January 24, 2024

Episode #117: Alex Sylvester – Shepherd Financial

Alex Sylvester was born, raised and continues to live in the Greater Indianapolis area. This year will mark the 10-year wedding anniversary for he and his lovely wife, Mallory. They have two children and live in Carmel. Alex earned a bachelor’s degree from Marian University’s Byrum School of Business. Today, he is the Executive Partner and President of Development at Shepherd Financial. His firm specializes in managing corporate retirement plans (401ks & 403bs) for more than 250 employers around the country. Their goal is to help create an efficient retirement plan benefit that allows companies to put their best foot forward in recruiting and retaining top talent.

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you’re listening to the self-made is a myth make a difference together show with your host coach Tim campsa where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their Journeys in building their successful businesses and more importantly we recognize the folks who help them Excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our [Music] own hello everyone this is coach Tim camel and I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today my guest played basketball for four years at Maran University and is currently the president of the board of the alumni association in his downtime he enjoys spending time with his family playing and watching sports of all kinds and he’s most proud of his continuous goal of self-improvement it’s my pleasure to welcome Alex to the show today Hello Alex hello hello Tim thanks uh thanks for having me on the show I’m really excited to to join you and uh talk a littleit more about uh myself but also about my my journey of uh really how um I came to the position that we are today so fantastic well hey let’s start with having you um introduce yourself tell us a little bit of your personal story like where you were born and live about your family and hobbies I always say I haven’t uh I haven’t ventured very far so I was born in the uh greater Indianapolis uh area uh went to college as you mentioned downtown at Maran University and slowly worked my way North and now live on the North side of Indianapolis so not much of a world traveler from that standpoint but uh I’m married and have a uh a 5-year-old son and a uh two-year-old daughter coming this Friday so uh she’ll be two um um at the end of the week so we’re excited about that and uh always keeps it uh keeps it very exciting and and uh a lot of action at all times as you can probably imagine so yeah absolutely and what’s your wife’s name my wife’s name is mallerie fantastic been married this year will be our 10th wedding anniversary so wonderful and um in your intro I said that you like sports of all kind what’s your favorite sport to attend so uh probably basketball uh always a big football fan Colts fans uh but um basketball would probably be uh first and foremost in terms of of what I like to watch and in terms of playing now I don’t play as much basketball as I used to but I still play quite a bit of golf when I can uh find a spare moment so Colts fan it’s been tough on us for the last few years hasn’t it you know what it has and it looked like this season there was a little glimmer of hope of what the future might look like but with some injuries which tends to happen in football but uh we’ll see I’m still optimistic for the future Alex is there a funny story that you’re family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today sure I don’t know if it’s a funny story but more of a something that my family likes to make fun of me for perfect is I am a I’m a big fan of karaoke believe it or not so um a lot of times when I tell people that I I I’m a karaoke offici andado they say oh you must be a a good singer and you know not so much uh I like to say what I what I make up for I’m not I’m not embarrassing by any means but I like to what I make up for and talent I I fill in with enthusiasm so they like to give me a hard time uh about my uh my passion for what’s your favorite song to sing you know what I have a I have a whole set list so depends on depends on the crowd I could go anywhere from from uh Michael Jackson to Vanilla Ice to Maroon 5 to toh Morgan Wallen and anywhere in between so nice so you pull out a little ice Ice Baby Ice Ice Baby that’s right got it love it Alex tell us about how the business came about and at what point did you have the confidence you could run your own business yeah so I think you you know you kind of just come into I don’t know if there’s ever a switch that flips and just say I I think I’m ready right it just kind of morphs over time but essentially how I got started in the business is uh um I was actually an intern with my business partner uh and um started with him and and he he was great in terms of getting me involved and uh he and I had built up uh the practice um for about eight or nine years and uh almost got to a point that we were at capacity and and couldn’t uh bring on any new clients so um we decided to forge out and and and maybe join some team with some infrastructure but um it’s been a great ride and and um you know the business itself has continued to grow and it’s just just been successful but in terms of knowing I was ready to be a business owner uh I think you just you know the duties and responsibility slowly trickle onto your plate and and eventually you’re a business owner right so uh that’s the way it worked out for me anyway and I think that’s you know talking to a lot of