Forty Under 40 Q&A: Dixon Wallace McMakin
Investment adviser representative, Altus Wealth Management/ Independent insurance broker, Altus Risk Advisors/ Attorney, The McMakin Law Firm
Dixon Wallace McMakin wears many hats. In the work world, he serves as an investment adviser representative, an independent insurance broker and an estate, wills, trusts and notary attorney at The McMakin Law Firm. But beneath his drive and work ethic lies a playful personality that aims to make others around him feel at ease. When he’s not busy with his many work responsibilities, you’ll more than likely see him dressed as the LSU Elvis, a purple-and-gold themed version of the crooner that he has used to raise thousands of dollars for local charities.
THREE MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
I wear three different hats at the office: investments, insurance and legal. Since finishing my JD/MBA at LSU in 2013, wearing my investments hat I have been able to amass my first $1 million in assets under management in year one; wearing my insurance hat I have saved numerous clients money on their insurance by being an independent broker; and wearing my legal hat I have helped many friends and family with their estate planning needs and business needs by setting up their first wills, power of attorneys, living wills and LLC business documents. I feel so young for this award, but I realize it has been a fun adventure so far and looking forward to many years to come.
VOLUNTEER AND COMMUNITY AFFILIATIONS AND INVOLVEMENT
I am a 2015 Louisiana Bar Foundation Fellow, a 2014 graduate of the John W. Barton Leadership Development Program. I was the game day announcer for the 2014 and 2015 Blondes vs. Brunettes football game. I was the master of ceremonies at the 2014 and 2015 Tangipahoa Walk to End Alzheimer’s. I was the 56th President of Le Cercle de Bacchus. I am a monthly lector and parishioner of St. Aloysius Parish. I’ve been a member of or involved with the following: 4TheKids Baton Rouge Inc., Boys and Girls Club of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge YATs of Endymion, Forum 35 Uncorked, Baton Rouge Bar Association, Louisiana Bar Association, Catholic High School Men’s Club, Knights of Columbus, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Friends of the Louisiana State Archives, Louisiana Notary Association, Kappa Sigma Alumni, LSU Law Chancellor’s Club, Omicron Delta Kappa Alumni, Be the Match Registered Member, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, PGA Tailgate, TULIPA and Junior Achievement of Baton Rouge. You may have also seen me put on a replica 1974 Elvis Presley jumpsuit known as the “Mad Tiger” jumpsuit and become the LSU Elvis. Since getting the suit finished in the fall of 2011 I have been able to raise thousands of dollars for a lot of charities and done dozens of personal appearances to bring a little joy and excitement into people’s lives. I’ve really enjoyed my work with the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation which provides support to children that suffer from congenital heart defects.
WHAT ACTOR/ACTRESS WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
George Clooney, or closer to my age would be Miles Teller.
WHAT IS YOUR THEME SONG?
The Impossible Dream (The Quest) from the Broadway show Man of La Mancha, but I prefer Elvis’ version.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?
My first job was selling lemonade with my friends in the Country Club of Louisiana on Boulevard Louisiane in between golf holes four and five. We positioned ourselves to be able to sell to golfers and cars passing by at the same time. Taught me to be prepared, always have a product worth buying, be nice and making people smile or laugh goes a long way.
NAME ONE BOOK THAT HAS INSPIRED YOU PROFESSIONALLY.
The Bible. I love Jesus Christ more than anything or anyone, and I am very proud of my faith and spirituality. I read the Bible daily and often. My favorite passage is Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Keeps me motivated, inspired and humbled in life and in business.
WHEN YOU WERE A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?
I wanted to be a radiologist like Dr. Jacques De La Bretonne. I was always getting X-rays from breaking and spraining bones as a young kid and just loved to look at X-rays.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE FOR A BUSINESS LUNCH IN BATON ROUGE?
