The Early Days For Dave Ramsey
“I was coaching people at the church as a ministry. Then the pastor called and said, ‘Hey, people are in my office getting foreclosed on. Can you help?’ And I’m like, yeah, I used to buy foreclosures, and then I was one. So, I knew exactly what to do. So we sat down with them and worked out a deal with their mortgage company called a forbearance, where the bank delays foreclosure. So, we got caught up and helped them get on a budget, applying the biblical principles and some of the business things I’d known from buying real estate.
The problem is a lot of pastors don’t know much about money. I kept getting calls, so pretty soon, I’m over at the church in the evenings doing budget counseling. Long story short, one of the other pastors walked through one day, and he said, ‘every time I hear you sitting with these couples, you’re telling them your story to take the shame off what they’re feeling.’ I told them my story and showed them what to do instead.”
Dave Ramsey’s Writing
“English is my second language; Hillbilly’s the first one. So finally, I sat down and typed out a book, and it was horrible. I printed it anyway and it sold, and we eventually sold enough of them. We had somebody come and help me with the grammar. We retyped, then a publisher came along and created financial peace, and it took off.
It’s done 3 million copies now over 30 years. It just keeps selling. I still get checks on it. I’m very good about putting down a persuasive case for an idea I think you should embrace. But regarding technical writing skills, I will never get an award or something like that. I’m good at communicating, and I’ve learned not to let the grammar police take the conversation out of the book.”
How Dave Ramsey Found Christ
“I met God on the way up, got to know Him on the way down. We were young and married, and the short version of the story is Sharon grew up in church, and I didn’t. And so she got up on Sunday morning after we got married and said she we were going to church.
And I said we’re not going to church. We drink beer on Sunday and watch football. She cried, had a fit, and said, ‘we’re in Nashville, and it’s not hard to find a Baptist church.’ There are more Baptists than people in Nashville. So she went and found a Baptist church and plugged in right quick.
Then I got involved in a multi-level marketing thing for about 20 minutes and went to one of these pep rallies. And the guy that we admired, that was making money like we wanted to make, stood up, and at the end of his talk, he said, ‘you need to know Christ if you’re going to succeed.’
I came home and told Sharon, we’re going to church. And she said, who are you, and what have you done with my husband? I wandered in the back door of Christ Church in its early days. It later became a huge megachurch. There were only about 400 people when we wandered in the back door. Pastor LH Hardwick became my spiritual dad in that sense.”
From Having it All to Losing it All
“I didn’t know anything about scripture. Shortly after that, I made a ton of money in real estate. Then I lost it all. And by the time I was 26, I had about a million dollars in net worth and $4 million worth of real estate.
By the time I was 28, I was bankrupt. Three years of going down were hell. But I was a tender believer, a young baby, and I thought, ‘this God stuff’s fun.’ But we started learning what the Bible says about everything to survive and dove in head over heels. And again, that’s when I plugged into Larry Burquette and Ron Blue because they were at the forefront of teaching biblical finance in those days. And I went, ‘wow, the Bible says something about money. I need to learn it.”
What Does Dave Ramsey Learn as He Teaches?
“It’s much like sitting down and talking to someone about God that doesn’t know God and walking them through the process of accepting the gift of salvation. There’s not a lot of leeway. All of us that have done that with someone could do it a thousand times; it never gets old. And it’s not because of the process or the principles; they stay the same. The beautiful life that’s right in front of you changes.
I mean, I’ll get people out of debt, and after 30 years of doing radio, I’m sitting here with tears running down my face. I’m thinking, ‘oh my gosh, that guy’s in hospice and wants to do a debt-free scream. This does not get old.”
Defining Points For Dave Ramsey
“The foundation of this place was publishing and broadcasting. Then, we realized doing a talk radio show was effective in the mainstream. Of course, we’ve always been on a few Christian radio stations, but it’s primarily mainstream radio.
And yet we’ve been very bold, open, and brash almost with our faith. So we knew we could minister, we knew we could witness, we knew we could help and use that medium that way. Every time we’re on a station, something filthy is not; we’re displacing some toxic culture by staying in the mainstream. Year over year, we thought if we could get 100 stations and then 200, maybe we would be respected. We have 680 now, and it’s the second-largest talk radio show in America, but it’s taken 30 years.
The publishing world’s completely changed in 30 years, and when I started, if you self-published something, you were an idiot, right? You couldn’t get a publisher, you didn’t have anything to say. But I self-published because no one would do it. Then I had publishers for a while, and then we determined we were doing everything they were doing, which was silly. The model shifted. Our access to distribution models and everything else in the publishing world allows us to self-publish and be much more effective than using a publisher today. That’s the foundation; those two things gave us access to people.”