my peers that uh a lot of times is the way that it just ends up working out so so tell us more about the company um what’s the name what do you guys do how do you help people yeah so we are Shephard financial and uh specialize in uh retirement plans on my side of things so um we are the largest retirement plan advisory firm in the state of Indiana and one of the largest in uh the Midwest my 100% focus is on employer sponsored plans 401ks 403bs 457 plans and non-qualified Deferred Comp things like that but helping employers uh manage those benefits helping employers you know uh use the retirement plan as a recruiting and ret ention tool fantastic um to to to gather Talent so um you know as the business came to be as I mentioned um I was an intern uh when I was at Maran it seems like long almost 15 years ago now uh and I started and and what I was doing as an intern as I was going around to a lot of my business partners um uh retirement planning clients and um sitting down with those folks that weren’t enrolled and we had a couple of accounts that were you know lower income folks um that tend to not participate in a plan and my job was to go around to the 44 locations and sit down with them and just explain you know how the retirement plan works and from there it morphed into a full-time job and and from there it morphed into a a 50-50 partnership uh and as I mentioned earlier it really um uh we hit capacity my business partner at the time was 64 I believe um and we had to make a decision of whether it was time to um um you know invest some Capital into some some additional individuals or join a team with some infrastructure and him being 64 at the time wasn’t overly excited as you can imagine about making a huge Capital infusion into the business um with his timeline you know getting closer to to retirement um happening so uh we went out and looked at a couple other firms and ultimately decided to merge our practice in with uh Shepard Financial so been here for now for uh four going on five years and uh it’s been great yeah that’s fantastic awesome so everyone listening make sure to check out the company in the link in the description uh and uh go visit Alex on LinkedIn and let him know that you watched his interview so hey Alex share a story where someone pushed or inspired you that you could do it and even though maybe you didn’t have the confidence that you could in the impact that that person had on you yeah that’s a great question and you know I’ve mentioned my business partner several times but but his name is George George la uh really is my mentor in addition to my business partner and you know I can’t thank George enough for for all he’s done for me over the years but really where I I see that he made the biggest impact is is giving me the opportunity and he put me in a lot of situations where he and I for the first couple years were almost tied at the hip but anytime you’d see George you’d see me and vice versa so I was exposed to a lot of situations and in a lot of meetings that you know someone in there you know early to mid 20s wouldn’t necessarily be in with other business own owners and and seite individuals running companies so um you know George always encouraged me I wouldn’t say pushed so much but encouraged me to to get involved and and you know uh take action in those meetings where um you know not I didn’t always feel overly confident that I was ready to to take on the opportunity or or the the project at hand but George always encouraged me to to to take uh you know responsibility and ownership of those jobs and and I’m very grateful that he has and it’s kind of helped me morph into some of the skill sets and and experiences that I’ve had today what a great um long-term view that George had to because oftentimes it’s it’s just easier for us to do it ourselves right versus coach and train and teach someone else to do it so what a buessing that he had that uh you know that long-term View and patience to to you know take you through that Lear process absolutely no he had the extreme uh foresight and wisdom in that capacity and it it’s kind of funny now I started as his intern and through our process with him starting to phase out now I’m his boss so it’s kind of come full circle and we we joke about that a lot but but uh you know George has been a great you know not only mentor and business partner but also a great friend you know for the last 15 years well well it’s a good thing he traded you well because now that you’re his boss karma karma can being correct correct correct he he he he uh he’s taken great care of me and uh and uh I I make sure I wanted to pay that for ab so Alex what’s your biggest learning as a business owner you know I think you know when when you’re not necessarily a business owner you have these grandiose visions of of what you would do when you’re in leadership and and how you would run a run the company and and and all that so at Shepard Financial now we have about 35 going on I think 36 here in a couple weeks uh Team Member strong and um you know you want to you know encourage uh a very positive uh work environment and all that but what I found is is um you just have to make decisions on what you think is best for uh the organization and best for for everyone because it doesn’t matter any decision that you make is is might not going to you know make a 100% of of the workforce happy but you just have to do what you think is best and and move forward for the health of of the company and health of yourself and is health of of the individuals and their families of our