Wiser Financial Advisor – Finding Yourself in Business and Community, Ann Baron Interview
Hi, Everyone. Welcome to the Wiser Financial Advisor with Josh Nelson, where we get real, we get honest, and we get clear about the financial world and your money.
This is Josh Nelson, Certified Financial Planner and founder and CEO of Keystone Financial Services. We love feedback and we’d love it if you would pass it on to me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org . Also please stay plugged in with us, get updates on episodes and help us promote the podcast. You can subscribe to us at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcast service.
Let the financial fun begin!
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Ann Baron, the founder and cheerleader at Northern Colorado Community, a business that enables other businesses to grow and connect. Ann is also the author of Seoul Girl, an autobiography about her story growing up and being brought to America as she was adopted and brought into another family here. It’s a significant tale about not only her life, but also the passion she brings to what she’s doing today. I think you’re going to really enjoy that. We talk about life, about business, and about building community at whatever stage of life you’re in—whether you’re a business owner or in another professional career or maybe you’re retired—maybe you’re trying to rebuild a sense of community.
But first, this episode is brought to you by Keystone Financial Services, a top wealth management firm based in the land of love, Loveland, Colorado. At Keystone Financial Services we are here to provide unbiased advice and guidance. Our goal is to replace uncertainty with confidence and clarity when it comes to planning for your family’s financial future. Take the guesswork out of your financial future today and schedule a free initial conversation with one of our Certified Financial Planners. Visit www.keystonefinancial.com . I think you’re going to enjoy this conversation and God bless.
Josh: Welcome to the Wiser Financial Advisor, Ann, and thanks so much for joining me today.
Ann: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.
Josh: You and I have known each other for a while, and you’ve got a lot of interesting stories as far as where you’ve worked and where you’ve lived and life experiences. So first of all, I think people would be interested to know a bit about your background and where you’ve come on your journey up until now.
Ann: I’ve had a large variety of types of jobs, everything from being a public school teacher to working in the insurance industry for about 20 years, including being an insurance agent, supervising employees at State Farm, working in the Chamber of Commerce world, helping with nonprofits, and then more recently with Northern Colorado Community, which I started over five years ago.
Josh: You are the founder and also the cheerleader at Northern Colorado Community. That’s how you and I met each other—and it has grown like crazy. You started the organization. What was it originally that made you think “Hey, I I want to start this.”
Ann: I would say primarily I love to connect businesses to one another, especially small businesses. I have that passion to be the resource and that connector to see businesses grow and thrive. One example is a member who is also a friend and has already doubled their income this year through great connections and business referrals. I like those types of success stories where I really see the impact of membership.
Josh: And you’re just a very good connector. You’ve helped me out on a number of occasions that connected me with people, and I’ve sent you people and so forth. How did you get that passion for doing that? Because a lot of people are intimidated and don’t know how to do that naturally. What was it in your background that led to a passion for connecting people?
Ann: My dad was a great example. He was an insurance agent with State Farm Insurance for 31 years. He started from scratch, which means he had to go out and knock on doors and visit businesses, and he built a successful business to where he supported a family of 6 on one income. That was not easy to do. I really looked up to him. He was not naturally a salesperson, but he knew his clients and became friends with a lot of them. He was great at service and would answer the phone morning, noon and night. He would use his home phone as an emergency number and we would get phone calls at home on the weekends and evenings. So my dad was very service-oriented and seeing that example helped me to develop those traits.
Josh: You’ve done that in a number of different places. You and your husband, Mike have moved several times. So when you go into a new community like Northern Colorado, how did you know to start establishing those connections and building the community where now a lot of people know you and you know a lot of people? I bring that up because a lot of our clients are nearing that time where they’re going to be leaving their professional world, and for many people, myself included, their profession is where a lot of connections are. A lot of my community is the people I work with on a day-to-day basis. And in some cases, people have to reestablish that community right? So whether it’s leaving work or leaving school or going into a new community, tell me about that. What’s the best way to do that and how have you been successful with that?
Ann: I’ve been connecting in the business world for about 15 or 20 years, involved with different networking organizations and also helping with fundraising for nonprofits. But I like to say that whether you’re graduating from college or you’re retiring, look at what you’re excited about and what you have a passion for and interest in. So for instance, maybe people want to help with Meals on Wheels and they enjoy getting out and meeting folks and being part of the community. With graduates, maybe look at a nonprofit where you can help. Maybe you can be an intern someplace and get experience and learn about a business. But really look at what you’re excited about and then get plugged in. There are so many ways to do that with social media the way it is. Facebook has a lot of events and groups. You can check out meetup.com, which has groups based on your interests. Get plugged into what you’re interested in and that will keep your life interesting and exciting.
