As business owners, we often get caught up in the thick of things, chasing after larger profits, attracting more clients, keeping up with the latest marketing trend to build a bigger and better business. Why don’t we take a pause and ask ourselves, what are we pursuing by doing what we’re doing? Is it really our priority to achieve worldly success at all costs?
We talk to Jeff Thomas of Arkos Global Advisors today to help us gain some perspective on setting our business and life priorities. Recounting highlights of his successful professional career, Jeff reveals that he eventually found himself putting God in the backseat while he focused on the little gods of material wealth and worldly success. Let’s listen and discover more insight into Jeff’s journey of discovering God’s purpose for him, his shift to running a God-centered business, and his vow to put the Big "G" first in everything that he does.
Key Points From This Episode:
"You can't take it with you but you can send it ahead." - Randy Alcorn
“The greatest investment is generosity. It goes for eternity and you get joy today.”
“Why isn't there a Chick-fil-A of wealth management? Private, scaled, unbelievably profitable, great people want to work there, amazing service. And they're unapologetic where their principles come from.”
“There's a lot of noise on the consumer side so we need to make some more noise on the generosity side because it leads to a lot more joy.”
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Generous Business Owner Podcast
Trading Up: Moving From Success to Significance on Wall Street by Jeff Thomas
Timothy Keller's Sermons Podcast
About Jeff Thomas
Jeff Thomas is the Founder/CEO of Arkos Global Advisors and the author of Trading Up: Moving from Success to Significance on Wall Street. He is passionate about helping clients connect their money with their purpose. His vision is to scale a God-honoring wealth management company where advisors who share common values collaborate to help families thrive across generations.
Jeff and his wife, Dolly, live in Houston and have two daughters. Jeff and Dolly stay very involved in their church, as well as several non-profit endeavors.
ANNOUNCER: Imagine taking your generosity to the next level, impacting more lives, and leaving a godly legacy for generations to come. Get ideas and strategies to do just that when you listen to these personal stories from high-level Kingdom champions.
The Kingdom Investor Podcast showcases business leaders who have moved from success to significance, sharing how they use worldly wealth for kingdom impact. Discover how they grew in generosity, impacted more lives, and built godly legacies. You'll find motivation, inspiration, and practical steps to grow as a Kingdom Investor.
Daniel White (DW): Hello, everyone, and welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. I'm your host, Daniel White. Today we get to interview the CEO of Arkos Global Advisors, Jeff Thomas. Jeff has decades of experience in the wealth management space, and has leveraged that to start a different kind of firm that helps families thrive across generations, by connecting their money with their purpose. Jeff also hosts the Generous Business Owner Podcast, and wrote the book "Trading Up: Moving from Success to Significance on Wall Street".
If you have enjoyed this podcast, please share it with your friends and leave us a review. Thank you. And now let's get right into the show.
DW: So Jeff, would you tell the listeners a little bit about where you're coming from and who you are?
Jeff Thomas (JT): Sure. Do you want me to start with a prayer?
DW: Yeah, yeah, you can do that.
JT: All right, let's just start with a quick prayer. Lord, we just thank you for this time, we thank you for the annual in his heart to serve you and motivate others and we just pray for this time. And we pray for our listeners that they might draw closer to you during this time of listening, and may Daniel and I just say exactly what you'd like us to say and not a word otherwise. Lord, help us to just be on your agenda today and point all the glory to you. In your son's name we pray, amen.
DW: Amen. Thank you, Jeff. Yeah. Can you share a little bit about yourself?
JT: Yeah. I'll give you maybe the grown-up story. I know, sometimes. We do that on our podcast. And I've noticed you kind of do the same. And I think it gives some good context, you know, where people are coming from. And so sometimes we assume everybody has the same background, but it's usually all unique. You know, there's some similarities sometimes. But so I grew up mostly in St. Louis. My dad was a business guy, engineer, MBA and was kind of on that track, working for International Harvester and he's a pastor. He was in his late 20s, and married to my mom, and his pastor asked him, "have you ever thought about going to seminary?" And I used to tease my dad all the time, he probably asked every young man in the congregation that question, and he finally got a yes out of somebody and that was my dad. And, so my dad, you know, being the practical engineer he was, he thought, well, you know, I don't know if I'll be any good at it. So maybe I'll take, you know, Greek and Hebrew first, I hear those are hard. And if I'm any good at that, maybe I'll continue but I'm not going to quit my job right away. And so he was a pretty, pretty academic-oriented guy, so those classes really weren't a problem.