I enjoy the monthly lunches at Juban’s for our Forum 35 Forum Fridays, but Sullivan’s on Corporate Boulevard managed by Leo Verde is a great place.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
My greatest achievement has nothing to do with any of my business ventures but finally being open and public about my mental illness of having passive suicidal ideation. Keeping my mental illness to myself and not sharing was a burden I had placed on myself for a long time. I was really scared how others might think of me, treat me or that my family and friends would be embarrassed to be around me. The support from family, friends and even complete strangers has been phenomenal. I have become a person that others have reached out to as well, and helping them with their journey of life has humbled me greatly.
WHAT RITUAL DO YOU DO TO GET PUMPED UP BEFORE A BIG MEETING, PRESENTATION OR PITCH?
I will listen to the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” which is the introduction music that Elvis Presley used before going on stage. It has an incredible drum sequence that really gets the blood pumping. TCB Baby!
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST FULFILLING MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
With the investment side of the business everyone thinks it takes thousands or millions of dollars to invest. But it really takes just the first baby step to get going. Being a part of family and friends trusting me to help them and be on this journey of life with them to retirement has been very fulfilling. With the legal hat it has been so fulfilling to take the burden and pressure off of a young family by setting up their first last will and testament so both parents know that if something happens to them their children will be protected and safe with the proper supervision and financial security.
WHAT WAS YOUR PROFESSIONAL “AHA MOMENT?”
It happened when my dad and I were at our old favorite lunch place the Piccadilly on Government. I was the law clerk for two of the best lawyers in Baton Rouge, Mr. Lewis Unglesby and Mr. Rob Marionneaux. My dad informed me that he was merging his office with the other Altus Partners—Mickey Guidry, Ronnie Brown, Jesse Daigle, John Stewart and John Reeder. I could not pass up the opportunity to work for and with some of the best men in the financial adviser business. I sometimes miss the excitement of the legal career, but the opportunity to help family and friends each and every day and not just when they are in trouble was the “aha moment” for me. It has been incredible so far, and I think I made a great decision.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PRODUCTIVITY HACK?
Make a list each morning, write it down and highlight it off when done. Next day, start the process all over again.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN THE HARD WAY?
That once I deliver a project or new account to someone else or another company to finalize, I need to stay on top of them each day to complete the task. Even though it is out of my hands, it is still a reflection of my service to get it done as efficiently and effectively as possible.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR JOB WOULD SHOCK CUSTOMERS OR CLIENTS IF THEY KNEW ABOUT IT?
Even though we are a “paperless” office, the amount of paper it takes before we become “paperless” is a lot.
WHAT’S A WEIRD RULE AT YOUR JOB THAT YOU KNOW IS ONLY THERE BECAUSE SOMEONE WAS DUMB ENOUGH TO DO IT IN THE FIRST PLACE?
You are not allowed to send an email out with the subject line that reads “Christmas Cookies.”
MAC OR PC?
Mac for personal use and PC at the office
WHEN DO YOU TEXT AND WHEN DO YOU CALL?
All depends on getting to know the client and how they prefer to be communicated with at different times of the day.
HOW LOW WILL YOU ALLOW YOUR REMAINING BATTERY LIFE GET (IN %) BEFORE YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY ATTACK?
0%. No anxiety attack, but it rarely gets down below 25% without being near a charger.
HOW MANY UNREAD MESSAGES ARE IN YOUR INBOX RIGHT NOW?
One. People don’t read messages?
WHAT APP GETS YOU THROUGH THE DAY?
Would iTunes count as an app? I am always jamming in the car to music.
HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON?
Hopefully none but usually a few. I have the clock (my iPhone) prepared for both.
BREAKFAST AT HOME? BREAKFAST ON THE GO? BREAKFAST AT YOUR DESK? NO BREAKFAST AT ALL?
Breakfast is typically water in a Styrofoam cup with a splash of lemon. Followed by a cup of coffee once I get to the office.
IS THE GLASS HALF EMPTY OR HALF FULL? WHAT’S IN THE GLASS?
The glass is full. Water and air. Both serve their purpose.
