- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On May 24, 2023
- 0 Comments
- Business, communication, endurance, finances, leadership, music, Stephanie Maas, success, wealth
Guest host Stephanie Maas has felt like a bad sister lately, so she places a call via The Action Catalyst to her brother, Tommy Doerfler, CPA, CFP®, CEPA®, who reminisces about going from a college dropout, to a drummer touring the country in a van, to geeking out over numbers, breaking his body in endurance challenges, living up to your own belief system, the merits of conversation vs communication, and never losing your childhood curiosity.
Tommy Doerfler is a CPA, CFP®, and CEPA®, who acts as the Senior Wealth Advisor for Lighthouse Wealth Group, and Senior Executive Vice President of SageSpring Wealth Partners. His mission is to partner with clients in setting goals and developing their comprehensive plan.
Tommy pursued his formal education in business administration with an emphasis in finance from Middle Tennessee State University after years of touring as a professional country musician. Since deciding to become a wealth advisor, Tommy has continued furthering his knowledge and education.
He met his wife, Amy, in Nashville, where they enjoy spending their time visiting new places and enjoy time with their families.
Learn more at LighthouseWealthGroup.com.
The Action Catalyst is presented by the Southwestern Family of Companies. With each episode, the podcast features some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Learn more at TheActionCatalyst.com, subscribe below or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to leave a rating and review!
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Stephanie Maas: I want to welcome to the show. It is my brother.
Tommy Doerfler: How did I become such an awesome brother? Oh, Stephanie, I could spend hours on this. I, I just, I could spend hours on this.
Stephanie Maas: Tommy Doerfler. He also goes by several different names, which we will explore in the podcast, including Tommy Steele.
Tommy Doerfler: Oh boy.
Stephanie Maas: Welcome Tommy.
Tommy Doerfler: I was gonna say, thanks for having me, but I’m not sure so much thanks is in order. So grateful to be here. Glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
Stephanie Maas: Gonna regret this later. Part of the reason why we wanted to bring you on is you do have a pretty interesting story. At 25 years old, you were a college dropout, traveling the country as a drummer in a band, and now today running an incredibly successful wealth management practice. Would love to hear a little bit about that journey from college dropout, long hair hippie to the man you are today.
Tommy Doerfler: Yeah. So to back up for a second, I mean, you know, growing up very shy kid. I actually remember a family member of ours saying, Tommy, I thought you were mute, uh, when you were younger cause you never said anything. Very, very shy kid. And just kinda watched people and, and really just kind of observed my surroundings and. So in high school I was never scholastic whatsoever. So it was always, to me it was school was what you did from, you know, seven 30 to three o’clock or whenever it was.
And then once the bell rang, you got to do what you really wanted to do. And so for me, that was playing music and playing drums. And so, you know, I just kind of pursued my passion and really just kind of pursued the emotion of playing music. And so of course you graduate high school, you go and I went to East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.
Majored in music performance. So got there, uh, still a pretty shy kid. They really prepped you for more of the orchestral route and going into a symphony, that’s not really where my heart was at. That’s not where my desire was at. I did that for about two years, and it took me two years to realize, yeah, this is not what I wanna do.
That’s when I had a great sister of mine say, Hey, if you really wanna cut your teeth at this thing, why don’t you come to Nashville? Kind of see what you’re made of. So when I moved to Nashville, I really, you know, I, again, I kind of worked at this day job, eight to five, just to pay the bills and so on. But you know, at night I’d go out and check out the local scene, go down to Broadway, just try to conjure up enough courage to go.
Introduced myself to the musicians that were playing on stage. I really kind of put myself out there trying to meet people and finally got a phone call and said, Hey, we want you to audition for a band. We’re kind of a local cover band, and we go play a bunch of different places. And so at that point, you know, I had not really studied country music at all.