JT: So, he ended up still working for the company in the summers and, and went to seminary, pretty much full time at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. And eventually, he actually ended up writing his D.Min. on how to run the church more efficiently using the business practices he had learned earlier in his academic and private business career. And so he kind of became Mr. Fix-it for the Presbyterian Church. And mostly we landed in St. Louis. And so that's mostly where I grew up. So, I kind of grew up with this, thinking, you know, a lot of PKS get into trouble. And I think a lot of that's the pressure, maybe they're under but my parents did a really wonderful job I thought of, I mean, I felt the pressure. Everybody in town knew who my dad was. So I was very aware and they would say on my way out the door, “Remember who you are.” I knew what that meant.
JT: So I felt that pressure but at the same time, they weren't super preachy to me at home. In a really overrun it run me off way. I really liked the way my parents lived. Actually. It was very attractive to me and we had our share of artistic arguments, of course, as normal parents and children will but I really liked the environment we grew up. I mean, we grew up around all kinds of generous people. And I thought that was normal, faithful, generous people, I thought everybody kind of grew up that way. And, so that was actually a real blessing. But part of the struggle, and maybe we can get into this, for me was that I had an example of a father, who was a business guy who felt like to be in ministry. He was called to lead a church, and to go to seminary. And so I think I had some stinking thinking, as we call it for a while, that if you're in full-time ministry, you got to work for a nonprofit, or for the church. And it took me quite a while to figure out that we're all in ministry, regardless of the tax status of our employer, shall we say.
DW: Yeah, absolutely. So what are you doing now? And where are you located?
JT: Yeah, so, we've got Arkos Global Advisors, which is what we call it a nontraditional wealth management firm. We're based in Houston, Texas, where I live, but we've got offices in six cities with a vision to scale it all over the nation. So we'd love to be in all 50 states. So if there's some advisor out there, working for a firm, that's unaligned and really wants to do things in a kingdom manner, as a team, with bigger projects, you know, I'm sure we will have my will put my email in the show notes or the website or something, but they can find me. But that really didn't start out that way. This company is, we're in our sixth year. But I've been in the business for 30 years. And I had started out in public accounting, and that was great. I learned a lot got hired by Paine Webber as an auditor and did that for a couple of years. And then I realized I was on the wrong side of the business, on the expense side, not on the revenue side. And so started as an advisor in '95, and then built a business at Paine Webber before it was sold to UBS. The firm took the team that we had built there to Morgan Stanley in 2000, and was at Morgan Stanley for 17 years, before we felt God leading us to start this business. So there are a lot of things that happened over the last 30 years that kind of pointed us toward what I think is at least God's capstone project for me, which is scaling this firm in our industry to glorify Him.
DW: So can you tell us the general, the genesis story, yeah, story of how the firm started?
JT: Yeah, you know, the first 10 years in this business, you know, I kind of bought into the way the world tells you to do it. I was a competitive tennis player growing up in college, and, you know, everything in that world, like a lot of sports, but especially individual sports is everything's a bracket. And especially in individual sports, there's only one winner of every tournament. And these, the big firms do a really good job of fostering competition, shall we say? And so, when I was at Paine Webber, they gave a psychology, sort of psychological profile test to see if you're any good at sales, essentially. And I said, I asked my branch manager, and I said, well, how should I answer the question? He goes, oh, just answer it like you're a singles tennis player does that's gonna be piece of cake for you, are they okay? So they're really looking for individual people that could, you know, you could drop them with a phone book and a computer anywhere and they could build a business. And, and then they would show you where you rank globally. And so PaineWebber had six or 7,000 advisors, Morgan Stanley had about 15,000 when I left and so every day I would come in and I'd press my scorecard button and see where I ranked. And I had an okay attitude about, you know, we're trying to take care of clients. And I literally thought of like, this is a job, like my path, you know, my dad could probably kind of know, reasonably well 100 families in his church and then have associates that maybe take care of other families that kind of thought of it that way. This is my sort of flock I'll take care of them. It's a safe place to go to invest your money in a financial plan, that sort of thing.
JT: So it wasn't totally, totally counter to the Gospel, if you will, but I got 10 years into it and and made a few bucks and it kind of gotten toward the top of that leaderboard. And I remember, just totally dissatisfied. And I couldn't place where my that dissatisfaction was coming from. I mean, I was married, two kids, were going to church and leadership things. I mean, on paper, it all looked fine. But I really didn't know it was going on. And so I thought, you know, I was about in my early 30s, then I'm in my mid-50s. Now, and I thought, you know, there's probably answers in the Bible. But do I even believe all that stuff? My dad's got a doctorate in this stuff. But I've been kind of trading on my parents' faith, I just sort of went along with what they did, even though it had septic crisis, a 13-year-old and sort of confirmation class and our little Presbyterian Church there, but, and I meant it when I did that. So I did have trust, but I didn't really have a personal relationship with Jesus. And so it led to this empty place. And so I did all the study in my early 30s, on World Religions, I was like, do I even believe all this and, and then I read "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. And that was a pivotal read for me, because it's just such a kind of a, I'm from Missouri. So you got a doubting Thomas from Missouri. I mean, it's an accountant. Oh, my gosh, it's like the worst. We need so many facts, I can't take anything at face value. And I was an auditor for crying out loud. I mean, it's just, it's terrible.
