For 12 years, Lauryn Williams had seen it all in the field of sports. She became the first African-American to win gold in the 2005 World Championships in Athletics and silver medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics, 2007 World Championships, and 2006 IAAF World Indoor Championships.
As an athlete, Williams earned more than she was spending and didn’t pay attention to building a sound savings culture. When she ended her career in sports, and with a degree in finance from the University of Miami, she transitioned into entrepreneurship. She launched Worth Winning in March of 2016, a year after retiring, to help others achieve their financial goals.
Her company offers virtual services to help young professionals get the answers to the financial questions that matter most to them.
“This quest for my own money knowledge is what eventually led me down the path of becoming a certified financial planner,” she said. “While learning how to handle my own money, it became so important to me to help others, especially young professionals, do the same thing.”
Williams had been moved to become a financial planner after many of the financial planners she had while a professional athlete failed her. She then started to self-educate and told people she wanted to help them organize their finances while she tried to do that for herself.
Williams subsequently enrolled in the Certified Financial Planner program and then in a National Association of Personal Financial Advisors program before becoming an intern at an advisory firm.
When she finally started her company, her passion clouded her judgment when it came to spending. The Olympian said she could buy all the latest software without clients to support the tools she was using or pay to get in front of an audience of athletes that yielded zero clients.
She changed course and started implementing a budget for both her business and personal finances, and that became one of the best decisions she could have made. “I was not great at it initially,” she said. “It took time to understand how to best categorize my expenses and track my purchases.”
Maintaining a budget now became the foundation of Williams’ decision-making process and helped her see in real-time how her company was growing to its full potential. Just like her days as an athlete, she wanted to be the gold medalist in financial planning.
“I thought it would automatically happen overnight,” she said. “The truth was I had to retrain my brain. I had to learn, in this new career, how to set realistic goals for myself and define what success meant for me now, and not spend time comparing myself to others.”
In her track and field days, Williams was responsible for her successes and failures. It is a completely different ball game when it comes to managing finances or a business. And so she found herself some mentors to share what works and what doesn’t work for the growth of her company.
“Today, I belong to a networking mastermind group of eight other financial planners who run a similar business. I have two wonderful industry mentors who have been at this for a long time, and I talk with them regularly about my goals for the company,” she said.
As a startup, small wins matter, she said. Her first real small win came when a couple she had never met before decided to work with her, she said. Four years later, they are still her clients. For her, being able to retain her original customers shows her company is doing something right.
“Even if you’re an expert in your industry, there are things that you don’t know when you’re starting to run your own business. So as you retrain your brain and throw out old assumptions about success, give yourself a break if things don’t go perfectly. And celebrate the wins as they come.”