8 Minute Read
One of the 14 core values at Ramsey Solutions is “Excellence in the Ordinary.” It’s the idea that team members approach every task with the same amount of time, attention and enthusiasm no matter how big or small. They understand that even the most mundane task ultimately leads to another life changed or another family who finally has hope for the future.
That core value has helped create a culture where any team member—no matter what position they start in or what their duties are—can succeed as long as they’re focused on performing with excellence.
In fact, many team members who have moved into leadership were so focused on delivering excellence in the ordinary, they were taken by surprise when the doors to leadership began opening for them.
Leading by Influence
“The most important part of my story is that I wasn’t seeking leadership,” Michelle Barren, director of media services, explained.
“From the beginning, my leader knew I would eventually move on to a larger role—but I didn’t.”
Michelle was initially hired three years ago as a marketing assistant. She spent a lot of time that first year learning about the company and the people on her team. Through her exceptional work, she began earning the right to offer ideas for improvement.
Her leader Herb Jenkins, operating board member and executive vice president, immediately recognized Michelle’s leadership potential. So, he coached her through conversations with other leaders so she could implement her changes.
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“He just gave me the guardrails and never told me I couldn’t do something,” Michelle said. “He approached it with a true coach’s mentality. It was never about what I could do for him, but what I could do for the team.”
Just before Michelle’s annual check-in at the end of her first year, Jen Sievertsen, operating board member and chief marketing officer, casually mentioned to Michelle that she could have more influence and responsibility at Ramsey Solutions—if she wanted it.
After a lot of soul-searching to make sure it was a step she wanted to take, Michelle decided to ask Herb how she could explore those opportunities.
“From then on, we began having intentional conversations about the possibilities, and I started taking on bigger things,” Michelle said. “I was testing myself and learning at the same time.”
A few months later, she had an unexpected meeting with Herb, Suzanne Simms, and senior vice president of media, Brian Mayfield.
“I told Michelle we were impressed by how she had been leading by influence even without a formal leadership title,” Suzanne Simms, operating board member and executive vice president, explained. “People just naturally want to know her thoughts and opinions.”
Because of Michelle’s natural leadership skills, Suzanne and Brian wanted Michelle to consider the director of media services role. In that position, she would lead a growing team responsible for managing relationships with 600-plus radio affiliates of The Dave Ramsey Show.
“I was completely overwhelmed by their faith in me,” Michelle said.
“It was clear they valued me and what they saw in me. But I literally just wanted to do well with the work they’d given me.”
Michelle remains serious about building her leadership skills because she knows new opportunities are still available to her. “I’ve met with nearly every board member, and I’ve never been turned away,” she said. “They’re always willing to listen and offer good advice.”
“I’ve never felt like there is a ceiling here,” she added. “The only ceiling is the one you perceive through your own lens. Leadership is hard here—so it’s one thing to say you want it, but you better be ready for it. I welcome the challenge though. I signed up for this, and I know there is something special on the other side.”
Problem-Solving Leads to Promotion
In 2017, Sarah Sloyan was promoted to vice president of EntreLeadership—Dave’s team that helps small-business owners become better leaders. But Sarah embodied Ramsey’s “Excellence in the Ordinary” core value before she ever joined the team.
“We met Sarah when our company was planning an EntreLeadership event at a large hotel, and Ramsey Solutions was her client,” Jack Galloway, operating board member and executive vice president, said. “Sarah wowed our whole team from the beginning.”
Daniel Tardy, who was vice president of EntreLeadership at the time, recruited Sarah to join the EntreLeadership sales team.
“I was one of three sales advisors in the early days of EntreLeadership,” she said. Shortly after joining the team, Sarah found out she was expecting. “For those first nine months or so, I really focused on learning the lay of the land with the company and the EntreLeadership business.”
But when she returned from maternity leave, Sarah noticed a shift in the business. “The company was adding more events so people had more opportunities outside of our EntreLeadership events to see Dave,” Sarah explained. “I knew if we were going to meet our sales goals, we’d have to expand our marketing into new areas.”
To solve the problem, Sarah sought advice from marketers in other areas of the company about new strategies to promote EntreLeadership. “That’s how I began expanding my responsibilities,” Sarah said. “But really, I just wanted to hit our numbers—and I knew there was no one else on the team to take it on.”
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“I just wanted to hit our numbers—and I knew there was no one else on the team to take it on.”
Her skill as a salesperson and problem-solving initiative didn’t go unnoticed. Daniel asked Sarah to consider the role of EntreLeadership’s director of sales—but she wasn’t sure it was the right role for her. “I actually thought it was the worst idea ever,” Sarah said.
Sarah felt she was already working in her strengths, and she doubted whether she’d enjoy the responsibilities of a leadership role. “But then I began talking with some of the other sales directors in the company,” she explained. “I found out I was already doing a lot of the things I would do in that position. Accepting Daniel’s offer just made it official.”
Sarah was in the sales director role for about a year when Daniel moved into a new position to lead a broader section of the company.
“Because Sarah’s influence and position on the team continued to increase, she was an easy choice for the vice president role when Daniel was promoted,” Jack said.
For Sarah, it was all in a day’s work.
“I’ve just seen gaps that needed filling, so I pushed and got things done,” she said. “I figure if I’m stepping on someone’s toes, someone will tell me.”
She approaches her new role as VP the same way. “I’ve never felt the pressure to know everything,” Sarah explained. “I find people who are good at something I need to learn about and I learn from them. It’s such a relief to have experts to draw on.”
Sarah’s humility and skills as a leader won her company-wide recognition at Ramsey Solutions’ annual award ceremony in 2017. She received the Emergence Award, which recognizes the team member who best exemplifies endurance, encouragement and a spirit of unity.
“That was the end to an unbelievable year,” she said. “I’d been on maternity leave for the second time earlier in the year. Then a couple of months after I came back, I was promoted to the VP role.”
“All of that came at a time when I wondered if I was getting anything right,” Sarah explained.
“I was learning how to be a mom of three while balancing growing responsibilities at work. But to get that kind of support and affirmation from my work family—it was just unreal.”
Earning Opportunities Through Grit and Dedication
“I’ve watched the careers of these two women with a lot of pride—both in them and in the company,” Dave Ramsey, owner and CEO of Ramsey Solutions, said. “Michelle and Sarah have clearly earned their opportunities through their go-getter spirit and whatever-it-takes attitude.”
“But they’re just two examples of how Ramsey Solutions rewards and promotes excellence, and I’m proud we have a workplace where anyone with enough grit and dedication to our mission can rise to the top.”
Ramsey Solutions strives to create a level playing field for all its team members. While the expectations may be high, they are extremely clear: Do your work with excellence—always. And when you focus on the customer—on helping people—you’ll find opportunities to grow and lead by influence.
Ramsey Solutions is on track to hire 260 new team members this year! If you want to be part of our mission to change lives, check out our current job openings.