THE SAYING IS, ‘BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.’ SPECIFICALLY, WHAT ARE YOU ‘BEING’ TO MAKE BATON ROUGE BETTER?
Inspired by the Jimmy V speech, I try to do seven things daily: think, laugh, cry, sweat, learn something new, make someone smile and pray. Do all seven and it’s one phenomenal day. I really just try to live a simple life and remind others that they are created in the likeness and image of God and he did not make any mistakes. Now we sometimes make human mistakes, but nothing we cannot overcome. People see me out and about all the time socially but would be surprised to know I am truly an introvert. I was raised to be someone that if you think there is a problem try to help improve it. I am trying to “be” someone for Baton Rouge and Louisiana that does something simple: When my time is up I hope to have left this place better and greater than when I first arrived. If I can do that in every situation, then I am “being” exactly what I think God has called me to be at this time.
WHAT’S YOUR MOTTO?
WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF PERFECT HAPPINESS?
Never truly knowing what other people are going through but having a feeling or sense they are struggling with something and just being able to put a smile on their face. Even if it is for a short moment. That is perfect happiness. Nothing beats that.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU HAD GROWN UP?
Senior year of college when I bought my first condo with help from my mom and sister. The first mortgage payment was the largest amount of money I had ever seen come out of my checking account at one time.
WHICH HISTORICAL FIGURE DO YOU MOST IDENTIFY WITH?
Elvis Aaron Presley. Everyone mostly sees me as the outgoing version as The LSU Elvis, but just like the original version I try to do a lot of things behind the scenes for charity and causes that you will never read about in the press. I prefer that version.
WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Skip Bertman. He was there the night I was born at the old Woman’s Hospital and I have admired him ever since. He is the closest person I have to a grandpa since both of my biological ones lived away growing up. I was his student worker when he was athletics director of LSU. Like he has done for most of the people he meets, he has influenced me in so many positive ways that I am a better family man and businessman for his time and effort with me. Best life advice: “Ask them to do it again.”
WHAT TRAIT DO YOU MOST DEPLORE IN OTHERS?
Dishonesty. Harder to live in a lie than just tell the truth.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
One-time purchase was the LSU Elvis jumpsuit.
WHAT TREND DO YOU REALLY WISH WOULD MAKE A COMEBACK?
A good firm handshake, not the dap thing, the slap and go or the limp hand and back slap. Reach out, look the person in the eye and give them a good firm handshake.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE JOURNEY?
Spiritually and emotionally speaking, my favorite journey has been the process of learning that the days I thought were the worst days in my life such as my parents getting divorced, losing a college election, thoughts of suicide or getting dumped, have all turned into truly the greatest blessing days of my life. Each moment and each day I have ever experienced has taught me the valuable life lesson that life continues on and forward. What you experience each and every day, good or bad, will one day be able to help someone else on their journey.
ON WHAT OCCASION DO YOU LIE?
I am brutally honest to a flaw, and I am a terrible liar. I do not remember the last time I lied. My mom and dad instilled in me that you get in more trouble if you lie than tell the truth. I have been living that way my entire life.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST REGRET?
I regret never serving my country in the military. My grandfather was a Marine in World War II. I am extremely humbled and grateful for the sacrifice all of our military personnel and veterans have played in our country’s history.
WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU HAPPIEST?
No doubt it is taking a cruise in my dad’s 1956 Cadillac Convertible with a B-Quik Dr. Pepper Icee in a Styrofoam cup, listening to Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go,” and riding up and down Perkins Road with good friends yelling “Lean in!”
WHICH TALENT OR SUPERPOWER WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE AND WHY?
I would like to fly. I could get to work without having to deal with Baton Rouge traffic and be able to explore the world.
IF YOU WORKED FOR THE CIA AND NEEDED A TOP-SECRET ALIAS, WHAT WOULD YOURS BE?
Dr. John Carpenter or Freddy Perry
WHAT’S YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
My great-grandfather Ludie Thomas Lassiter’s money clip and silver cufflinks. They are in a safe place at my house and rarely do I bring them out in public.