And so I grew up listening to rock and funk and whatever was hip at the time and jam bands and so on. And so when it came to learning country music, I was like, man, this is way outside my comfort zone. And so I, I went to the audition and I practiced as much as I could and they said, okay, we think you’re pretty good and you know, we want you to join the band.
And I thought, okay, I made it. That’s it. I made it, you know, I hit the top. This is awesome. Things are going really well for me. Uh, I remember traveling and we, one year, I think I traveled like 200, 250 dates outta 365 days. Me, four other guys all traveling around the United States in this little conversion van with a U-Haul behind us with all of our gear in there.
It was such a fun time because I had zero responsibilities. I didn’t have to work. I got to do this for a living. Made just enough money. And I absolutely loved it. And it was something that I’m like, man, this is so much fun. I can’t believe I’m traveling. Just like, man, this is awesome. I’m here. I’ve arrived and this is great.
So after doing that a little while, you know, you get to a point where you, you sit there and tell yourself like, all right, I need to keep moving forward. You know, let’s keep pushing this along. Where is this gonna go? Am I gonna have to do this forever? You know, am I always just gonna make this amount of money?
Well, what about the future? And so after two and a half to three years of that, I finally recognize, I’m like, I don’t, this is not sustainable for me. The music industry, it’s an awesome industry. It really is. I mean, artists get to be who they want and they can showcase their talent and they really kind of bear it all when they’re on stage playing live in a performance, you know?
But once you come down off the stage, you know, it was, wait a minute, who am I now and what’s my real purpose here? And what am I supposed to be doing? And this is fun. I wanna make a career. So I had no idea if I’m not gonna do this. I have no skillsets, I have no resume. I just had nothing to show that I was marketable as far as an employee.
So fast forward, I go and I go re-enroll back at, uh, middle Tennessee State University here in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Major in finance. Take my first accounting class. And I remember walking outta the class. And I was just one of those odd, very weird and odd students that thought to themselves, I get this.
This is kind of cool, where everybody else walked out like, oh my gosh, are you kidding me? This is horrible. This is dry. And so I was like, I’m sitting there. No, no, this is cool. This is cool. And they’re like, I don’t think you know what cool is, man. So this is your idea of cool this, you’re off base. And so when I started wrapping up school, that’s where I was introduced to somebody who started their own investment firm.
He’s like, Hey, I could always use some help around the office if you wanna come in and I’ll even pay you a little bit of money. And I thought, well, that’s kind of a win-win. So I started working for him and I was just kinda a fly on the wall and listened to the conversations he had with his clients and thought, man, this is the coolest thing in the world.
He’s basically taking what I’m learning in all these classes and sharing it with other people that don’t have in interest or passion in this, wait a minute, this is kind of cool. I wanna keep learning this, and then I wanna help other people understand these things so they can know what the right thing to do is.
And so, you know, things just kind of turned, you know, I think that’s, you know, God just kind of redirected my passion and I had to go this way to ultimately get to where I am today.
Stephanie Maas: So, as an older sibling, some of what I’ve been able to watch you accomplish has been tremendous. Physically, intellectually, spiritually, the family that you and your wife are building right now. Share with us a little bit about some of those accomplishments.
Tommy Doerfler: Yeah, so it was a time where I started going back to college and I, you know, again, I, I think the first, the first 20, 25 years of my life, I was just kinda watching, kind of seeing life happen in front of me and not really being the participant.
And then finally when I realized, hey, I’m going back to school, I, I really felt something kick in. This is not on somebody else. This is not somebody else’s expectations. So whatever happens from here going forward, it’s on me. And I think I had to have that independence and break away a little bit to really truly discover that I, you know, when I went back to school, you know, you gotta understand I was a C student at best.
I mean, every time report cards came out, I’m like, oh great. When I went back to school, it was like, okay, I’m not doing that for anybody else. I’m doing it for me. And so, you know, my first two semesters, you know, I got straight A’s. Well, that’s not really a big deal for most people, but coming where I was coming from, it was a huge deal for me.
