Justin A. Goodbread, CFP®, CEPA®, CVGA®, owner of Heritage Investors, Heritage Business Advisors, and FinanciallySimple.com, is a nationally recognized financial planner, financial educator, wealth manager, author, speaker, and entrepreneur. Armed with 20+ years of experience starting, buying, selling, and owning businesses, Justin has dedicated his time helping fellow business owners increase and manage the value of their businesses and personal assets so that they can live the life of their dreams now and in the future. In 2016, Justin launched the FinanciallySimple.com enterprise — a financial blog, podcast, video, and education portal — to demystify financial concepts for small business owners. Through Financially Simple, Justin uses his skills to guide business owners through business sales, mergers, or buy-outs, ultimately preparing them for the next chapters in their lives. His work in Financially Simple has catapulted Justin into the national press where he writes for Kiplinger, Forbes, and Investopedia and where his name appears in many national media venues and in a litany of written publications. His ability to make complex financial concepts “financially simple” has landed him Exit Planning Institute’s Exit Planner Leader of the Year and back-to-back Investopedia Top 100 Advisor awards. Justin also speaks regularly about business at national conventions, trade associations, business events, and seminars around the nation. Recently, Justin published his first book: The Ultimate Sale. In it, he shows business owners how to create long-term value and accelerate growth in their company with the ultimate goal of selling the business for top dollar when the owner wants to retire.
Thank you so much for joining us Justin! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After my wife and I were married, we chose to settle in her hometown of Knoxville, TN, and I had just sold my first business in Brunswick, GA, where I am originally from. At that point, I really wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take with my future. I knew I loved being a business owner but just wasn’t sure what I wanted to next. I thoroughly enjoyed operating the landscaping business, but I knew I was meant to do more than just dress up yards.
With the proceeds of my first business sell in hand, I wanted to be wise with my next career move. I was 22 years old, and someone suggested the financial realm, essentially recruiting me. As I began the journey, I quickly realized I had a knack for making complicated things simple. My career continued to evolve, and I started and sold two additional businesses.
With my formal financial training and my ‘business’ life experiences, I began to notice a trend as I worked with people’s money. Many business owners struggled. They lacked the ability to see the complete picture of what their business could truly be. Some did have a clear view; however, like with many things, they wanted someone to bounce ideas off of before making significant decisions.
That is how Financially Simple™ entered the picture. I realized I could help this underserved group and began working to give away 99.99% of the information In had gained from my experience as a business owner and a financial professional. Thus the journey began, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I set out to create a blog for business owners, I came up with a name I was sure would easily capture others. I called it Planning is Fun. However, it turned out planning was fun for those searching to find an architect. In fact, there were several looking to secure that domain name as well. My takeaway from that debacle was to make sure my words better described what I was doing.
We’d like to learn more about your unique business model. Can FinanciallySimple help an individual starting a business identify whether he has the makings of a successful entrepreneur? Is it possible to know without going through months, if not years, struggling to grow the business? Isn’t reality needed to find out what the hopeful entrepreneur is truly made of?
We absolutely can help entrepreneurs find success by teaching them basic business principles. Our team produces loads of content in the form of blogs, videos, podcasts, etc., to help people grapple with whether they have the mental fortitude to take on business ownership. However, I want to stress just because somebody can be an entrepreneur, doesn’t mean they should.
For the majority of business owners, there will be months and years of struggling, but that doesn’t have to be the case today. If someone has an idea, I suggest they beta test it. Try it with a small group. Fire up a Kickstart campaign. See what kind of response you get. That alone can give you a concept of whether you should even attempt to step out of the boat.
Honestly, you can examine a personality type and occasionally identify whether they will make it or not. BUT I caution against stereotyping because there have been many entrepreneurs who should have never been an entrepreneur. For example, Zig Ziglar comes to mind. He was a salesperson, a very miserable salesperson, according to him. Then in his late 50s, he blossomed and created a landmark that transformed millions of people’s lives.
Look at Colonel Sanders. The man quit school when he was in 7th grade. So by today’s standards, he was entirely too uneducated to become a multi-millionaire business owner. Additionally, it wasn’t until his 60s before his chicken recipe turned into a franchisable sensation.
So, just because someone doesn’t fit a certain mold does not mean they’re not cut out for entrepreneurship. If someone has a passion for what something, meaning they’re prepared to go the distance, then don’t count them out — personality or not, they may be one of the greatest success stories yet.
In reality, by the time most of us reach the age of 40, we’ve been tested enough in life to know what we’re made of, to know if we can actually accomplish our goal as an entrepreneur.
All businesses is fraught with competitive challenges that continuously evolve as aggressive competitors seek to increase their market share. How can FinanciallySimple prepare a budding entrepreneur for the harsh competitive reality?
Financially Simple is a comprehensive approach to business. We go into great detail on how to grow the value of your company, how to approach competition, the need for marketing even when it seems useless. We offer business owners the tools and education to make their company sustainable and eventually sellable.