IF YOU COULD LIVE ANYWHERE ON THIS PLANET AND TAKE EVERYTHING THAT YOU LOVE WITH YOU, WHERE WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE AND WHY?
Houston, Mississippi. No secret I am a big Elvis Presley fan and in Houston, Mississippi is the one house built with the same blue prints as Elvis’ Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee. One day I will own that house and the 34 acres it sits on with a nice little pond. Y’all come and visit anytime.
WHAT DO YOU MOST VALUE IN YOUR FRIENDS?
My best friends have gotten to see me at the best and worst of times. I value their honesty and their never ending desire to see me become the best possible version of myself.
WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT THE ’90s?
I miss being in school at St. Aloysius and seeing my friends all the time. As you get older it gets harder to find the time to maintain relationships with old friends.
IF YOU HAD TO BE A TEACHER OF SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD YOU TEACH?
I currently teach Junior Achievement to fifth-graders at St. Aloysius with Mrs. Susan Davidson. It is amazing to be able to have a positive impact on their lives by teaching simple business practices. I also share some life advice which I think they enjoy such as which bread plate is yours at dinner, which side your name tag goes on (it is the right side) and always have an umbrella for a rainy day.
WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG?
I think a good karaoke rule to live by is never be on stage all alone—I promise you are not that good. As for a karaoke song I am lucky that my step-sister Meredith Cranch is a karaoke All-American. We once did a duet at Walk-On’s patio to Summer Loving from Grease. We are still waiting on Brandon Landry for our trophy, but it was a lot of fun to share the stage with our family peacock.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME 20 YEARS, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF?
I would be a little chubby 9-year-old kid in the third grade at St. Aloysius. I would give myself three pieces of advice: practice your penmanship, I promise you will not always be the fat kid, and when the opportunity presents itself always go ahead and kiss the girl.
WHAT USELESS PIECE OF INFORMATION WILL YOU NEVER FORGET?
“Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?” Thanks a lot, Jerry Maguire.
WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH EVERY TIME YOU THINK ABOUT IT?
Paper airplane battles with my sister Emily at Thanksgiving … as in last year, when I’m 28 and she’s 34.
WHO’S THE MOST FAMOUS CELEBRITY YOU’VE EVER MET?
Not sure if he is the most famous but I was most in awe when I got to meet and sit with Todd Graves in a suite at the Superdome to watch the LSU Tigers win their national championship in 2003. We had unlimited Raising Cane’s chicken tenders for the night and he gave me some free Raising Cane’s coupons. For a sophomore in high school that ate a Raising Cane’s box combo almost daily to meet the owner and get free chicken tenders was awesome!
WHAT’S THE NEXT CHALLENGE YOU HAVE PLANNED?
Launching of business websites for Altus Risk Advisors and The McMakin Law Firm PLLC to better serve our clients and promote our capabilities of independent insurance and setting up last will and testaments, power of attorney, living wills and notary services for young families.
WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE FOR FUTURE FORTY UNDER 40 HONOREES?
Since I will still be in this group for 10 more years, I would say that is goes along with my favorite Bible passage, Matthew 7:7. Find someone you look up to in the Baton Rouge business community or anywhere really and call them up and take them to get coffee, lunch or dinner. I have done it since high school, and I have never been turned down by anyone I have been able to get in touch with by letter or phone call. True leaders and the best business people will never tell you all of their tricks or secrets, but they will respect you for making the call and will always have your best interest in being highly successful.
DO YOU PLAN TO BE IN THE CAPITAL REGION FIVE YEARS FROM NOW? WHY OR WHY NOT?
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he states, “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of your for your progress and joy in faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” So too shall I remain in Baton Rouge.
NAME THREE THINGS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST.
My bucket list is all about thanking my family for putting up with me through all the years and being able to take them somewhere special on my dime. I want to first take my sister to a tropical island, then take my mom to Italy and trace our origins (her maiden name is Balestrino) and then take my dad to opening day at the new Yankee Stadium. Love you guys. Thanks for your support.