Meet The Female Leaders Of Finance: “I have always sought to focus on changing the inputs.” with Jamie Smith and Tyler Gallagher

Simply put, change. Change is both an input and an outcome. Most demand change in the outcomes. I have always sought to focus on changing the inputs. Stated simply, my priority is taking the next best step forward, whatever that means or requires. As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I […]

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Simply put, change. Change is both an input and an outcome. Most demand change in the outcomes. I have always sought to focus on changing the inputs. Stated simply, my priority is taking the next best step forward, whatever that means or requires.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Smith. Mrs. Smith is a wife, mother, author and co-founder of Elevation Capital Group. Elevation Capital Group, and its affiliates, (“Elevation”) have grown into a well-respected leader in the alternative real estate investment space, focusing exclusively on cycle-resilient real estate strategies and niche property types, including manufactured housing communities and self-storage. Elevation, through its affiliates, has acquired properties worth more than $475 million and has an interest in over 175 assets across more than 30 states. In addition to her work, Mrs. Smith is a manager of the Ryan and Jamie Smith Foundation, a JOG Facilitator for Generous Giving in Orlando, Fla., sits on a number of boards and is involved in other philanthropic initiatives. More recently, Mrs. Smith has been instrumental in forming several “giving groups” generally comprised of 12 women each and who meet semi-annually to choose gift recipients who live locally. Each group typically gives $30,000 or more per year to a variety of needs as determined by each group. Mrs. Smith graduated from the University of Central Florida with a double major in Business and Psychology. She lives in Orlando with her husband and her four children ages 6, 4, 2 and 10 months.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I have always had an interest in business and finance; however, the story of my journey has been more about finding my way by trying to always make the “next best decision.”

I grew up having enough, but not a lot. My father left when I was 12 years old and my mom raised my three brothers and me largely through her effort. I learned a great deal from her. She had every reason to throw in the towel but never did. She continued to make good choices in the face of tough circumstances, and her resolve both inspired and challenged me.

When my parents were together they would buy a piece of land and build a home. I should add that my mother can wire an entire house. My brothers and I would each be tasked with different responsibilities from laying tile to painting to wiring for electrical, etc.

We grew up knowing the value of hard work and the value that can be created through real estate.

At age 20 I purchased my first property with a student loan. At the time, payments did not begin until 6 months after I graduated. Prior to purchasing the home, I lived in a home with 4 other girls and lived in the garage for a discounted rate. After purchasing my first property, which was a 2 bedroom 2 bath home in Winter Park, Florida (an upscale market), I rented out one room and kept the other for myself. My quality of living went up and my costs went down. Shortly after graduating, I was able to pay off the student loan (the only one I ever received). I still hold that property as a rental to this day.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

So many to mention.

My husband and I met a gentleman named Greg Brenneman years ago as part of a philanthropic initiative in New York City. Greg is incredible. He has held executive roles with Continental Airlines, Quiznos, Burger King and more. He is also the author of “Right Away and All at Once.” He is a dynamic business leader that we hold in high regard.

A few years ago Greg invited my husband and me to his home in Beaver Creek, where he hosts several couples every summer to discuss topics related to marriage. In advance of our visit, we were given quite a bit of homework to do.

During our time together in Beaver Creek, we (my husband and I) were tasked with building a one-page “Go Forward Plan” for our marriage. The plan encompassed a number of categories and several degrees of prioritization for each item in each category. At the end of the time together, each couple would present their plan to the others and offer feedback (not specific enough, not realistic, etc.). It was very helpful.

I am grateful to both Greg and his wife Rhonda for investing in both Ryan and me. Last year we did the same with more than 10 couples that we are in community with. The outcomes have been amazing.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently working to build our latest portfolio of approximately $350M in assets. By the end of 2019 we should be at, or around $200M — so we are making progress. In addition to our work-related projects, which I find quite exciting, my husband and I continue to find ways to serve in our local community.

In all things, I believe the only difference between “for profit” and “not for profit” initiatives are the way each is taxed. It does not change my desire or intent. In both, we seek to create a positive and sustainable impact as a result of our effort.

As our mission statement reads, “Our mission is to provide an excellent return on investment for investors, while at the same time providing every customer with a quality experience offered at an affordable rate.”

I think this is meaningful and it puts a pep in my step every morning when my feet hit the ground.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Many things.

First, my husband and I started this company as a two-person team. We made cold calls, collected rents, handled maintenance, etc. Over time, we have grown the company into a much larger enterprise. While we have grown in size, we haven’t stopped caring about the details. When an investor calls, I am able to give them a first-hand account of what we do and how we do it. It’s not just head knowledge, but rather knowledge born from boots and sweat. I am able to give direct answers, not marketing jargon. As a result, I believe investors are able to make better decisions on whether they make an investment, or not.

Second, I believe value is created in the field and that you cannot successfully manage from an ivory tower. As such, we, as a management team, regularly travel to see the assets that we manage. We aim to physically walk each property at least twice a year. Our standard is “Disneyland clean” and visiting each property helps ensure that standard is met.