Most new businesses fail. Very often because their business plan didn’t take into consideration complications and eventualities. Given that every entrepreneur has his own set of circumstances can FinanciallySimple prepare him for his very individual circumstance, and future complications?
While it’s true that most businesses do fail, it is often for straightforward reasons. They didn’t have enough capital, or they didn’t do a business plan. We actually walk entrepreneurs through the construction of a business plan. We teach them the necessary components to having a valuable company, which is critical to sustainability. If a business is valuable, then it is sustainable.
In reality, sustainability is one of those things which goes back to a personal level, which is a very individualized circumstance. You cannot help business owners in their business without touching on personal finances as well.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My vision and purpose were to do all I could to prevent failure in business. There are 5.6 million businesses, which employ people and fall into the micro-market, which is companies grossing under $5 million of revenue. This group of business ventures makes up 93% of all businesses in the U.S.
Now, armed with that statistic, did you know that 80% of those small micro-market businesses will never sell. They will simply dissolve, which is devastating to me. If they do sell, only 3% will sell for what the business owner felt the company was worth. Meaning someone, a man or woman, poured their life, blood, sweat, and tears into turning a dream into a reality, only to never see the value their hard work, efforts, and determination actually deserved.
So my motivation is to challenge the status quo, to arm business owners with the tools and information they need to transform their company into a well-oiled machine, which can attain sustainability and grow exponentially. Because purpose-driven businesses service not only their customers but their team, and in doing so, these are the companies that leave a legacy and make a footprint that will impact their community, their country, and even the world.
What do you do to articulate or demonstrate your company’s values to your employees and to your customers?
At Financially Simple, we pay our team members well, which ensures our customer base is well informed. Our team works hard to guarantee the information, the content, and the products we deliver are educating and transforming the lives of the business owners we are reaching. Each member sees full transparency in everything we put out because we are not just talking the talk, but we are also walking the walk. They see the company’s values played out every day. In turn, customers embrace what we are offering, engage us in other areas of business, and again see the exact same transparency as our team members.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
For years I’ve stated, “burn the boats,” a saying which originated from the story of an expedition Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés embarked. It is said that Cortés faced an insurmountable challenge with his small army as he aimed to conquer the Yucatan Peninsula. Being the bold leader he was, legend has it that Cortés instructed his men to “burn the boats” in order to eliminate the option for retreating. In essence, he was committed to either victory or death.
The same is true for me in business. I’ve chosen a no retreat strategy. There is no room for surrender, no reason to quit. Far too many people rely on the products and services we churning out, and nothing can stop us.
For me, it’s critical that I help other business owners adopt this same mentality. One thing I absolutely hate to see is a cemetery. I’m not sad about the fact that someone died, because we will all die. Rather, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of wisdom that lies within the graves because those people never left it for someone else. So, if I can take the knowledge and insight I’ve gained in my life, share it with as many people as possible, it could help them transform their mindset and effectively run their business. Then I’ve accomplished far beyond my wildest dreams even imagined because I never gave up.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My degree in life came from the school of hard knocks. If fact, my journey into the financial realm began when I became embroiled in a lawsuit very early on in my career. It was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences I have ever been through. My entire world was crashing down around me as I faced the possibility of bankruptcy. There were moments I absolutely wanted to quit. Still, I realized the message I had to share was too powerful to be silenced by a downturn in life and sitting on the sidelines, so I did the only thing I knew to do. I adopted the “burn the boats” mentality and pressed on because I know you can grow a sellable business. You can build a business that benefits everyone from your team to your customers. You can retire. You can do business in a transparent, honest, and positive manner.
I don’t believe God created us to be quitters. He designed us to find a vision and do everything we can to bring it to life. The scripture says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, no device, no knowledge or wisdom in the grave, where you are going.” The way I see it is, this is God’s business, and I’m not trying to be ultra-spiritual here, but as I grow this business, I have to do everything in my power to steward so that it will survive beyond me.
So, how are things going today? How did your values lead to your eventual success?
I stand in awe of what our team is accomplishing. It’s surreal in many ways. I mean, I did set out to share all my knowledge, but I had no idea it would really lead to all this. I believe by being transparent and vulnerable with who I am, with who our team is, our purpose and vision has led to the national success we are seeing. I’m being invited to speak at conferences around the country multiple times a year. I’m being asked to consult on multimillion-dollar business. Our team is getting the opportunity to work with business owners from startup to the selling process. Life and business are just amazing! We are impacting a generation and showing them there is hope for their businesses to leave a legacy.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a very successful service based business? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Find your vision. It doesn’t mean you have to know what the end of the vision looks like. You just have to get the vision, then have the ability to cast the vision with such fervor that others around you want to be a cog in your wheel. Once you do that, the wheel begins to turn, progress is made, and you’re going somewhere.
I can remember telling our team, “Look, we’re going to have 50,000 viewers on the blog per month.” They thought it sounded impossible, but here we are today, and it happened. So you have to start with that vision.
