

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The Rockerfeller Habits by Verne Harnish
Additional Resources

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Strategic Planning and Innovation Summit

 

Blogging Again

After taking a 1 year break from blogging, I’m back albeit with a different purpose.

The original reason behind my blog was to use it as a networking tool. I feel like I accomplished my goal. I used the blog as a calling card when reaching out to top tier business leaders. CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CMOs and the like. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to make many connections, and I attribute many of those connections to the visibility I gained through my blog. One of my favorite achievements was the interview with Josh James while he was the CEO of Omniture. As a result of my blogging around the Omniture community, Gail Ennis, Omniture CMO, took notice and while attending the Omniture Summit, she afforded me the opportunity to sit in a room with Josh James. It was a fantastic experience.

Now in this next iteration of blogging, I hope to share thoughts and ideas that I’ve picked up over the years. Recently on a trip to Washington D.C., I was afforded the opportunity to visit Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson and also to visit George Washington’s home. During those visits, I was able to get a glimpse into what allowed these men to become great leaders of our country. They spent much of their time learning, but they also spent much of their time spreading ideas via writing, letters and meetings. Now at 45, father of 6 children, 17 years of marriage, with a moderately successful career, I now hope to share a little of what I’ve learned so that someone may find it useful on their life’s journey.

A New Breed of CIO

Technology is changing. The way companies use technology is changing.

The past – technology teams and CIOs relied upon by the organization as service level. Translation: Business leaders come up with ideas. Business leaders tell the technology department what they want or need. The technology team fulfills those requests. Very service level driven.

The future – technology teams and CIOs are peers with the other top level leaders in the organization. Translation: CIOs work alongside top level leaders to define strategy for the organization. CIOs make the transition to helping the company navigate the digital world. Online business, mobile, etc. CIOs that fail to make the transition will fail to bring the necessary business value and ultimately fail as the “new breed of CIO.”

This article from Tech Republic and David Nichols does a fabulous job laying all of this out.

Tech Republic – Digital CIOs

My Time at SXSW 2014

One more session and I’ll be leaving SXSW for the trip back to wonderful Nashville, TN. This was my second time to SXSW in 3 years. One the last trip, we brought along several members of our development team. With this trip we tried a new approach and brought along the leaders of our Digital Strategies Team. 2 from Development. 2 from Creative. 3 from Marketing. 2 from Digital Business. It was a wise decision.

While SXSW has been entertaining, informational and fun, the time with our leadership team has by far been the best value from the trip. A lot of companies deal with dysfunction amoung these groups and teams. At Dave Ramsey’s Organization, we work really hard not to let this happen. We actually like and enjoy working with each other. It’s really like working within a “positive” family experience. This makes our work environment extremely fun. One of the byproducts is how excited everyone is to work on projects together and to help improve and make things working and function better. Always striving for improvement. Sometimes that improvement is slow in coming, but rest assured, it is coming.

As for the rest of SXSW, it started a bit slower than my last visit. The weather was cold and rainy. Yuck! The sessions were rather weak. By day 3, things started picking up. The weather improved and probably unrelated, so did the quality of the sessions. Perhaps I just did a better job choosing. 🙂 In in case, I’ve picked up some really good ideas, and sparked my digital creative juices flowing again. Sometimes, I probably get a little too focused on work and need a break like this to pull me out of the weeds. It allows me an opportunity to see more clearly some of the things we need to focus on for improvement.

Thanks SXSW.

Josh James and DOMO

As I was perusing the social scene this evening, I began checking up on a few of my favorite online companies and their CEOs. LinkedIn‘s Jeff Weiner, and Yahoo‘s Marissa Mayer. I couldn’t help but notice Marissa’s 400,000 twitter followers and Jeff’s 60,000. I began pondering my own social footprint. Truthfully, I’ve not been interested in creating a huge Twitter or Facebook following for myself as is evidenced by my pitiful 862 followers who see sporadic tweets from me on a random out of the blue basis. However, as I navigated through LinkedIn checking to see if Marissa had somehow miraculously accepted my invitation to connect, I was greeted by a BI advertisement targeting CIOs, and as you may know, I am a CIO. I was enticed, and before I knew what was happening, I clicked the link. Yes. I fell for one of the same marketing tactics I use on others. Obviously, it’s a very effective marketing tactic, but that isn’t the story.

After clicking the link, I was greeted by a wonderful landing page at DOMO. DOMO, if you don’t know, is run by Josh James, the former CEO of Omniture, one of my favorite web companies. Josh did some wonderful things over at Omniture, and after leaving Adobe/Omniture, he landed at DOMO as a major investor and the new CEO. In typical Josh fashion, DOMO has really stepped up its visibility. Josh’s teams have done some very good things with marketing over the years. While at Omniture, one of those was to buy and use CMO.com to attract and support CMOs. Now, I see with DOMO, Josh has done it again with CEO.com, and I have to ask, why didn’t someone else do this? It’s a simple yet brilliant strategy.

Way to go Josh! And, if one of your guys can make it down to Nashville for our October CIO Peer to Peer meeting (this month covering DataWarehousing and BI Reporting), that would be great.

Another Wonderful Day at the CIO Leadership Event

Today was fabulous! The day began with some discussion on gamification, then rolled into a great session from Tom Wilson, CEO of Allstate. Probably my favorite session of the day was from David Williams, CEO of Deloitte Financial Services.

The conference is a bit lite on vendors which is a good thing, but the vendors that are present have been very helpful. CareerBuilder, Dimension Data, Dell, Service Now, and Microsoft.

Looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow!

Becoming a Better CIO

This weekend I’m experiencing the wonderful weather of Boca Raton, Florida. However, it’s not all fun and games unless of course you consider that I love my job and the company I have the pleasure of working at for the last 12 years.

Since being appointed as the company’s first ever CIO in January 2012, I’ve been on a quest to grow my abilities to better serve the company. We’re very dependent on technology. It permeates every project, business and initiative that we undertake. That’s the driving factor of attending this year’s CIO Leadership Event put on by CIO magazine.

Today was just a warm up. As with any event, networking is a huge plus. The amount of knowledge you gain from a simple conversation is amazing. Playing golf with Dale from Blue Cross Blue Shield in Birmingham, Alabama, Shad from Elavon, and Bryan from Dimension Data was a great start to the day. Not sure I enjoyed getting up at 6:15 or being the worst golfer on our team, but at least I ended the game well by having the longest drive on the last hole! Other notable persons I was able to connect with today included Houston Ross with ING Life Insurance and Geoff Sinn with Dimension Data, a cloud solutions provider.

In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend a Cloud Maturity discussion facilitated by Dimension Data. About 30 people were in attendance with several CIOs, some directors from various verticals including B2B, Insurance, Education, and even the LPGA was in attendance. I didn’t walk away with any earth shattering information, but I did walk away with a great contact and possible future vendor in Dimension Data.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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