March 5, 2013

Dave Ramsey: More Than 'The Money Guy'


You can tell a lot about someone based on who they surround themselves with.

​While that's a lesson I'm still learning, I'm absolutely blown away by the team Dave Ramsey has developed over the last 20 years in Middle Tennessee.

If you'd asked me five years ago who Dave Ramsey was, I would have answered, "The guy who hates credit cards?" I suppose that's partially correct, but you can't build what Dave has built simply by hating credit cards.​

The first time I shook Dave's hand was January 2010, after returning from an earthquake relief trip to Haiti with his executive producer, and now great friend of mine, Blake Thompson. By the time we met face-to-face, I'd done my research, and (surprise, surprise) it turns out there's a lot more to Dave Ramsey than hating credit cards.

​Let me get a couple answers to immediate questions out of the way first:

  • Yes, I know Dave Ramsey. No, we're not best friends...I mean, we haven't even eaten hot wings together. Yet. (But, I have faith that day will come. And, when it does, we will pay cash for those wings.)​
  • ​No, this post isn't about revealing behind the scenes secrets, it's about the ways I've been challenged and influenced by Dave's leadership.

If you google Dave, you'll probably read all kinds of things (which is to be expected for a guy that hosts a radio show with 6-7 million listeners per day). You'll read the fan stories of how his principles on getting out of debt absolutely changed their life, you'll read about how his business perspective helped an entrepreneur find success in a new venture, and of course you'll find a range of people who go from disliking him to absolutely despising him.

The complaints are pretty standard: "His house it too big..." "he's too interested in wealth..." "his ego is massive..." "he's a jerk..." and on and on it goes.​ If you follow his Twitter account, you'll quickly realize he never shies away from the banter.

But, coming from a guy whose interaction with Dave Ramsey started at the most organic level, the very first encounter I had was with his generosity. How many people do you meet that you can say they were generous before they even really knew you? To be completely honest, I wasn't quite sure what to think of him until I heard his oft-quoted phrase, "Live like no one else so you can give like no one else." I'd never heard anyone say that before. Ever.

I've (amazingly enough) been given a front-row seat to many ways Dave does what he does, and here are the biggest game-changers for me:​

1. He actually practices what he preaches.​

This might already be obvious, but while in our world, many leaders say one thing and do another, Dave never teaches anyone to do anything that he himself isn't committed to doing. From saving to spending to investing to giving to leading.

My favorite moments are when someone calls the show to claim they saw him buy something on credit or take out a loan ... he lowers a boom that will last for days. Why? Because his reputation and integrity are why he can give 400 people employment. He doesn't have time for those shenanigans because those 400 people depend on him to be who he claims to be ... their incomes and families are at stake.

Dave Ramsey gets that — to a fault. He carries that weight of responsibility like it's a holy mantle, and rightly so.

2. His team is the best of the best.

It would be impossible for a guy like Dave to build a company like his by himself. So, he positioned himself so he didn't have to settle when it came to hiring leaders to run the organization. I've become friends with quite a few of his team members over the past few years, people on every level of the Lampo Group ladder, and they're stellar. They're 100% committed to the company culture, and to building something incredible, no matter how small or large their personal role is.

When the world shifts, they shift with it. He doesn't pretend like he's the only mind in the room and everyone should worship his every word. Rather, he lays out vision, and has trusted, tested leaders around him to bring the vision to fruition. His company does so well because he's hired people who are just as committed to excellence as he is.​

3. ​He's generous.

So, I don't have any idea exactly how much Dave gives away monetarily, but I know many of the places he gives to have gone to new levels of effectiveness because he gave. Beyond that, I've witnessed and experienced first hand the ways that Dave is generous with his time, wisdom, possessions, and team.

You won't ever hear him brag about being wealthy simply for being wealthy. Instead, he believes he has what he has to impact the world around him. For him, becoming debt-free is about leaving a legacy: a legacy of generosity, a legacy for the next generations, a legacy for the doubters. ​

His generosity isn't lip-service; it's a crucial part of who he is.​

4. He's not perfect.

As a guy who is daily engaged in learning how to be a better leader, this may be the most powerful element to anything I've learned from Dave.​

He knows a lot, and of the things he knows there is a list of things he's an expert in. But, he doesn't know everything. He still learns. He still grows. He still seeks wisdom. He doesn't pretend.​

In leadership, there's soul-sapping pressure to act as if I've got it together. As if we're supposed to act as though we drink a giant mug of perfection every morning before we begin tweeting our unending wisdom to the world. Dave Ramsey has no such fantasies. He's a guy with a passion and a calling, and he'll edit, redo, and revamp whatever he needs to along the way to make sure he gets where God has created him to go.

5. He's honest.

His candidness and honesty may seem intimidating at times, ​but, I much prefer being intimidated by someone's honesty than betrayed by the opposite.

There's not much else to say about this one. You can't put a price-tag on honesty, and when you find it, stick around those people as long as you're able.​

I still think it's funny when people ask me questions like, "Do you agree with Dave Ramsey on everything?" ​


If Dave and I agreed on absolutely everything, then I'd have a better record with him than his wife, Sharon. In other words, that's impossible.​

I'm grateful for the way he's invested in a young leader like me, and for the incredible friendships I've gained along the way with people from his team like Blake, Suzanne, Jon, Jeremy, Debbie, Brian, Michael, and dozens of others.​

As I said in the first line of this post, you can tell a lot about someone by who they surround themselves with. ​

Thanks, Dave, for speaking into my life.

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Originally Published: March 5, 2013
Category: Money and Stewardship
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