JT: So my, my natural ability for faith is weak. I'm an evidence-based guy. And that really helped me. And then I, so I really kind of doubled down on my faith. And for the first time, I started to seriously study the Bible. And I did Bible Study Fellowship. For the listeners out there that are familiar with that. It's just blocking and tackling kind of daily reading, and then a group study on Mondays and that kind of thing. So that, but that really got me through most of the Bible. And I started seeing how it all fit together. And the messages that I was getting during that period, from God, where he did reveal to me I'll never forget, I remember thinking of it like a mirror. And I remember thinking, I thought I was a pretty good person, actually, you know, you know. And that mirror from God's word was actually super ugly. Because what he revealed to me was that I was putting worldly success before him. And I was building business plans and asking him to bless my plan, because frankly, I thought it'd be more fun. And I was kind of scared of what he might, is he going to send me to Africa? Like, if I give it all to him, what's he going to do?
JT: And I've since completely switched on that where I actually have zero desire for my own will, because I know where it leads me, to an empty place. And he put in me really a new heart to just chase things of him. And it's been such an adventure, and so much more fun than the way I tried to do it for a decade professionally, that I'm totally addicted to it. And so that's why I'm so excited about what you're doing and in what we're doing to try to just inspire people to think about a different model than what's popular out there. So really 10 years of kind of repenting of the way I had been doing it and trying to do it better.
And then I was with a mentor of mine, a guy named Ron Blue, who founded Kingdom Advisors, which is a nonprofit that helps financial advisors implement biblical wisdom into their practice. He had asked me to be a coach in the late 2000s, for Kingdom Advisors, the coaching program they had at that time, no longer exists, but I said, well, I'm as much a player, and about 2007 I am a coach, how about I fly in early it was in Atlanta, kind of a noon-to-noon, once a quarter deal for about 50 advisors. And I fly in and you disciple me in the morning, and then we'll go do the coaching and, and he generously did that for me for three years. And at the last session, he said, and this moment is critical because I think it's custom-made but available to everybody. And really why I wrote my book, trading up was this moment. Ron said to me, he goes, you know, everything I start gets bigger and better after I leave. I can't believe this wealth management business I started in 1979 is now 15 offices, 50 million in revenue. And Daniel I mean, I just love telling the story because it's so amazing. I literally heard, I don't think, I know I haven't heard anything that, I literally thought it was audible to the entire room. He felt like God said, I want you to scale what this guy started because when he said that Ron's a visionary, not an operator, he'd be the first to tell you that that's why he self-effacingly says that like everything gets bigger and better after he leaves so he's always 30 years ahead.
JT: But my office at Morgan Stanley, which was one of like six in Houston was doing more than 50 million in revenue. So he had proven that using biblical wisdom and wealth management was effective but it wasn't scaled. And all I knew was scale. That's all I'd ever worked in were scaled environments. And so, I literally asked Ron, I said, “Did you hear that?” When I felt God say "scale what this guy started". And he goes, "No, what?" And I literally looked over my shoulder does it maybe I caught a glancing blow for somebody else. And nobody else was in the coffee shop. And so I knew it had to be for me. And then I sort of had this quick conversation like you do sometimes quiet time with God or just during the day. And I was like, wow is like my whole work career flashed in front of my eyes, the stupid stuff I had done for 10 years, the trying to do it better the next 10 years. And, and so it just felt so personal. Like, I mean that is my greatest desire for everybody listening to this is that if they haven't had that moment, and maybe you don't have to be 40 years old to get it, you can get it at 18 or 14, or 25, or 30. But it was about 40 for me. And so it just felt so personal, it was still felt so special. But then I also knew I didn't know how to do it. I had five people on my team. And he said, "scale something". I've never scaled anything. And so as I said that to him, I said, my gosh, it's such a beautiful picture you gave me and I'd love to do it. But I don't know how. You got the wrong guy. And I remember God like a sweet grandfather chuckling it is "Grandson (not in a mean way, in a sweet way) I know you can't do it, I'll do it. You wake up and take instructions and give me the credit." And I was like, well, I can do that. So, man, that's the road I've been on for the last dozen years or so.
