by Lisa Tramontana
At just 35 years old, Bill Peters had already achieved success. He was a bank vice president, and had just become the first person in Baton Rouge to receive the designation of CERTIFED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM. He and his wife Liz had three children and a happy home life. But he wanted more. He wanted his own company and the opportunity to use his Christian faith to help others.
With encouragement from friends and family, he left the banking business in 1982, opened Peters Wealth Advisors, and has enjoyed more than 33 years of continuous success. He gives all the credit to God.
“God is the one who gave me the tools I needed,” he said of his investment and financial planning firm. “I always knew I wanted to help people. Well, God showed me that I could do that in a way that used my financial skills. I could help someone structure a financial plan for his or her life. Other companies meet their clients and immediately start trying to sell them products. My approach has always been to talk to clients and find out what they want for their future, their happiness. That’s what guides me.”
Though some Christians feel compelled to share their beliefs within seconds of meeting a stranger, Peters says that’s never been his style. “If I have a truthful exchange with someone and I show compassion for them, I believe God will shine through me. I don’t have to announce it.”
Eight years ago, Bill’s son-in-law Dustin Dowling joined him in the business and is now the company’s CEO. The two are a good team, probably because Dustin shares a similar philosophy. “Without my faith, I would be directionless and unsatisfied,” Dustin said. “I think it’s important for Christian business owners to be open about their faith … like Bill. He has great compassion and his moral beliefs are guided by Christ. I’ve enjoyed our Christian journey together.”
Peters has earned the respect of business and community leaders in Baton Rouge, not just for his financial skills, but for his willingness to share and demonstrate his faith. Over the years, he has served on more boards than he can count. The one that is nearest and dearest to his heart is Mary Bird Perkins, where he was treated for prostate cancer several years ago, and where Liz was treated for breast cancer before she died in 2003.
Another cause that he supports is Christian education, so he is proud of his long affiliation with The Dunham School, which he helped establish. Peters is also active with Cancer Services, Baton Rouge General Foundation, Baton Rouge Rotary Club and the Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. The Prayer Breakfast is a statewide observance that takes place near the opening days of the Louisiana Legislature. It originated in 1965 as a way to seek God’s guidance for living as a community of faith.
Now in his 60s, Peters says he is grateful for many things, especially the fact that he found love again after his first wife’s passing. He and his current wife, Cherie, are avid LSU fans, attending as many home games as possible (football, baseball and basketball). They have traveled all over the world, though they plan to concentrate on U.S. destinations in the near future. They are also active in their church and enjoy spending time with their 15 grandchildren.
“Any insight or wisdom I might possess comes from God,” Peters says … “and only because I’ve been around so long.”
He encourages others to lead as good a life as possible and realize that our time on Earth is short. “Here is my advice,” Peters said. “Decide what kind of legacy you want to leave and then act on it. Whatever your passion or mission turns out to be, become vitally interested in it until your last breath … until God calls you home. Do this and you will be blessed with so many rewarding experiences in your life.”
Get the Word Out
Ways to Witness at Work
Whether you work at a bank, a restaurant or a hospital, doing a good job should not conflict with your Christian values. After all, excellence at work is just one of many ways to serve God. Just remember that many workplaces strive for diversity, so it’s important to be respectful of your co-workers regardless of their religious affiliations and moral beliefs.
If you want to witness for God, the best approach is to set a good example that others will notice.
- Have a positive attitude. People notice when someone refrains from gossip, criticism and negativity. They are drawn to those who smile, have an open heart, and tend to look on the bright side.
- Show kindness to everyone. Make it a point to be caring and thoughtful in everything you do. Be the person who always offers assistance to those who need it.
- Remember that actions speak louder than words. Your behavior is a reflection of your character. Be honest, fair, and trustworthy. Don’t just talk about being a good person. Demonstrate it.
- Be inclusive. Offer your friendship to everyone, not just other Christians. When you make an effort to get to know someone, he will likely return the favor, giving you an opportunity to share your beliefs.
- Share your faith (but not on company time). Once you’ve established a relationship with a co-worker, there will be times when it feels natural to talk about your faith. Be creative. If they show interest, invite them to coffee, lunch, or a church event so they can experience firsthand the Christian lifestyle.
- Participate in worthy causes. Join that health walk to promote awareness of cancer. Buy a candy bar to support a child’s school. Make a donation to a work-related charity.