Chris Burns, founder and principal of Dynamic Money, is passionate about helping his clients build a strong financial plan flexible enough to be effective for all of life – not just the easy parts. Chris knows about life’s unpredictability firsthand. In fact, facing an unexpected crisis was what led him to a career in financial planning.

Burns was employed as a youth pastor when his wife became seriously ill and unable to work. As medical bills mounted the couple and their children were forced to move in with his in-laws just to make ends meet. Their financial position began to feel hopeless.

“I’ll never forget we had a phone call with a nonprofit that did debt counseling,” Burns recalls. “I gave the overview of my income and our debt, and the woman who worked there advised, ‘You should just declare bankruptcy. You don’t have any way out here.’ Though we didn’t end up declaring bankruptcy, that moment was an absolute low point.”

Chris knew his family needed a dramatic change. A member at his church offered him a job selling life insurance at a small financial services company. Though it was 100 percent commission, it was an opportunity for training and a way out. So without any real idea what he was getting into he accepted the offer and immersed himself in learning about the world of finance.

Though he was finding success in insurance he began to fall in love with invest-ing and overall retirement planning so he left his first company and moved to an independent firm that advertised as “fee-based retirement planners.” Though he learned a lot there, Burns became aware that the majority of that company’s revenues were still commission-based. He became disillusioned with the idea of helping clients make their best plan for the future while also receiving pressure to sell products that generated large, upfront commissions for that company’s bottom line. The incentives just didn’t line up. That sparked an interest to venture out on his own.

“I wanted to build a truly fee-only company,” Burns says. “Only seven percent of financial planning firms in the country are fee-only (meaning they accept no commissions), and the vast majority of those only work with the ultra-wealthy.” Burns’ dream was to create a financial planning firm offering objective advice – not clouded by commissions – but available to everyone, regardless of wealth.

“I wanted to offer my services to everyone from school teachers to executives, to offer them dignity and top-notch advice regardless of their income or assets. That became my passion – to help others and provide the same level of service to everyone who walked through our door. Because that’s what I needed when I was a youth pastor covered in debt and looking for solid advice. I know the crushing anxiety that finances can bring (regardless of someone’s wealth), and I wanted to face that head-on.”

The result is Dynamic Money. Chris and his team look at a client’s entire situation – their taxes, estate planning, insurance, investments, and income planning – and figure out how all of those can work together to help them reach their dreams and the retirement they want. “The idea is to create a plan that works in the real world – because life will always bring the unexpected, so we build plans that are prepared for that.”

In the midst of his firm’s growth, Burns spends a great deal of time creating new content. He hosts Dynamic Money, which airs every Sunday morning on WSB Radio and is available on all podcast platforms, provides “The Dynamic Money Update” daily on WSB Radio as well as other stations in Atlanta, and is a frequent guest on CNN. Burns appears regularly on Lenz-owned radio properties, Lenz on Business, The Sports Insider, and The Weekly Check-Up. He has also written for multiple publications, sends out a daily newsletter, and is a sought after speaker on issues of personal finance and planning. He’s currently working on his first book and developing a new audio and video pod-cast featuring guests sharing their personal financial experiences.

“It all goes back to that core message of helping folks take a tangible step forward,” Burns says, “giving them objective advice that they can trust without the baggage that the world of commissions introduces.”

Learn more at DynamicMoney.com.

Who would have thought that a world-travelling, high-powered accounting professional working for a Fortune 50 company would give up her fast-track career to launch a business that she had absolutely no background in?

That’s what Elizabeth Ellsworth and husband Carleton did in 1997, when they launched Affinity Stoneworks and Affinity Kitchen + Bath.

And she and her customers across Atlanta are glad they did!

For a year before launching her new company, Elizabeth researched many types of businesses that fit her and her husband’s particular skill sets. Her original plan was to get a company up and running, and then exit the business after two years and go back to the corporate world.

During her research, a light bulb went off: She decided to launch a granite countertop business from scratch so she could build her company’s reputation from the ground up. There would be no short-cuts.

The precision nature of the physical aspects of engineering countertops suited Carleton perfectly, and the beauty of working with the natural stone touched Elizabeth’s soul.

She traces her passion and fascination with granite and nature back to her geology class at Auburn, which turned out to be her favorite class in college.

Elizabeth’s favorite part of her job is connecting with people and making them overjoyed with their kitchens and baths. Often times when she is out and about, she will run into a former customer of hers, who will greet her with a hug, and say how much they still love their kitchen or bathroom project. She lives for this.

Often times for inspiration, Elizabeth scouts Atlanta neighborhoods for interesting architecture and natural settings. She then walks around the neighborhoods for exercise while making mental notes of her surroundings. These walks help refresh and re-fuel her kitchen and bath design aesthetics.

