Nancy D. Butler is a successful speaker, business coach, award-winning writer and frequent contributor to radio and television shows on life, business and keeping ahead of the game in both realms.
We spoke to Nancy about her career, what she does to maintain her success, and what the future might hold. It’s an inspirational story.
What made you choose this path? Is it a family legacy or are you a pioneer? Did you go to school for it or are you learning as you go?
At age 31, while in the process of a divorce, with no child support, alimony or other source of income and only two thousand dollars to my name, I moved myself and my children seventy miles away and started my own business in an industry I knew nothing about.
At the new location, I was offered a salaried position at a higher pay than I ever had before, but realized they were hiring me at “the top of the ladder” leaving me no place to grow. At age 31, I wasn’t willing to do that. I knew I did not want a job – I needed a career. So, I proceeded to start my own financial planning and asset management business. I told myself that even if the business didn’t work out, what I would learn about managing money would be worth the journey since it would help me learn what I needed to know to be able to financially raise my children. I needed to do whatever it would take, no matter how difficult it would be, to assure my children and I were taken care of.
I knew nothing about saving, investing or financial planning and had never owned a CD, mutual fund or anything other than a savings account. I set out to learn what I needed to know to do a great job for my clients and build a successful business.
After building the business to approx. $200 million in assets under management, in 2007, after 25 years building my asset management and financial planning practice, I sold it.
Although financially I no longer needed to work, I knew I wouldn’t be happy to completely stop working. So, three days later I set up the company I now own, “Above All Else, Success in Life and Business®”.
Alright, so tell us about the business itself. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
“Above All Else, Success in Life and Business®” enables me to pass on all I learned about building a business from nothing to great success and then successfully selling it while assuring my clients would be well taken care of and my staff would still have jobs. To do this, I signed legal documents with the buyer, 6 years earlier stating when my last day would be, how the business would be priced, how it would be paid for and addressed many other issues to assure a smooth transition for me, the buyer, my clients and my staff.
Through “Above All Else, Success in Life and Business®”, I am a national motivational speaker and coach to businesses in many different industries all over the country. I use my business and financial knowledge to help business owners do a better job for their clients and improve their bottom line and help individuals live more successful, fulfilling lives and realize their dreams. I also write the material and teach continuing education classes to financial advisors, insurance professionals and attorneys.
I figured out what I am good at and what I am not, and then developed programs to make a difference for individuals and businesses.
For businesses I speak on many topics including:
- Anchoring your clients to you – How to be the company of choice and build a loyal client base
- Building an efficient and effective business plan – your “road map” for the smooth and successful running of your business.
- Low-Cost Effective Marketing and Media Relations Solutions
- Systems to Better Serve Your Clients and Maintain an Ethical and Efficient Business
- Maximizing the Value of Your Business – Both While You Are In It and When You are Ready or Need to Exit.
- Thinking outside the box – taking your business to the next level
- Time Management –an effective system to help “get it all done”
For individuals I speak on many topics including:
- Living life to the fullest. You have one life to live.… tips and tricks to make it the best it can be, regardless of your age.
- Putting yourself on “Auto Pilot” to help maintain your independence longer.
- When you wake up the morning after your last day of work, what will your retirement life be like, for the rest of your life?
- If you’re not good with money, it might not be your fault. How to help your children to be better at it than you were.
- Money Management and Insurance – Gaining greater control over your financial success with knowledge and a plan.
- How to thrive financially in divorce.
- How to overcome adversity and have a successful life.
I also speak on balancing life and work:
- Your vision for the future – personal and business – a plan to get you there.
I am an award-winning author, with two books published, Above All Else, Success in Life and Business and A Realtor’s Guide to Success, Above and Beyond the Competition. I am in the process of writing a third book that will help seniors maintain their independence longer and live a great life for whatever years they have left on this earth, regardless of their age. The new book will be available the first quarter of 2017.
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate, so share what drives you every day. Why do you love what you do?
