Milestones On An Entrepreneurial JourneyMay 15, 2012
Recently Lisa Brown, Brightworth Wealth Advisor, sat down with firm co-founder Chris Dardaman to discuss his entrepreneurial journey and views of the future in honor of his 20th year as a financial services business owner.
Lisa: Chris, something many people may not know about you is that you come from a long line of entrepreneurs (eight generations) and from both sides of your family. Did you always know you wanted to start and run a business?
Chris: Yes, some of the earliest recollections I have about business are from age five, watching my father design plans of buildings. Dad is a civil engineer who worked very hard to build and grow his business over the years, yet he made time to be actively involved in our family life. My mother was one of the early female CPAs in the South, who taught accounting at the University of Tennessee in the early 1960s. She also had her own CPA practice and helped with Dad’s business. She taught me personal finance from an early age, helping me open my first checking account at age 12. I had a credit card as a teenager, which was unheard of back then. My mom taught me to pay it off each month and how to balance a budget.
Lisa: What jobs did you have growing up and how did those prepare you for your future?
Chris: My first paying jobs were finding and selling golf balls and mowing yards starting around age 11. I also worked during the summers and holidays on a wide variety of things, including accounting, architecture/engineering, camp counselor, maintenance, orientation leader, retail sales and teaching tennis. Those practical experiences helped me learn more about what I liked and did not like doing. The life lessons learned through hard work were priceless.
Lisa: Even with great financial role models, you probably made some mistakes along the way. What was one of your mistakes that made a lasting impression on you?
Chris: My first big test in managing money came during my first semester in college. Mom and Dad gave me all the spending money for the semester up front and told me that I would have to make it on that amount and not to come asking for more. About two-thirds of the way through the semester I had spent all the money and had an important first date. Mom had the courage to wisely say, “No, you will just have to make it an inexpensive date. The best thing for you in the long run is to learn to live within your means.” From there I began living on a budget which has been a pretty consistent practice for the past thirty years.
Lisa: Other than your family influences, what activities do you think had a significant influence on your development as an entrepreneur?
Chris: Playing sports was an integral part of my development. There were many lessons including learning teamwork, competing and having to overcome adversity. Probably the hardest life lesson I ever learned was when I was in the fifth grade and had to go against the biggest kid in the seventh grade every day in football practice. He literally almost killed me daily, but the lessons of toughness and perseverance have been invaluable.
Lisa: Many people may not know that you were an Eagle Scout. How did being involved in Boy Scouts impact you?
Chris: In Scouts, we often found ourselves in situations that we had not been able to foresee and had to learn to deal with it. During one of the first campouts, I remember it rained the entire weekend. Our tent had several inches of mud in it, covered by several inches of water. We were soaked, cold and had little dry food to get by on, but we worked together to get through it. Being in Scouts helped provide me with opportunities to earn merit badges on many topics including personal finance, citizenship, etc. Scouts also provided leadership opportunities with a focus on character and integrity.
Lisa: So do you think that your entrepreneurial background was genetic or environmentally learned?
Chris: There has been a good bit of research on whether entrepreneurs are born or trained and the academic evidence is mixed. I believe there are elements of both that end up building entrepreneurs. There are genetic aspects, some of which make people more prone to risk taking, but the learned skills of vision, selling, hard work, and confidence are very much learned, and not necessarily something people are born with.
Lisa: What have you done to be intentional in training your children to be the 9th generation of entrepreneurs from the Dardaman family line?
Chris: Our kids have had to listen to me talk about balance sheets, income statements, arbitrage, etc., for many years. One of the questions I ask them occasionally is: “What type of businesses have you thought about starting lately?” Sometimes they have had specific ideas. The best training tools they learned on were computer games which included how to make a business plan, borrow money, build an amusement park, hire and fire employees, review monthly P&L statements, spend money on marketing, etc. Both of our children have small service businesses. Laura and I have also tried to be intentional in teaching them stewardship, that they are accountable to God for how they manage their time, talent and treasure and that they have a responsibility to help those in need.
Lisa: How do you see the future for young entrepreneurs?
Chris: Globally, I am very encouraged to see many places in the world move toward capitalism, aligning incentives for success. People, in unprecedented numbers, are discovering the incredible freedom that starting a business and making money provides. I have often told my kids that I wish I could grow up as them! It has never been easier to start and build a business, especially with the technology platforms available today. The future opportunities for young entrepreneurs are very bright.