By Ryan Betz
Associate Director of Marketing & Communications
Washington Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program
May 19, 2014

Capitol in the springtime

I return from an incredible week in Orlando attending the National Association of State Treasurers’ Treasury Management Training Symposium totally inspired by the talented professionals that lead our industry in helping American families save for their children’s college education. This event reminded me of the magnitude of our responsibility and opportunity to have a life-changing impact on millions of families for generations to come.

While the conference helped us gain insight and valuable information about marketing, program operations, financial markets, human resources, media relations and government affairs, my biggest takeaway came from our keynote speaker, Dr. Gene Sharratt, Executive Director of the Washington Student Achievement Council.

Dr. Sharratt discussed leadership and its monumental role in determining the success of an organization. Our greatest resource is our people! Quality people working together in effective teams are what drive innovation and meaningful results. According to Dr. Sharrett, outstanding leadership is focused on four principals that I believe we can immediately focus on to provide our 529 customers and prospects across the country with added value. The first principal is coaching and the opportunity to provide families with sound financial education that helps them budget and make smart decisions about choosing the right plans that best meet their needs. The second principal is listening in order to provide products and services that offer the highest and best use. The third principal is recognition and our responsibility to thank our customers for their business and to honor them for making their children’s higher education a priority. Lastly, the fourth principal of outstanding leadership is empowerment and giving our customers choices and the ability to get connected with the right products and professionals to help them achieve their long-range goals.

Most of all, Dr. Sharratt’s talk reinforced the importance of the conversations we have with our customers and how the language we use drive expectations and expectations from both our plan staff and customers drive success. As Dr. Sharratt shared with us, a mission is a journey with a purpose. When we are intentional and focused in our conversation with our customers, they can better understand the importance of saving, prioritize their spending, and develop a plan that creates the life they envision for their children. It’s critical that we share the big picture with our customers on how a higher education will help connect their children with financial, professional and personal rewards, while giving them the tools, knowledge and skills to be engaged citizens that give back to their community. We cannot reinforce enough how an education can truly transform a family for generations to come.

In fact, Dr. Sharratt reinforced the point that what gets measured gets done and what gets rewarded gets repeated, which is a great reminder that we need to provide ongoing data and information to our clients, while providing them with the proper accolades for their savings efforts. By helping families measure and account for their savings efforts, the more likely they will be in sharing their experience with family and friends.We must not forget the purpose of our work is to help more people achieve a college degree and the true meaning of a college education is to help our next generation of leaders embrace a life of purpose so that passions can be followed and carried out to help further the health and well-being of our society. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better mission than that! We are truly making the world a better place one account owner at a time. We are turning dreams into realities and I am so pleased to be doing this work with such talented, caring and passionate people! I envision a day when our country has more money saved in 529 plans (currently $227 billion) than we do in student loan debt ($1 trillion).

About the Author:
Ryan Betz is the Associate Director of Marketing & Communications with Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program.