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On the job with Bil Sadler

“On the Job With...” is a weekly feature of Sunday Inc. Today’s segment is with Bil Sadler, a retirement counselor. He shared with answers with Danny Carter.

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Joe Bellacomo

Bil Sadler is a independent retirement advisor.

DOSSIER

NAME: Bil Sadler

AGE: 44

FAMILY: He is married to Heather Sadler, and has three children, Macy 16, Cole 4 and Layne Marie, 3.

POSITION: Partner with his brother, Wes, as independent retirement advisors.

EDUCATION: BBA in accounting from Georgia Southwestern State University.

COMMUNITY: Sadler is a member of the Albany Area Chamber Board of Directors and the Chamber’s Executive Committee. He is a member of Rotary Club of Dougherty County.

BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW: He spells his first name with just one “L.” Why? “Senior spring break trip in 1985 I went to Surf Hut to buy name plate for my truck,” Sadler recalls. “The tag was $8 and letters were $1 each, total of $12.84 with tax. I had exactly $12 and could only afford three letters (BIL). It stuck from then on. True story.”

Q. What was your first job?

A. My first job was selling GRIT newspapers around the neighborhood. I quickly learned I could make more money mowing lawns.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I would have to say candy or a soft drink since I was in elementary school when I first started earning some pocket change. As I got older and started making more money mowing lawns, I saved diligently to buy my own vehicle so I wouldn’t have to drive my mother’s Pinto station wagon with the wood panels.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Encouragement. When you show someone that you believe in them, it helps them to believe in themselves.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. My current position as an independent retirement advisor began in September 2000. Before that, I worked in public accounting throughout the 1990s with Draffin & Tucker, CPAs. I developed an interest in financial planning, particularly as it relates to retirement. It really started back in 1993 when I was required to attend a two-day continuing education course on Governmental Accounting. I did not actually work in this area so I had no interest, and I knew from experience this course would be mind-numbingly boring. To help ease the boredom during the Government Accounting CE course, I grabbed volume one of a set of books on financial planning from the firm’s library. I enjoyed the material on financial planning so much, I read the entire volume one on the first day of the course, and volume two on the second day. I was hooked and knew then that someday I would help people with financial planning. Of course, it took seven years before it became a reality. Operating my own business goes back to my teen years when I mowed lawns. It really goes back further than that because my Dad was always self-employed, so I was exposed to the pros and cons at an early age. Of course, many people say, “Oh, you’re so lucky to be self-employed. You can sleep late and take off work any time you’d like.” Yeah right. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. Everyone needs a cushion because everyone is vulnerable to recessions, particularly the tough economic times we have been experiencing for several years. Many people are aware of the importance of an emergency fund, but few people actually have one. This forces people to make early withdrawals from IRAs and retirement plans. An emergency fund is like a moat - it’s the first line of defense.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology — examples email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc — what would you most like to see go away?

A. Yes, technology has made life more stressful, but how in the world did we live before the technology? If I had to do away with one, voicemail trees are the worst. Press 1 for this, press 2 for that. I want to talk to a real person.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. I love my wireless headset phone. Since I talk on the phone most of the day, having my hands free and to be able to walk around the office is great. I cannot imagine work without it. If I could slide another in there, I love my MacBook Pro. It’s just fun.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. For 25 years or more, my mother’s side of the family has convened at Panama City Beach for Labor Day. It is always good to see my cousins, aunts and uncles and it’s really fun for our kids to have the opportunity to play together. I hope this tradition will continue for a long time to come.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. When I was in school, I was one of those who said I couldn’t wait to get out of school so I wouldn’t have to read any more books. I don’t know what I was thinking back then. Now, I try to read at least one book per month. But lately I’ve actually been doing a little studying. For several years I’ve wanted to learn how to build a website and tried to no avail to learn from a book. This past summer someone suggested an online course. I searched and searched for a good program and found one in my own backyard — Darton College. They have a low-cost, online continuing education program for a vast variety of topics, and lucky for me there were web design courses.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. With two small kids at home, the morning is my only chance for some quiet time. I am usually up around 5:30 which gives me about an hour or so to read and enjoy my coffee. I call this my cave time — the men will know what I’m talking about.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and why?