Once you meet Elizabeth and the crew at Affinity Stoneworks, you’ll immediately know you are about to have a rare experience compared with the other businesses in that industry.

Her passion to make clients happy drives all of the decisions at Affinity Stoneworks, and for 18 years, that strategic approach has served her clients and her business well.

Now you know Elizabeth Ellsworth!

By Mike Killeen

Lucinda Williams recently told Rolling Stone magazine of an early meeting with a Columbia Records executive. “He said, ‘You have a lot of potential, but you need to work on your songs. None of them have bridges.’ After the meeting, I got out my Bob Dylan and Neil Young albums. I said, ‘These songs don’t have bridges either. So f*#@ that guy.’”

Williams has always recognized the signal from the noise That’s one reason she’s earned unbridled adulation from fans and artists alike for more than 30 years.

Many were introduced to Lucinda Williams via Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the 1998 album that earned a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album and universal praise from music critics the worldwide (Car Wheels landed at number 305 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 best albums of all time).

But by then, those in the know already recognized Williams as one her generation’s most vital artists and a leader of the “alt-country” movement she helped create, thanks to her eponymous 1988 breakthrough album and 1992’s Sweet Old World. By the time Essence was released in 2001, Time magazine also had Williams in its sites, calling her “America’s best songwriter” the following year.

Part of Williams’s appeal is how she seamlessly blends the honored traditions of folk, country, and blues while introducing a sensibility that feels entirely her own. Perhaps this can be traced to her upbringing. Her father was Miller Williams, a literature professor and poet who read his poem “Of History and Hope” – containing the line “We know the sound of all the sounds we brought” – at Bill Clinton’s 1997 inauguration. Lucinda Williams followed her dad’s teaching job across the Southeast, including to Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Georgia. Later, under her own volition, she settled first in New Orleans, then Austin, then New York City, and finally Los Angeles, where her passion for music became a formal pursuit.

Today, Williams says she is writing and singing better than she ever has, and it’s hard to argue. She is surely more prolific. Once known for her measured perfectionism (it took 11 years for her to release the consecutive albums, Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World, and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road), Williams’s most recent release, Ghosts of Highway 20, represented her second double album in a span of just 18 months, following 2014’s Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. Both belong to Williams’s newly formed record label, Highway 20 Records, perhaps offering a bit of symmetry for an artist who has always been truly independent.

Lucinda Williams headlines the 2017 Amplify Decatur Music Festival on Saturday, April 22. Lucinda and her band will go on around 9:15 p.m. Visit AmplifyDecatur.org for tickets and more information.

Superheroes are often depicted wearing capes and flying around bustling cities in their bright and extravagant costumes. Jordan Rose and Meisa Salaita may not look the part, but they have become superheroes in their own important way by celebrating and promoting Atlanta’s thriving scientific community.

Jordan and Meisa are the co-founders and co-directors of the Atlanta Science Festival, a riveting 11-day celebration (March 15-25) of local science and technology right here in Atlanta, Georgia. The festival is designed to bring people together around a shared love for science through 100 individual and creative events. With experiences such as cooking and eating bugs, discovering the science behind brew-making, walking through Atlanta’s forests to witness the local wildlife, and stopping the zombie outbreak, it’s no wonder that the festival has seen remarkable success in a few short years. There is something for everyone, and no one will walk away from the festival disappointed at its offerings.

Behind it all are Jordan and Meisa.

Meisa Salaita holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern University, and is no stranger to working within scientific culture. Prior to co-founding the festival, she worked with two different National Science Foundation Centers for Chemical Innovation. She originally came up with the idea of the Atlanta Science Festival when she heard about similar festivals happening in Europe. After that, she decided that Atlanta needed to have one too. Thanks to Meisa’s passion and determination, the Atlanta Science Festival has grown from a collaboration between the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Georgia Tech, and Emory to a can’t-miss Atlanta event for the scientific and non-scientific communities alike.

When asked why the festival means so much to her, Meisa spoke about her passion for spreading the love of science: “It’s really important to make science a part of culture and to showcase how science is interesting, fun, not scary, and important! By having events that connect science to everyday life and to things that people are already interested in outside of science, we are able to achieve that.”

The co-architect of the festival is Jordan Rose. After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience and behavioral biology as well as his Master of Public Health degree in prevention science from Emory, Jordan has gone on to hold multiple scientific roles. From working as the Associate Director of the Center for Science Education at Emory to becoming the Executive Director of the Georgia BioEd Institute, Jordan’s love for science has followed him everywhere he has gone.

