Blake Williams will soon have one more achievement to add to his list of early-career accomplishments. In just a few short weeks he will receive a Masters of Business Administration from the Cottrell MBA program at the University of North Georgia.
A Calculated Risk
Though the program is relatively new, getting in early on unique opportunities isn’t anything new for Williams. He was among the first 6 graduates of the BSFCS – Financial Planning program at the University of Georgia in 2008. So throwing himself – and his tuition money – into the Cottrell MBA program at UNG was a calculated risk, and one Williams knows will pay off.
“I did nothing but work long hours and earn licenses and designations right after undergrad. That took a few years, and then I took about 6 months off. After that, I knew I wanted to earn an MBA,” says Williams.
Though his undergraduate work focused on financial planning, the degree wasn’t focused on business and he wanted to fill in that gap.
“If I’m talking with a business owner that wants me to review his financial statements and give him retirement advice, I need a really deep understanding of the meaning of that information,” he notes. “Customers look at my card and they may not know what the alphabet soup of designations mean, but everyone understands what an MBA is,” says of the added credibility and knowledge an MBA bestows.
One of the reasons Williams chose to earn his MBA at UNG, rather than an Atlanta-based school closer to his home in Sandy Springs and his office in Roswell, is the close personal relationships UNG offers.
“I’m from Blairsville, so a lot of my friends went to UNG,” says Williams of how he heard about the school’s reputation for getting to know students. He also noted that Kelli Crickey, Director of the Cottrell MBA program, and Dr. Bryson Payne, a business technology professor, were particularly adept at building rapport with students and making the coursework engaging.
Williams has also developed close partnerships and deep friendships with his classmates and teammates. He credits the program’s cohort model for giving students ample opportunities to practice both leadership and teamwork skills in several different groups.
Communicating Complex Concepts
The work Williams does requires him to keep abreast of international news and markets so he can inform his clients and help them make the best decisions possible to continue growing their portfolios. UNG’s MBA program has helped him hone his skills in interpreting international news and communicating the most salient points to his clients.
“Numbers make sense to me, but not to everyone. The leadership class really helped me learn to communicate more effectively to folks that have a different background than I do,” says Williams. “It’s also helpful to focus on what they know and how they learn so I can explain it to them in the best format – are you visual? Do you need to see a chart? Or is me explaining it to you sufficient for your understanding?”
Williams clearly enjoys his work and is passionate about serving his clients well. He could simply have been satisfied earning an alphabet soup of designations and certifications, but Williams has larger goals in mind for the future of his career.
“I work for the President of our firm. One day, I might like to be in that position. I’m a pretty hard charger, so I have to keep in mind that not everyone has that work style. This program has helped me understand that we don’t have to have the same work style to communicate effectively and work well together. That’s helpful as a future manager,” Williams explains.
Leading by Serving Others
Williams also takes an active role in helping others just getting started in the financial planning industry by returning to UGA to speak in classes or at networking events.
“There aren’t many young people in my profession, so it’s nice to go back and share my perspective and experiences, so those students have more realistic expectations about the field. I like to give back and help those students as much as I can,” he says.