Business strategies that stand apart

Gabriel Shahin: Expanding tax knowledge for the average individual

After working for some of the top financial services firms in the country, Gabriel Shahin (BS Busines Administration '06) went into business for himself, creating Falcon Wealth Planning in 2014. He incorporated the best practices he learned at those firms into a fee-only business model — one that avoids the conflicts of interest that beset other firms — by not selling any products or charging any commissions.

It's a formula that's working. Falcon Wealth Planning is ranked as one of the fastest-growing firms in the nation by Financial Advisor magazine. When asked about his company's phenomenal growth, Shahin also credits the firm's focus on tax-planning.

"Our tax planning niche is huge," he says. "Most financial advisors won't give tax advice. We're different. Our point of view is you can't truly advise someone if you don't understand their whole financial situation. The amount of detail we go into is unique . . . from what part of Medicare our clients should get, to how much they should put down on their home. We're more like a financial concierge. We're not selling, we're educating."

For Shahin, it's about helping average people accumulate wealth. When he's not educating his firm's clients, he's educating the public. He teaches classes on retirement planning at two Southern California universities and hosts the podcast, "More Knowledge, More Wealth."

Falcon currently has about a dozen salaried employees. Shahin's goal in the next few years is to grow that to 20 full-time advisors managing $1 billion in client assets.

Jack Wight and Carrie Dougher: Demonstrating the value of consistency

Most flagship smartphone series are updated with new releases every year. When consumers upgrade, what happens to all those used devices? Re-commerce, or "reverse commerce," is when consumers sell their used devises to be repaired, if necessary, and reused, recycled, or resold. Buyback Boss is one of the leading trade-in platforms in the industry.

Jack Wight (BS Marketing '15), the company's founder and CEO, has entrepreneurship in his DNA. At 12 years old, he started his own pet-sitting company. By the time he was in high school, he was buying, repairing, and reselling used smartphones, first just with friends and then on Craigslist.

In his first year at ASU, Wight met his future business partner and CCO, Carrie Dougher. They were actually next-door neighbors in Agave Hall, part of Barrett, The Honors College residential complex.

"It was a very good floor assignment for me. Our marketing guy was also on the same floor," shares Wight.

Soon enough, Dougher had helped Wight implement an inventory management system so Wight could scale the business faster. After graduation, Wight was able to convince Dougher to come aboard full time, and that's when things really took off for Buyback Boss.

As Wight puts it, "There were other companies doing the buyback thing. Our perspective is that just because something has been thought of doesn't mean we can't do it better. We're able to offer much higher price points for our customers' devices because we created a network of domestic and international wholesale buyers."

Adds Dougher, "I think we're the best in the industry in focusing on the customer. A lot of what we do requires trust. Our customers are sending us their device(s) before they get paid. We send out boxes with customer reviews printed right on them. Live chat, personable email campaigns, having our phone number on the site, texting our customers . . . it all makes a difference to the customer. We've explored every single channel possible to make the process easier."

Buyback Boss currently has 11 full-time staffers and is in constant hiring mode to keep up with demand. Every single employee hired to date has been an ASU graduate or student.

Meet the two-time Sun Devil 100 winner who is supporting the entrepreneurial dream one transaction at a time.