Richard Wesselt

Founder of the Wesselt Initiative

Growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Richard Wesselt excelled in both academics and athletics. During his formative years, his mother and father taught him the importance of integrity, personal service, and cultivating a strong work ethic, which he took to heart and diligently applied throughout the remainder life. After high school, Richard enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, eventually graduating from that institution’s Wharton School of Business in 1989.

As he embarked on his career, Richard Wesselt’s disciplined approach to business fostered positive results from the very start. Initially, he entered the life insurance and annuity industry, where, as a part of Provident Mutual, he earned that company’s award for Rookie of the Year. Upon joining Phoenix Home Life a few years later, Richard followed this up by selling the largest number of policies written during a given year. At this point, his numerous successes in the insurance sector inspired him to found Wesselt Capital Group. Created in 1997 with the goal of helping others achieve fiscal security and independence, Wesselt Capital Group has spent the subsequent quarter of a century helping more than 34,000 people with their insurance strategies.

When not managing that firm, Richard Wesselt served in the community as a board member for several local Catholic high schools. During the course of occupying these positions, he provided internships for many students, giving them a critical first stepping stone from which to pursue their own successful careers, and offering them guidance along the way.

Recently, Richard has moved into a more service-oriented role. Along with a trusted business colleague, he is currently busy working on launching the Wesselt Initiative, a philanthropic and community-based organization that will focus on creating strong ties between students and businesses.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

It’s an idea that’s been on my mind for years. It developed through watching changes in our society. As children, we receive lessons differently. I have believed for a very long time that giving young individuals a solid blueprint for success would have a significant impact on them as they aspire to achieve their goals and develop positive habits. In other words, some of the lessons earlier generations received as children have changed in today’s world; either they are no longer taught, no longer relevant, or the rules surrounding them have totally changed. It is the endeavor of the Wesselt Initiative to help bridge this gap for the students and young adults of today.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I stick to a routine that begins with a trip to the fitness center by 5 am. I follow that up with some work and organization. After that, it’s family time with my wife and sons after 3 pm.

How do you bring ideas to life?

One of the challenges of any endeavor is moving from the discussion phase to the execution phase. Being the quarterback of my high school football team helped me to better understand how the concept of successful execution is of critical importance.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Leveraging social media to share a message with vast numbers of people. It’s exciting to see how far technology has come in such a short time and watching the impact it can have on a company.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Planning each day out the night before. That allows me to prepare in the morning by reviewing the previous night’s plan and primes me to execute the day’s needed actions.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that in order to achieve an ideal balance in life, it’s crucial to be supremely organized at all times. This is a skill that has taken me a lot of work to master, but it paid off immensely once I did. And it’s still paying off to this day.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I believe that many people would not agree with me on the importance of working at least part of the day, 46 out of the 52 Saturdays per year.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Whatever you’ve got to do, rehearse it ahead of time. It might be learning about your product, rehearsing a presentation, or just reviewing the major points for an upcoming meeting. If you rehearse ahead of time, you’re prepared in the moment. I would recommend a regimen of consistent and rigorous preparation to anyone working in any field.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One strategy that has yielded great results for me over the years is utilizing centers of influence to introduce myself to people who I might not otherwise meet. To illustrate, if I want to meet Mary, and I know that Harry is well-acquainted with Mary, I would try to put myself in front of Harry and let him pave the way to an introduction with Mary. At the end of the day, all business is about relationships. That being the case, the ultimate goal of the Wesselt Initiative will always be to help kids value relationships. No matter the venue—teleconferencing, social media, or in-person during a business meeting or informal gathering —you’re still dealing with human beings. Relationships matter immensely.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Accepting clients whose values, work ethic, and integrity were questionable, but I didn’t realize it during the initial meetings. Put another way, accepting the wrong client. The way I overcame this particular problem was by spending more time in the first series of meetings with new clients getting to know the human side of each person, regardless of the business transaction. This practice has prevented numerous potentially problematic issues.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would suggest that someone creates a tool that teaches the importance of financial literacy to children and young adults. It would go a long way to helping people start their lives off on the right foot.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best money I’ve recently spent was donating to the legacy of a dear friend. My friend passed away in February and a scholarship fund was recently started in his name.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I am working with a team to develop a database of relationships. It will be categorized by personality and occupation. This will make it possible to make valuable business connections when needed. For example, if there’s an aggressive young adult who wants to study accounting, we would try to match that personality with an accounting company with equal levels of intensity. Maybe a more cerebral youngster might mesh better with another type of firm, and so on and so forth. My vision is to be able to pair students and young adults in the community with companies that are a good fit for them from a cultural standpoint. Keeping the culture of the firm in mind when attempting to pair a young adult personality will help lay the foundation for a successful business relationship. If that isn’t done correctly, then arguably both sides are less than satisfied.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

When Pride Still Mattered by Vince Lombardi. Although it’s grounded in football, his way of thinking and his value system is timeless and applicable to all avenues of life.

What is your favorite quote?

“A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of sheep.” — George R. R. Martin

Key Learnings:

  • Hard work, quality ethics, and dedication lead to success.
  • Think about the people in the room, not just the goal of the agreement.
  • Plan and prepare ahead of time for all things.
  • Creating connections with people is the single most important aspect of business.