employees so I that that decision making is key because too many people can get stuck in the in the uncertainty of what’s going to result and therefore not make a decision at all and and as business owners we have to make decisions right if we sit on the fence we’re going to fail um versus if we make a decision and start to execute it and maybe it doesn’t quite go the way we wanted it to but we won’t even have that learning if we don’t move forward so I appreciate you sharing that because I think there’s a lot of folks listening that that maybe are you know hesitant to make those decisions because of the things you’re saying right not everyone’s going to agree with it and what if I offend someone and and so on and so so how do you how do you navigate through that you know what I’ll call it a fear for lack of a better word of you know fear of offending someone or disappointing someone how do you navigate through that yeah again I think it all just goes back to making decisions on on what you think is best and and uh you know there’s the nice quote um you’re never you’re never wrong to do the right thing and and you know sometimes the right thing isn’t uh always the right thing to everybody but you know having your own having your own moral compass and and what you think is right and as long as you’re making decisions you know not for selfish reasons or um um you know self-interest I think that you know decisions becomes a lot easier when you can uh look at it maybe through that uh scope versus versus you know in a vacuum so awesome hey Alex we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so tell us about your biggest challenge uh over the years as a business owner and and maybe a fellow owner who came alongside of you and helped you through that yeah so so you know George you know prior to us making the transition over to Shephard Financial George was was he and I making all the decisions and it was very easy because we were two uh two owners making the decision that impacts two people right so uh it wasn’t it wasn’t that big of a a challenge really but now moving forward uh over the last four years here with Shepard I have uh five other business partners uh that are that are owners in the uh the organization and um it’s very nice to have those folks as a sounding board and and really a decision-making as a committee because they’re all you know have a lot of experience uh have been in the same situations you know over decades amount of time so whenever I come across situation that maybe I’m unfamiliar with or or or would like you know a second opinion I always have that nice resource to to to fall back on to talk to my business partners and and uh gather what uh maybe what they think is best or their two cents Yeah because sometimes it can be very lonely at the top so you know having that that that group to be able to go to right get allows you to it sounds like you know can get out of your own head and say hey I’m I’m kind of stuck here I I’m not sure how to think through this process so no that that that’s exactly right there’s you know there’s always things that when we’re making decisions maybe we don’t always think about uh in the time being so having you know a few backups to double check uh uh the decision and and double check uh the the reasoning and rationale behind the decision I think is always a good thing Alex I’m going to put you on the spot here a little bit and ask you to pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for them being there to help you with your business’s growth so who are those three people and how’ they help you yeah well of course we’ve talked a lot about George so far so George would would certainly be in in the top three um I think also in addition to my my current business partners um my parents so my dad is actually uh just retired a few years ago a handful of years ago but he was also a business owner himself self so uh I I saw firsthand growing up what that looks like and and the uh the ups and the Downs of of Entrepreneurship um so he was an owner of a a construction company so you know it kind of it es and flows with the market right when when things are going well and you know 2008 is a good example of that um their company you know was was uh funded well and and had you know strong financial fundamentals that they weren’t overleveraged so they didn’t get themselves in trouble but you know definitely seeing uh the cycles of business and and how that affects not only him as an individual but really the family as a whole um was was uh enlightening to see and then you know my third one is is my wife uh obviously um a lot of the decisions that are made around our working careers and and uh going into business for ourselves and and being an entrepreneur and an owner uh always you know comes back to our our family lives and and my wife wife is incredibly supportive and um um cannot thank her enough for for all that she’s done both for me personally and and helping with the family and and helping me really grow as an individual and we always we always laugh at our younger s right when we think about when we first met when we were 20 years old and and where we are today and just uh not only the differences in our lives but also the differences uh that we are as people so fantastic I love it and what’s your dad’s name my dad’s name is Jim Jim Sylvester so my dad uh uh owned a construction company and has actually since passed that down to my brother who is running that construction company my mom also uh a great uh um journey in her career she worked at Eli Lily