Josh: Yeah, and both you and your husband Mike are pretty plugged in with different places. We have a lot of different organizations. What do you think are some attributes of people who really would be good at putting themselves out there?
Ann: As you know, there are two types of people, extraverts and introverts. I’m way on the extrovert side so it’s pretty easy for me to go up and talk to a stranger or to introduce myself in a group or a networking situation.
Introverts don’t feel comfortable going up to a stranger and talking to them. What I advise them to do is be observant. Sometimes you may see another person that isn’t talking to anyone as well and you may just go over and say “Hey, how did you hear about this group?” Or, “Are you a native Coloradoan?” You know, just little general questions to get the conversation going, and that takes the focus off yourself. Because sometimes introverts are thinking no one wants to talk to them. They think, “I’m uncomfortable, I’m shy. This is awkward.” But if you start putting the focus on the other person, then you’re not going to be thinking about how you’re feeling and that makes it a little easier.
Josh: Yeah, that’s a good observation. That takes the pressure off, when the other person is doing the talking. And most people like talking about themselves and their stories. So Ann, what gets you fired up in the morning to get up and do what you do?
Ann: I really do love meeting new businesspeople. I enjoy hearing their background of how they got to where they’re at in their career, and what brought them to that point—whether they’re working for someone else or they’ve started their own business. It’s probably my personality; I thrive on being around people and mixing and mingling. It isn’t just to meet people, but also doing things to be effective and proactive in helping their business thrive and get stronger and better. Then you feel like you’re giving back. What you’re doing is not a wasted day because you’re actually helping peoples’ lives become better.
Josh: Sure, and I know that you’re a genuine person and you really care about people. It definitely comes across that you are interested in helping people—and you’ve got an interesting story yourself. And you wrote a book this last year: Seoul Girl. You had to overcome a lot of adversity from a young age. Without spoiling it too much, tell us a little bit about your story.
Ann: I was born in South Korea and adopted when I was four years old, then raised in Oregon. The story is about lessons learned, whether in work or life. Like choosing who to marry or friends. Also career tips, what to do, what not to do, and some perspective on what it’s like growing up in a mainly Caucasian or white community and not being Caucasian or white. I don’t look at it as a victim mentality or ‘poor me.’ I look at it as another perspective, and maybe people can learn and be more aware. It’s the first book I wrote and probably the last but it’s been fun.
Josh: To me that seems a bit intimidating. I think everybody has a story in their head, but it rarely makes it onto paper. So what was the inspiration to actually say “I’m going to do this.” How did you go about it?
Ann: I’m one of those people that if I say I’m going to do something, I will do it. My goal was to write the autobiography by my 60th birthday, which was actually about two years ago. Did not make it for my 60th birthday but made it by my 61st birthday and it was kind of cathartic. It helped me to think through things like what lessons were learned as well as what would I not do again. And my husband is a professional writer, so he was my editor. It was mainly for me, but it did get published. I did an Indiegogo crowdfunding and then printed the book locally. All the books that I printed are sold. Now it’s on Amazon Platform or Barnes and Noble.
The reason to get the book out in print is to reach other people who feel like they don’t quite fit into society’s norms. I’d like to help them and be hopefully inspirational, to say, “Hey there. Sometimes choices are made that aren’t great. Sometimes things happen in your life that aren’t great, but you can still be an overcomer.” I don’t consider myself a minority, but I guess I am. So I want to help people who are maybe in a minority type of grouping on how to deal with it and be an overcomer.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s beautiful too that you not only wrote it for you, but it was also written in a way to try to help other people that could be inspired by your story. It’s called Seoul Girl and it’s on Amazon and Barnes and Noble if people want to pick up a copy.
Ann: Exactly, and a friend of ours, Jeff Earls, formatted the cover and the book for us because I’m not a techie person. That’s the other thing: Don’t think that you have to know everything about publishing. If you need someone to help you with formatting or doing a cover, you may have to pay someone. And you may have to pay someone to edit. You need to figure out how to upload it to publishing platforms like Amazon. There are people who know how to do that, so don’t think you have to know every step of the process.
Josh: Yeah, there have never been more resources either. You’re one of many people that I know who have self-published, and this isn’t an Amazon commercial, but when your book is on there, it’s a print on demand, right? So if I order a copy, boom, it gets printed, so there’s not some massive investment.
Ann: Yeah, that is true. That’s a nice thing about the technology: you can self-publish for very little money, especially if you can do every step of the process yourself. I did print the books locally because I wanted to support a local family-owned business in town. I believe in supporting local businesses and that’s why I went through a local printer on the first run.
