Our Faculty

Gary Schulte, CLU

Gary Schulte, CLU

Executive Director, Financial Strategies Network

For five decades Gary Schulte has played a leading role in the financial services industry. Starting as an MDRT agent, he later built his companies leading agency. As Chief Marketing Officer at Protective Life, he built one of the industry’s most respected distribution systems. Later, as Chief Marketing Officer at Executive Life, he oversaw the most innovative distribution system and disruptive product portfolio our industry has seen before or since.

The author of four successful books on financial services, Gary is a much sought after consultant and mentor to industry leaders.

Mike Rodman, CFP, CFA

Mike Rodman, CFP, CEFA

President, Best Practices of America

Mike has been an entrepreneur for over three decades and has founded, bought, and/or sold over 15 businesses. His successful experience in the financial advisory field has given Mike a keen insight into sustainable, multi-generational wealth management.  His roots in the Exit Planning industry have not only earned him a prominent local and national reputation, but they have also fostered a new way of doing business.

Mike is one of the rare Certified Financial Planners (CFP®) in the United States who is also a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA). He is the Founder and former President of the Exit Planning Institute in San Diego.  He and his team have created a much-needed paradigm shift in the way wealth management and wealth preservation are handled for business owners. The result is Best Practices of America, LLC, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, multi-generational, wealth management organization designed for business owners and highly successful families.

Mike’s mission is to remove the complexity, guesswork, and blind spots business owners suffer from when it comes to maximizing the value of and ultimately exiting their businesses. Through Best Practices, Mike has assembled a national group of highly specialized advisors and expert associates who provide a holistic approach to wealth management and preservation for business owners, including, but not limited to, income tax planning, investment planning, estate planning, exit planning, risk management planning, and benefit planning.

As a rare, two-time member of the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies, Mike also understands the unique needs and opportunities of successful entrepreneurs, business owners and high net worth families. He has had the distinct experience of both owning and running multiple successful businesses while, at the same time, being recognized as a leading financial advisor. This combination gives him the ability to troubleshoot and provide successful solutions that give clients more financial confidence and peace of mind.

A University of Notre Dame graduate, Mike earned his CFP® designation in 1989 and his CEPA designation in 2017.  He was one of the earliest chapter Presidents for the Exit Planning Institute and is one of the 1% of CEPAs nationwide who are certified to deliver Owner Roundtables and Owner Focus Groups, both of which are peer-based coaching and learning opportunities for business owners. He is the immediate past President of the San Diego chapter of the Society of Financial Services Professionals (SFSP), is a thirty-plus year member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA) and is also the past president of the NAIFA San Diego Chapter. In addition, Mike is a member of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and other prominent industry associations.

Rao Garuda, CHFC, CLU

Rao Garuda, CHFC, CLU

Chairman Emeritus and Founder of ACA

Rao is the President of Associated Concepts Agency Inc., founded in 1978. He came from India with $7 and a scholarship to the University of Colorado to pursue his Master’s degree in engineering. Rao is also a graduate of American College from Bryn Mawr, PA. Rao has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. He is also a principal of First Financial Resources with over 120 partners located in all 50 states and he founded Financial Services Network.

Rao has more than 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. He has been a member of MDRT for the past 30 years, Top of the Table for 21 years and is also a member of the International Forum and Director of the Forum 400. His main passion in life is passing along his legacy and making a difference through teaching and training of financial planning techniques, asset protection, how to significantly reduce taxes, retirement income planning, charitable giving and estate planning.

Bob Larsen

Bob Larsen

Settlement Masters

The genesis of Settlement Masters started in 2005 when KPMG, currently a big-four accounting firm, recommended a business owner client meet with Bob Larsen because KPMG was familiar with the policy rescue analysis we perform. The business owner was the “key man” of a very successful company and it owned a $30 million insurance policy on his life. The business owner was preparing the company for sale and intended to simply surrender the policy for its current cash value of around $238,000. Bob stepped in and sought bids from the institutional trusts that acquire policies for investment purposes. The initial bid Bob received was for $3.5 million which created tremendous surprise to everyone. By the time Bob finished negotiations with the various bidding funds, the purchase price had risen to $6.5 million. The client was obviously ecstatic, and KPMG received tremendous accolades for taking the initiative to create the introduction.

Bob formally established Settlement Masters in 2008. Today, because of our reputation and experience, we can go directly to the Institutional Buyers acquiring policies which helps to obtain the maximum settlement value for you, our client.

The Settlement Masters team has, collectively, in excess of 80 years of experience in the life insurance world that we make available to each and every client.