Jordan’s passion for the festival is evident when speaking to him. He believes that, for a lot of people, science leaves a bad taste in their mouth, perhaps because of a negative experience in their education. To Jordan, the festival is a way to bring those people back into the fold and break down the stereotypes that exist over scientists and science alike. To Jordan, it all boils down to one idea, “We’re trying to show people that scientists are people too.”

You can check out the Atlanta Science’s Festival schedule here. Learn more about the people behind the Atlanta Science Festival here.

Lenz is proud to market, sponsor, and support the 2017 Atlanta Science Festival.

susan-clark
Susan Clark’s work has always been a great motivator for her.

In her first job after graduating from Duke University, she worked for a nonprofit group that concentrated on hunger and poverty issues. After earning her MBA from Northwestern University’s prestigious Kellogg School of Management, she worked for SC Johnson and then Eastman Kodak, where she helped people digitally print their pictures.

Later, she served for almost nine years as director of marketing and communications at the High Museum of Art, which proved an innovator both in its decision to double its physical space and in securing exhibitions from the Louvre and from China in the form of the Terracotta Warriors.

From picking leftover crops in fields to launching new products to promoting art exhibitions, Clark has held a range of roles. Presently, as associate dean of marketing and communications at Emory University’s School of Law, Clark has found inspiration in the rule of law.

“On multiple occasions I’ve heard our dean say, ‘People do not starve in Somalia for lack of food; they starve for lack of law,’” Clark said. “I think that is incredibly insightful and important as we consider the role of legal education. Lawyer jokes aside, the importance of law in our society and the smooth running of a fair society — and, particularly as we look at some of the headlines in the news today — the importance of fair application in law today is so critical.”

Clark, who began working at Emory in January 2013, arrived at a challenging time in the world of legal education. According to a recent report in The New York Times, the percentage of recent law school graduates finding work as an attorney at a firm or with a corporation is down by 10 points since it reached its apex in 2007. Part of Clark’s challenge in marketing the law school is to explain the value of a legal education, whether it comes in a traditional three-year program (juris doctor degree) or other offerings, such as the juris master, a masters in law for non-lawyers, or an LLM program, which is a one-year program traditionally, but not exclusively, for foreign lawyers seeking legal training in the United States.

“The approach that Emory Law has taken with expanding its degree offerings in response to a changing legal environment, I think, is really innovative,” Clark said, “and it’s inspiring for me as a marketer to work within an organization that takes an innovative approach.”

Clark, who, during her undergraduate days, thought she would want to work in the U.S. State Department and even did an internship there one summer, said she prefers to work in smaller, more hands-on organizations where she can make an immediate impact. One of her strengths, she believes, is understanding her core audience — no matter where she has worked.

“That has to be at the core of everything that we do, if you’re working in marketing,” she said.

While traveling to Paris to work on a High-Louvre partnership and to China with a terracotta warriors exhibition rank among her favorite work experiences, so does a Salvador Dalí exhibition several years ago. In concert with the High’s education staff, Clark’s team led a grass-roots marketing effort to get college students to come to the museum in the middle of the night. The campaign carried the tag “Dalí ‘til Dawn.”

“We had lines out the door until 4 a.m.,” Clark said. “We couldn’t get people processed fast enough. I remember standing at the membership table at the time. A Georgia Tech student came up to me and said ‘Every clique at Georgia Tech is here tonight!’ It became the ‘it’ thing do for that one night. That was really fun.”

Despite her successes and having traveled the world, Clark said she’s still very much the girl from the middle of nowhere in Maryland. She grew up on a farm of 160 acres in rural Crumpton, Md. (population 324 in 2014), on the Eastern Shore and was the first person in her family to attend college.

She enjoys — not surprisingly — traveling and for 12 years sang in an all-women’s a cappella group in Atlanta called “Octave.” Now, she takes piano lessons at her Decatur home along with her six-year-old daughter.

 

Miranda Madar knew from the time she was a 16-year-old high school student in the Bronx, N.Y. that she wanted to work in advertising.

That was when Madar, now Resurgens Orthopaedics’ Director of Marketing, earned an internship with YM magazine.

So perhaps it was not surprising that someone so determined would not give up when her team ran into some formidable obstacles in early 2013 after putting months of work into a project. As a member of the Creative Excellence team at The Coca-Cola Company, Madar’s goal was to produce a web-based film using newly developed technology to demonstrate that a shared moment of happiness can bring the world a little closer together.

The “Small World Machines” dispense beverages but, as explained on Coca-Cola’s website, one machine was placed in India, the other in Pakistan, and each became communication portals. The idea was to let citizens of both countries — long embroiled in a bitter political and religious battle — see and interact with each other, even complete shared tasks. Once those tasks were accomplished, the machines dispensed a Coke. For Madar, the project also was personally significant, as she is of Indian heritage (she was born in England and immigrated to New York when she was five).