for uh just short of 50 years I believe so um had a had a long career there and and uh had success in her own right wonderful Alex as you think about the next three to five years what’s the biggest challenge that you see that you’re going to face in getting to your goals and who are the types of people that you’ll need to solve that challenge yeah so that that that’s a great question and I you know we work with uh 250 plus um uh companies today to help administer retirement plans and I think our uh challenges especially over the last few years have been um um what most people are experiencing and just the challenge of of Workforce right I think think there are are fewer and fewer um training programs out there where we don’t have that pool of of young talent coming in that’s that’s you know getting in at the entry level positions um that’s always a challenge um obviously um it seems like everyone’s competing for talent in in one capacity or another so um we’ve have tremendous growth goals which is great and and we’ve been successful in Meeting those goals um you know especially since I’ve been here the last four years I can attest to that um and we want to keep that trajectory but you know it becomes harder and harder the bigger you get to to stay on that trajectory so you know continuing to build out our infrastructure um to allow for that growth uh we think we have a lot of opportunity and we really think that our process and our services and capabilities are are a big differentiator in the market so we do think that U we can continue to grow that story but it’s just getting the the infrastructure and really the people uh component in place to make sure that we can can can continue to grow like you know we want to um you you mentioned it a couple times in your answer the the finding those people in this competitive Marketplace has been been tough so one of the things that that can help differentiate for everyone listening is you know making sure that you’ve got your your culture defined and and the vision and the mission of your company defining because people want to be part of something bigger than themselves they want to you know feel like they’re they’re making an impact in the marketplace or or in their communities that they’re you know that coming to work every day is Meaningful in that bigger and greater good so the mistake a lot of us can make is to hire you know just based on skills and experiences and and you know and even post the job description out on job boards instead of turning it into a a marketing ad where you’re you’re Romancing the company and you’re talking about the the the values and the beliefs of the company because we’ve all had experiences where we’ve made a bad hire right and we don’t and it’s not a good cultural fit and it it destroys the you know the environment for everybody so the slow Fire fast mentality of making sure we’re getting the right people on the bus that’s right no that that’s that’s I 100% agree with that and and um you know getting the right folks in the right seats on the bus is what we like to say so uh that I I uh I certainly can attest and and again I think that culture component is Big because we work with you know uh manufacturing and construction and social workers and higher ed and everywhere in between so we see uh a lot of different uh employee demographics and those companies that really are successful have that defined culture and you know and it starts really from the top down uh in terms of you know the the leadership and the belief in the culture it’s not just a mission statement that you know that’s up on the wall or up on the website is are we actually following that mission statement and and acting and making decisions you know based on that and I like earlier what you said about you know making decisions based on doing the right thing and following that moral compass or or following you know the company values and beliefs it helps to make those decisions a whole lot easier right because it’s kind of becomes black and white of hey this you know this person’s not aligned to our culture they’re not following our internal code and they might be a great person but right it might be time to part ways just because right it’s not it’s not the right fit correct correct absolutely so Alex last question here Jim ran an amazing uh business Guru says that we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you think about that what advice would you have for business owners who are trying to do it on their own yeah again I think um finding that peer um is always uh something that’s very helpful again having that sounding board because we do see a lot of times you mentioned it earlier it’s Lonely at the Top right um having someone that’s in your shoes and and goes through the same experiences uh that you will because you know it’s easy to be a a Monday morning you know couch quarterback right uh of of of of saying well that that was not a very smart decision but actually having somebody that’s been in the trenches with you uh or been you know a similar experience that that understands and feels what you’ve gone through is is um invaluable uh so having that peer or that Mentor I think is is key to uh being a successful um entrepreneur and and really building out that Network so it doesn’t necessarily always have to be a direct peer but you know whether it’s an accountant or an attorney or another professional individual that again uh can can can really um share their experiences in in dealing with their own businesses or dealing with you know similar type