Daniel Cortez was in his final year of law school, recently engaged, and preparing to begin his legal career when his worldview changed forever. He was visiting his then-fiancée, now wife Jennifer in Nashville, Tennessee, and as they drove around the city, Cortez became engrossed in what his bride-to-be had on the car stereo. It was Dave Ramsey, the radio host and number one national best-selling author whose disciplined approach to personal and household finances has netted millions of listeners, followers, and success stories from all over the world.
“At that time, I was facing a lot of decisions about the kind of person, attorney, and husband I would be, as well as what priorities I needed to have to lead my family well,” Cortez remembers. “But I didn’t have a full framework for all of the ways I would need to accomplish that.”
Instead of studying for upcoming law exams, Cortez read Ramsey’s Financial Peace: Restoring Financial Hope to You and Your Family. He spent two days in the library tearing through the book, which became the foundation and guiding principle for Cortez’s financial future.
That was 1998. Twenty-two years later, Cortez finds himself general counsel for Ramsey Solutions, a 950-person company founded on the teachings and mission of the man Cortez first heard on a Nashville highway. “My family is an example of the fruits of the teaching and solutions that the company is providing to people in every walk of life,” Cortez says. “The principles we teach are the same ones that allowed me to get where I am today and to help navigate a future for my children.”
In many ways, coming to Ramsey Solutions seems like a career culmination—as well as a full-circle development—for Cortez. The company’s mission of giving and empowerment aligns perfectly with the leadership style that the GC has cultivated over his his twenty-two years in the field. “There is this mentality in many professions that people should throw their young folks into the deep end and then tell them to swim,” Cortez notes. “It’s deeply ingrained because it’s the way they were taught. But I knew early on that I didn’t want to replicate that. All of the time that I’ve invested in my team members throughout my career has come back to me ten- or one-hundred-fold.”
By investing in his team members at Ramsey, the transactional lawyer is aiming to make the legal department a more critical business-enabler for the company. “I’ve been fortunate to work for a company that was doing $3.5 billion in annual revenue, and I’ve seen firsthand the infrastructure you need from a legal perspective to help support it,” Cortez says. “I want to be able to implement those things to make it easier for us to accomplish the growth we’re working toward.”
What’s most important, Cortez says, is that growth at Ramsey isn’t achieved for growth’s sake alone.
“I have never been in a meeting where a decision was made purely from a financial standpoint. And I’ve got to tell you, there have been so many times where decisions could have easily been made only from that perspective,” Cortez explains. “Every decision I have been part of has been driven primarily by our mission: Is this going to help more people?”
It is exactly that mission—and Dave Ramsey’s personal efforts to help as many people as possible free themselves of debt—that draws professionals such as Cortez to the company in the first place. At Ramsey, the GC is part of a much larger collective of people who have taken the founder’s message to heart. “As the new guy early on, one of the first questions I was asked—and now one of the first questions I ask others—is, ‘How has Dave’s message impacted you?’” Cortez says. “And almost all of the stories I hear are a variation of mine. That personal connection to our mission is something that everyone here shares.”
“My family is an example of the fruits of the teaching and solutions that the company is providing to people in every walk of life.”
According to Cortez, the company’s mission to help others is not limited to the financial realm. In fact, that mission plays out in a thousand different ways for employees at Ramsey. After one year of employment, the GC explains, every employee is offered one week of paid leave, separate from vacation and sick time, to take part in charity work of their choosing.
Ramsey Solutions has also taken a leading role during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the early days of the pandemic, Cortez says, Ramsey employees could be seen flagging down healthcare workers at gas stations and offering to pay for their gas.
Of course, Ramsey’s tools and lessons are also a critical resource during this time, as the GC points out. “From a timing perspective, the principles that we talk about—namely that debt should not be something that we regard as normal—is something we all need to think about very seriously now,” Cortez emphasizes. “We want to help people understand that it’s not too late for their finances, relationships, and careers, and that there are changes they can make. We can provide a road map through this incredibly difficult time.”