A. Mark Zuckerburg. I’d like to meet the kid who started Facebook. From zero to billions in less than ten years is an incredible feat.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. Smoking BBQ and cooking seafood are near the top

of my list. I also enjoy bike

riding especially now that my

3 and 4-year old are learning to ride. Woodworking has been a hobby for about 20 years. My recent project is a backyard play set for the kids. I’m not talking about a kit to put together either. My wife and I have designed it and I’ve built it from scratch, complete with rock-climbing wall, seven-foot deck with slide, three swings. It’s pretty cool. The kids love it.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I saw an ad in a national trade magazine for someone who claimed to be an award-winning expert for writing client brochures. I hired him and was really looking forward to seeing a rough draft of my new client brochure. The day finally arrived. Four of us gathered around my office to read the draft. Our excitement quickly turned to shock. We expected to make a few minor corrections and send it back for final printing. No! Besides the atrocious writing, it was all about me and used the word “I” to begin practically every sentence. Anyone who knows anything about marketing knows a client brochure is about the client. Here was my dilemma - if I rewrote the material, he would have the copyright to my words! End result, I flushed $4200 down the toilet on that scrapped project. The lesson: Work with people locally who are willing to show you real examples of their work.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. I really enjoy people. What’s interesting to me is that although people may tend to exhibit similar demographic characteristics, particularly by age group, each person has a unique personality. Uniqueness is what makes people interesting. People have great stories, and great wisdom, to share.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Paperwork.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Typing. Who knew a high school typing course using IBM Selectrics would have helped so much in the computer age?

Q. Finish this thought, “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...

A. Although I would love to travel, I really see myself getting more involved in the community through church and civic projects. I would also like to participate in the SCORE program to help businesses succeed. Retirees are an excellent natural resource of expertise and experience. I believe more retirees would help if we would simply ask.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. I believe a strong business leader must be a great listener. The insights attained from employees, customers, clients, as well as peers, can be invaluable to leadership because others can reveal a different perspective. A strong leader must be willing to ask and listen.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. Unfortunately, I believe it will be years. Albany needs to transform from a city to a community. This is not a geographical reference, but a psychological one. Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We must come together as one Albany if we want Albany to flourish.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I really enjoy smooth jazz, but I’m also a big fan of 80’s music.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I believe Darton will continue to grow by expanding the four-year degree program and become a highly competitive university. Albany needs to capitalize on its strengths. Look at what is working and growing and build on it. Leading organizations can help pull Albany ahead.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. For our first anniversary in 2006, Heather and I went to Seaside, Fla., and stayed in a small two-story carriage house. It was like we stepped back in time. That was the most relaxing trip I’ve ever taken.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The credit crisis of 2008 not only hurt retirement portfolios, it also hurt people’s feelings. The sharp downturn seems to have changed the way people invest. They’re more conservative. The Great Depression of the 1930s affected the way that generation invested for decades, and I’m afraid we are in a similar time now that will affect today’s retirement investor for years to come.

$4200 down the toilet on that scrapped project. The lesson: Work with people locally who are willing to show you real examples of their work.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. I really enjoy people. What’s interesting to me is that although people may tend to exhibit similar demographic characteristics, particularly by age group, each person has a unique personality. Uniqueness is what makes people interesting. People have great stories, and great wisdom, to share.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Paperwork.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. Typing. Who knew a high school typing course using IBM Selectrics would have helped so much in the computer age?

Q. Finish this thought, “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...

A. Although I would love to travel, I really see myself getting more involved in the community through church and civic projects. I would also like to participate in the SCORE program to help businesses succeed. Retirees are an excellent natural resource of expertise and experience. I believe more retirees would help if we would simply ask.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. I believe a strong business leader must be a great listener. The insights attained from employees, customers, clients, as well as peers, can be invaluable to leadership because others can reveal a different perspective. A strong leader must be willing to ask and listen.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. Unfortunately, I believe it will be years. Albany needs to transform from a city to a community. This is not a geographical reference, but a psychological one. Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We must come together as one Albany if we want Albany to flourish.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. I really enjoy smooth jazz, but I’m also a big fan of 80’s music.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. I believe Darton will continue to grow by expanding the four-year degree program and become a highly competitive university. Albany needs to capitalize on its strengths. Look at what is working and growing and build on it. Leading organizations can help pull Albany ahead.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. For our first anniversary in 2006, Heather and I went to Seaside, Fla., and stayed in a small two-story carriage house. It was like we stepped back in time. That was the most relaxing trip I’ve ever taken.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. The credit crisis of 2008 not only hurt retirement portfolios, it also hurt people’s feelings. The sharp downturn seems to have changed the way people invest. They’re more conservative. The Great Depression of the 1930s affected the way that generation invested for decades, and I’m afraid we are in a similar time now that will affect today’s retirement investor for years to come.