Creating a Lasting Team With Trustworthy Leaders
“We kept saying, ‘God, You built this, and if You want to close up the tent, it’s Yours to close. But if You want this ministry to live on, then a lot of different things are going to have to be provided by You, God, that are beyond our ability.’
I have to be able to train, raise and have kids that become adults to be the next owners. I have to make an ownership transfer to wise owners. You can have a great leadership team, and turn the ownership over to the kids and watch them destroy the whole thing.
You must have a leadership team to which you can transfer quickly. We had that because we’ve always had strong leadership here relative to our size. And so, as we’ve grown, the leadership’s even stronger and more sophisticated.
But in the early days, we had people that could run this thing if the owners were not physically in the seat. So the brand transfer was a real challenge. God showed us in our case, and it wouldn’t work in the pulpit necessarily, that it was a transfer of one to many.”
Non-Negotiables in Business For Dave Ramsey
“We’ve studied and done a lot of interviews with families, businesses, and ministries that have succeeded or failed, and we’re looking for these common three things. First, we found a high correlation between the person running it today and their higher calling or nobility; it wasn’t all about them. They were willing to let go of things and step back uncomfortably to themselves for the good of the whole thing.
The founder or the leader that makes it all about them rarely does transition. It comes down to stewardship. It was fairly easy to get the concept that I don’t own it. My job is to manage it well, and I’m not doing my job by letting it go into the grave with me. My job is to hand it off. Second, if you’re not already working on transition, you’re late.
The more gradual the transition, the more time you have to fine-tune, and the smoother it goes. So the longer the plan, the better. And I have to remind myself of that because I get great joy from what I do. So the problem with planning to be less important is that it works.
Along the way, you’ve got to wear the hats and stay in your roles. You cannot speak to your team member like it’s your wife. It’s a completely different process when the wife whines at work. She’s being a wife rather than being a professional. I talked to a couple the other days, she was the chief marketing officer and he was the CEO, and they had these arguments at work, and I said, ‘do you talk to your other team members that way? So why would you think you could talk to your team members that way? It’s a role violation.”
Continuous Concerns For Dave Ramsey
“We constantly have to evolve. As soon as you get something figured out, the market moves. As we were talking about, publishing and broadcasting have moved. And when we started this, there was no internet. There were certainly no podcasts or TikTok. So how do we take these mediums that, in some cases, are full of disastrous human beings and still enter into that market and take up space for God?
How can you be godly on TikTok? I don’t think that’s possible, but we’re trying. It keeps me awake at night, thinking we’ll get stuck in one of the old methodologies. The principles don’t change, but the methodologies have to change. So one of our core values around here is we shoot our sacred cows, and my theory is maybe we don’t shoot one soon enough.”
What Gives Dave Ramsey The Greatest Joy?
“We’ve got several places where we tell my salvation story and pray with people over that medium. We keep the letters and emails from people who meet God because of what we’re doing.
The dirty little secret about Ramsey Solution is we’re not here to get people out of debt. We get people out of debt so we can sneak into their living rooms and lead them to Jesus. And so again, taking up space for the gospel and getting to evangelize because that’s how I met God.
I went to a secular, mainstream event, and this guy that I admired, who did other things for me, taught me things I needed to know. He became a blessing in my life. Then he said, ‘oh, and by the way, you need to know this man Jesus. It’ll change your life. It’ll change your death.”
About Dave Ramsey
America’s trusted voice on money and business, Dave Ramsey is a personal money-management expert and extremely popular national radio personality. His four New York Times best-selling books –Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership – have sold more than 7 million copies combined. EntreLeadership, his latest best-seller, released in September 2011 and debuted at number one.
In 1992, Ramsey founded The Lampo Group, Inc. to provide financial counseling, through various means, to anyone who wants to better understand the principles of proper money management. Twenty years later, the company has grown from a card table in his living room to more than 350 team members and has been voted one of the Best Places to Work in Nashville six times. He runs a multi-million dollar company with a nationally recognized brand, but he defines success by the number of lives changed through his message of hope.
Ramsey offers that life-changing message as host of a nationally syndicated radio program, “The Dave Ramsey Show,” which is heard by 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations throughout the United States. More than 2 million families have attended FPU classes at their workplace, church, military base, local nonprofit organization, community group or Spanish speaking organization.
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