And so all of a sudden, you know, it was like, wow, okay, if I apply myself, if I do these things, you know, maybe the outcome will show itself. I want to go after the C P A exam. I’ve never done that before. Let me go after that and you know, let me see if I can pass that. Eventually passed all four tests, right?
And it was like, what else can I do? What else can I do? You know, I got, I started getting some confidence and then it was like, you know, same thing physically. I started, I remember thinking to myself, man, you know, it’d be cool if I could do a half marathon. That sounds pretty cool. And I think that would be something I wonder if I could do.
Trained for it, studied about it, and then did it. You know, I didn’t score great. I didn’t have the best time by any meetings, but it was just something that I felt like, wow, I accomplished. Then it was like, let me do another one. Let me do another one. Let me do another one. Okay, let me do a full marathon.
Let me see if I can do that. Then it was, okay, I wanna do some of these endurance events. There’s a 12 hour long endurance event. Let me see if I can do that. Okay, let me try another one. Let me try a 24 hour endurance event. Now, lemme see if I can do a 50 hour no sleep. Brutal. And every time my limiting beliefs shrink and my confidence grew, I just kept going.
And so in my thirties, I was really able to increase my confidence, overcome certain challenges that I took on, because at the end of the day, it wasn’t on anybody else. It was on me. That is much more of a driver. Than trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations or somebody else’s belief system. If you can live up to your own belief system, that is much more powerful than doing it strictly for somebody else.
You know, I wanna test and see what kind of person and what kind of man I really am. And so by doing these things, I, you know, I gained a mentor in the process. I learned things about leadership. I learned things about followership. I learned things about, you know, service to others, and all these things almost kind of came together where I could apply all these things, not directly, but indirectly into the clients we serve.
Being able to say, okay, I know what I can accomplish. I know what I can do, but it’s not about that anymore. It’s about helping others be able to overcome their obstacles, and that is extremely motivating to me to be able to see that.
Stephanie Maas: So a big part of that is being able to share, we’ve talked about this before, being able to share what you’ve learned in the process of figuring out who you were, what you were capable of. So share with us a little bit about some of the things you’ve learned in this journey so far.
Tommy Doerfler: Yeah. You know, I think going back and, and reflecting on this, which by the way was a little tough. I mean, I was all super excited to be on the Action Catalyst, and then the reality hit me like, what do I have to say?
You know? But I, I really learned a couple of things and reflected on some things that I thought of that helped get me here today. And one was always be growing and always be learning. You have to be humble enough to be able to say, Hey, if you think you’re there, you’ve missed it. You’re done. That’s when it’s over.
So you’re never there. And I think a lot of that was just keeping a hold of this childhood curiosity. You know, if you’re around kids and if you have kids, kids are awesome because they always have this curiosity, you know, and sometimes it’s. Not very good. Curiosity. Some things where they might hurt themselves and, but a lot of it is really them exploring their world, exploring their surroundings.
And so I, I never gave up on, huh? Leadership. What is that like? How does that work? How do you become a good leader, followership, what does that really mean? You know, how does that work? Okay. What, what does it mean to be a good husband, a good father, and just naturally, you know, learned that, hey, I never wanna lose that childhood curiosity.
Uh, something else I, uh, learned along the way was have a mentor. You know, a mentor is different than a father. A mentor is different from a cheerleader. A mentor is different from the teacher. A mentor to me was somebody who said, I’m not gonna tell you all the things you want to hear. I’m gonna tell you the things you need to hear, but not because I’m a dictator.
You know, not because of anything other than because I care about you and I want you to grow, and I want you to keep learning. Always believe in yourself, right? And we’ve all heard that before, but if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anybody else believe in you? And that was really profound to me.
Cause it was like, wow, it takes away the, Hey, it doesn’t matter what other people think about you. Does it matter what other people say about you? It’s a matter of you believing in yourself and proving naysayers wrong. Then the other thing I think I’ve learned is, Ordinary people can really do extraordinary things.