JT: And, I woke up the next day, I did it. I was so excited. I was like, oh my gosh, what am I supposed to do? You know? And of course, he doesn't give you A to Z. He's like daily bread, like daily dependence. And I've heard some of your podcast, I know that you think that way. And, and but that's not the way I always thought I was always a little frightened of what he might do. Now, I'm just, can't wait. It's always amazing and awesome, honestly. It doesn't mean it's not painful along the way. But my path was a lot more painful than his. It I know where it leads, it leads to a place of joy. So anyway, I woke up and he didn't say, start a company. This is 2010. He said, scale. All right, well, I'm already at a scaled organization at Morgan Stanley, I've got some favor there. I'm in the chairman's club, kind of the top 2%. I've got on these committees with management, I had started a little Christian focus group, which is like my own internal podcast before that was a thing. And we had like 150 members, and I do host of like a monthly conference call. We're really just like what we're doing here, just to motivate them. And so I said, Okay, I'll throw myself into that, let's get it officially recognized by the firm. And we did that. Got the group up to about 600 members. And, and got officially recognized by the firm, but at the end of the day, we didn't win the culture war. And we can talk about that a little bit and how we launched the company from there. Maybe I'll pause there and in and see how you want me to continue.
DW: Yeah, that's really, really helpful and really interesting. How, you know, looking back, you can see how God put you in different places and taught you different things to prepare you for this. And then even you know, I'm interested in hearing the next section of the story too, because just to see how he really is faithful. And he’s thinking a lot more long-term than we are, right?
JT: But somebody, I was studying Isaiah 40 for quite a while and so I was reading everything and listening to everything I could on that. And there's a bit in there about God's sovereignty, and one commentator said something I really liked. It's a little dramatic, but I think I like it because it relieves me of some of these issues. He said, God is never on our timeframe. And he's always right on time. We're the ones with the bad and I'm the one with the bad timing, and anxiousness and fear. And, you know, all of those things, selfish desire, whatever want to get it solved tomorrow, but God is always on time, never late, and it almost never lines up with our timing. You know, so, and then when you were talking about that, like all the things lead to it, it reminds me of Romans 8:28, All things are, you know, God uses all those things, for those who are called according to His purposes, you know, he can organize all things for His glory, even the stupid mistakes we make, he's so creative. So he took me sort of redeem that 10 years where I was kind of going my own way, and taught me other lessons. And then I can speak to people that are maybe in that season, with a little more authority. I kind of got the t-shirt on trying to do it that way.
DW: So would you say in that, in that stage of life, you were really pursuing success, worldly success, as maybe an idol in your life
JT: 100%. And I would not have said that to you. But I had accepted sort of this, the, what I would call a worldly, we talk a lot around here about Kingdom versus world thinking. And I had sort of accepted the world's definition of success in kind of the Western, capitalistic definition. I mean, heck, I'm in the capital markets, I am a huge fan of capitalism, and what it can do, and the freedom it can give and, and all of those things, but you can overdo it. It's a good thing but you can overdo it. Like any great gift from God, you can overdo it. And so God made me super competitive. But you can overdo that. So that competitiveness, that achievement-oriented stuff, that's okay. There's nothing wrong with achievement, working hard, making money. Money by itself isn't bad. But it's not, I made all of that stuff, my little "g" god. And, and then, in the big "G" God always has to be first. And then you can have all of those other things. But you can't put the little "g" god above anything else, including money and worldly success first. It's not going to lead to a place of joy. And one of the things we always say around here is, "everybody knows money can't buy happiness, but everybody wants to figure it out for themselves." So, unfortunately, we learn more, you know, from the failures, oftentimes than the successes.
DW: So what do you think was some of the telltale signs of you putting “the little "g" god” above God? And maybe what was some of the things that kind of helped you to see that you were actually doing that? Because you said earlier that you wouldn't have said that you were doing that?
JT: Yeah. Well, I mean, God's word really revealed it to me, to be honest with you. We were talking before we started recording about Alan Barnhart. He's one of my co-hosts on the Generous Business Owner podcast. And also, you know, I know, you're a fan of his and his story motivated you. It also motivated me. I heard his story in 2006, through Generous Giving. And I know you, I think you've had Todd Harper on the on the podcast who ran that for a long time, still very involved in and I heard Alan's story and you know, at that time, you know, I've been studying God's word a lot. And it was really convicting me about, you can only serve one master. I mean, it's in there twice, God or man, and man and his money. So and I was just super convicted. And there's just story after story about stewardship, not ownership, and that God owns it all. And, and we're just stewards. And I was really acting like an owner, not like a steward. And I just knew that. And so those verses were really convicting me. And then, you know, you hear a story like Alan where the guy's literally, he's running a multi hundred million dollar organization with hundreds and hundreds of employees. You know, offices, I think, last count I heard was 48 offices, doing training and rigging and all of this kind of stuff, and given away millions per month.