Madar’s team chose to locate one machine in Lahore, Pakistan, and the other 325 miles away in New Delhi, India. The first time the crew tried to get into the two countries to film, it was denied entry in Pakistan, owing to heightened security over an assassination attempt that shortly preceded their arrival.

Madar said getting numerous constituencies within one of the world’s largest corporations to buy into the project proved an enormous task in and of itself. After the team’s initial foray failed, it looked as if the company might scrap the entire project. However, Madar, her co-worker and the agency with which they were working pushed hard for another try.

This time, with the addition of more security, it worked. Madar called the film, which was later honored with 11 Cannes Lions awards, including three Gold Lions, “one of the most poignant and impactful projects I have ever worked on.”

Madar also led the production for the global re-launch of Diet Coke in 2014 (known as Coca-Cola Light outside the United States). Titled “Choose Love over Like”, Madar said she still finds this project inspiring and personally memorable, describing it as “a profound reminder to slow down, be present, and make an active choice each day to live a life you love.”

While selling Coca-Cola products might seem vastly different than marketing the services of Resurgens Orthopaedics, Madar finds similarity in positive and inspiring messaging for each. Madar joined Resurgens in late 2014 and by mid 2015 she had launched, in conjunction with Lenz, a new campaign for Resurgens – “Reach for More,” which is anchored in the idea of empowerment.

Madar said the commonality is in people wanting to improve their daily lives.

“I think we can do something very similar for Resurgens — the strategy behind ‘Reach for More’ is very aspirational in nature, much like the work I did at Coke,” said Madar, who gave birth to a son, Kiran, shortly after launching the new campaign. “It’s not just about medicine or going to see this doctor. It’s about how they can help you get back to the life you love, get back to doing what you want for yourself, the community, society as a whole.

“When done consistently across the board and over time, this kind of messaging will inspire larger groups of people and enable them to make a positive difference.”

Madar is married to Saif. In addition to Kiran, the couple have a three-year-old daughter, Milena.

Eric Betts Singing

Vladimir Putin. Tony Blair. Silvio Berlusconi. George W. Bush.

Eric Betts got to see them all up close. As a regional representative based in Savannah for former U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, Betts helped to serve as part of the 2004 G-8 Summit welcoming committee at Hunter Army Airfield when world leaders arrived for the event at Sea Island.

Betts called that the highlight of his 10-year tenure working for Chambliss, which began almost by accident when Chambliss was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Betts, who has served as SouthCoast Health’s Marketing Director for nearly nine years, might have seemed like an unlikely candidate to go into the political world. He majored in computer information systems at Valdosta State and worked in that industry after graduating.

However, it wasn’t long before Betts received a call from a family friend, inquiring as to whether he would be interested in a job with Chambliss. He accepted and moved to Waycross. When Chambliss won his Senate seat in 2002, Betts relocated to Savannah, which is how Betts ultimately wound up with SouthCoast Health.

After 10 years with Chambliss, Betts elected to move on and pursued a career in healthcare, an industry in which he had previously considered working. As a teenager, he had worked as a tech in a pharmacy and once considered becoming a pharmacist.

At SouthCoast Health, Betts became the practice’s first employee in marketing, a distinction that he retains – although the practice began partnering with Lenz three years ago. Upon arrival, he received two tasks: create a more functional website and consistency among the various offices’ marketing materials, which had been left up to each individual office manager.

When he joined, SouthCoast Health had 45 physicians. Now, it has 80. Betts said he likes to think that he has contributed in some way to that success. Betts said he realizes that people have a choice about where to go for their healthcare and that if SouthCoast Health is not providing the best in customer service, patients will go elsewhere.

“I’m really passionate – not just about the brand and the marketing – but about our reputation to our customers,” he said. “I follow all the surveys, all the online reviews that get written about us. What people are saying about us, what our patients think about us as a healthcare provider, I’m very much involved in trying to make SouthCoast Health better in that aspect.”

In his spare time, Betts volunteers with the choral group at his church, Savannah Christian, which has 12,500 members. He is in his third year leading and directing the choir, an activity to which he devotes 10 hours a week.

It’s a labor of love. A tenor himself, Betts said his interests range from pop music to contemporary Christian to Southern Gospel to country.

“I get a lot of pleasure out of it,” he said. “Singing is probably one of my biggest passions in life.”

Betts is married to Mary Anne, a project manager at SouthCoast Health. The couple has a four-year-old daughter, Demori.