I really do believe that, and people tend to put people on a pedestal, and I don’t like that because at the end of the day, we’re all ordinary people, but some people choose to do ordinary things and a lot of times it’s a choice and how far you take that is up to you. And so I don’t believe that people were born with a better ability than others.
I mean, I think people were born with talent. Talent can get you, I can get you in front and give you a head start, but it doesn’t want, it’s not what crosses the finish line.
Stephanie Maas: Do you think, and I’m gonna come back to a childhood memory here, do you think that that initial belief in yourself started when mom and dad bought you new tennis shoes and you would run down the kitchen hallway and try and jump to touch the top of the doorway? I mean, you practiced that for hours and years.
Tommy Doerfler: I like to think that it contributed. Yeah, I do.
Stephanie Maas: Talk to me about some of the things you’ve learned from a leadership perspective. Obviously you run a business now. What makes a good leader? How do you become a good leader? Talk to us a little bit about some of the leadership traits you’ve learned through the years.
Tommy Doerfler: Well, I think is the first trait is what I had to learn the hard way, which is through failure. You know, one of the things I think I’ve recognized is to be a good leader, you gotta be a good follower. I’m very decisive. I’m very take charge. Let’s do this. Let’s stay focused. Not somebody who says, Hey, let’s just sit here and talk about how we’re feeling in the moment.
You know, and that’s not naturally my inclination. And so when I was in a followership position, I was constantly pushing the envelope. I was constantly, let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this. And I think my partner had to say, slow down, man. Slow. Like be patient. Your time will come. And I think even in a team meeting, everybody said, tell me you just need to relax a little bit.
And I’m like, relax, we’ve got too much stuff to do. Let’s go. You know? And I get it now. Because I had learned those things because now as a leader, I know what’s going through the minds of a follower. You know what I mean? Mm-hmm. I know you’ve gotta be able to relate. You’ve gotta be able to have empathy.
You’ve gotta be able to understand where their followers are coming from, and unless you put yourself in that position, it’s too easy to become a dictator. You know, I think it’s called wisdom. You know, you live life forward, you understand it backwards. And now I know what my business partner was basically telling me is like, you gotta slow down.
You gotta be comfortable being a follower because when you switch over and you will at some point to being a leader, you better remember how that is. Because if you don’t, there is a chance that you might become this dictator because you’re not relating to your people enough. That was something I had learn the hard way, you know?
The other thing I think is, you know, core values. I, I think you have to hire and fire around core values. You know, and especially in our world, we have a lot of designations, a lot of licenses. You can get that kind of prove on what you know, but at the same time, it’s not a, it’s not always about what you know, it’s the soft skills, right?
The being a team player, taking an initiative. When you’re not asked to doing things outside of your role and the responsibility, those things do get noticed, and that can be a difference maker. Between somebody that’s doing all the right things and somebody who’s gonna be with you your entire career.
Stephanie Maas: Absolutely. I’ve heard you comment in the past, one of the things that you learned was the difference between conversation and communication. Tell me about that.
Tommy Doerfler: Yeah. I think in, you know, in leadership positions, a lot of time we all like to have conversations with people, right? And sometimes I’ve realized that when I was doing my endurance events, they really put you in positions in.
Both leadership and followership positions, right? Where you have to be a follower. Now that’s your role. Okay? Now we’ve gotta switch over. Be a leader. And when you’re a follower, it’s easy to have conversations with everybody. Hey, how do you feel about this? What are you, okay? Yeah, that sounds good. And you’re just kinda really conversing when you’re in a leadership position.
There is a difference between conversing and communicating. Conversing is something like, Hey, you know, it’d be great. It’d be great if we did this project. I think this project would be really good for our team. That would be really cool, wouldn’t it? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. Yeah, that the next day you come in and leader goes, so how are we doing on that project?