JT: And I literally go into that Generous Giving event thinking I just, you know, look, I'm just looking to be a tickled tither. I mean, if you could really just get to the 10%, you're, boy, you're in the top like 1% of givers, if you can give away 10%. And Alan blew my mind. Like, I didn't even know the term reverse tithe but he's way past all that. He's given away the ownership of the company which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and he's living on this tiny salary and he feels relative to the size of the business. And he actually feels guilty about, if he tells his story, he's always very quick to point out that he's got a big 401k because he's been at the same company forever and he feels guilty about it. And but now for him, we were talking about it for him. The key word is protection. He did that same Bible study and God screamed at him, just don't have it touch you, you'll be tempted by it. And so for him a lot of it's motivated by that. I know for you, it's motivated by missions, for me, my motivation so we're on our path we're working on giving us the next 10%. We give 10% of our company away in 2019. We're giving another 10% away by the end of the year to the National Christian foundation, and we're on that path to do the whole thing over time.
JT: And for me, what motivates me is my calling is to help other high-capacity families understand their calling, and give them oxygen delivered out. So mine is a leverage, like, I'm sort of a, in our company, we are guides to wealthy folks who just happen to live in this country. You know, none of us picked who our parents were, and when we were born. And all of these things are just gifts that God put us in the richest country ever on the face of the earth for such a time as this, and we think that is to build the kingdom. And that gives you joy. And you can have the fruits of the kingdom here while we're on this earth and eternally. I mean, it's just an unbelievable trade. But the world system that I kind of bought into in my 20s really speaks against that, to consume for yourself, rather than to be generous, where I love it that you've already figured it out way before I did, that this generous life is really the key to the whole deal, leads to joy now and eternally. So anyway, that's kind of what motivates me, and what were some of the turning points, the Scripture and seeing other stories.
DW: So would you share a little bit about the podcast and kind of a reason that you started the podcast?
JT: Yeah. And, you know, maybe as we get into that, you know, the business transition piece, finally, you know, the Morgan Stanley, that a big public company, at least with the leadership there, it was pretty hard to, we weren't going to win the culture war. And so I remember just being on my knees, remember, the deal was, God would scale it if I would just get up and be obedient. And so we had a setback with the culture there. And I was on my knees the next day, kind of mourning the death of that vision. And I go, God, I screwed it up. It's not going to work. And he said, I didn't say it had to be there. So I knew what that meant. It couldn't just go to another public company, we had to create a private company that, you know, where the vision and mission would not creep. And we could have God as the centerpiece, as the owner and, and do this forever. And so as we got into that, what God's done is, he's really developed a niche for us around generous business owners, literally, we had when we started the business, like three niches, kind of C-suite people, business owners, and like partners, that accountants and you know, accounting and law firms, that kind of thing.
JT: But then I read a book called Scaling Up, actually, and it and I had a lot of financial stuff, I'm kind of financial guy that wasn't really that helpful. But like any book, you hope, maybe you just get one little nugget out of it. And the nugget I got out of it was to have one niche. And if you get in front of that niche, you have like a 90% close ratio. And then especially as a smaller company, trying to scale. It's just really efficient. You put every moment marketing dollar service initiative toward that one niche. And the fallacy is that you run everybody else off. They'll refer all their friends, because you're going to do such an amazing job for that one niche, but there's like a 90% close rate.
JT: So what we noticed was God was bringing us these generous business owners. They wanted somebody they could trust, it's like-minded, understood them as an owner, they usually, a lot of them are believers, not all of them. But most of them are generous. They've got that seed planted. And frankly, as believers, we hope they see where that seed came from. And we're happy to talk about that with them. But at the end of the day, we want to do a great job for them. So it's sort of like the Chick-fil-A of wealth management accounting. And so, you know, the way the podcast came about was, of course, Alan and I had become friends and, and, and then I wanted to, you know, as we give more of the company away, we keep donating more to the kingdom each year as a company and so God's blessing those resources and Hope International, you know, as a Christian microfinance ministry, and Peter Greer runs it and I knew Peter a little bit and we thought, well, we'd like to do some projects, maybe with Hope. And so I called Peter and yeah, I was telling him about that. And he read my book and he said, man, you need to meet our founder. And I said, I thought you were the founder. And he said, no, no, Jeff Rutt. He's a homebuilder. Gateway is his business, he's friends with Alan Barnard also. And so, anyway, the three of us started having sort of weekly calls for, really about a year, maybe a year and a half. And we actually did an outline for a book and all that. But anyway, the publishing just wasn't totally coming together. And we were just praying a lot. And we just felt that instead of writing the book, which maybe we'll do down the road, let's start a podcast and just tell stories of our friends.
