shaun hayes and doug thorpe

The Power of Choices: A Conversation with Shaun Hayes

As the host of the podcast “Leadership Powered by Common Sense,” I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Shaun Hayes, a seasoned veteran in the banking industry. Our conversation was a deep dive into Shaun’s career journey, the importance of making the right choices, and the lessons learned from his experiences.

Shaun Hayes: A Journey Through the Banking Industry

Shaun’s journey in the banking industry is nothing short of remarkable. He started from the ground up and eventually bought a bank, growing it into one of the top 100 banks in size. His career was filled with fun and crazy experiences, including carrying a typewriter in his trunk and making unconventional business deals.

However, Shaun’s journey was not without its pitfalls. He acknowledges making a mistake and poor choices that led to trouble. His story serves as a reminder that the choices we make every day can lead us down the wrong path. Shaun’s experience of justifying his actions underscores the importance of understanding how small choices can have significant consequences over time.

The Changing Landscape of Banking

Our conversation also touched on the changing landscape of banking and why we both decided to leave the industry. We discussed the importance of having a well-run bank with a good track record and the value of partnering with attorneys to mitigate legal risks.

We also delved into the gray areas of business and the need for entrepreneurs to understand the boundaries and risks involved. We emphasized the importance of having a board of directors and accountability partners to help navigate the challenges of running a business.

The Role of Diversity and Accountability in Decision-Making

In my own banking career, I found that diversity played a crucial role in decision-making. I advise entrepreneurs to surround themselves with people who think differently and hold them accountable. I also shared about the loss of my mentors and the impact it had on my business.

The 2008 Financial Crisis: A Lesson in Fear and Greed

Shaun shared his experience of making a wrong decision based on fear and greed during the 2008 financial crisis. He bought into small local banks, thinking that combining them would create scale and help him recover financially. However, this decision led him to commit a federal crime, a mistake he deeply regrets. His story emphasizes the importance of having the right people around you to prevent getting into criminal, financial, or tax trouble.

The Importance of Trustworthy Partnerships

Shaun and I agreed on the importance of surrounding yourself with trustworthy individuals who will hold you accountable in business. We discussed the dangers of ego and the need to stay uncomfortable in business. We also touched on the concept of culpable pawns, individuals who get caught up in fraudulent activities due to fear or lack of knowledge.

The Need for Controls in Business

We concluded our conversation by discussing the importance of controls and dual controls in businesses. We shared examples of companies that suffered financial losses due to a lack of controls and highlighted the risks associated with cash handling. We also discussed the importance of maintaining ethical practices and avoiding conflicts of interest.

Final Thoughts

Shaun’s journey and insights provide valuable lessons for anyone in business. His story is a stark reminder of the power of choices and the importance of accountability. As we concluded our conversation, I thanked Shaun for his insights and encouraged listeners to review the key points discussed.

Remember, surround yourself with people who think differently, hold you accountable, and always maintain ethical practices in your business.

Guest Bio:

Shaun Hayes was the cofounder and former CEO of Allegiant Bancorp, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. A Russell 2000 company, it was one of the largest publicly held bank holding companies then. Shaun started multiple successful businesses, was involved in the casino business, and bought, owned, and sold hundreds of residential and commercial properties. He is an entrepreneur, an author, a speaker, and a felon. 

After starting his first business at age 16, Shaun went on to open several other companies while in college. He was head of corporate banking for a large St. Louis bank by 26, bought his first bank at 29, and was CEO of a bank at 32. Shaun ran a public company at 35 and sold his company at age 44 for half a billion dollars. He had effectively risen to the top of the business world through hard work and innovative thinking, but his story didn’t end there. 

Five years after selling his company for an enormous profit, Shaun committed a felony. He was incarcerated for his crime eight years later. Shaun now shares what he learned from his rise and his fall—hard-won lessons that can benefit individuals, groups, and businesses. 

Shaun earned his BA/BS in finance from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and a graduate degree in banking from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at the University of Delaware. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where he enjoys reading, exercising, and watching sports. 

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Small business owners will hit an invisible wall that can stall the growth of the company. The key reason there is a wall is that owners need to shift from manager to leader. The question is, how to do that?

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