Josh: Yeah, so you’ve had a lot of different successful roles in your life, your career, and I think you speak to some of this in your book, but I always like to ask guests to pick a favorite failure. Because a lot of people look at failure as being a negative thing, but how did that set you up for later success?
Ann: Well, probably the biggest in a negative way that was later on a positive, was this: I had worked at State Farm on the corporate side in a very cushy job with great benefits. Then I tried to go out on my own to do my own business. It failed miserably. We’re talking to the point where I owned a house and had two cars paid off and went to Hawaii every year and got to where everything I owned was in a VW Beetle. It was that bad of a failure. The positive I got out of it was this: At that time my mom was very ill from Alzheimer’s and she was deteriorating quickly. And I had nothing to tie me down, so I was able to go and help her.
Josh: What are some bad recommendations that you oftentimes hear, recommendations that people should just ignore?
Ann: I would say the biggest one is just to take a job for the money. Don’t do that because you’re just going to be miserable and you’re going to be that square peg in a round hole. Life is more than money. You have to have a job to support yourself and I understand that. But look at the areas where you can support yourself but also enjoy what you’re doing. For a lot of people, work takes up so many hours! It’s the majority of the hours in their day. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, then you’re miserable. Look around and maybe take that leap of faith and try things you may think you are not even qualified for, but you would really enjoy doing. For example, I worked for a local Chamber of Commerce doing membership sales and advertising sales and I had no background in that area. So don’t always look at what seems logical to your background and experience and education.
Josh: Yeah, we work with a lot of people in the wealth management industry and hear their stories. We’re in a unique role because everything we talk about with people is confidential. Oftentimes, we find that people are doing something that’s unfulfilling. I think the toughest situations are when they’ve got the golden handcuffs. They’re in a business or a profession where they feel like they just can’t leave because it would be too costly financially. But we’ve heard some amazing stories from people who have taken that leap of faith and made major shifts—for example, left engineering and moved into the financial industry or moved into the medical industry. One engineer who was very successful decided that was not for him and went back to medical school and became a surgeon. I think that’s well said that people need to follow what they’re really interested in and passionate about, and they can figure out the details later.
Ann: Exactly and the other thing I would say on the lessons I learned from the failure of jumping into my own business too early is that you really need to count the cost. You need to make sure you have that six months or 12 months of savings to back yourself up in case things don’t go the way you’re planning. Often a business will cost more than you think it’s going to. So do look out, especially if you’ve got family you’re supporting. In my case, it was just me but if you’ve got kids and a spouse that you’re trying to support on your income, you do want to look at what you can do if things don’t pan out, or what are the alternatives. Where are the resources? Can you take out a home equity loan? Are you just living on savings or credit cards? So, look at counting that cost too.
Josh: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student that’s about to enter the real world?
Ann: If you don’t know exactly what job you’re going to go into, I would say ask different companies that you may be interested in working for if you can shadow or interview someone that works there and get an idea on what are the pros and cons. Ask about the company atmosphere. How do they treat employees? Would this be a job you would continue for 20 years or five or ten years? Go out there and talk to other businesspeople in different industries and interview them to find out what they like and what they would do different.
Josh: Yeah, in some cases side hustles actually end up becoming businesses right? Or end up generating more income. My dad was a public school teacher for 38 years, but he had a side hustle. Obviously you could survive on a teacher’s salary, but not a lot of extras, right? So he started working a side hustle with an animal feed company back in Iowa. He did that side hustle for almost 50 years and it ended up making way more money than he ever did teaching. But in terms of playing it safe versus taking risk, he did some of both. He took the safe route and got the teacher’s pension and the benefits and everything but was also able to take the risk.
Ann: That’s a good point. One of the members of Northern Colorado Community is a yoga teacher, but one of the things someone who was coaching her has said is: If you’re going out and doing the yoga by yourself without having another day job on the side, it puts a lot of pressure on you to get all these clients and get classes filled up. But if you have that other job on the side that’s bringing in income, then there’s less stress on you. There isn’t any problem with doing that because you might have to have a day job to support your side hustle or your passion while you’re building and growing it.
Josh: Yeah, and as we wrap up here, I always want to make sure that people know how to find you.
Ann: For Northern Colorado Community, it’s the website www.northerncoloradocommunity.com . I have a Facebook page by the same name. The book is Seoul Girl and it’s on Amazon. I also have my events on meetup.com as well.
Josh: Thanks so much for your time. I appreciate you sharing with us. And you truly are an inspiration. Beautiful story and thank you for sharing.
Ann: Thank you, Josh. I had fun. Thank you for inviting me on the podcast. I enjoyed it.
This episode has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide and should not be relied upon for tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors. Investment advisory services offered through Keystone Financial Services, an SEC registered investment advisor.