JT: Much like what you're doing, but specifically around the business owner, and, you know, I'm in a C12 group of Christian CEO group, that's been super helpful. And I just think there's not enough discussion, just like what you're promoting, maybe with even a wider audience of thinking countercultural culturally about generosity and the joy that it brings, I think there's a lot of noise on the consumer side. And we need to make some more noise on the generosity side, because I think it leads to a lot more joy. And so anyway, that's kind of how it started. And frankly, it's been just a riot. I was kind of worried maybe like, you were that, oh, man, I sort of do Wednesday afternoons, doing that I go, is it gonna be worth it? But hopefully, you're seeing that fruit also. But just the feedback we get is so much fun. And frankly, I love the conversations. I get motivated by it. So for me, it's sort of like just having conversations with my, with my co-host friends talking to other friends. And sometimes when you have lunch with somebody, and you have a really meaningful discussion, you say, boy, I wish these other people that heard it. So you sort of get other people to hear your story. So we're, we're having a lot of fun with that.
DW: That's really neat. Yeah, yeah, it's been really encouraging to hear some of the guests that you've had on and, you know, I would encourage our listeners to check it out. So Jeff, would you share maybe a particular failure in your life that you've learned a lot from, and maybe our listeners can learn a lot from too?
JT: Well, one of my, and I alluded to it earlier, but I, you know, I have a lot of ideas for different books, maybe I'll get to at some point, but one of them would be around this idea of a scorecard. And, you know, I still play tennis one day a week, but I'm only getting worse at tennis, but I'm trying to get better at golf. And Golf has a scorecard you know, so you think about putting your little score for each hole for 18 holes down on there. But I alluded to it earlier, you know at the last big firm I was at before we started Arkos, they literally had a scorecard button on the computer. And I would hit that button without fail every morning. And, you know, it was almost like my quiet time. In lieu of my quiet time, that was my worldly scorecard button, and to see where I ranked, and it immediately causes angst, because it drives you to comparison immediately. It's all about your ranking for revenue and assets, which is how they ranked you at that firm. I felt better about myself if I moved up and I felt worse about myself if I moved down. And I think that I don't think I'm alone in that. Maybe not everybody's got an exact button on their computer that's that overt.
JT: But what do you think about and how do you think about whether you're a success or not? I had the wrong scorecard. You know, and I had a buddy, I was talking to about this. And he goes, man, you got to you got to stop pressing that button. Like to change a habit, right? 30 days or whatever it is. He goes, I'm challenging you to not press that button for 30 days. And I go okay, but you know, like, if you've got an addiction, you have to like replace it with something healthy, right? So we sort of agreed I got out a little notebook, and I started writing down Kingdom conversations I would have that was my new scorecard. And in you know, really the greatest thing that helped me get that to that place was that daily quiet time, by the way, implementing that also helped. But then as a discipline when I got to the office, instead of hitting that button, I literally had to go, put the finger down and put it on a bend. And then during the day, I would just make little notes. I would, I mean, for probably 10 years, I never prayed for a client in person. Like I just, that's not, nobody taught me that in training. You don't? I mean, you go through the financial plan, you invest the money, very professional, blah, blah, blah. If somebody was having a problem that well, I'll pray for you, in my personal time, and I might remember, maybe 70% of the time, okay?
JT: But then I just started going, okay, what can I pray for you right now? We just pray on the spot. And, or I just asked them where they went to church? I mean, what do they give to? Even if they don't give anything, then you know, a little more something about them. Have a little more of a meaningful interaction, on something related to the spiritual things. And after 30 days, it actually did become a habit. I was so intentional about bringing these things up, because I was such a scorecard addict, that it actually built the habit. And so I just think that was my biggest failure is, so many analogies, I had the ladder on the wrong wall. I had the wrong scorecard. So I would just, I would just encourage everybody to think about what do they think about? I thought about my ranking a lot. And so, what is your scorecard? You have one, what is it? And suddenly, as my scorecard shifted, things got a lot more fun, because talking about those spiritual things are way more meaningful than did we make an extra percent in the market or whatever else? I mean, still, you got to do a great job for people that's table stakes. But having these spiritual discussions, that has a much bigger impact on their lives.
DW: Right. Yeah, that's so true. So all right, I want to ask a fun question. You can take this as a serious and a fun question and maybe give an answer in each but, what is the greatest investment that you've ever made?