Mike Smith, CLU

Mike Smith, CLU


Mike has been an insurance professional for over 40 years. Immediately after college, he began his career as a life insurance agent. Two years later, he helped establish one of the first independent marketing groups in the industry and worked to create an innovative Agent Owned Reinsurance Company, giving agents equity in the business they wrote. He headed up the development of Vital Signs, the industry’s leading carrier analysis tool. In 1987, he founded New West Insurance with the objective of building one of the strongest service organizations in the industry – catering to very high-end producers. From 1990 through 2005, Mike served on the Board of Directors for Elar LLC, historically the most successful producer owned reinsurance company. Elar generated over 100 million in profit for its partners. Mike is a principal with Insurance Designers of America (IDA), the largest independent national brokerage group and currently serves on its Executive Strategic Planning Committee. He consistently qualifies for the International Forum, MDRT, and Top of The Table. Mike holds a CLU designation.

John Donaldson, J.D., LL.M.

John Donaldson, J.D., LL.M.

American Bar Association

Professional Accreditation: Admitted to Bar: District of Columbia, 1976; Michigan, 1978. Courts: United States Tax Court, District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Education: University of Michigan (B.G.S. (pre-legal concentration) 1971); Wayne State University Law School (J.D. 1975); New York University Law School (LL.M. (in taxation) 1978). Member Wayne Law Review (1973-1975). Captain Field Artillery, U.S. Army Reserve (1972-1980).

Member: American Bar Association, Michigan Bar Association and District of Columbia Bar Association. Sections of Taxation, Real Property, Probate and Trust Law and Business Law of the American Bar Association. Sections of Taxation and Real Property and Probate of Michigan Bar Association.

Practice Areas: Advanced collaborative estate planning in conjunction with members of the Wealth Strategies Collaborative on a national basis, including wealth strategies designs for high net worth individuals and families involving dynasty trusts, irrevocable grantor trusts, family partnerships and limited liability companies, leveraged installment sales with private annuities and self-canceling installment notes, inter-generational split-dollar planning, preferred partnership and advanced charitable planning using charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts, private foundations (operating and on-operating) and supporting organizations.

Publications and Presentations: Contributing author, Giving: Philanthropy for Everyone, Quantum Press, LLC (2002); co-presenter (with Thom Rogers), “Advanced Planning with Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts”; “Basic and Advanced Planning with Family Limited Partnerships”, Faculty member, Esperti Peterson Institute Masters and Advanced Studies Programs; frequent presenter to various legal, accounting and financial advisor groups around the country including WealthCounsel, Hilliard Lyons, and RBC Dain Rauscher.

Harlan Accola

Harlan Accola

National Reverse Mortgage Director

Harlan Accola and his wife Brenda have lived in the Marshfield, Wisconsin area for over 30 years. They have four grown sons, Ben, Josh, Luke and Isaac and three grandchildren.

Harlan has been in the mortgage industry for over 20 years and has worked with all types of loans. His specialty and favorite has always been working amongst the 60 plus age group with over 1,000 Reverse Mortgages which has ben the most rewarding part of his career. He is now the National Reverse Mortgage Director for Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation.

His presentations will give you a very different perspective. He often asked his clients and professional partners, “If what you thought you knew about mortgages and financial planning was wrong, when would you want us to tell you?”

The goal of Harlan and Fairway is to change the way retirement is done for baby boomers in this country. There is a perfect storm and a retirement crisis that can be avoided if we properly manage the trillions of dollars in home equity.

George Thom III, ChFC, CLU

George Thom III, ChFC, CLU

FSN’s Chief Software Engineer

George is the creator the FSN Decision Process software and a graduate of Michigan State University, where he managed to play in a rock band and simultaneously be named to the Dean’s List his last eight consecutive terms. After graduation he entered the insurance and financial planning industry, soon becoming a Qualifying Member of the Million Dollar Round Table. While still in his twenties he was named the national “Agent of the Year” as the leading producer of a major life insurance company. He received his CLU and ChFC designations from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and was elected by his peers to the Board of Directors of the Greater Detroit Association of Life Underwriters.

George’s market in the Financial Planning Industry was primarily business owners and executives. George found himself working with several executives of the Masco Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, which is famed for its Delta Faucet. As a result of this work with the Masco Corporation, he was offered the position of National Sales Manager for one of Masco’s Divisions. After a one-year courtship, George accepted the position, and over a six-year period, his Division’s sales quadrupled. He was the co-developer of a Hydraulic Hose Repair Kit which won the Alex Manoogian Award as Masco’s best new industrial product of the year.

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