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BiS profile: Mark Howard, Howard Financial Group

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Howard Financial Group

 

what is your background?

I was raised in Savannah, Georgia, and graduated from the Savannah Country Day School college preparatory school and The University of Georgia. I began my financial services career in Atlanta with an international investment firm where I became the National Vice President. I moved back to Savannah in 2005 and, for a short time, was doing financial services with a bank and with New York Life before starting Howard Financial Group.

 

why and how did you launch Howard Financial Group?

The motivation for launching Howard Financial Group initially came after my father passed away, and I saw firsthand how it impacted our family. Fortunately, my dad had prepared well for the unexpected. His passing changed the trajectory and focus of what I was doing, and it gave me a newfound dedication and passion for helping others understand the importance of proper financial planning, especially in the area of retirement income planning. With the help of many people, it took me years to learn everything that I needed to learn to start my own firm, but my dream never expired.

 

can you explain exactly what Howard Financial does and who is the target market?

First and foremost, we help people every day improve their financial situation. We help people of all age groups, retired or not, prepare and solidify their retirement planning strategy. We’re a financial services company that focuses on customized retirement income strategies that grow our clients’ retirement dollars while taking less risk. We focus on safety, so we specialize in the protection of principle from stock market decline, providing a reasonable rate of return over time, and keeping things simple and easy to understand for our clients.

It’s important to understand that investment planning is not the same as retirement income planning. Each require different approaches and are performed by two different kinds of financial professionals. Just as you wouldn’t go to a dentist if you had a heart problem, you wouldn’t want to go to an investment advisor for a retirement income strategy. You’d want to work with a financial professional who specializes in retirement income and is an expert on how to provide strategies that help guarantee income for life, offer stability and maximize Social Security.

In retirement income planning, we deal with asset preservation. We understand that people preparing for their golden years need to avoid volatility and losses in their portfolio, and so we help them establish a plan that assures they can retire with greater confidence. The real value we provide for our clients is helping them live life to its fullest every single day, confident that they’ll have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

 

how would you describe your leadership style?

My style is summed up in a great book called “The One Minute Manager.” I think great leadership is situational, and it depends on the skill set and needs of the team or individual. Sometimes people need a hug, sometimes they need a visionary, sometimes a strong leader and sometimes, on occasion, a kick in the shorts. Great leaders know how to lead in that moment, like a golfer chooses a club. But, leadership always involves praise and giving people a reputation to live up to by being the example.

 

has Howard Financial Group implemented any initiatives that are game changers?

We work closely with Advisors Excel, which is a financial marketing organization that helps support our firm and our clients through product training, case design and marketing expertise. Advisors Excel solely works with top financial advisors nationwide, and we are honored to be a part of that elite group of financial professionals. They’ve helped us add value to our clients in numerous ways, as well as open up more opportunities for us. We currently advise some of the most well-respected figures in business, sports, real estate and entertainment.

We’ve also produced proprietary systems to help our clients, such as our “5D” strategy, where we help people discover their obstacles, we diagnose their problem, we develop a customized solution with them, we deliver the solution, and then we dedicate ourselves to their success forever. We proudly say our solutions are “SAFE,” which stands for secure, accessible, freeing and empowering.

 

how many employees do you have?

We have two employees at Howard Financial Group in addition to myself. We also work with a network of professionals who are experts in areas such as real estate, taxes, estate planning and health insurance.

 

how do you ensure having competent, successful employees?

Having a clear vision and communicating it to your team. Knowing what your future looks like, feels like and acts like. Know how you want to treat your clients and the level of service you want and expect to give.

It has to be a compelling vision that gets your people excited and focused. Communicate that picture as though it has already happened, see it with clarity and share it with your team so they can see it and want to be a part of it. Then, work together to do what it takes to achieve it, all with the client in mind.

 

are you working on any current philanthropic initiatives?

As a company, we do over 40 educational retirement planning dinner seminars every year, and we’ve sponsored many local events over the past year. We’re also planning a local radio show to bring more awareness about the importance of retirement income planning.

I serve on the board of SAFE Shelter for Domestic Violence Services, and I have previously served on the boards of Savannah Technical College Foundation, The Savannah Downtown Business Association and Calvary Day School. I’ve also done fundraising for many non-profits such as Memorial Health, Calvary and SAFE Shelter.

 

can you give one expert piece of advice to business leaders?

Galatians 5:13: “It is absolutely clear that God has called us to a free life, which needs to be a life of service. Make sure you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy it. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.”

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