2. Hire your opposite. No matter where you are in the business cycle, starting out, or a veteran of self-employment, you are continually trying to build a paradigm of personalities to balance out your entire organization. Use a behavioral profile test, such as a DISC profile, to build out a compatible team and help ensure your success.
For example, we have over a dozen employees in our organization, and I’ve hired every personality type there is. I’m a dominant personality (D), with leanings toward an influencer (I). My operations manager is somewhere between compliant © and supporter (S) and we complement each other. In the areas where I am weak, she has strengths and vice versa. Now, that’s not to say two Ds couldn’t work together. Because they could, but imagine the head butting that is likely going to take place. Therefore, knowing these personality and behavioral traits in advance can help you build your best team yet.
3. Partial out, meaning focus on your strengths and eliminate your weakness as much as possible. This idea goes back to hiring your opposite. My longtime friend and business partner, Jim DeTar, is the exact opposite of me. I’m incredibly detailed. He’s not. I’m introverted; he’s extroverted. I can’t tell you that many times we wanted to kill each other in the first couple of years of business. However, it became evident that we needed each other.
Yes, I was a value driver. I was the founder, I was the CEO, but I needed an individual who could keep me in check. Jim would often say, “Justin gets the clients, I keep the clients.” There ended up being a lot of truth in that statement. But as we grew and as we started hiring personnel around the company focusing on that paradigm of different personalities, what we found is, Justin gets clients, Jim keeps clients. Still, other individuals help us build out systems that keep the processes, thereby continuing to add value to our company.
4. Invest in yourself by investing in your business. Far too often, business owners take too much cash out of their companies. If you’re the founder and CEO, don’t pay yourself for a while or at least reduce your salary. Go back to your college days and learn how to eat ramen! Listen, leaders eat last, not first.
So many are not successful in businesses because they focus on cash in their pocket and not in their business, and it ends up being to the detriment of the business. The more you invest back into your company early on, the stronger your company will be long term.
There was a period of roughly three years when I didn’t get paid the rate I honestly should have. I mean, I didn’t even make enough to meet my family’s needs at that time, but and all my other team members did. I took care of my team paid them first, and now we are all reaping the benefits of that loyalty and leadership. I took the money I should have made redeployed it back in the business intending to grow the company. We have seen a 200% increase in just one year alone.
I also don’t believe in calling our team members, employees, or staff. Staph is an infection. Employee is a demeaning legal term. We have partners, and we have colleagues, we are on the same team, everybody moving in the same direction. So you as the CEO, you as the founder, your job is not to get out behind people and whip them, but to come alongside them, nature and build them up in a way that allows them to outgrow the position they currently hold.
5. Stay humble. You know to receive national press like Forbes and Investopedia, and other outlets say you are one of the best of the best, it can be really easy to sit back and say I did this. It was all me, but that would be the biggest lie of the century. So many people have sacrificed time and energy to help me achieve what I have. Team members have come alongside me and helped us grow this company. It’s not about you; it’s about the organization.
Many times I see young business owners start to talk about self. It’s I did this or I did that, I, I, I, and typically that’s when I see a business start to stagnate. Don’t fall into that trap. Stay humble.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are so many, but my family first. My parents sacrificed so much to teach me entrepreneurship. By the age of 15, my mom was driving me around town to work on the landscaping business, my brother and I started. She worked the night shift on the weekends but gave her weekdays to help me begin and grow my first business. My dad worked 12–16 hours days so that mom had that time during the week to teach us entrepreneurship.
My brother was my first business partner. He challenged me to focus more and make me a better person. He is a staple in my life even today.
Next would be my wife. I remember studying for the CFP® exam, and we were expecting our first baby, living in a little house, and she would go off to work for $7.25 an hour because she knew my vision. She knew my dream and just kept cheering me on all the way. There is no way I’d be where I am today without her sacrifice and strength. She has stood by me in best of times, but most importantly through the worst of times. Last year she gave me this really sweet note. It said, “Be true to you. We have confidence in you.”
Lastly would be my business partner, Jim DeTar. He came alongside me in late 2005–06, and together we built this company from the ground up. He was there through one of the most excruciating times of my life. Together, we went through a business divorce, and we often joke if we ever tried to separate this business that we would just have a dual, where we’d both take ten paces and turn and shoot to see who wins. Of course, that’s just our humor after what we’ve been through together.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Well, honestly, I already have. I started Financially Simple with the goal of teaching business owners how to increase the value of the companies because as the value increases, more good can be done. You can pay your team more. Stress levels decrease for both you and your team. There’s more revenue, which leads to higher net profits, which in turn offers the opportunity to do more goodwill in life. In fact, many of the business owners I work with are some of the greatest philanthropists. They give so much back, not just financially, but intellectually as well.
So my hope is the Financially Simple movement becomes even more widespread. We continue teaching business owners that there is a way to grow a business that can be sold or can be given away, which has intrinsic value beyond your human capacity. If business owners can just grasp the need to create a company where they are not the epicenter of the business, then I’ve done what I set out to do.