How Daniel Ramsey Experienced His Father Growing Up
“I think everyone’s home they grow up in; they assume that’s what everyone’s childhood is like. I thought it was all normal, and our parents did a really good job of being intentional about being normal.
My dad didn’t act like he was famous or that he had the size of ministry that he did. But I knew he was in business because people would occasionally comment. But, the biggest thing I noticed as a kid was when we would go out, someone would come up to our table and say, ‘Hey, are you Dave Ramsey? Oh my gosh, you changed my life.’
As a kid, your dad’s already your hero. But hearing person after person come up to your father and say things like that elevates him in your mind. So that was a cool experience for me growing up. It gave me a lot of pride in who I am in the family.
We weren’t forced to budget like crazy and didn’t have mutual fund parties or anything weird growing up. It wasn’t a big deal in the area I grew up in. People didn’t treat it like it was some crazy thing. I don’t remember either of my parents having a new car until I was in high school.
Later they built a nice house and got nice cars, but I didn’t grow up around that. I didn’t know that we had money until I was in high school. I knew my dad was a successful business person. I knew he did well and had a huge impact on a lot of people. But my life didn’t look any different than my friends.”
How Daniel Ramsey Got Acquainted With Ramsey Solutions.
“When I was in high school, I enjoyed business. I worked in the family business quite a bit while growing up. I’d be in the shipping department, packing boxes; small stuff like that. And then, in high school, they started putting me on the phone doing sales, and I enjoyed it. So one summer, I got put on the sales team, and my dad told them, ‘Hey, give him an area he can’t screw up. Give him a thing where it won’t hurt us.’
I was probably 15, and they gave me a territory of North and South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. So I was calling churches, selling them one of our events that we had previously recorded, and that was hard. You know how churches are in the summer; they’re a little bit slower. They were doing more vacation and planning-type exercises. So that was not a fun summer in many ways, and in other ways, it was great.”
Life Before Accepting Christ
“I grew up in the church. My family always modeled a relationship with Jesus so well. I remember waking up every morning and coming downstairs early. My parents would drink coffee, read their Bible, and have quiet time. So I always grew up believing; I didn’t have issues with faith.
But I went through a high school season where I looked at my friends and the world around me and thought, ‘Hey, God, I know you’re real, or I think you’re real. I’m going to do this whole thing when I’m older. So check back in with me in 10 years.’
So I went on my own path for several years and wanted to live life as I saw in the movies. As a high schooler, there were times when we drank on the weekends, or I was chasing after the wrong girls or hanging out with the wrong crew.
That was fine. It was an experience at that time, and obviously, I wouldn’t want my son to do those things, but for me, it was a journey I had to go through. It was what God led me on. I spiraled downward in the emotional place I was, recognized that something was missing, and I kept wanting more.”
How God Used Young Life to Save Daniel Ramsey
“One impactful person for me was a Young Life leader. If you aren’t familiar with Young Life, it’s a high school outreach ministry that goes after the kids who don’t go to church.
They go after the lost and disinterested kids, which my friend group was. So this Young Life leader started befriending my friends, being around us and meeting us where we were. And he didn’t judge us. He didn’t go out of his way to preach to us. He was friends with us, connected with us, told funny stories, and came to sporting events.
So we started going to Young Life, where we did hear about the Gospel in such a beautiful way. I got to a low point in my life about a month after I graduated, where I was just by myself in my room praying. I didn’t know I was praying, but I was talking to myself, asking what was missing. And I felt God at that moment speak and say, ‘I’m what’s missing.’ And so right there, I prayed honestly for the first time in a long time.
I woke up the next morning, and felt great, but I didn’t know what it meant. So the first person I went to was my Young Life leader. We went out to lunch, and I told him everything. He loved me so well, and he taught me over the course of that summer what it means to have a relationship with Jesus.
He also encouraged me to tell my friends and my parents. My parents thought I was a perfect kid because I was pretty good at hiding these things from them. So they were surprised but happy. That allowed our relationship to go deeper and to connect us in ways I had been avoiding.”
How Did Daniel Ramsey Serve in College?
“I was fresh on the heels of starting a relationship with Jesus and was eager to find a community that put Christ first. Young Life in high school was what brought me to the Lord. So, in college, I saw that as a great opportunity to serve and find community. Young Life was amazing in Knoxville, so I got plugged in there. I had great mentors pouring into me, and then I became a volunteer leader with high schoolers.
I didn’t know what I was doing, and I couldn’t believe they placed an 18-year-old. My friends and I look back on it and make fun of ourselves. We hardly had any wisdom to share.
But I think I got way more out of it than what I gave out. I would like to think I had an impact on quite a few high school guys. I look back and see what God did in my own heart. So I led through college and found many of my closest friends through Young Life. Then, I came back and led Young Life at my old high school alongside my old leader for another four years.”
Starting at Ramsey Solutions
“I came back and started working for Ramsey immediately. I spent several years wrestling with that decision because, in a lot of ways, I thought I was a hypocrite; I had no crash-and-burn testimony like my dad. He went through bankruptcy, learned it himself, and then began teaching it. I grew up in a household where money was never an issue.
So how is this my mission? How is this my crusade? How can I get on board with what we’re doing? Through praying and talking to the Lord, I realized that our company was a great opportunity for evangelism. And it had always been that. My dad always had intentionally used it to introduce people to Jesus. And when I focused on that, I realized it was my calling. I felt God lighting up in my heart and giving me a passion for it.”
