When Nathan Sachs, the founder and owner of Blueprints for Tomorrow, a financial services company based in Scottsdale, considered teaching classes at the Valley of the Sun JCC (The J), it wasn’t a tough call.
“I grew up in a JCC,” Sachs recalled. “I spent my entire days there playing basketball and racquetball, swimming and chasing girls. Never was I exposed to the kind of things our J does here. They bring so much value to members: educational seminars, lunch-and-learns and breakfast workshops. When they asked us to partner with them, it was an absolute honor.”
The “us” Sachs refers to includes wife, Dale, and son, Ian, who also work at Blueprints and are longtime donors and volunteers with The J and other Jewish organizations. Sachs will teach the third in a series of free business classes on May 1. Its topic is “Escaping the Retirement Trap.”
Prompted by repeated requests from community members for classes covering such areas, Kim Subrin, chief operating officer for The J, said when Sachs contacted her, she saw the opportunity and grabbed it.
“By offering a program like this, we’re meeting the specific needs for the people looking to grow businesses,” Subrin explained. “I think what’s been really nice is that you get a wide array of ages that attend these. You have people that are new to the business world and people that have been around for a long time.
“We hope to be able to touch the lives of the people who may not be looking to come to The J because of fitness, but they’re looking to better themselves as a business owner or an employer or just as a person.”
Sachs, who has worked in the field for 41 years, often employs a Socratic method to teach people about business and planning. He asks challenging questions designed to get attendees to focus on what is really important. In the course of his interview with the Jewish News, in fact, he often turned the tables, asking things like, “What was the last kind act you did?” and “What would it take for you to lie to me?”
They’re the kinds of questions he encouraged business owners to ask potential employees in his J class, “How to Attract, Maximize and Retain Your ‘Keep for Lifers.’ ”
“A ‘Keep for Lifer’ is someone I want to see retire here and I don’t want to see walk down the street to the competitor,” Sachs explained. “We say hire for character and train for knowledge.
“Ask the right questions,” he added. “Don’t worry about resumes. Any college kid can do a resume. Don’t ask for references. No one’s giving you a bad one. Ask character questions to determine if they’ve got character.”
Hiring for character was one of the several points Sachs has repeatedly hammered home.
Another frequent lesson was how to prepare for both the unexpected and the expected but often overlooked.
“One out of three business owners will die owning their own business,” Sachs said. “One out of four will become seriously ill. Eight out of 10 times, that business closes within one year of that happening.”
While his questions and statements were sometimes disarmingly blunt, such as his assumption that everyone lies during interviews, he wasn’t afraid to share his own personal stories to illustrate his points. His aim is not to shock, but rather, to help people and businesses prepare for whatever may come next, which was the topic of his first class for The J, “Preparing for the Unexpected,” which will likely be held again later this year.
“I was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t see it coming,” Sachs explained. “I had no lingering cough, no lumps, no cuts that didn’t heal. It was a fluke. I went in for an MRI and came out with cancer.
“I have written instructions in case anything happens. We’ve got a digital document called ‘The Facts of My Life’ that we give to anybody in the community for free. It’s 38 pages. We put every asset, liability, pin number, password, all in one place.”
Sachs also stressed the need to ensure good employees don’t leave at crisis times.
“The average employee, three out of four, in their heart of hearts, believes they can find a better job if they need to,” Sachs said. “That doesn’t mean they verbalize it, but they believe they can. That’s a concern if I own a business.”
Sachs said that’s why he suggests business owners have their critical employees sign contracts stating that, if the owner were to die or become incapacitated, the employee will get extra money to stay with the company.
While thinking about how one’s business will continue operating after death may not seem pleasant, Sachs explained that it was essential to ensuring one’s family and community are taken care of.
Based on the responses of participants in his past classes at The J, which usually cost thousands of dollars to attend, the community seems to appreciate his efforts.
“Everybody that leaves says that they’ve really enjoyed it and they walk away feeling like they’ve learned something ,” said Andrea Quen, the director of development and corporate giving for The J. “That’s why we continue to do it, because people walk out saying, ‘Wow, this was something I’ve really been looking for,’ and they’re happy that they’ve now found it at The J.” JN