Over the past two years I have spent some time both talking and writing on this blog about traveling on the road to financial health and wealth. Last June, I had the pleasure to participate in a local stop of a national roadshow where I met young entrepreneurs who are extremely passionate about communicating and teaching young people how to get on that road and reach their goals. They made a real and lasting impact all over the country. It was eye opening for me, and I’m sure many other people.
That story, however, isn’t the only inspirational story that you’ll find. I had the opportunity to sit down recently with someone I’ve known for over 30 years, Mr. David B. Morrow, to discuss his own real life success story. He’s the President and Chief Investment Officer of Wilshire Enterprises Inc., a regional real estate investment and development firm based in East Hanover, New Jersey. The road to success of financial health and wealth isn’t the same path for everyone, but there seems to be some habits, methods, and thought processes that are the keys to making it to those goals.
Here’s the text of my recent interview with Mr. Morrow.
Me: Dave, it’s great to meet with you today and to have the chance to talk about your career and try to get insight on your thoughts on becoming a success in today’s complex world.
Mr. Morrow: Thanks, Gary, for inviting me.
Me: Dave, let me start by asking about your educational background.
Mr. Morrow: Well, I went to Rutgers College (now Rutgers University), right here in NJ for my B.A. in Communications/English. I had an interest in film which began before I was in high school, you know behind the scenes like editing, cinematography or directing. I worked my way all through school and of course like many people I graduated with debt that took me years to pay off before I could get any kind of financial stability.
Later on, as my career developed I got into real estate management; I went back to school to get my MS in real estate finance at New York University.
Me: Can you tell us about any role models you had as kid that helped you develop you work ethics and career choices?
Mr. Morrow: Well I didn’t really have a role model in the traditional sense. As a kid, I went to the movies and I loved sports so that was a way for me to escape from a less than perfect family life. I used those people as role models because they always performed so well even under extreme pressure.
Me: What was your first full-time job out of college?
Mr. Morrow: I worked for a small delivery company as a customer service manager where I had to learn quickly about supervising people, a skill that has stayed important to me throughout my career. The company wasn’t doing well and after a few months I had to make the decision to go elsewhere and start over, this time in an executive management training position at Allied Stores (later part of Federated Stores) in retail management.
Me: You did well at Allied stores and progressed upward, yes?
Mr. Morrow: Yes, I began to move towards the operational end of the business and after a number of years I found myself transitioning from a property management person to a leasing representative. That’s why I went back to school after 15 years, to further my skills in real estate finance.
Me: Did you ever have a “mentor” at work help you and guide you?
Mr. Morrow: Though I never had a true mentor in my career, there were many who provided assistance and guidance in the many stops in my work history. I believe in mentoring of your co-worker professionals whom are eager and open to learning the nuances of an industry and I try and provide my experience in mentoring others.
Me: Dave, what does success mean to you?
Mr. Morrow: Success in your career is one of calculated risks and efficient hard work. It’s always best to assess the team and the workplace you’re in, understand what the objectives are, and gain as much knowledge as you can, whether you stay and advance or take it with you to your next opportunity.
Me: What are the most difficult decisions you have to make at work? What are the best decisions you have ever made at your job?
Mr. Morrow: The most difficult decisions I’ve had are about evaluating employees. Terminating employees is especially challenging although it should never come as a surprise to anyone. Even though these are business decisions, you can’t escape the emotional factor.
The most successful decisions I’ve made at work have been my recommendations for real estate purchases to our executive investment committee.
Me: How hard is it to balance your life and your work?
Mr. Morrow: It’s much easier to balance your work life and your family life as you advance and naturally as you age. It’s important to avoid the “workaholic“ mentality which often leads to burnout or prevents you from serving some aspect of your work life which you may become at odds with having to do. You’ve got to take time for your mental health, even if it’s a brisk walk or 30 minutes at the gym. Companies that don’t promote sound health should be avoided.
Me: What are you most passionate about in your work and your life today?
Mr. Morrow: In my work I try to be even tempered, it really helps in the day to day decision making process. At home my passion is all about my family, and I still love sports both watching and participating in them.
Me: Dave, What have you done about retirement planning and are you prepared for it?
Mr. Morrow: Yes, I have prepared for retirement. This was something I didn’t have a great understanding of when I was younger and first entered the work force. I didn’t have opportunities early on to participate in any plans at work and I had a lot of debt. I first made the decision to systematically pay off my debt and then I took a look at my situation and decided to start investing what I could comfortably take out of my income and use for retirement. I’ve been doing just that for all these years since.
Me: Well we’re coming to the end of our discussion. My final question is this: what advice would you give to a young person today who is just starting out in their career?
Mr. Morrow: My advice is work to achieve, but expect that you may fail. Failure is part of the experience and advancing grows from it. Learn from it and seek out counsel and advice about new methods and alternatives to achieving your goals. Stick to it no matter what and you can and will achieve your goals and succeed.
If you find you’re not getting the recognition and compensation for your success, do your homework and bring it to the attention of the decision makers and talk to them about your value. Don’t be afraid to seek out other opportunities but be smart about it. Build a network of personal and professional advisors whom you can lean on for support and counsel when you need it.
Me: Dave, thanks so much for sharing your advice and experience.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or an executive in a large corporation, people skills will be a big factor in your plans to travel the road to financial health and wealth, but always include the “other factors” in your life. Good physical and mental health and family and friends are the best partners on that road and will ultimately make you happy no matter what your bank account looks like.
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Where are you on the road to success? Have you just started out? Are you at a crossroads? Is retirement on your horizon? What are you going to do to ensure you and your family find success?