Ryan was a collegiate baseball player who had dreams and a path to play professionally until a career ending injury sidelined him. With his dream of playing professionally over, Ryan had to pivot and figure out what the rest of his life would look like. Using the skills he developed over the years of playing sports, Ryan set out on his own and started his own financial planning firm. His firm, Carolina Asset Management, has grown to become one of premier firms on the East Coast. After 21 years of building a firm Ryan became known among professional athletes as someone that could “fix” their financial problems and translate the complicated world of finance into easy-to-understand fundamentals for success. His clients urged him to use his talent to develop a program that all student-athletes, regardless of professional aspiration, could use to prevent financial mistakes and level the playing field with many of their peers who have an inherent advantage in learning financial lessons. Ryan went to work to build a program that individual athletes, college athletic teams, and athletic departments can leverage to complete the “whole athlete” development; and provide education, lessons and resources that can be used to build financial legacy in order to gain the ultimate competitive advantage. Currently working with schools in some of the largest conferences in the country, Ryan provides education in a way that any athlete can relate to, the language of sports. We all have a financial “season.” Like in sports, a season is divided into many games. Each game comes with a lesson and an opponent to overcome. Ryan’s game plan is a full-proof protocol that you can use to beat that opponent.
What motivated you to start A Must Win? How did the idea come about?
A Must Win came out of an interview I had with an intern candidate that was a student athlete. I realized that there was a huge gap in what was needed to prepare kids and what, if anything, is being provided. COVID then shut the world down and I started working on a presentation to the UNCC basketball team that turned into an international best selling book that turned into talks for athletic departments. When I was doing the talks I realized that this method didn’t work and if a school was providing financial literacy it was in this broken method. There was a need for something unbiased that lived beyond the athlete’s time on campus. COVID had every athletic department hurting financially so I took those two issues and created our current platform where we create customized content and help the athletic departments turn it into a revenue opportunity.
Our NIL & Beyond branding program came from high school parents calling me asking for help. I didn’t want to be advising on the latest TikTok trends but did see an opportunity to help solve some of the lack of success after sports many athletes have as well as the mental health issues related to social media usage and NIL deals. That’s when I linked up with a friend that works with CEO’s and business owners in identifying their strengths and weaknesses and effective communication. We collaborated on how to use the same assessments to help athletes with recruiting, name, image and likeness and career opportunities beyond sports.
The market responded extremely well to both offerings and now we’re just trying to keep up!
What was your mission at the beginning of starting your business?
Our mission was and still is to break generational economic and self-belief cycles by empowering student and professional athletes with so much knowledge as it relates to personal finance and authentic branding, in a simplistic and easily implemented way that we eradicate financial illiteracy and create new family legacies.
What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?
So many people have helped me it’s nearly impossible to give them all credit. However, in an effort to not dodge the question, I think being humble and keeping things simple for people is the key to solving problems. I 100% believe that athletes at all levels have developed unique skills that when applied to the “real world” set them apart. If given the right information, presented in the right way I think athletes (regardless of level) can positively change the world and will find a way to fix the problems they encounter.
When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going?
To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals. If people truly understood what being an entrepreneur entailed there is a 100% chance they would not do it. With all that said, there are many times when you feel like not moving forward. My desire to provide a positive legacy and example for my family is important but in the tough times the reality of me being “all in” and not having a lifeline helps with motivating me to action and knowing that so many businesses were on the cusp of going big and they quit right before it. At the end of the day success comes to those not smart enough to throw in the towel.
Employees are one of the most important players to succeed in business. What do you look for in an employee?
Self-managers, intuitive, over achievers, good listeners, humble, kind, not satisfied, and someone that asks questions out of curiosity.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest? There are so many but the top 3 would be:
First, A Must Win doesn’t take on financial clients, we teach unbiased personal financial skills (which talks about investing, crypto, NFT’s, real estate, entrepreneurship and 90 other topics) with the only objective of empowering the athlete with the knowledge that puts them in control of doing what’s best for them, not being controlled due to lack of information. This is highlighted by the amount of pro athletes that endorse us.
Second, for 90% of our financial literacy clients we end up providing customized content that is free to them and actually ends up being a short and long term revenue source for them.
Third, our NIL & Beyond brand building program takes assessments that have been reserved for CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies and uses them for student athletes to identify who they are and why they see the world the way they do and align a social media strategy to their personality to take advantage of Name, Image & Likeness as well as post athletic career opportunities; nobody has created a brand build program for kids like we have.
Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?
Many years ago I did, however, with age and experience came the mindset of not everyone will like you or do business with you and that’s fine. If I can learn something from a situation to get better moving forward then at the end of the day I win.
Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for A Must Win? If so, how did you stumble upon it?
Like most entrepreneurs, my marketing was trial and error. The thing that has worked best is personal introductions to others.
Is there any resource or resources that helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?
I think being an athlete helped me in more ways than I can mention. I wasn’t the best student but I didn’t feel like I was dumb. I knew I didn’t fit in with the mindset they were teaching in school regarding working for someone, to me that meant I was limited in what I could achieve.
What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business? What do they need to know from the very beginning?
- Hire the right people before you can afford it and give them the ability to do what you hired them to do (don’t micro-manage)
- Be decisive in your decisions but maintain the flexibility to adjust as you go
- Growth comes from being uncomfortable, make sure you’re uncomfortable every day.