With the first business, what gave me the drive to succeed was my children. I knew if I didn’t do well, I couldn’t put food on the table. It forced me to do really well very quickly. I felt I didn’t have the right to fail. My children were counting on me. Also, because I have two daughters, I felt it was important for them to see “what a woman can do” and that anything is possible if you put in the work to make it happen.
I really love what I do now. Since my children are grown, I am re-married and financially secure, I can do pretty much what I want, when I want. I only take on work that I am passionate about and know I can do an excellent job for others. I love the difference I make in the lives of individuals and hard-working business owners.
I have also become one of the few Certified Divorce Financial Analysts™ in the state of CT and have testified in court as an expert witness in divorce. To further the difference I make in this area I write material and teach attorneys, financial advisors and insurance professionals continuing education courses for them to maintain their licenses.
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
With the first business, as a single female, at times it was quite scary since I needed to see potential clients where and when they would see me. Some times that meant going to a client’s home at night in the dark by myself.
There was one very scary story that now is kind of funny when I look back at it.
It was night time and I had an appointment to go to a house far out into the woods to meet with a new potential client. It was winter, the roads weren’t very good and it was freezing outside. I finally found the house and after parking the car I walked across the street and went around to the back entrance where the light was on. A man answered the door and I went inside. The place looked very sparse. There was almost no furniture. He escorted me into the living room and I sat on the sofa. The only other furniture in the room was a wooden chair and he sat there. The fireplace was roaring and the heat felt good since the house was a bit cold. I took out my note pad and started to conduct the interview to find out about his financial position and how I could help him.
About fifteen minutes into the appointment he excused himself and went into the kitchen. When he came back he had an axe in his hand. I was scared to death! He and I were the only ones in the house. The house was way out in the woods. And I knew that no one could hear me if I screamed. As he walked into the room he reached for the chair he was sitting in and proceeded to chop it up into little pieces and throw it on the fire. That was probably what happened to all the other furniture in the house. I realized then that he needed a social worker more than a financial advisor. I explained that to him and left as quickly as I could. All the way home I kept thinking about what would happen to my kids if something had happened to me. Their father wasn’t there for them. And they also wouldn’t have a mother.
That was when I stopped going to prospective clients’ homes and instead insisted they come into the office. I still went to the homes of a few of my favorite clients who were either handicapped or didn’t drive, but everyone else had to come to the office. This also turned out to be much more efficient for me. The time I was spending driving to and from clients’ houses, I could use to get work done or see even more clients each week.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
Yes, I am now very familiar with that concept. With the first business, raising two children alone, building a business I knew nothing about and trying to have some kind of social life for myself at the same time was extremely overwhelming.
Now I enjoy really “stepping out of my comfort zone” and I do all kinds of “out of the box” things.
Last year on the spur of the moment I decided to go to Israel with 5 people I never met. After the trip was over and they left, I stayed on by myself and lived with an Israeli family for a few days to learn their culture, and then flew home by myself.
I had on my bucket list for 20 years that some day before I die I will go on an African safari. My husband and I go to charity auctions a lot and to our surprise they had an African safari up for auction. He said the flight was so long that he didn’t want to go. I bid on it and won the trip and my daughter and I were on an African safari on her 40th birthday. I love that we were able to take a trip of a lifetime and all the money went to charity. I tend to be extremely adventurous and so is my daughter. While in South Africa we laid down and pet a live full grown cheetah and went on a shark cage dive, where they film the TV show, Shark Week.
My husband is not as adventurous as I am but he is a good sport. I have gotten us in a hot air balloon, in a Sail plane (it has no engine), swimming with sting rays in the ocean and we have already signed up and paid to drive stock cars belonging to Richard Petty at a raceway in New Hampshire next year.
On a more calming note, I have made specialty cakes for my grandchildren’s birthdays for the last 19 years.
