One defining characteristic is evident in each person named to a Forty Under 40 class: They demonstrate the gumption to dig in and get the job done, whether it’s at work or in the community. What drives them is more personal, but many Forty Under 40 honorees derive a significant amount of personal and professional motivation from helping people.
Matt Vahue is reminded of his motivation every time he thinks of the financial rise and fall of some of his closest family friends.
“There have been people in my personal life who have been impacted by people in our profession, and not necessarily in a positive way,” says Vahue, the regional director for Alliance Advisory Group in Bushnell’s Basin. “Had they been impacted in a meaningful way by people in our business, their lives would have turned out differently. That gives me personal motivation to come to work every day.”
In particular, Vahue recalls the cautionary tale of a family friend.
“This gentleman made a terrific living and had tremendous cash flow throughout his career, but he was only directed by financial professionals to invest in the stock market,” he says. “That wasn’t good advice and exposed him to tremendous risk. Unfortunately, he lost a considerable amount of money, close to seven figures, in the market. He died in his mid-60s without ever really being coached on how to protect himself and his money.”
With that in mind, Vahue is motivated by a desire to create a better environment for his clients and team members.
“I’ve become focused on helping the firm create a vision that demonstrates the significant impact we can make on people in the Rochester community,” says Vahue, 33. “We want them to know how to properly protect today, become world-class savers and understand the importance of becoming financially well-balanced and paying off short-term debt.”
Vahue also derives motivation from a growing desire for clients to see him and his colleagues as behavior managers.
“Investment management is a piece of our business, but the impact we can make is much greater when we can help influence people’s behavior and show how that can impact their financial future,” the 2013 Forty Under 40 honoree explains.
“For example, if we can convince people to save a proper percentage of their earnings, that’s a big win. The rate at which people can save their own money has a far greater impact on an individual’s wealth-building potential than their rate of return.
“Convincing them that it’s important to save—that’s the challenge,” he adds.
Much like Vahue, Paychex’s Jeremy Durham is motivated by tackling what he describes as “impossible challenges” and creating opportunity for others.
“I thrive while taking on new challenges, especially when someone else says that it can’t be done,” says Durham, who oversees 200 employees as a key member of the company’s product development and technology senior management team. “One of the things that has kept me at Paychex for more than 18 years has been the variety of challenges I have been given.”
Durham recalls one particularly staggering challenge, when he was asked to lead a major overhaul of a company product line that had not been updated for quite some time. He was given 18 months to accomplish this goal—meeting company objectives by pursuing one of two options—but he encountered an unexpected twist.
Durham’s initial proposal to meet the company’s request required doubling the number of staff members, but the parameters of the project soon changed.
“I ended up being asked to find a way to stay at the same staffing level but accomplish both options in the same timeframe,” he says, noting that he was able to produce a happy outcome for all involved.
As a result of his success in tackling this and similar challenges at the Paychex location in Webster, the 2014 Forty Under 40 honoree’s responsibilities continue to grow.
“What I love about this is that I am now able to create those challenges for others, which in turn gives them the chance to grow professionally,” he says. “Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the growth and success of those you lead.”
Durham, 41, also cites his interpersonal relationships with family and friends as constant daily motivation. Many of his friendships are based on his long association with Paychex, where he met his wife, Kelly, 17 years ago.
“I’ve come to realize that enjoying what you do is a big part of staying motivated,” he says. “When you want to spend more time with the people you work with, it says a great deal about how much you enjoy what you do.”
As a partner in a small business, Jean-ette Batiste-Harrison is motivated by an instinctive desire to help her clients improve through professional development. When she entered the field, though, she had no idea that she would be motivated to share much of what she teaches to adults with her young children.
Batiste-Harrison is a partner at Batiste Leadership LLC, which she founded with her father, retired U.S. Maj. General John Batiste. As a local leader in the professional development field, she works with organizations to advance team-building skills, knowledge of leadership development and an ability to plan strategically.
“They are looking for someone they trust, someone they view as an extension of their team,” she says. “In this field, I am constantly learning so that I can share the best information with our clients.”
The 36-year-old is the mother of three children, the eldest being 5. She is fascinated by how what she works on with adults at the office can have such an impact on her trio at home.
“Many of the same techniques we use to teach adults are applicable to kids,” says Batiste-Harrison, who is a member of the Forty Under 40 class of 2014. “For example, think about emotional intelligence. We can help children have a great start in life by teaching, in a way they can understand, about self-awareness and self-regulation. We can help them develop an understanding of what motivates them and why and how they respond in the way they do.
“Research shows over and over again we should help kids tune into that,” she adds. “I’m always wanting the best for my clients and kids.”
Batiste-Harrison is also motivated each day by the opportunity to work alongside her father, an internationally known military man. She openly acknowledges it took many years for her to fully understand and respect his abilities and knowledge, and now she looks at him in a much different way than she did when she was younger.
“In many ways, he is my mentor,” she says. “To be a partner with him and work with him in this capacity, to know him in a different way, I’m very grateful for that.”
Travis Anderson is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
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