JT: Oh, man, greatest investment. Okay, I'll tell you a fun, worldly story, and then I'll, and then I'll tell you what, really, I think is truth. A fun little worldly deal is we have a client. I don't think I've ever told this story on a podcast, but we, one of our longest-term clients, we bought, you know, when Steve Jobs came back to run Apple, we loaded this guy up on Apple stock. And it was like two bucks or whatever. And of course, we still hold it and it's worth a gazillion dollars. And this guy retired and bought a ranch. That's what everybody in Texas does. Okay, they want to buy a ranch. And he bought this ranch and he's got a great family. And they all spend time on this ranch together and can just hang out as a family and all that kind of stuff. And he said every year they have the Steve Jobs Olympics. And he explains to the family every year that all of this is because Apple stock vote gazillion times. And we had the money to do that. So it's a story I think actually of generosity to his family. I mean, he's very focused on his family spending time together, which is also has value other than other mission work. But when I when I think of the greatest things, you know, we were talking about Randy Alcorn's book, the "Treasure Principle" before we started recording, and I think that's one of the best concise, and one of my favorite phrases in all of sort of the giving world is one of his that he coined, which is, "You can't take it with you but you can send it ahead."
JT: And if you really believe that this life is just the dot on the long line, or as Francis Chan would always get out a big row. And he'd have like a little one-inch red spot on a white rope. He's like eternity as the white rope that's 50 feet on his stage. And this life is one little red inch on it. If you really believe that and you believe that God's Word which literally says that we can trade our worldly possessions now for eternal glory. I don't, there's no way you can calculate, that return is way bigger than Apple stock since the day that Steve Jobs returned. And so it's infinitesimal return on that kingdom investment and like we talked about earlier, but we just most of us know from trying that money can't buy happiness. You can only drive one car You can only live in one house at a time. You know, you can't take it with you. What can you do with it? If you give too much to your kids, usually it ruins them what you do with it? Yeah, you can send it ahead. And by the way, it's really fun. While you're on this earth, that's, I think that's one of the things I love about your story is that I can tell every time you talk about missions, your energy level goes through the roof. That's the juice, you found the juice.
JT: And so whatever that is, for the listener in terms of generosity, man, God will give you this specific plan. That's what I love about, even though I wish I had gotten it earlier, because I think I could have if I was more obedient earlier, but I'll take it when I got it. And you've got even transformed all that. He's got a just an amazing, I always sign my book, Ephesians 2:10, because he's got this specific plan for you. That all you have to do is accept it. And it's a grand adventure. And so, man, that's the greatest investment is the generosity. It goes for eternity. And you get joy today.
DW: Yeah. Jeff, would you share a little bit more about your vision? And if there's anything that we or our listeners can do to help you achieve that?
JT: Yeah, so you know, we've kind of gone all in on this business owner niche, and the vision keeps expanding, actually, it's getting bigger. For me, it was always just exactly what God said, scale what this guy started. Well, he started a wealth management company, so we're gonna scale for His glory. Why isn't there a Chick-fil-A of wealth management? Private, scaled, unbelievably profitable, great people want to work there, amazing service. You know, they don't stamp the cross in the chicken sandwich but the service is amazing. And they're unapologetic where their principles come from? Why isn't there like a Christian Goldman Sachs, like, where are the best students coming out of business school who love the Lord can work at a God-honoring place as part of their vision and mission? That will never change, like, okay. But what God's doing is, he's starting to bring us like the thousand biggest Christian givers in America. And we're sort of creating this, well, we have created these family office services, and we're serving these families. And so it's just unbelievable. We need more advisors in these 50 states, you know, we need to be probably in 300 cities, not six. And we got a head of M&A to handle that. We could probably do four next year, four new cities next year. So we need advisors.
JT: And then for families who are feeling like man, I really want to talk about generosity. I've got this worldview but my advisor really isn't speaking my language. I mean, all we do is talk about investments. And you know, the way we did our financial plan, but I was just stacking up bigger barns. Is there something more? I don't even know what conversation we're supposed to be having. But I think it's a different one. You know, hit us up on the website, we'll find you an advisor, even if they're not in your city, they will come see you. So, that's our mission is to really build the kingdom by just coming alongside people, we never, we can't just like the gospel, we can't talk anybody into being generous. But God has planted generous hearts in financial advisors and he's planted generous hearts in a lot of people with excess funds out there, who really need a guide, or need a company to work for that comes alongside that, to promote that kingdom agenda that God's already planted in peoples. We just give that oxygen. And then we do excellent planning to work that out, taxes and all of those things.
DW: So Jeff, before we enter the mentor minute, is there anything else you would like to share? Any advice or wisdom that you can share with our audience?
