Jim Conrad | Crain's Charlotte

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jim Conrad

Background:  

Jim Conrad is a best-selling author based in Charlotte and president of Conrad Financial Services. He is a Bank on Yourself Authorized Advisor and a licensed life insurance agent.

The Mistake:

I truly believed for a long time – way too long – that if you continued to make a valuable contribution to the success of the company that employed you, could remain employed as long as that was the case and you could retire from that company.

At the time I was growing up in the 1960s, particularly in my circle of family and friends, it was just a given that you would get a college degree, work hard to get into a good company, and retire from there with a pension. That’s just what you did.

By the early 1990s, it was becoming apparent to me that I didn’t fit into the corporate culture. It didn’t really matter if you were making a contribution. There was a big focus on work groups and how you related to your coworkers. Your contributions didn’t matter anymore. But I didn’t know what to do about that, other than just continue working hard. I still believed that if you did a good job and contributed, you would continue to work and be able to retire.

I was let go after 24 years with the company. I was 47 years old. I had a child in college and a child in high school. I had already moved my family from Chicago to Alabama. I decided to start a service that would allow me to stay where I was. In other words, I didn’t want to go back through the corporate ladder-climbing.

Never give up on your passion, even when things are at their darkest.

The lesson:

The lesson, I think, is that people don’t realize what’s available to them in this country. A lot of things have changed, but it’s still possible to succeed. It took me a few years to find my passion in financial service. I had an MBA in finance, but I hadn’t really used it.

My passion was helping people with money. During the process of finding my passion, I failed at several attempts. There were several years there where I wasn’t making any money. But I learned that you can succeed on your own if you do at least two things: Match your passion with a service people need, and be persistent.

Never give up on your passion, even when things are at their darkest. It took me many, many tries to come up with a process where I could take a prospect and educate them and present them with my solution. But you can succeed. There is life after corporate America. And I’ve done very well. I’m at the top of my game in terms of what I do. My opinions and recommendations are sought out by my associates.

What I found was a concept called Bank on Yourself, which is what I’ve been dedicated to for the last 11 years. It took me about seven years to find that niche, to find the folks who were doing that and join that group to learn and become an expert. It’s been great. Once I decided to do that, I got rid of other things. I don’t do any risk investments anymore. I just work with my clients on guaranteed products and sound money solutions. I only take on new clients if I can truly help them, and if they truly want to be helped.

Pictured: Jim Conrad | Photo courtesy of Conrad Financial. 

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email hgamble@crain.com.

And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's.