One on One With Dave Ramsey

Not everyone gets the chance to sit down with financial expert Dave Ramsey, but the following Q&A may be the next best thing!

What was your vision when you started your company?

My company was born out of a painful experience. My wife, Sharon, and I had lost everything because of stupid money mistakes I made. As we began to recover financially, friends started asking how we survived and how we were rebuilding. I realized there was a tremendous need to help people with their money.

What are the guiding principles of the work you do?

Our mission is to offer hope to as many people as possible. The families that I talk to on the radio or the ones that come into our office for help are hurting. They are financially broke and spiritually broken. My team and I meet them where they are at and offer them a cool drink of water.

When did you realize that people were really ready to hear your message?

Not everyone is ready. Personal finance is 80 percent behavior; it's only 20 percent head knowledge. People have to reach the point where they say, "I've had it!" If they haven't reached that point, they won't be willing to do what it takes to change their behavior and get control of their money.

How has your company grown from the original concept to where you are today?

My company started out on a card table in my living room. I was doing financial counseling, helping one family at a time. I started putting together a plan for these families and ultimately self-published my first book, Financial Peace. Then I started teaching this stuff to groups and talking about it on the radio. Today we sell out several thousand seat venues in major cities across the country and spread the message of Financial Peace in the workplace, military, churches and schools. We are always looking for new ways to reach people and help them with their money.

How did you build the team mentality that has made your business so successful?

Early on when the company was first starting to make money, my wife, Sharon, and I decided to recognize the team for their hard work by sharing the profits with them. We still do that today, and it's paid off. Everyone on my team knows they are, in essence, self-employed. They have the ability to affect the bottom line and reap the rewards for their productivity.

Another thing that we do, which I think is unique for a company of a few hundred employees, is a weekly staff meeting. Every Monday morning you'll find us gathered in one room to talk about our vision and goals, and recognize team members for accomplishments.

In your story you talk about how you "interviewed older rich people, people who made money and kept it." You also speak a lot about character. Do you think people can be truly successful if they lack wisdom and character?

We all know we need to eat right and exercise to lose weight. And we also know that we need to spend less, save more and live within our means to build wealth. But it's the doing, the behavior modification that has to happen in order for you to win. If I can get the guy in my mirror to behave, I can be skinny and rich.

Who inspires you?

I can't even begin to list all the people who have inspired me over the years. Every day I can talk to people on the radio who are facing struggles head on. They inspire me.

You were born in Tennessee; what are some of your favorite places to visit in the South?

We love to travel, so it's too hard to narrow it down to a few.

Our job is to educate travelers and show off destinations; yours is to encourage and teach financial responsibility. Do you have any money-saving tips to offer our traveling families?

Pay cash! This means you have to save. Start a vacation envelope. When you first start doing this, you may not be able to vacation every year, perhaps just every other. Or you may have to cut back to a weekend instead of a whole week. But you want to save up ahead of time and pay cash so that trip doesn't follow you home. You can enjoy it more that way.

Do you and your family still seek out "deals" when you travel?

Absolutely! When you pay cash, you can always negotiate a better deal. Cash has more buying power.

What do you think people have learned over the past two years?

For some people, the past two years has been their generation's "Great Depression." And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Most of us only grow through painful change. I had to hit rock bottom before I was willing to change my money behaviors, and I think a lot of people will be better off in the long run for the lessons they've learned from the recession.

What is your hope for the future of your company?

My hope is that we continue to help as many people as possible gain control of their finances and build wealth. We're changing family trees!