Reaching for Excellence
How Client-First Thinking Shaped Jack Thurman’s Career
By Rebecca Sprauer
Managing Partner Jack Thurman has been with the firm for nearly 19 years, but his most nerve-wracking presentation didn’t come until about eight weeks ago, to 15 families with a collective net worth of nearly $25 billion.
Presenting at a prominent family office industry summit this October marks one of his greatest professional accomplishments, but his path there involved a lot of practice and training—and a whole lot of heart.
‘Grateful for Everything’
Since 1986, Jack has been in the business of providing solutions. His approach relies on incredible client-focused thinking, and it has shined throughout his career.
Senior Managing Advisor Chris Mies appreciates Jack’s mindset. She’s grateful Jack looks beyond quick solutions for the present day and provides long-term solutions with positive outcomes for the future.
“He will pull in resources from within BKD and reach out to external specialists as needed to create the best solution for the particular issue,” Chris says.
“This isn’t just his work,” says Brand Manager Amanda Williamson. “He genuinely cares about serving clients and making their lives better. He looks out for them as if they were his own family.”
One of Jack’s most prominent mantras, “Grateful for everything, entitled to nothing,” strengthens his dedication to client service.
“When you’re grateful for everything, you’re wanting to give back to those who gave to you, and be the best person,” he says.
BKD’s unique, highly motivated environment has not only helped Jack develop skills, but has made him into a better person. His role as a managing partner has helped him become a better leader within his home, and his experience with BKD has helped him give back to the community, causes and clients he believes in.
Jack’s consistent, dedicated and reliable approach to his relationships has been decades in the making.
Before he joined the firm, Jack was working for Merrill Lynch and oversaw Baird, Kurtz and Dobson’s 401(k) plan. As part of his work nearly every six months, he would pack up boxes of brochures and information on the plan’s mutual funds and travel to every single one of the Baird, Kurtz and Dobson offices, with the intent to gain clients and experience.
Once, he drove from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Fort Smith, Little Rock, Bowling Green and back in one week.
“Drove—with just a box of brochures and information on the 401(k) plan and gave presentations,” he says.
He took the initiative to cold-call large clients and would visit them every three to four months to find out what they needed, and how he could earn their business.
Throughout his career, he also actively sought training from others with the values, skill sets and mindsets he knew he needed. He would take others out to lunch and learn more about them.
“I looked for people that could make me much better, and who could provide great candor on how I could be better,” he says.
One of his greatest mentors, former BKD COO Bill Kirkman, taught him the value of working for everyone’s benefit and having an overall love of the firm.
Bill was skilled at bringing great clarity and focus to confusing situations—a concept Jack holds close throughout the execution of his own work. Jack admires Bill’s ability to view problems in their most basic form, and to quickly discern what steps to take to reach a solution and capture the opportunity.
Jack believes in simplifying the complex, taking every challenge as a chance to prove his value and remaining dedicated to building and fostering relationships with his clients.
“People have this perception that the persona of the best marketer is the person who can work a room in a cocktail party,” Jack says. “In all truthfulness, many of the best marketers are the ones who can build a relationship one-on-one over a kitchen table.”
BKD Family Office
Working with BKD Family Office gives the opportunity to work with some of the most unique clients. Their concerns, often related to the transition of wealth to their children, require using more open-ended questions.
Jack describes a defining skill of successfully working in the family office niche as the ability to deal with great ambiguity. This requires the need to be nimble in his discussion and his questions.
“It’s listening and truly seeking to provide solutions to their core issues—not the symptoms,” he says.
Finding or creating a solution for a client brings the greatest feeling of satisfaction for Chris and everyone in the office.
When Chris started with BKD Family Office last December, she recalls Jack’s genuine support and encouragement.
“Jack told me ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing. BKD, the team and myself will provide you everything you need to support your endeavors—as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort too,’” she says.
The Seminar Network Family Office Summit
Jack’s most recent opportunity with BKD Family Office was to present an overview of best practices and benchmarks for the family office industry. Jack had the implied endorsement of the founding family of the Network, as he presented along with the two family estate planning attorneys from Chicago and New York City.
The opportunity was breathtaking.
The presentation was a result of more than 100 hours of preparation, two months’ worth of weekends and a whole lot of coaching and practicing. Alongside Amanda, the two created the benchmark and PowerPoint from scratch. Being the organizers’ first conference on this topic, no templates or structure was provided.
Amanda was truly excited to have the opportunity to work on such a highly visible and significant project.
“Knowing I was creating something that would be seen by some of the wealthiest families in the world was a bit intimidating—but I love a challenge,” says Amanda.
The opportunity for Jack was positively overwhelming.
“When you’re talking to highly driven, highly successful families, you have no idea how they’re going to respond to your open-ended questions—nor do you comprehend what kind of questions they’re going to throw at you,” he says.
After successfully presenting at the summit, Jack was asked by the summit organizers to present to more than 300 families of similar net worth—many with highly recognizable names—in Palm Springs in January 2019.
By understanding the importance of sincerity in his relationships, Jack continues to accomplish greater and greater opportunities.
With the right practice, training and mindset, he continues to grow. If he stopped growing once he hit mediocre, he would have limited himself and his ability to have opportunities that have far exceeded his dreams.
“I didn’t give up when I got to average,” he says. “I wanted to hone it and be exceptional.”
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