Simply put, I've been an underdog my entire life. I grew up in a three-kid household in a small midwestern town with a single mom who constantly worked to make a better life for us. Literally the average "American family," right?
My mom was anything but average, though. I vividly remember watching her get off work, cook us dinner, and hang with us for a bit before grinding away at her electric typewriter night after night as she put herself through nursing school. Seeing her make those sacrifices when I was young had a foundational impact on who I am as a person today.
I left that small town and went on to play both college and professional football. I was undersized, not particularly athletic or strong, and was an afterthought when it came to playing time. Fast forward 5 years, I became a 3.5-year starter, all-Big 12 award winner, and team captain, and had a very short "cup of coffee" in the NFL. Not too shabby for a broke kid from Webb City, MO.
What should have been an improbability caved to my will purely because I refused to be outworked, even when the odds were stacked against me.
Fast forward a few years later, I decided to start a tech company with no knowledge of how to do so, or where to even start. If I would've gone to Vegas and looked at the odds for me to succeed, it would've been 1,000,000:1 easy. Thank goodness odds are "odds" and not a person's destiny.
After losing everything in the first three years (literally and metaphorically - have you ever been too broke for Ramen Noodles??), kneeling down in my bedroom I had a conversation with God. I told him "I give up, I want you to take this and do your will. Let me be a conduit for what you want to put into the world." At that very moment, I realized that this wasn't a moment of despair, but of realignment to my mission - to double down and continue writing that "underdog" story. I was down 25 points in the 4th quarter, all I needed was a few buckets (or bucks$$$) and I'd be back in this thing.
And what do you know? A year later, we have a massive bank partner, fresh investment, and an incredible team of 10 inspirational leaders.
25 pts and counting for the underdogs.
How did you get started in your career?
I was inspired to build the company after watching a presentation on Robo advisors at my old advisory firm. I remember sitting there with a bunch of old advisors saying that these were a blip on the radar and weren't going to change anything in the advising business.
Without being too harsh, they were obviously incorrect, and I wanted to be a part of this new crowd of fintech entrepreneurs that were viewing the world differently. The problem was I didn't know ANYTHING about how to build a company, let alone a tech company. So, instead of worrying about what I didn't know, I went out to try to learn everything I possibly could about how to be an entrepreneur (here's a hint, it ain't in a book).
I read every book (i made this mistake so you don't have to), listened to every podcast, and even went through an online course on how to start a startup (shoutout to Y Combinator's series back in the day).
The big secret, though is that no matter how hard you prepare, you're never prepared enough. You just have to jump out of the plane and find your parachute on the way down.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My mom - duh :)
I've been blessed with an unparalleled support system - an incredible spouse, beautiful kiddos, and a team that would make any founder envious. We also get to serve our customers, users, and their families every day with the tech we build. All those wrapped into one is where I draw inspiration from.
What is the best part of your job?
What isn't would be easier to answer, haha.
Honestly, this isn't a job to me. It's my life and I am just living it out.
What do they say? "When your work is your passion, you'll never work a day in your life." That sounds spot on with where I am in life right now.”
What are you passionate about?
Speaking of passions!
I'm an obsessive person, so when I'm passionate about something, I'm really PASSIONATE about something.
I love the outdoors (hunting, fishing, hiking), sports, music (literally everything), movies, theatre, gaming, trivia, and last, but certainly not least, building impactful companies
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The hardest part of my job is handling the responsibility and livelihoods of others who have entrusted me with their future and their families' futures. When I fail, I feel like I've let them down. It's one of the biggest drivers that push me to continue working as hard as I do every day.
How do you think we can improve positive work cultures in the fintech industry?
I think the biggest key to improving work cultures in any industry is empowering leaders that exemplify one of the easiest yet hardest characteristics for humans to display - selflessness.
Too many times, people become obsessed with ascending the corporate ladder, and in work environments that are negative, these types of people are typically polluting it.
It's simple in that it's not hard to put someone else's needs and goals ahead of your own, but it's difficult in that we sometimes feel we need to be the best to be fulfilled. BUT if you've ever been around a selfless leader, you know it. You can feel it. It's like an aura that emanates off of them. The best part? Selflessness is infectious. So, hire/teach/or mentor your teams and employees to be selfless and let that remedy defeat the toxicity that runs rampant all too often in organizations.
What advice would you give someone who is starting their career in your field?
If you have an idea that you think might be a good one, go prove it! You don't have to quit your job and be crazy like me, but put in the time and effort to figure out if what you think needs to exist should exist.
What resources would you recommend?
#1 Books - even though you can't 100% learn everything you need to become a solid founder, you sure can learn from others' mistakes and miss hurdles that they stumbled over. Read stories on the founders of your favorite companies, or people you hope to be like. You might be surprised by what you learn
#2 Podcasts - similar to #1, chances are the people you want to be like have done interviews and given away all of their secrets. We as founders usually want to help others get to where we are, so go find the places they've been and learn from them and how you can apply their wisdom.
#3 Mentors - Similar to both above, reach out to the folks you want to learn from the most. You might be surprised who will respond to your cold email and who will take time out of their day to support new founders.
What are some rules you live by?
Proverbs 16:9 - We can make our plans, but the Lord directs our steps.
“Our minds move in the direction of our strongest thoughts.” - Craig Groeschel
“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” - Victor Hugo
“God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” - Rich Wilkerson Jr.
“Attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” - Jack Harbaugh
“The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” - Mark Twain
“Somebody might beat me, but by God, they’re going to have to bleed to do it.” - Steve Prefontaine