When life knocks you down, you have two choices: stay down or get up. —Tom Krause
I have been an entrepreneur ever since I was six years old.
My first business involved me gathering dandelions, bunching them into bouquets and selling them door-to-door around the neighborhood. I was selling seed packets and wrapping paper at the age of eight. By ten I was making and selling jam.
Then, my world was turned upside-down at the age of twelve when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. For the next three years, doctors worked to remove the complete lobe of my left lung, parts of my right lung, my spleen and my thymus. Later, a surgery to remove another mass paralyzed my vocal cord, leaving me with the raspy voice, that I have today.
Those three years were among the toughest of my life. The constant chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgeries took an incredible toll on me, which was only made worse by the fact that I was being treated for the wrong disease. While I had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, we discovered years later that I actually had malignant thymoma—an entirely different disease.
As a result of the treatment and illness, I missed a lot of school—most of sixth grade, all of seventh and eighth grade, and most of ninth grade. Despite this, I was learning constantly. The Wall Street Journal became a daily companion, teaching me about financial markets and investing. I also enjoyed watching the hit TV show M*A*S*H. Alan Alda, the best surgeon in the unit, had the ability to deal with the worst circumstances and still have fun. This example helped to shape my personal values. We can use our experiences to be the best at something, help others overcome adversity and still not take ourselves too seriously.
Aside from my parents, the person I credit most with getting me through that period was my surgeon, Dr. Robert Filler. He was the only person who, every time he saw me, would look me in the eye and say, “No, you are not going to die.” I’m convinced that his persistent attitude and aggressive approach to helping fight my disease are what ultimately saved me.
Through these experiences, I realized that life is short and needs to be enjoyed. Most of all, I learned that with a positive attitude and persistence, anything is possible. This was something I wanted to help others see so they could achieve their dreams and enjoy their lives.
It was this mindset that spurred me on through the most difficult times, encouraging me to keep growing as an entrepreneur. At the age of fifteen, I started a catering business in my mom’s kitchen and then founded and ran two successful home-renovation companies. It was with these companies that I realized how building something tangible could help others and how much I personally enjoyed seeing the results of this. Ultimately, this would become the vision for Carver Financial Services Inc.
First College, Then a Career
After enrolling at Oberlin College in Ohio, I quickly found that all that time spent reading The Wall Street Journal had paid off. To help pay my way, I would borrow money from my professors, and invest it in futures. After a while, I had become so successful with these efforts that one of my professors suggested that I should start teaching others how to invest as well. I took his advice and taught a college credit course on investing.
In 1987, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Originally, I planned to head home and resume my home renovation businesses. I enjoyed interacting with people and loved seeing tangible results of our work as we improved people’s homes. Instead, I took a job with a regional brokerage firm and moved to Mentor, Ohio, where I immediately began knocking on thousands of doors to open a new office for them. I had acquired enough clients in just four months to open my own branch in the spring of 1987.
With a lot of hard work and dedication, my office became one of the company’s most successful within three years.
I suffered another catastrophic setback in March of 1989. I was flying a single-engine plane and was forced to crash-land. I suffered collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a cracked larynx, and a crushed nose. For almost a year, I couldn’t speak. I would write notes, which my assistant would then take and read to my clients. Again, this was a very challenging period, but the experience helped me improve my listening skills and showed me the importance of working with a team, rather than working alone.
Not yet thirty, the bouts with adversity strengthened my sense of life’s fragility and made me even more determined to help others enjoy their lives. When I started in the financial services business, I believed that we could help people achieve their dreams.
Turning Industry Standards Upside-Down
After three years, I realized that working for a large investment firm would never come close to aligning with my aspiration of helping people build their financial future based on their hopes, dreams and personal vision. I was happy to be helping people, but at the same time, realized that there was a problem with an industry model focused simply on selling investments, not providing outstanding customized experiences. I envisioned a company focused on personal service, where the investments were merely tools to help people achieve their personal vision.
Of the many things years of entrepreneurship had taught me, one key idea was that no matter what business you’re in, the best way to differentiate yourself is through exceptional client service and making a true difference in their lives.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I saw most financial advisors, or firms, focusing on. To them, the financial services industry was all about selling investments and getting new clients—not providing lifelong support to the people who had invested with them. In my view, that model of financial services was broken. Financial planners should be helping people create experiences and fulfill their vision of a happy life, not pushing investments.
I felt that the company I worked for was no different—a product-focused firm that required its advisors to only sell a limited number of offerings. I felt we should be allowed to offer our clients the best possible financial solution, regardless of what company it came from. But unfortunately, our hands were tied.