JT: Well, again, the thing that turned it all around for me really was the act of studying the Bible on a discipline basis. It sounds so simple. But it's so easy, even the day I wake up, you know, if you're like me, you go see the phone and you start to see the emails and the text messages and all of those things. It's really easy to just get sucked into that. And so I think even now, it takes even more intentionality to sort of set that aside and do a little, you know, like, I'm, I'm reading a couple of Christian books, I've got some different devotionals. I rotate things. I don't think the way it's done is important but I think putting some scripture in your brain and speaking to God and praying every morning, however, that looks and give yourself grace If you're on the road and got to get up early and catch a plane and don't get it, it's not a legalistic thing. But if you can have that, the spiritual discipline of that, that quiet time in the morning, man, it's, it's, it's more powerful than the, than working out physically. To me. I mean, it just, I can feel my blood pressure fall. I think of it like a baseball analogy, where you know, you're going to be getting fastballs all day. But you got to spend time in the cage, practicing your swing, because you just got to react in the moment, I can notice my reaction time is worse if I don't have that quiet time. And so to me, that Daily Download from God, I mean, that's where all my best ideas come from. They're not mine. They come from God, and generally in that quiet time, so I'm too busy the rest of the day to listen as well as I can. Before everything gets grandkid. So that'd be my sort of practice.
DW: Yeah, that's really helpful. And I have, I can attest that that's really changed, really, my life. And I've had to start plugging my phone in a different room, right, so that I can have that, you know, 90 minutes to two hour time of investing in God's word and praying and even reading books, you know, exactly. Once you get going and sucked into the world's
JT: It's hard to pull back. Yeah.
DW: All right, let's do the mentor minute. So, the first question I have is, who is the most influential person that you know, and how have they impacted you?
JT: My father is definitely the biggest one on that. I just didn't realize, you know, you only have one father. And first of all, I was lucky enough to be in the house in a two-parent home. That's rare enough these days. But that, to have a father that, you know, totally sold out to the Lord was, I had no idea how unique and powerful that was as a guide for me.
DW: Is there a particular book or podcast that has been very influential in your life?
JT: Well, obviously, if people are listening to this, I love what you're doing. I love the Wow Factor by Brad Formsma, who's an old, generous giving guy. I love his spirit and his Seven Ways to Live Generously. I just think that and then I'm on a huge, well, I listen to all kinds of actually listen to lots of Tim Keller podcasts. For those that are kind of maybe deeper in the faith. It's definitely not late milk, it's more heavy food. But I'm kind of a Bible study nerd so I like the way he thinks. And I think he's, you know, having spent all those years in ministry in New York City, he deals with a lot of successful people, or he did and so I'm sure still does in retirement. But anyway, that's another favorite.
DW: And then what is the greatest lesson in leadership that you've learned?
JT: I mean, I think, "lead with a limp" is what I would say. I, I literally say, to our team, that literally all of my ideas are garbage, and all of God's ideas are amazing. And the only hope we have is that, luckily, we try to listen to him as much as possible. And, and, and so. And then the other one, I say all the time is like, I feel like at 54 years old, I've probably made 80% of the business mistakes you can make. I said, so let's try not to make too many of the old ones but we'll make 20% of the new ones together. So this idea that I don't have all the answers, and we are going to make mistakes, and it's okay. And, you know, there's the old story about the guy running a company and one of his lieutenants lost, you know, $5 million on a new project. And the guy just comes in and the lieutenant comes in, and he's like, I mean, here's my letter of resignation. I mean, I'm firing myself, I mean, saving you the trouble. And the manager is like, are you kidding me? No way you're leaving. That's the most expensive education we've ever given anybody. So I like this idea that not that you have to keep everybody but I get it. We're not God. You gotta let people go if it doesn't fit, but just that mistakes are part of the game. And you can't let them derail you and that we don't have all the answers. So, one of our company principles is "empowerment, not control". So I'm a big fan of I don't like being controlled. I don't like controlling people. And I think you get the best out of them if you empower them, and put them in the right seat on the bus and give them what they need, and ask them what they need to be successful.
DW: That's really good. Jeff, thank you so much for coming on the podcast really appreciate your time and wisdom. Is there anything that we can pray for for you or your family?
JT: I would just say, There's nothing better, where all the juice comes from, for me is that intimacy for Christ, so intimacy for our team with him, for me, and our team at work. And then our family team really is my number one request.
DW: All right, let's pray right now.
Thank you. God, I thank you and praise you for Jeff and for his family, for what he's doing for the Kingdom. I pray that, that you would direct him that you would help him to, to see which ideas are his in which ideas are yours, and then you'd be able to pursue those ideas. Well, God, I thank you for this opportunity to really pick his brain and listen to some of the wisdom from the decades in this industry. God, I pray that you would help our listeners to be encouraged and go out and build your kingdom. In Christ, I pray. Amen.
Thank you guys for listening to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. We'll catch you next time for another episode of The Kingdom Investor Podcast.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
ANNNOUNCER: What if you could take your generosity to the next level, impacting more lives in your community and around the world, creating a godly legacy for generations to come?
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