Follow the leaders: Richard Ashton
Rapidly rising stock
Helping XTO Energy close the $1.1 billion Chevron-Texaco acquisition might be the crowning achievement of most careers. But probably not Richard Ashton's. When he was part of the deal-closing team, his career was just starting. In fact, he was still a UT Arlington student.
No surprise for someone who immersed himself in business early on, helping his mother manage the books for his father's oil and gas well servicing company near Wichita Falls.
"I learned a lot from my father," said Ashton, who earned a bachelor of business administration honors degree in accounting in December 2005. "He had an amazing work ethic and was so passionate about being fair and honest that he would often take a loss just to make sure his customers were treated right. And if there's one thing that you learn in the Goolsby Leadership Academy, it is to have a passion for something."
Ashton's passion helped him become principal accounting officer and vice president of energy for One Prime, a diversified real estate company in Grand Prairie. The firm primarily builds tax-credit apartment communities with programs that offer residents support in financing, mentoring, counseling and education.
Ashton, 22, joined One Prime in February 2006 after being contacted by a former UT Arlington classmate whose father was just getting the company off the ground.
"I became interested in some of the amazing transactions this company was producing," he said. "And because it was growing so fast and selling so many deals, there was a definite need for someone to come in.
"I approve financials that are exclusive to the real estate industry—but even more exclusive to multifamily dwellings that are developed under these certain tax-credit guidelines. So not a lot, if any, of this stuff is taught in the classroom."
Ashton cites the Goolsby beyond-the-textbook approach for helping prepare him for the challenge. "Richard connects well with people," said James Campbell Quick, the John and Judy Goolsby Distinguished Professor in the Goolsby Leadership Academy. "Clearly, his work at XTO was extraordinary as far as the insight into the financials, accounting systems and efficiencies. I expect him to be a very successful entrepreneurial leader."
Being the PAO for a groundbreaking real estate company isn't what Ashton originally envisioned. "I thought I would be a big-time stockbroker living in New York. It just looked so cool on TV."
So while still in high school, he took his résumé to every bank and stockbroker in Wichita Falls, leading to an internship at Merrill Lynch. There, he started his business career doing office work for a small financial group that had just been formed inside the firm.
As he prepared to enter college, the team expanded and hired him to work at a new office in Dallas. At the same time, he started to realize that being a stockbroker might not be what he wanted.
"It's sales. It's marketing. And honestly, I'm not a good salesman."
His career path started to change after attending a UT Arlington career fair his freshman year. "I met a representative for XTO Energy, and I remember thinking this company seemed so out of place. It was the only oil and gas company there."
It was the familiarity with his father's business that prompted Ashton to drop off his résumé. A month later, he accepted an internship in the company's accounting department.
The pressure of going to school, interning at XTO and working at Smith Barney became too much. Soon he cut back his time at the brokerage firm.
Meanwhile, his stock as an employee continued to rise at XTO. He was hired full time and eventually joined the acquisition team that closed the Chevron-Texaco deal.
But despite his fast-track career path, Ashton was missing something.
"I had this entrepreneurial spirit, and I really wanted to build something big and make a real impact, which is one of the Goolsby slogans—impact. And I was missing that piece."
He says he found it at One Prime.
"It's the giving back that helps our company, our marketing and our success," he said. "So I am a part of helping people out, providing services to people who need help and making that impact."
— Susan M. Slupecki