As I said earlier, I did not come from much and I know the value of hard work. Some take a similar approach to management, but many do not. Some are going as far as putting kiosks/terminals in the field in place of boots and eyeballs. In competing with outfits that take that approach, I like our chances.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

Simply put, change. Change is both an input and an outcome. Most demand change in the outcomes. I have always sought to focus on changing the inputs.

Stated simply, my priority is taking the next best step forward, whatever that means or requires.

Changing from something to something else (hopefully better) requires a certain framework which I am more than grateful that our country provides.

I am glad to see people of different genders and backgrounds pursuing a better life for themselves. In the end, I am grateful for a framework that allows change to happen. It’s not always pretty, but it’s not supposed to be.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?

While I believe 17% to be a low number, I’m not sure exact parity is the right answer. Within an organization, if women, based on merit, should represent 60% of the senior positions then that should be the number. If 40%, then so be it.

At the end of the day, I believe the most deserving, based on merit, should hold the position and to the benefit of the individual, the organization and, ultimately, the customer.

Things that can be done:

1. Companies should consider promoting based on merit with an aim towards a “meritocracy”. This process can be brutal but over time can lead to real growth for the individual and organization.

2. Individuals should rise up by considering their true value. By pursuing “better” they might be more fulfilled in their pursuits while creating pathways for others to follow.

3. Many years ago a national publication asked its readers to respond to the question, “What is wrong with the world?” Noted Catholic thinker GK Chesterton replied with two words, “I am.” While I am not Catholic, I value the wisdom of Mr. Chesterton. I think society could learn a great deal from him as well.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

1. Service first. Profits second.

a. I believe that profits are a result of quality service. This is the core focus of our business.

2. Focus on creating wealth, not income.

a. Most focus on creating greater incomes, but few create wealth this way. In short, income does not lead to wealth, but wealth leads to more income than you need.

b. There is much that can be said on this topic with many, many stories to tell.

3. Place a premium on relationships

a. People matter. Not only in focus of your labor but also as resources that help you become better (more efficient, etc.).

4. Consider an internship (paid or non-paid)

a. Who you know and what you know are two important things. Sometimes an internship can provide both know-how as well as contacts that can propel you forward.

5. Proximity matters

a. I hear from “entrepreneurs” all the time that if only they had [insert resource here] then they would be successful. The truth is that resources seek value.

b. My favorite story is that of Steve Forbes father, who, as I recollect, spent a large sum of the family’s money on a suit and tie. He proceeded to visit the Waldorf Astoria in New York City each and every day to read the newspaper. Due to proximity (and a few misguided assumptions) he met an individual who helped propel him to create what we know as Forbes today.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

To many to number but a specific person to mention: Brian Dahn.

My husband and I were introduced to Brian through a mutual friend more than 10 years ago. At the time of the meeting, he owned and operated approximately 50,000 self-storage units and with a small team. My husband and I flew to Newport Beach, Ca. just to have dinner with him. Throughout dinner, he asked us many questions. I was a little perturbed by how much we were talking as we did not fly all the way out to California to talk but rather to listen. His questions were incredibly sharp, exploratory and thorough. At the end of dinner, he said he was really impressed with what we had done up to that point in time. He said that he would stay for another 30 minutes if we had any questions that he might assist with. Questions? Questions? Where to start. We asked one, the answer for which took the entire 30 minutes and served as a significant accelerant to our business.

As luck would have it, Brian, Ryan (my husband) and I have grown closer over the years. We are now partners and have a great time working together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If both of us are the same, then one of doesn’t need to be here.” Credit Dr. Joel Hunter.

As this quote implies, diversity is important. Our inclination is to find people who agree with our point of view. This does nothing but create an echo chamber.

My husband is both my life partner and business partner. He thinks differently than I do. I would be disadvantaged if not for his perspective and he would be disadvantaged without mine.

I have learned and now see the value in counter points to my own.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The golden rule is still very much golden. That is to treat your neighbor as yourself.

Just like there is a movement to buy local and eat local. I think generosity should, at times, take a similar path. That does not mean we shouldn’t give to other people, nations, etc. but I place a priority in giving to and serving my literal neighbor.

One concept that I have enjoyed is the forming of giving groups in your community. If interested, it can be all woman, all men, couples, etc. 12 people is ideal. Each member contributes an amount, typically between $500 and $5,000 each year. The group then meets semiannually to discuss various needs within the community of the members of the group. If there are 12 members of a group with each giving $2,500, that is $30,000 per year. If you make a gift every 6 months, then that is $15,000 going to an individual, family, etc. every 6 months. While it may not seem like a great deal, it means a great deal to each recipient and really makes an impact.

We started with one giving group. It has been so successful (and fun) that there are now more than 6 groups in my area with more coming online.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

About The Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and Dubai focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. In addition to his role with Regal Assets, Tyler is a regular contributor to Forbes, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global and Authority Magazine. Tyler has also been featured in many news publications and has been a guest expert on “The News with Ed Shultz”. Tyler is a proud member of the Forbes Finance Council a private invite only-group of hand-selected industry leaders. Feel free to reach out to Tyler on Linkedin HERE .

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