Life is short and I believe in living life to the fullest. This may sound strange but I have always said “I would rather die having fun, than staying home worrying about things”.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
I have a web site. I am on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest. I have three blogs and have videos on You tube. In today’s environment, it is more important than ever for businesses to stay current and embrace change, including social media. With so much competition, you have to be available to clients in the way they want to access you. If you do not, you will be left behind by your competition.
Keeping on top of social media can be a full-time job. I do what I can myself and have a marketing company assist me with everything else.
I have always had a saying in business “I only touch things once”. That means finding ways to be efficient and effective in whatever my staff and I do. We do not address the same issue over and over. We find a solution and document the process so it is easy to follow every time it needs to be addressed. That is the same for social media. If I am posting to my blog, a notice goes to all my social media to make them aware of information that was just posted that may be of help to them. I work diligently to maximize all efforts. Many things we do in business can benefit not just what we are working on but can also benefit the business in other areas if we take the time to put systems in place and maximize efficiencies.
It is important in business today, no matter how small your business is, that you have the right people doing the right jobs. For example, a small business owner should not be doing $15 dollar an hour work if they can hire someone else to do it, freeing up the business owner’s time to bring more clients/customers into the business. This also applies to hiring outside resources like someone to manage your social media. That has enabled me to balance all I have had to do to run a successful business and at the same time have a personal life.
We’re speaking to businesses about online backup software. Why is it important for your business?
Backing up all of your work on the computer on a regular basis is extremely important. I find it best to have an automatic back up rather than one that requires me to request the back up. Without ongoing backup, you run the risk of losing what you spent so much time, energy and effort on. Not backing up can cause you to lose money and can even cause you to lose clients.
I have also seen businesses save data to discs or flash drives, etc. That is not a good idea. If you lose the discs, flash drive, etc. you have no back up.
Which did you choose and why that particular brand?
I use Carbonite and back up to iCloud. I chose this based on my computer tech company’s recommendation. I have been using it for many years and it has served me very well.
What does this enable you to do as a small business owner?
By having a great computer backup system, it enables me to feel confident and secure knowing I will not lose all of my hard work and it is available whenever I need it.
How are you involved in your community?
As a national speaker, I take on meetings every year that I do not charge for. This enables me to help a lot of people and feel great about the difference I can make for others. I have spoken at senior centers, Chambers of Commerce, churches, woman’s groups and many others.
On a personal level, I enjoy other community activities, such as building a home with Habitat for Humanity, preparing an apartment for a battered woman and her children and attending and contributing to charity fund raising events. I also belong to two women’s groups that raise money for our local community and for the world.
Several years ago, I put together a clown group with one of the women’s organization I belong to. I made all the costumes and learned to do magic tricks and make balloon animals. Our group went to nursing homes and were in parades each year.
My husband and I also donate both money and goods every year to a several charities.
What does supporting local mean to you?
We all have so much to be thankful for. It feels great to take some of my time, money and energy to be able to make a difference in the lives of others, both locally and globally. Supporting our local community helps to build the community financially, emotionally and in so many other ways.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Since selling my asset management and financial planning business in 2007, financially I do not need to work. So, mega growth of the business I have now is not my plan. For the next several years my goal is to continue to build my reputation and media presence as a great speaker helping business owners to do a better job for their clients and improve their bottom line and help individuals live more successful, fulfilling lives and realize their dreams. For me personally, I look forward to a lot more time with family and friends, exciting adventures and travel all over the world.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
I have often been asked if there was one thing I would have done differently when building my business. The answer is yes. I would have hired staff sooner.
Many business owners are afraid to take on the expense of hiring staff. I felt the same. I felt I had to make money to afford hiring someone first. I was wrong. The first staff I hired was a high school student to do filing after school. The first time I needed an important paper and realized it had been filed incorrectly and it was near impossible to retrieve it, I knew I needed to step it up and get the assistance I really needed for me and for my clients.
If you hire the right person, they will more than pay for themselves. So, don’t wait.