7-13-2020 – Billion-dollar business has roots in Lenoir

Posted on: July 14th, 2020 by admin

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July 13, 2020

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By Garrett Stell
gstell@newstopicnews.com

Jul 10, 2020 7:07 PM

 

For Fielding Miller, the secret to success was a change in perspective, sparked by memories and supporters from his hometown.

 

Miller, a Lenoir native and alumnus of Lenoir High School and West Caldwell High School, is the chairman and CEO of CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, a firm he co-founded in 1997 that was valued last month at $1.25 billion. CAPTRUST has offices in 21 states, more than 700 employees and clients across the nation.

 

Recently, when discussing the company’s relatively humble origins, he recalled a time when $1 billion counted among the least likely achievements in his future.

 

“We started CAPTRUST 22 years ago with a little bit of revenue and few employees,” and it was worth about $2 million, Miller said. Building that company to $1.25 billion was a “massive run. And for a C-student from Caldwell County, that’s pretty good!”

 

That type of statement — at once recognizing a colossal achievement while acknowledging less laudable origins — is typical from Miller. He doesn’t shy away from the fact that he wasn’t always the best student at East Harper Elementary School, Lenoir High or West Caldwell. But Miller said that there were teachers throughout his career who believed in him. His father and his mother, Betty Lou, who still lives in the family home on Highland Avenue, also always had time for him. That belief helped him find success.

 

He and his wife, Kim, are involved in multiple charitable efforts, including their endowment of The Miller School of Entrepreneurship at East Carolina University, their alma mater, and Hope Reins, a ranch in Raleigh that offers free equine therapy sessions to children experiencing crises.

 

But Miller’s success didn’t happen overnight, and it took a change in mindset that was triggered during his last days in Lenoir. When he left for ECU in 1979, he took a piece of his hometown with him in the form of a book — “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill — that family friend Ira Triplett gave him as a graduation present. He said the book changed his perspective entirely.

 

“It changed my attitude about what I could be, who I could be and what I could accomplish,” he said. “So I started building this confidence and I just started trying things.”

 

One of those things he tried was the newspaper business. Miller said that while he was an undergraduate, the campus newspaper, The East Carolinian, was struggling for money and in danger of going under. So Miller said he took the job as editor-in-chief, just like any business major with no journalism training or experience but a newfound self-confidence would have done.

 

An innovative advertising campaign gave the paper new life, and when Miller’s term in charge was over, he and a friend started their first business distributing an advertising booklet — the Greenville ADvantage — to more than 30,000 people. But when the local paper caught wind of the ADvantage, they were quick to move against the competition and gave Miller a taste of another important lesson in business: failure.

 

“We made really good money for a while, and then we got completely shut out,” he said. “Overnight we went from successful to out of business.”

 

But Miller sees every speed bump as a potential lesson. Now with the benefit of hindsight, he also recognizes his upbringing in Caldwell County as a critical piece of his story.

 

Going to school with the children of factory executives, middle-class families like his own and factory workers taught him how to find common ground with everyone. In his current business world, largely homogenous and dominated by white-collar types, he considers his upbringing to be invaluable.

 

“It can be a little stuffy, but I’ve got this experience of just being a regular guy and I know where I came from,” he said. “Towns like Lenoir make up the fabric of our nation. Just regular people raising families and working hard. It helps you relate to people and have compassion for people who maybe don’t have the same leg up as others.”

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