They’re like, well, I thought we were just having a conversation. I didn’t know there was something that came out of that. We were just talking about how cool it’d be or what that would look like or so on. And what I’ve realized is when you are communicating what the initiative is, what the project is, what the goal is in your organization, you have to be very clear in communication.
Here is the goal. Here is the goal. We are trying to do X, Y, and Z. This is the timeframe this needs to be done by, if possible. Here are your resources to help you to get this done. By this date, here are the people you need to talk to. Don’t worry about these people over here. What questions do you have?
And is there anything you need from me to be able to execute? That is communication. And your team will tell you if you’re not communicating, just listen to the team. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t need to act on everything, right? But you need to be able to give an environment where you’re listening to them, and then you can really communicate back to them what is needed.
Because they, that’s the difference between leadership is saying, I’ve gotta get everybody rowing in the same direction, and I know where we’re going, the follower position is, tell me how fast I need to row and then let me go do it right.
Stephanie Maas: So I have a couple more questions I wanna ask, and they revolve around a couple of themes I’ve picked up from you, which I think are really interesting. One is the term passion. So you talked about, hey, in high school, you certainly didn’t start off on this track that you’re on now, but you did set out to follow your passion, which at the time was music. Then when you felt like, hey, that’s kind of run its course from being a full-time to. Hobby status, you were able to find something else that was your passion. The other theme that I heard quite a bit was this idea of you getting outta your comfort zone. You’ve followed your passions, you’ve pushed your own self out of a comfort zone. So two questions. What else can you do? What’s next for you?
Tommy Doerfler: Ah, great question. I wanna continue taking risks now. I think in my thirties it was more of like, okay, the physical part, right?
Like the endurance events and you know, a lot of that was wrapped around more the physical side of things, but taking risks in business. Now what I mean by that is calculated risk, right? You know, you don’t wanna be reckless, you don’t wanna be a reckless person, but you know, the only way to continuously grow is to get outside your comfort zone, or what we call in business take risk, right?
Not knowing what’s gonna happen and taking that step further. What that looks like. I don’t know. I, I think that’ll be yet to be seen. And the other thing is, you know, we have a three and a half, almost a four year old at the house. The biggest thing there is trying to raise her in a very complex world right now, and making sure that she understands what good values are.
So I think you know what it looks like from here is just to continue to grow. And if I ever stop one day growing or not taking risks, then I need to move out of the way for somebody else to do that. Who inspires you? I look around my life and see people that were able to overcome big obstacles, right?
But honestly, it’s so, it’s not one person. I’m inspired by watching people do something they didn’t believe they could do. I mean, it makes me want to get up in the morning and just be like, okay, I want to see who can do what and see what they can do on their own. And man, that is what just, yeah. I love seeing that. That’s, that inspires me.
Stephanie Maas: Okay. Footnotes, if you would. We reference, you go by multiple names, multiple aliases, if you will. So real quick, Tommy Steele. Tell us about that alias.
Tommy Doerfler: All right. I was a drummer in this band that I talked about earlier, and one of the first times I played the gig with him. He, the lead singer was doing introductions to every, all the band members, right?
And on my snare drum there, it’s a steel snare drum. So it says steel. Well, as you know, my last name is dfl. That’s not really easy to pronounce when you’re on stage and saying, Hey, Tommy D uh, dfl, you know. So he turned around and all he saw was that steel on the drum. And so he said, introducing Tommy Steele. So that was kind of my stage name, I guess.
Stephanie Maas: Awesome. Um, so you and I are brother and sister, and as we’ve been recording, mom and dad have actually been here also listening, and mom says, would you please take out the trash?
Tommy Doerfler: See, no matter what I do, it’s just like I have good people around me to keep me humble. And that’s what I need. And taking out the trash man. Nothing humbles you more than that.
Stephanie Maas: Absolutely. Hey, man, thank you so much for your time and willingness to share some of your story. Very inspiring. Thank you.
Tommy Doerfler: Thank you Stephanie. Thank you for having me on here. This has been awesome.