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March 2006
Spirited, Mettled, Pious and, Modest
By Heather Head

A little over twenty years ago, life looked pretty bleak for this high school dropout facing cancer, an empty bank account, and a doomed marriage. But Angela Sloan took up the challenge and overcame, thanks to her partnership with two powerful allies: faith and determination.

When first diagnosed with cancer and facing a poor prognosis, Sloan turned to her financial advisor to withdraw some of the $14,440 she and her husband had entrusted to his care over the past several years. When he informed her that her account balance was only $800, she thought there must be some mistake. No, and her investigations into the matter revealed ultimately that, while her trusted advisor had done nothing illegal, he had most definitely taken advantage of her vulnerability and grossly mishandled her money.

Angry, Sloan took the first step toward what would eventually become a thriving business: She completed all the coursework and certifications necessary to become a financial planner.

She then followed her former financial advisor around town. When he would walk away from someone’s house, she would walk right past him on the sidewalk, and in the door behind him. She’d plunk down the pile of papers from her “$14,440 Ph.D.” and say, “I just saw him leave. This what he did to me, and I think he’s probably doing it to you.”

Last she heard, he was selling house trailers in the same coastal community, and running into trouble with that, too.

Did he ever say anything to her about her tactics? “Oh, no. He’d walk right past me without even looking at me,” says Sloan devilishly. “He knew. He knew.”

 

Out of the Ashes

Sloan’s marriage didn’t make it through the gauntlet, but she did, and so did her faith. Now this “should’ve been welfare mom” as she describes herself is happily remarried, and running a thriving financial organization she created out of the ashes of her own bad experience.

The clients she gained from following her former advisor around town formed the basis of a business Sloan ran partially from home during the first few years. While her children, 8 and 10 at the time, were in school in the mornings she would meet clients in a tiny rented office. Then she would pick them up from school in the afternoon, and spend the rest of the day as Mom, finishing paperwork and behind-the-scenes work after they were in bed.

As the investment business became more computerized, Sloan knew she’d have to invest in equipment if she wanted to stay current. So she put a $2,000 computer on her credit card, and decided that she would pay for it with tax clients. She began calling all of her investment clients and telling them she was available for taxes, too. They in turn told their children and parents and neighbors and, in that first year, Sloan filed 475 tax returns. She had more than paid for the computer.

Sloan Financial Group, the current incarnation of Sloan’s business, bears little surface resemblance to those early years. Their brand new, 10,000-square-foot space at the intersection of Highways 55 and 557 in Clover, S.C., boasts a spacious greeting area, many large windowed offices, and meeting space for her 14 employees and the clients they serve. The building also houses three additional rental units. The company is gearing up to open a casualty and property insurance branch, will add a full-time attorney this summer, and is looking for an experienced mortgage broker.

“There is no logical explanation,” she begins, as she shuffles through a pile of framed photos of her with various famous people – George and Barbara Bush, Walter Cronkite, Rudy Giuliani, Senator Bill Bradley, The Beach Boys, Congressman J.C. Watts, and Chubby Checker to name a few. “Look at me; I should have been a welfare mom! There is just no logical explanation for all this.”

 

A Mission of Faith

But under the surface, nothing much has changed about Angela Sloan from the old days. She still believes in serving others ethically and compassionately, and she still places her trust in “God up above.” And she still sports that dogged determination that blows away all objections to the plans she feels God writes on her heart.

When asked why she was chosen for this, she says, “There is nothing that God has that he will withhold from me if I am obedient and do what he says to do with what he gives me. He stands by me even when I mess up,” she says with a smile. Stepping out on faith has become a cornerstone of Sloan’s business, and she constantly talks about the things God has “written on her heart.”

One of the things written there is her commitment to service. “God blesses us so we can turn around and bless others.” This commitment is evident in everything Sloan and her business do.