What Made Daniel Ramsey Decide to Work For Ramsey Solutions?
“We’re a Christian company operating in the secular space. We don’t promote ourselves as the Christian way to get out of debt. We intentionally want to be in the market with the secular audience. Our secret mission, I jokingly say, is trying to meet people where they are in their pain, in their struggles, and the things they are losing sleep over.
We build relationships with them and then earn the right to introduce them to Jesus. That is, first and foremost, the Young Life strategy through and through.
And I saw those parallels when I was in college and realized it was a mission I could get fired up about. So I’m pumped when people come and do a debt-free scream. But what I live for, why I come in on Monday morning, is for that person that has the opportunity to meet Jesus on the other end.
So when I honed in on that, I got excited to come work here. And it helped me overcome a lot of fear and pride that was keeping me back. I realized that fear and pride are not going to keep me from doing what He calls me to do. If you’re in a family business, I always recommend being intentional in deciding whether you want to invite your kids into it. My parents did an awesome job challenging us not to work at Ramsey unless we felt strongly called.
I see and talk to so many family businesses that aren’t intentional. They just wander into their family business because they think it’s an easy job or they have the best opportunity, and dysfunction runs rampant when that’s not what God has for you.”
Submitting to God as The Leader
“There are so many heavy things in anyone’s role or responsibilities. We have people we’re responsible for, and people’s families depend on you to make wise decisions. Over the years, I have felt more and more responsible, and with that comes weight.
Everything our company does and all of our impact feels daunting to me as the president of this organization. I know that if I screw something up, there are potentially millions of people’s lives that won’t be impacted the way that we’re currently impacting them. And I also recognize that for me to think that it’s all on my shoulders is an incredibly arrogant thought.
God is in charge, and I recognize He’s leading this company. It is my role to show up, serve, and follow Him, not to come up with the best ideas and direction for this business. It’s my job to follow Him consistently, look for His guidance, and trust in the gifts He’s given me.”
How Daniel Ramsey Leads Well
“I’m good at seeing multiple angles of a problem. When there’s tension between a few team members, I can see all the different sides before I jump to a conclusion. And often, I’m the one that creates it by accident. I am far from a perfect leader, and I screwed things up a lot.
I like taking all the different components and putting them together, so we move forward. So there’s a spectrum from the idea guy to someone who likes executing those ideas and pushing them across the finish line. I don’t love either of those; I love all the in-between.
I love being with the people who brainstorm and help put a plan together. And I am not the tactical, detailed person who wants to do all the nuanced things. But I enjoy conducting versus being the star player.”
Lessons Learned in New Roles
“Every time I’ve changed roles, an interesting thing has happened. The natural tendency for a new leader in a new area is to criticize everything around you. But, simultaneously, the person who took your place is doing the same thing.
It was humbling to see the person who took my place do a better job, pull the skeletons out of the closet, and see all the issues I left behind. That process has created great grace for the people around me. When people screw up or when I see an issue I can go back to the perspective that there are two sides to the story. I can also realize someone led this way because that’s how it was modeled to them.
That person struggled because the person leading them struggled. So I think there’s something healthy about having multiple people speak into an area and gaining perspective of all areas.”
Leadership Challenges For Daniel Ramsey
“The biggest issue that I’m always dealing with is clarity. A lack of clarity and the symptoms of that are people not acting the way you want them to or not moving in the direction you want them to.
As a leader, when I’m intentional about creating directional clarity and making sure everyone is aligned to that, it clears up a ton of drama. People know the purpose here isn’t to create the best-engineered thing. The purpose is to deliver value as quickly as possible in the most feasible way.
There’s process clarity, directional clarity, and role clarity. Role clarity is knowing your responsibility. We’re asking them to drive this initiative; we’re also asking them to serve on an initiative driven by someone else. We have to be clear on what we expect from people. Expectation misalignment is always a huge problem, and leaders need to do a better job, myself included, at clearly explaining what we expect.
If leadership is maintaining a garden, it is all about doing the little things consistently over time to make sure you’re keeping the weeds out. Make sure you’re fertilizing the soil, and make sure you’re watering. If you are doing the consistent things necessary to bring clarity to your team or to ensure you’re keeping the drama out, it will make your life so much easier.”
Keeping Your Identity in Christ Alone
“You know, I haven’t figured this out. My wife, Allison, and I were talking about that this morning. Since we’ve made this announcement, I realized I am trying to carry a lot of the weight of the responsibility when I know I need to let God carry this.
It’s all about ensuring my identity doesn’t become my role or actions. My identity is in being a son of Jesus Christ, not a son of Dave Ramsey, father, or husband. All those things are wonderful blessings that God has given me, but I need to rest in the Lord.
For me, that is hard, and I have to make that decision every day and throughout the day. But, practically speaking, it’s having people around that can call me out and hold me accountable. So that’s my quiet time with the Lord, where I seek that from Him.
That’s me and my wife being on the same page. That’s me having friends. It’s so important for me to have friends outside of work. We probably all struggle with staying centered. But, three to five years out, if I do those things well, I believe I will stay centered.”
About Daniel Ramsey
Daniel Ramsey is the Executive Vice President of Ramsey Solutions’ Business and Leadership Spoke. He’s passionate about expanding Ramsey Solutions’ ability to help more people by finding new ways to meet their needs and creating products that meet those needs. As a Ramsey Family Member and a member of the Operating Board, Daniel has greatly impacted many areas of the company with his leadership since he joined the team in 2014.
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