Whole LOTA Love

Tony Harkey

I was born in Wichita, Kansas. I grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida; Orlando, Florida; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Chicago, and New Jersey. I went to three different high schools in three different states. Most people think I was a military brat; actually, my dad was in sales and he worked for a few companies that went through mergers and acquisitions. Every time there was another merger—another management change—we got carted off to the next location.

I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee during my teen years. Probably my favorite place in the country next to Southern California. Every window of opportunity that I could find, I would take off to go hiking through the Smoky Mountains, or the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. I wanted to be a forest ranger. I wanted to live on top of a mountain and work for the National Park Service.

But my father got transferred to Chicago and then again to New Jersey. I ended up at Rutgers University majoring in journalism. When I was a kid, I was interested in advertising and I memorized jingles, but I used to think, "That's an interesting idea," but how do they know it works?” So, I took all the courses that I could find in college about performance measurement, research and cognition and perception. I eventually did an internship at NBC in New York. It was a ton of fun. That's the point where my career direction changed.

I got a job working for a big ad agency, Wells Rich Greene. The boss wrote the classic Alka-Seltzer commercials, "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is." After some time in New York, a couple of my friends from college got jobs in Southern California. I came to visit them and never went back.

I met a girl in Southern California, we got married, and we now have three boys. I went to work for Yamaha Motor Corporation, where I was the product manager for the WaveRunner product line. I've always enjoyed working on products and for businesses that have a blue ocean strategy; products that are unique in the marketplace – something that no other competitor has. They're not just competing for 2% extra market share with a bunch of other businesses, they're doing their own thing.

That was the case when I worked at Isuzu; they were among a handful of companies that made sport utility vehicles when sport utility vehicles were not even a thing. Same with E*TRADE. I went to work for E*TRADE and they became the number one place to invest online, with higher ratings and more innovative marketing than other online brokers.

Twelve years ago, I came to OTA. Again, another company on the leading edge. There's a handful of companies that have come and gone in this space, but there's never been another company like Online Trading Academy; a global network of financial education centers that exists to help people improve their financial situation and learn how to more effectively manage their money.

Growing up and living in different places all over the country was difficult when I was younger. Now, being a marketer and having direct experience living in a big city, in a small town, in the South, the Northeast, the West, and the Midwest, I have a firsthand knowledge of what life is like in all those different places. It's a good base of experience and perspective, especially as a marketer and someone who's responsible for helping our franchise owners in 40 different markets around the world. Sometimes, folks in other parts of the country say, "Well, things are different here." My belief is people are people. Yes, there are some geographic differences, but people are way more similar than they are different.

I've learned a lot of lessons in my life about a lot of different things. One of my favorite quotes is from Cael Sanderson, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist and wrestling coach from Penn State. He says, “Unless you continually work, evolve, and innovate, you’ll learn a quick and painful lesson from someone who has.”

Some health challenges over the last 2 years have taught me lessons about the things that are most important in my life, especially my family. This past year, I've invested a lot of time in my middle son, Josh. He is a wrestler who is really committed to be the best he can be, and I am really committed to helping him. This season he finished in the top 12 at the State Championships and will complete at the National High School Championships. To me, Josh is an example of the Cael Sanderson quote: hard work, the willingness to evolve, and the ability to innovate, will pay off in any situation. Whether you're talking about business, marketing, your own financial education, or whether you're talking about wrestling, it's all kind of the same thing.