Ten percent of gross revenue is tithed automatically to Sloan’s church. And that forms only the beginning of the charitable giving done through her company. She supports missions all over the world, as well as missions in her own community. Every summer, she and her husband travel abroad to help with mission work in locations like Turkey, Israel and the Caribbean.

Within her own community, Sloan feels that her business is a mission. She hosts free financial seminars on topics such as financing for the aging population, and offers tax preparation for half price to people over the age of 62. And there is no cost to walk into her office and pick her brain.

 

A Thriving Business

But the company maintains a strong financial position, profiting well from multiple revenue streams. Tax preparation, insurance sales, investment clients, and nationwide software sales and support form the backbone of the company’s profitability, augmented by rental income from the units in their new building.

Sloan has garnered numerous awards for her work in the industry. Software that she pioneered has now gone national, as well as a marketing system for financial professionals to team with tax professionals to better serve the needs of the client. She won the much-coveted Rick Metcalfe Memorial Award, the only woman ever to have done so, as well as numerous awards for service and invention. Her clients rave about her, and are extremely loyal.

Although she now has a staff that performs a large percentage of client service, Sloan ensures the service level remains high, thanks to intensive and constant training and careful employee selection. Although most of her staff is female, Sloan says it was not intentional. She feels God attracted her staff and although she feels women bring “a breath of fresh air” to clients in the financial services industry. She certainly doesn’t mind working with men, though. In fact, her husband works in the company.

Sloan refuses to take any of the credit for the success of her business. “I always ask God to do things in a way that only He can take the credit for,” she says. “This is way too big for me.” Her mantra of “there is no logical explanation” underlines many of the stories she tells of her business experience.

For instance, when the owner of her first small office decided to sell the property, Sloan went looking for a new place. She knew she couldn’t afford an old Duke Power building that was for sale, but felt led to call about it anyway. From that call, she learned that a local doctor had purchased the building, so she thought to call him and see if she could lease his old building. He didn’t want to lease it but offered to sell it at whatever reasonable price she wanted to offer. She didn’t think she could get a commercial loan, but she started calling anyway, and those calls led her to the Bank of York County, which loaned her the money without any of the usual associated expenses. “There’s no logical explanation,” she repeats.

When that 1800-square-foot building became too small, she felt led to build the current building, which everyone from the real estate agent to the building consultant and even her husband told her was impossible. “Our consultant, John Rinehart of Rinehart Realty Corp., stands in amazement; he says he’s never seen what he’s seen here.” She repeats, “There’s just no logical explanation. God’s fingerprints are all over this place.”

So are images representing both her faith and the loyalty she has garnered from employees, clients, and members of the community. Upon entering the waiting room, one is greeted by the large glass sculpture of a rapt Jesus – a work of art Sloan believes God chose for her.

“I was at an art gallery, completely entranced by this piece. I knew God had chosen it for me, but then I looked at the price tag,” she laughs. “Oops, I guess that was a misunderstanding, I thought.” Apparently, though, it was no misunderstanding – later, a grateful friend presented her with the piece as a gift.

An original Thomas Kinkade painting, “Son Rise,” also a gift, adorns another wall of the waiting room, and a set of three Peter Max paintings (gifts from a private collector) decorate the large conference room. A torn but framed T-shirt from an orphan in Sudan, yet another gift from a friend, keeps Sloan mindful of all the gifts she’s been given, including the gift of her thriving business.

Sloan’s children are grown now, and her daughter and a daughter-in-law work with her at Sloan Financial, as does her husband. She loves her four grandchildren, and continues to win the battle with cancer, and she has no regrets about anything.

When asked where she expects the business to be in five or ten years, it is no surprise to hear her say, “I don’t have plans, but I feel God has written something on my heart. After it was built, I felt I was led to go to the four corners of this building and give thanks to God for a $100 million business. So that’s what I did.”

Unimaginable, perhaps. And there may be no logical explanation. But with a little faith and Angela-style determination, somehow it seems bound to happen.

Heather Head is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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