Throughout his life, John Sanderson has always been a high achiever. As a Boy Scout, he surpassed everyone in his Troop in a fundraising drive. In college, he scored first in the country on a CPA test. Recently, we recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of Sanderson Wealth Management, which John founded as one of the earliest fiduciary financial firms in the country.
So it’s no surprise that, once again, John is being recognized for his achievements.
This week, Buffalo Business First celebrated John as one of only 20 C-Level Executives Award winners for 2022.
The C-Level Executives Awards, now in their 11th year, “recognize Western New York’s most effective business leaders,” according to Buffalo Business First, the region’s leading business-focused newspaper and website. The 2022 award winners were honored this week in an awards ceremony at the Forbes Theater.
In honor of John’s latest achievement, we're proud to share the insights and reflections he provided to Buffalo Business First—as well as some more personal memories and advice from throughout his life and career.
What is your proudest professional moment?
Making partner at Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young) when I was 33, especially since only one out of every 200 people who started there made partner. A year later I was named managing partner of the office.
The 20th anniversary of Sanderson Wealth Management was also a professional milestone. It’s a thrill to see something you started 20 years ago still active and growing. Of course, having one of my sons succeeding me makes it that much more special.
Name one thing you want to accomplish in the next five years.
Professionally, I’d like to help ensure the continued long-term growth of Sanderson Wealth Management however I can, whether it’s mentoring employees, working with clients, or implementing sophisticated new investment strategies.
On a personal level, I’m looking forward to more time enjoying life and family. I’m so proud of my sons—they’re both professionally successful, outstanding fathers, and good husbands. I have five wonderful grandkids, which is a blessing in today’s world. I work hard to find ways to keep the Sanderson family together, whether it’s fishing with my brothers, doing a big family gathering three times each year, or just going out to dinner.
What are your tips for hiring during a tight labor market?
Focus on culture. We offer good wages and outstanding benefits, but we stand out because we invest in people through mentorship and education. In fact, we just hired someone who had a higher offer but wanted to work here for the growth opportunities. At Sanderson, when we hire somebody, we’re trying to hire them for life.
It’s not just our investment in people—it’s the way we all treat each other. The other day we had a client lunch, so as soon as I came in that morning I got all the dishes out, set up the silverware, and then made sure it got cleaned up afterward. It doesn’t matter what your title is, we all pitch in and help. As my grandfather said, “when there is work to be done, we all work.”
Do you have any career advice for someone just starting out?
Work hard, concentrate on learning, be a valuable team member, and get your professional credentials (CPA, CFA, etc.) as soon as you can. It’s a hell of a lot harder to study for an exam as you have more responsibilities outside of work.
Also, never advise anything for a client that you wouldn’t do for yourself. That’s really important, especially as you’re building relationships and trust. The client’s welfare always comes first. Sometimes clients make decisions that aren’t in their own best interests, so you have to work with them. But you shouldn’t make decisions based on how you can make more money. It should always be about what’s best for the client. You’ll do fine as long as the client does fine.
How has your industry changed during your time in the field?
Years ago, wealth managers could look at a client’s cash flow and select some basic investment vehicles. Now, you need to understand the client’s full situation—income tax, estate tax, personal wealth, inheritable wealth, work benefits, debt, and more. Then you need a diverse investment allocation that might include alternatives such as private equity and hedge funds. The fundamentals are the same, but the applications keep getting more sophisticated.
The industry is global now, so many things end up moving in the same direction. You really have to look beyond. You can’t just look at the U.S. vs. Europe, for example. You have to find things that don’t all follow the same patterns and trends.
Tell us one thing people don’t know about you.
My strong passion for music. As a student at Niagara University, I brought in artists including Richie Havens, Ike and Tina Turner, and John Lee Hooker. Now I go to 25-30 concerts each year. This year alone I’ve seen the Eagles, Genesis, Three Dog Night, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind & Fire, Patti LaBelle, and many others. (We didn’t have money for concerts when I was a kid, so I guess I’m making up for it now.) My perfect night ends with a concert at the Riviera Theatre.
I still remember my first concert. It was 1974, and I was treasurer of the high school student government. Somehow, I convinced the school to pay $2,000 to bring in Raven (a big act at the time) for a show. The school was terrified they were going to lose money, but it all worked out—and I got to see the first of countless unforgettable concerts.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
Driven. It’s been true since I was a child. In fact, even before I was old enough to go to school, my family was calling me “the Senator.”
© 2022 Sanderson Wealth Management LLC. This information is not intended to be and should not be treated as legal, investment, accounting or tax advice and is for informational purposes only. Readers, including professionals, should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific legal, accounting, or tax advice from their own counsel. All information discussed herein is current as of the date appearing in this material and is subject to change at any time without notice. Opinions expressed are those of the author, do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sanderson Wealth Management, and are subject to change without notice. The information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy and interpretation are not guaranteed.
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