Following your passion towards a career path is a guaranteed way to always love what you do. For Olympic gold medalist Lauryn Williams – the first American woman to medal at both the Winter and Summer Games – following a self-proclaimed love of “money and math” lead her to financial planning and the creation of her own financial services company, Worth Winning. Worth Winning, a completely virtual service Lauryn runs from her Texas home, is targeted toward professional athletes and millennials.
As part of our 2016 Athlete Leadership Connection event, three champion athletes, including Lauryn and skiers Jen Hudak and Annie Pokorny, were selected to develop their emerging businesses with a group of Ohio University Masters of Sports Business students. Through an on-going working relationship beginning in early summer, business-owner-athletes perfected their presentations and arrived at the 2016 Leadership Connection ready to tackle our challenge: a five-minute pitch competition to a panel of sports industry leaders.
During a half-hour, fast and furious competition, three pitches were made to the panel of four business leaders and an audience of 90 conference attendees, media, WSF staff and event guests. The audience was polled via a digital app, and the results, paired with the panel’s feedback and scoring, determined Lauryn and Worth Winning as the winner of “The Pitch.”
We recently sat down with Lauryn to talk Worth Winning, how she uses sports for success in business, and how she conquered those pre-Pitch jitters.
WSF: Talk to me about Worth Winning’s creation story. Starting your own business can be risky – what made you take the plunge?
Lauryn: Looking back Worth Winning was probably in the works as early as me choosing my major in college. I chose finance simply because I liked math and money. At 17-years- old I didn’t make much more in-depth decisions than that (laughs).
I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after college and I ended up having a career in professional track & field. I went to four Olympics, competing in both the Summer and Winter Games, and during that time period I had a six-figure contract. I was 20-years-old and I didn’t have a long legacy of financial literacy in my family. I didn’t know who to turn to for help but I knew that it was important to get someone to help me with my finances.
The person who ended up helping me didn’t actually provide the services that I needed. I’m not a story of “athlete gone broke” or “terrible financial advisor steals athlete’s money,” but he also didn’t provide the services that I needed. I didn’t know what kind of budget was appropriate, how much money I could spend versus how much to save. I had questions about what kind of house I could afford and how much money I needed to set aside for taxes. Without those kinds of questions being answered, I was prone to make more mistakes than if someone had been guiding me. So, I switched financial advisors, and found someone else who I thought might be more helpful and that didn’t go any better!
That’s when I said to myself, “I want to figure out how to do this for athletes and for other young people. Where do I start?” I did a Google search that led me to the certified financial planning coursework and I enrolled blindly not having any experience in the industry. I was off and running!
Until then I didn’t realize there were different types of people who can help you with your money. Financial planners provide different services from the investment advisor I had been working with. There are many terms for roles in the financial industry it is very confusing. I immediately found someone nearby who was a certified financial planner, and said, “I want to learn more about what you do.”
I did an internship there and now it’s four years later. I just felt very passionately about being able to help young professionals and young athletes manage their money in a way that covered all aspects of finances, not just investing.
WSF: In addition to what you bring to the table as a peer to your clients, what makes Worth Winning so special?
Lauryn: Worth Winning is special because of the clientele we work with. We specialize in young people and we’re virtual. We are able to help anyone across the country — you just jump into a video chat room. You don’t have to get off of work and drive in rush hour traffic, or plan to do it on your lunch break. Our clients work with Worth Winning at their convenience. We can do nights, we can do weekends, you can be in Europe competing, and we can find something that works with your schedule.
We’re also fee-only, which means we charge a flat fee that our clients can understand — it’s not hidden anywhere. The majority of the industry charges a commission based on investments sold to you. Some advisors make it appear as if their services are free, but really they charge based on the money they are investing. I just charge a flat fee based on the services that I am providing to you.
WSF: At the Women’s Sports Foundation, our message is all about what playing sports can do for a girl or a woman off the field of play. How does what you learned from your years in track and bobsled help Worth Winning succeed?
Lauryn: Playing sports teaches so many life skills. For example, perseverance, forgiving yourself and being coachable. As a financial planner I use those skills and remind my clients they also have those skills on a regular basis. As an athlete you already have that innately — you are coachable. You are the vessel, but someone brings out the best in you by coaching you. Being consistent on budgeting requires perseverance, you’re going to mess up but you must continue to practice in order to get better. Being an athlete laid the foundation for me to be successful in building my financial planning firm. Perseverance shows up in my trying to build a business day by day, slowly but surely.
WSF: What’s the end goal for Worth Winning? Where do you see yourself in the short-term and long-term?
Lauryn: The short-term goal for Worth Winning is attracting clients that are wanting to build a Game Plan so they can tell their money where to go instead of wondering where it went. You don’t have to make a bunch of money, or be an all-star first round draft pick athlete, in order to be responsible with your money. That is the main thing I try to drive home with prospective clients. To sum it up the short-term goal is to help people know how to be responsible and build a strong foundation so you can live the life you want in the future.
For long-term goals, I’d like to see Worth Winning grow into a company that helps athletes on a large scale — where we’re branching off with things like small business seminars, or a series of things that help athletes with transition out of sports. Or, implementing programs that help clients discover what exercise looks like in life after sport. These are things I talk to my clients about now but I’d like to have a better infrastructure in place to help them.
WSF: Tell me a little about your experience with Project Pitch.
Lauryn: Well, Project Pitch was amazing. And I’m not just saying that because I won or because I signed on four clients from the event. The biggest take away for me was the idea of conquering my fears. I have a huge fear of public speaking and I think that sometimes you want to be so good and so prepared that you shoot yourself in the foot by becoming a robot. The best way to market anything is being authentic. As an athlete, you want to do everything you can to be perfect, to execute at just the right time just like you train to do. We’re so used to doing it and wanting to reach that perfect level, that sometimes we overthink it and I think I was guilty of that heading into my presentation.
I talked about life skills that sports provide you and I was so excited to be around a group of athletes that said, “Lauryn, you’re an athlete! You’re confident! Get your game face on!” when I had gotten so caught up in trying to prove myself. I realized I needed to go back to the basics of what I do as an athlete — step up confidently and show what you know.
People are always making assumptions that because you’re an Olympian you’re awesome at everything you do and it’s like, “no…I run fast in front of hundreds of thousands of people but I don’t talk in front of all those people!” On the biggest stage in the world, I don’t have to talk to do my job well. That’s definitely a misconception that we’re all great public speakers and we all love public speaking –we don’t.
You can learn more about Lauryn Williams and Worth Winning at her website www.Worth-Winning.com