Eric Dunavant is the Owner & CEO of Paradiem —a financial advising company focused on helping families live a better story by being more intentional at the intersection of family and finance. A Certified Financial Planner™, Qualified Kingdom Advisor™, and Financial Planning Association affiliate, Mr. Dunavant has helped hundreds of families and businesses discover simple, holistic strategies for saving on taxes, giving back to causes they care about and setting up systems for multigenerational success.
Having experienced a family tragedy in his youth that ultimately led to the loss of his father’s business, bankruptcy, and a rift between some family members, Mr. Dunavant understands firsthand the importance of having a sound financial strategy geared toward the best overall outcomes for your family. He believes that financial success doesn’t stop at considering how many dollars you have in the bank—but that financial advisors must also take into consideration a family’s overall happiness.
In addition to his certifications, Mr. Dunavant is also a two-time winner of the New Orleans City Business Money Maker award, a back-to-back recipient of the New Orleans Area Five Star Professional Wealth Manager award, and Safe Harbor’s Real Man of St. Tammany Parish. He’s also an accomplished writer, having received a number of accolades for his book, What If We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong? which uncovers the ways in which our worldview often disrupts our financial behaviors. Mr. Dunavant’s ideas have been featured in several national publications and media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Daily Finance, and The Street and Family Wealth Report.
Outside of his work, Mr. Dunavant is a proud husband and father of three caring, engaged children. It is the Dunavant family’s deepest desire that they impact lives by teaching the power of intentional generosity. In keeping with their mission, Mr. and Mrs. Dunavant are the proud founders of To All With Love—a faith-based nonprofit dedicated to sharing the joy of service with others, and impacting their local community, in Central American villages and the U.S. neighborhoods.
Can you tell us more about Paradiem and what it’s all about?
I’m the Owner & CEO of Paradiem —a financial advising company for families who want to use their wealth to bless future generations and make a bigger impact, without sacrificing their lifestyle or inheritance. Based in Mandeville, Louisiana, Paradiem understands that great financial advising isn’t just about Return on Investment—but also Return on Intention. We work with our clients to develop highly customized plans backed by holistic family and financial strategies, so they can save on taxes, be more intentional with their finances, mindfully grow or sell a business, and much more.
What inspired you to create this business?
Paradiem, as it exists today, is the product of years’ worth of experience in the financial industry—during which time I learned a lot about what it means to be a great financial advisor, and came face to face with many of the biggest problems facing the financial industry today.
In my pre-Paradiem life, it became abundantly clear to me that most financial advisors are more concerned with easily implementing a certain system, strategy, or tool than they are about doing what’s truly best for the long-term family health of their clients. Many financial advisors have tunnel vision—they may get decent financial results, but they’re missing the bigger picture.
When I became the owner & CEO of Paradiem, I knew we were going to do things a little differently. Since 2007, I’ve grown a team of intentional, thoughtful specialists who bring a wide variety of talents to the table, with one goal in mind—to help our clients do more with their money by making more intentional, holistic financial decisions, so they can live a better story and be a blessing to their family and community.
How does your brand work? What do you do to help your clients?
Our work at Paradiem begins with getting to know each of our clients on a hyper-personal level. We learn the ins and outs not just of our client’s accounts, but of their families and businesses. Our financial planning starts with getting clear on the family’s vision and values—because when we start with the end in mind, we can carefully craft intentional strategies that help our clients get their desired results.
Our process is extremely customized for each client’s circumstances. Generally speaking though, we typically spend time focusing on:
- Clarifying the family’s values and personal vision
- Developing a precise mission and financial plan for the family business, if applicable
- Tax savings strategies. Many of our clients save tens of thousands on their capital gains taxes alone
- Healing potential rifts or misunderstandings in the family
- Coming up with a responsible, values-driven plan for future generations’ inheritance that can begin during their lifetimes to facilitate generational interaction
…And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, we work diligently to help all of our clients discover the joy and impact that can happen when we address the intersection of family and finance.
Is there something you can share with our readers, something that might be helpful for them?
We’re giving away our guide, “6 Principles of Transformation”—six simple principles families can start implementing today to change their financial mindset & behaviors. Each of these six principles is short, sweet, and easy to adopt. However, for the motivated few who manage to implement all six, these principles have the power to completely transform your business, your family, and your financial future.
What challenges do you face as a business? Are some of these challenges a daily part of your brand?
One of the big challenges we faced in building the Paradiem brand is that this is completely unchartered territory. There are experts who can help you mend your family from an emotional or social perspective. There are experts who can help you implement smart money strategies. But taking care of your family AND your finances, all under one roof? That’s a big job! And it’s one we take extremely seriously. Fortunately, our team is full of dedicated, passionate people who have helped to turn our vision of what financial advising could (and should) be into a reality.
As far as day-to-day challenges, there are of course a number of obstacles that can arise when you’re dealing with extremely sensitive personal and financial situations. One of the big challenges we see is a discrepancy in values across generations. Grandparents may have started a family business with their immense passion and work ethic. Their adult children probably witnessed their family’s financial transformation firsthand, so they tend to hold onto that same work ethic and respect for the business. But often, the grandchildren have grown up extremely comfortable. The family has been successful for their entire lives, so they may have a different relationship with money.
These cases are always interesting to work on, but we love being able to bring multiple generations of a family together, help everyone come to common ground in terms of their values, and ultimately, help the grandparents ensure that their hard work will result in a multigenerational blessing for their family and their community.
How do you handle the financial end of your business?
I have an incredible leadership team that partners with me to help manage the business and its finances. I see Paradiem as a collaborative effort—I may be the owner of the business, but I believe each person in a leadership position should take ownership of how we spend and invest our finances.
My longer-term vision is to share in the ownership of the business through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). When you run a business, you must position your leadership team to have a voice over all of the decisions that are being made. Sometimes their vote is limited based on bigger decisions that need to be made, but if you trust your team then their voice will help guide your decisions.
What is your future vision for Paradiem? How do you hope to impact the financial industry?
I have a vision to completely transform the financial industry. In everything I do, I ask the question: What if everyone was more focused on their Return on Intention and the impact they were making on their relationships? It would completely transform families, advisors, and the industry as a whole. Having seen the impact this approach to finance can have on families, businesses, and communities, I feel strongly that the financial advising industry is long overdue for a transformation that turns the focus back towards intention and values. And based on our experience, families, and businesses who take the time to focus on the long-term outcome of their intentions tend to experience higher Return on Investment as well.
Right now, the financial industry ship is sailing in a very specific direction. It’s designed to put a ton of money into certain hands, and those hands aren’t interested in change for obvious reasons—so turning the tide won’t be easy.
However, I truly believe that every family and business we can impact will then have its own impact. That the ripple effect of this change will last for generations. I doubt my dream will be completed in my lifetime, but what if I equip the next generation with the right skills and thought processes, and they completely transform an industry? To me, it’s worth pursuing whether I’m alive to see that vision come to fruition or not.
What would you tell people who are looking at creating something of their own and making a living through it?
Whatever you do, there has to be a dream and a vision that carries you through the hard times. Business is never straight up. There will be days you will ask yourself if you want to keep going. Knowing that you are on a bigger mission and aligned with a bigger calling is what sees you through the darkest of times.
I’ve seen hard times like this on two or three occasions. Through it all, I’ve never stopped. I always had faith that things would work themselves out. I know every setback comes with a lesson and a gift. Sometimes, we just have to stay in the struggle long enough to discover both. In every instance where I’ve struggled, I’ve come out better, stronger, and ready to move to higher levels. My worst day working towards my vision and for myself beats the best day I’ve ever had working for someone else.
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