uh clients or companies that uh will be able to add add some value to to whatever situation or decision that has to be made I like the the the word peer that you used because um it doesn’t always have to be a partnership like the model that you had where you know you H you had your partner George and now have expanded to to multiple partners doesn’t have to be that model it can be you know you meet somebody in a networking event that has a similar you know type of business that you know you’re willing to to share stories and encourage and motivate one another another and and and to your point right have somebody that you can reach out to to ask questions and and you know motivate and challenge one another absolutely you mentioned networking so um things I hear a lot is well I don’t want to bother that other business owner because you know they’re probably busy they’re not going to have time for me so can you just talk a little bit about that in terms of your perspective on you know somebody a fellow business owner reaching out and saying hey Alex can I get a few minutes with you yeah that that’s a great question and and it’s a it’s a little bit of a cliche these days you know your network is your net worth right uh but it it’s absolutely true and and business is built on relationships um and and ours is certainly true to that um we have a lot of Partnerships uh with a lot of organizations and um continuing to to build those is is absolutely key um I think in terms of how do you build those strong relationships it’s it’s um I encourage I reach out to uh folks that I admire as business owners and and and really as individuals just to say hey I just want to you know take you for breakfast and you know I think sometimes uh when I do that the first time they think well you know what do you want for me what you trying to sell me but but it’s really I just want to pick their brain and and you know see about the situations and and and gather some experience because back to my early days when I was just learning I learned through osmosis right I was just in the room and and was listening to the conversation so being able to listen to those folks um through that networking because obviously there are times where you you’d like um you know help from those individuals or maybe You’ like business from those individuals but going into with a mentality of maybe I can help this person and then you know it comes full circle so um um if you always have your hand out I think there’s GNA be a lot of folks that do shy away right but if you’re going to with a mentality that I want to learn and I maybe want to help this individual uh I I think a lot of folks like to to talk about that right like you said earlier uh it’s Lonely at the Top I’m going to keep coming back to that you know business owners like to talk to to other business owners and and share that commonality that you have uh of the situations that you’ve been in so you mentioned um just making sure that folks don’t think you’re wanting to sell them I I think that’s important to to to communicate that I a previous guest had mentioned you know even being overt of hey I I noticed that you wrote a post about this or a video about this and and that’s something that I could benefit from in my business so would you be willing to you know gift me 30 minutes of your time to to to share a little bit more about that so I can learn from you and right that that flips the script in terms of I’m not trying to meet with you to sell you something I’m I want to learn from you and you know and people enjoy talking about themselves and right and and love the idea that they can help somebody else with their knowledge and wisdom so right if we communicate it correctly uh much more opportunity for somebody to say or probability for somebody to say yes and and gift us their time right correct 100 percent correct so Alex um it’s been awesome having you on the show it sounds like you’ve had some incredible people that you know have been uh beneficial in your journey if they were all on the show here today what would you want to say to them you know I I want to say uh first and foremost thank you so I I try to do a a good job at uh expressing my gratitude for you know those individuals over the years they they know they’ve made a big impact on my life and um you know I I of course my wife and and my family I see all the time but um you know my business partner George I’ve mentioned a few times now forever grateful I even kind of a fun fact here I even uh forever memorialize my gratitude I named my daughter after him so my daughter’s Georgia named after George and uh um again I I couldn’t can’t think you know all my all my U uh Network in my team um for all that they’ve done over the years it’s been I’ve been extremely fortunate to to be in the situations that I’ve been in and and have the knowledge base and and opportunities that they’ve presented so forever grateful for for everyone that’s been a part of my uh now 15 16 year career so Alex it’s been awesome chatting with you today thank you so much for being on the show Sam again very honored to be on the show and thanks for having me thanks for listening to the self-made is a myth show with your host coach Tim campaw please help spread this Movement by liking and subscribing to our show and following us on Facebook and Linkedin or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast to join our movement go to bmad together.com okay folks that’s a wrap please pay it forward and be sure to tune in next time to the self-made is a myth podcast