Dave Ramsey offers Tampa Bay entrepreneurs insights and inspiration for forging business success.
By Jay Winchester
Listening to Dave Ramsey on television, radio or by podcasts is interesting. But when this leading financial consultant and coach hits the stage at a live event, it moves beyond interesting and into a dynamic that is both motivating and encouraging.
Part stand-up comedian, part sensei, part fervent evangelist, Ramsey offers his advice and counsel in a manner that is best described as “straight up.” In a recent visit to Tampa, Ramsey held court with approximately 200 local business owners attending his one day workshop entitled EntreLeadership.
Billed on his website as “The Ultimate Business Conference,” the event, held on Friday, September 5th at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa’s Westchase district, provided ample opportunity for Ramsey to dispense his wit and wisdom to an audience that is truly all about business.
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The objective of the one day event (there is also three day version) is to contrast traditional leadership roles that rely on positional power with the EntreLeadership role, which relies on persuasive power. The goal of EntreLeadership is to lead a company, organization or other venture in such a way that causes it to grow and prosper.
For those not familiar with him, Ramsey is an example of the self-made man, and his story- at least the first two parts of it- is becoming a familiar American saga. By the time he was 26 years old, Ramsey had used hard work and credit to build his net worth to just over a million dollars, including over $4 million in real estate holdings.
Two and a half years later, his financial standing eroded under the burden of all that debt. Armed with a determination to earn back what he’d lost, and blessed with an understanding spouse, Sharon, and an empowering personal faith, Ramsey went back to real estate so that the family could “…eat and get out of debt.”
However, his true quest was to gain a fuller understanding of how money works. Along the way, he discovered the altruistic and financial benefits to be gleaned from helping others avoid the mistakes he had made. He wrote a book entitled, Financial Peace and between its covers, he shared everything he’d learned about how money works and how it can be put to work for people.
Today, Financial Peace is a best-seller, as well as the cornerstone of his Financial Peace University, a program geared toward helping people make informed and appropriate decisions involving their money, that has been taught to over 650,000 families.
His second book, More Than Enough, and its follow-up, The Total Financial Makeover, have both sold over a million copies. His radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show, featured on the FOX Business Network, is broadcast over 350 stations to some 3.5 million listeners, and his television show is seen in 40 million households.
His podcast is the number one financial podcast on Apple’s iTunes. He has also authored a successful line of children’s books. More than 500,000 people have attended his live events, including the EntreLeadership seminar.
Author, speaker, TV host, seminar leader, financial advisor and life coach. It’s an impressive resume, and Ramsey works diligently at each role, although he is quick to tell you he can’t do it all himself. He is ably aided by the crack staff at The Lampo Group,Inc., the Nashville-based company he founded to help drive his various business endeavors and entities.
Working together, Ramsey and his team operate under the guiding principles of the company’s mission statement, which reads:
The Lampo Group, Inc. is providing biblically based, common sense education and empowerment which gives HOPE to everyone from the financially secure to the financially distressed.
Their success in fulfilling that mission is not based on the number of books sold, the number of seminar attendees or any other traditional bottom line measure.
What they judge their success against is the number of lives and businesses that have been fundamentally changed and positively impacted by the materials they present and the wisdom contained therein.
Although the seminar was filled with useful information and tactics to improve in areas such as leadership, setting goals, effective time management and more, what was excluded from the one day event were the important topics of sales and marketing.
“Sales and marketing are vital to any organization,” Ramsey says. “You cannot succeed without them. While this may seem obvious to many, understanding the nuances between them is essential to performing either task well.”
“What business owners must understand is that every potential customer holds two things in their hands: time and money,” Ramsey says. “Until you’ve spent the time getting to know them and have convinced them that what you have to sell is of clear and demonstrable benefit to them, you will not convert them from potential customers to buying customers.
So marketing becomes the mechanism by which you get them to give you what they hold in one hand, which is their time. When you’ve built a trusting relationship with them and shown them that you care enough to provide a product or service that meets their needs in a quality manner, they will release what they hold in their other hand, and that is their money.”
To Ramsey, the key to successful marketing is twofold. “First, identify the people who are the right fit for what you have to offer, whatever that might be,” he says. “Once you’ve identified the right people, build your marketing campaign around what you know about those people and test it, test it, test it. Be sure it works. If you do these things, sales will follow.”
As a Christian in business, Ramsey is convinced that one of the most important aspects of building and maintaining those important customer relationships is being sure they understand the authentic values by which you and your company operate.
“Your marketing and sales efforts are going to reflect your true values over time,” he says. “If you are solely motivated by profit, people will smell that and many will identify it as greed.
At that point, you’ve lost them. Consumers aren’t stupid, so don’t underestimate them. They know which companies really care about things such as quality, service, relationship, and value. If you care about the same things they do, you’re ahead of the game.”
Building a company that reflects its leader’s true values isn’t easy, especially if those values are rooted in the leader’s religious faith. In the end, though, it all comes down to building the right culture within the company, because what happens within it will eventually be known outside those walls.
“In our company, the values on which we’ve built our corporate culture are everything,” Ramsey says emphatically. “They touch on everything we do: how we hire, how we train, how we market, how we sell, the quality of our products, how we promote and what we promote.
And because they touch on everything we do, we must ensure that each employee understands and supports those values and the culture built around them.”
He offers this quick tip to business EntreLeaders looking to build a values-based corporate structure within their companies: Write down the values that form the culture you want to build and repeat them to your people over and over again.
A recently developed relationship with Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, America’s second largest quick service food chain specializing in chicken entrees and a company that still closes the doors of its restaurants on Sundays, has cemented Ramsey’s conviction regarding a value set and culture that is God-honoring.
“Look at what Chick-fil-A does,” he says. “They treat their customers right, they treat their employees right, they treat their communities right, they strive for excellence in all things, they stay true to their values- and their chicken’s great, too! So don’t tell me it can’t be done because right there is a company doing it.”
Ramsey’s enthusiasm to see business owners adopting the EntreLeadership model is so fervent, he resorts to a four-letter word: love. “Here is the bottom line,” he says, unreservedly.
“Love your family, love your people, love your customers, love whatever it is you do and strive to serve everyone your business touches. If that sounds like Bible-thumping, then so be it.”
Adding resonance to those words is a quote by Winston Churchill who, late in life and after achieving both early failure and eventual success, was asked to speak to the graduating class of his alma mater, Harrow School, one of the original nine public schools established by the Public Schools Act of 1868.
He took the stage, turned to his eager audience and gave a single sentence commencement address: “The number one character attribute of those who succeed is that they won’t quit.” With that, the former Prime Minister left the stage.
It is a statement with which Ramsey agrees wholeheartedly. In fact, Dave Ramsey will tell you that success in business - especially for the small business owner and the EntreLeader - is a matter of tenacity and perseverance.
“Being in business isn’t easy,” he says. “When you find yourself running out of spiritual and emotional energy, whenever you find yourself getting tired of doing what you do, don’t quit. If God gave it to you to do, don’t stop. Keep moving forward. You can do it.”
Here in Tampa Bay, Dave Ramsey’s radio program can be heard WWBA 1040 AM weekdays from 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM. The Fox Business Network airs his TV show weeknights at 8:00 PM and midnight on Brighthouse channel 149, Comcast channel 106, Verizon channel 94 and DirecTV channel 359.