Compounding this problem was the focus on getting new clients, rather than providing an amazing service experience for existing ones. To me, this approach was completely backward, and not only didn’t help people with what they really needed—it did not make good business sense either. I knew that working for a large investment firm would always prevent me from providing the kinds of service and experiences, that our clients deserved. So, I decided to set out on my own and build a new model focused on creating holistic experiences for our clients who we would work with for life.
Because the type of firm that I envisioned didn’t exist, I created it. This was the beginning of Carver Financial Services Inc. in December of 1990.
The Birth of a True Team
I established Carver Financial Services, Inc. with the vision statement of, “To make people’s lives better—our clients, our team and our community,” and partnered with Investment Management & Research, which is now Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Our goal was to build a service company that used financial planning and wealth management to help people achieve their personal vision, while simplifying their lives. By partnering with a global firm, we could provide all of the services that any large investment firm could without the pressure to sell any specific product or service.
While most financial advisors, and firms, focused only on their clients’ financial situations, we were passionate about helping people simplify their lives, seize opportunities to experience life’s greatest gifts, and continually enhance their lifestyles. The vision I had carried since childhood, to live life to the fullest AND to help others do the same, was implemented.
Our approach proved to be a success. As our practice grew, I quickly realized I could not provide the service needed for all of our new clients by myself. It was time to grow our team.
Here again, we turned the existing model upside-down. Most financial services practices had one sales assistant for every three or four advisors, I wanted to do the opposite, hiring three or four highly skilled client concierges for every advisor. That way, our clients could get the attention they wanted, needed, and deserved from a team of concierges who could handle any and all administrative requests.
In growing our practice, it was important to have a firm that would be around for generations to come. Moreover, I envisioned a team of professionals who not only had outstanding credentials, but also the same values and vision that I did for our clients. To do that we built a team of experts who bring different skills and experience to the table to create a robust support system for an enduring practice. Furthermore, we needed to have younger members who would learn and provide intergenerational longevity to the team. While many financial services firms claim to take a team-based approach to financial planning, team members are usually incentivized based on what they do individually. Our team, on the other hand, works collaboratively and is compensated collectively.
Again, this unique approach paid off. Today we continue to add specific operational, administrative, and planning professionals to our team, and have continued to grow our advisory and support team as well.
Personal Vision Planning®
Over the years, we have developed and refined a process for leading clients to achieve their personal vision for the future, while enjoying the present. We call it Personal Vision Planning.
Personal Vision Planning is different from traditional financial planning or investment planning. We work with our clients to build a clear, personalized vision of what their retirement might look like, and then we plan out how they can get there. The planning is based on your Vision, not investments. Through this process, my team and I offer clients unbiased investment information and a wide range of financial products and services through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. While we are an independent firm, we custody our assets with Raymond James and have access to all of the resources of a multi-billion dollar global firm whose offerings include, but are not limited to: investment banking, a trust company, an FDIC insured bank and hundreds of experts on a variety of topics of importance to our clients.
This focus on personal vision and quality of life, rather than on the money itself, is very important to me. As a survivor of cancer, a plane crash, and other extreme injuries, I’ve learned first-hand how precious each moment of each day truly is. Rather than simply helping people to grow wealth, Personal Vision Planning helps our clients to live their best lives possible.
Creating Unforgettable Client Services
All of us at Carver Financial Services are passionate about helping other’s enjoy life. In addition to the Personal Vision Planning, we create memorable life experiences for our clients by hosting unusual, once-in-a-lifetime trips and events. Overseas trips, educational and aspiration presentations by national speakers who are experts in various subjects and even a car show are just some of the experiences we offer each year.
Throughout this journey, nothing has made me prouder than to watch Carver Financial Services move from being “my firm” to “our firm.” United under the shared vision of making people’s lives better, we have continued to bring in new generations of team members so that the firm, just like our clients and their families, will be here to serve you and your family for generations to come. Understanding that unforeseen things happen we have both a detailed business continuity plan and business succession plan in place so that we will always be here to serve you and future generations, no matter what challenges we face.
Who knows what the future holds? Life is full of twists and turns. Some of them are wonderful, and others are life-threatening and awful. When we conquer difficulties, we learn that we can be or do anything, despite our circumstances. My experiences have shaped my passion to enjoy life and to be intentional about every action I take.
Our entire team is committed to helping you simplify your life, while enhancing your lifestyle as you live your future intentionally, with both a plan and a purpose. We are focused on sharing that journey with you, every step of the way. Our practice will continue to evolve while maintaining our vision of making people’s lives better. The things we do and the way we spend our time are so important and we appreciate you taking time to read this! Please let us know whenever we can be of service—have an amazing day!
You can reach Randy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-974–0808.