Tuesdays with Corey interview with Cherish De la Cruz
Cherish De la Cruz is a 1998 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Honors Sociology from the University of Western, Ontario. Cherish earned her law degree from the University of Iowa in 2003, where among her other achievements and leadership roles, she was a member of the Journal of Corporation Law. She is licensed to practice law in both Florida (2004) and Georgia (2006).
Cherish began her legal career in the office of the Public Defender, Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida. During her tenure, she had the opportunity to try numerous bench and jury trials on behalf of her clients. These formative years in the courtroom shaped her ability to proactively navigate the probate system and prevent escalation of routine estate matters.
After relocating to Atlanta in 2006, Cherish served as Senior Counsel and Deputy Anti-Money Laundering Officer for Primerica, a publicly-traded investment and insurance company. Because of these seven years as in-house counsel for Primerica, Cherish has expertise supporting both small business and individuals with a variety of investment assets as she works collaboratively with financial advisors.
Cherish established De la Cruz Law, LLC in 2013 to help multigenerational families plan their futures. As a mother of three young children and as the daughter of aging baby boomer parents, she is both personally and professionally fluent in the complexities that arise in ensuring that family members can thrive throughout the aging process.
Community service has always been important to the De la Cruz family. Cherish currently serves as the President-Elect of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association, as Board Member for the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association Law Foundation, an Advisory Board Member for the Philippine American Center of Georgia and Philippine Chamber of Commerce. The Georgia Asian Times in 2017, named Cherish as one of the Most Influential Asian Americans in Georgia. Cherish is also a graduate of the Gwinnett Glace Program an affiliate of Leadership Gwinnett.
In addition, she is a member at Large of the Elder Law Section of the Atlanta Bar Association, the Gwinnett County Bar Association, Alpha Omicron Pi Atlanta Alumnae Chapter, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Wealth Counsel a National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys.
Intro: Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it's time for Tuesdays with Corey. Brought to you by the Long-Term Care Planning Group. Now, here's your host, Corey Rieck.
Corey Rieck: Thank you very much. Corey Rieck here on another episode of Tuesdays with Corey. Mr. Stone Payton, our producer, great to see you today, Stone.
Stone Payton: Hey, what a delight, man. This is so much fun. This is our first Tuesdays with Corey broadcasting from the Sandy Springs Innovation Center. We've moved. We've got different digs. I'm kind of liking it, though. What do you think?
Corey Rieck: It's outstanding. I mean, The Today Show doesn't have anything on you.
Stone Payton: That's right. You got all this glass. And today's episode is brought to you in part by ARC - American Reprographics Corporation. If you print with it, print on it, or simply want it printed, head on over to arcinatlanta.com or better yet, reach out and ask to speak with Mindy Godwin. You can reach her directly at 770-394-2465. Who we got with us today, man?
Corey Rieck: We've got another great guest today, Stone. Cherish De la Cruz is the founding partner of De La Cruz Law. De La Cruz Law is a life and estate planning firm specializing in new and growing families, small businesses and elder law. They understand that caring for your loved one isn't something you just do today. It's something that you choose to do every day. That's why they believe in education. And they're educating their clients through estate planning process so they can truly understand and take charge of their lives and legacy.
Corey Rieck: In working with her firm, you will no doubt find confidence and peace of mind that she is doing all she can do to help you and put your family in the best position possible. She understands that caring for your loved ones and planning isn't something you just do today. And additionally, she is actively involved in the community, serving on several boards throughout Greater Atlanta. She dedicates her time to serving and educating small businesses, families in the larger community about estate and business planning process so that they can truly take charge of their lives and legacy, and trust in their abilities to care for their loved ones. Cherish, welcome.
Cherish De la Cruz: Good morning.
Corey Rieck: It's great to have you on the show today. We appreciate the opportunity to chat with you. Why don't you introduce yourself further to the listenership here at Business RadioX and Tuesdays with Corey?
Cherish De la Cruz: Sure. Thank you, Corey, for having me. And I love the space down. It's fabulous. So, a little bit about myself. I am a mother of three. I have aging baby boomer parents. I grew up in Toronto, and I specialize in business succession planning for small businesses and also estate planning.
Corey Rieck: How did you come into that? What was the reason going to law school? I know you went to a great law school.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes.
Corey Rieck: We'll come back to that.
Cherish De la Cruz: Go Hawkeyes.
Corey Rieck: How did you decide to focus on estate planning?
Cherish De la Cruz: Like many things in my life, it was not planned. I think, you know-
Corey Rieck: So, it found you?
Cherish De la Cruz: It found me. And in my life, I've been blessed enough to have what I would call God wings - experiences that have taken me here to the place where I am right now. But my aunt, who was like my second mother, she got diagnosed with cancer, a rare form of cancer, appendix cancer when she was 51 years.
Corey Rieck: I'm sorry to hear that.
Cherish De la Cruz: And I was working in-house at Primerica. And it's an investment in insurance firm. And so, when that happened, I was devastated. Nobody in my family had ever experienced cancer. We didn't have that in our family. And that experience in helping her with that process prompted me to go into estate planning. The attorney that I was working with, although he was great, and he was nice, he was a general practitioner, but he didn't do any detailed planning and didn't really ask the questions that he needed to ask. And so, that's what made me go into estate planning. And I think that experience helps me and shapes my interactions with my clients.
Corey Rieck: Unfortunately, sometimes, experience can be a very, very powerful teacher. What I heard from there, one of the things that I think is important to consider is to engage the services of a specialist. And it's difficult to ask somebody that doesn't do something every day to do something that requires a high level of intricacy at a high level. Would you agree?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, I agree. And so, this ... you know, he came from a friend of my aunt. My aunt lived up in Wisconsin at the time. And-
Corey Rieck: Where about?
Cherish De la Cruz: Racine?
Corey Rieck: I know exactly where it is.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right. It's this sleepy little ... well, not sleepy, but it's just smaller town than Atlanta. And then, smaller than Toronto, which is where I grew up. But my aunt lived there, a very small community, general practitioner, but he didn't ask the questions. And a specialist is important, especially when you have different family dynamics. She was divorced, didn't have any children, things that a good estate planner would need to ask.
Corey Rieck: Well, there's a lot of intricacies there to do the work effectively, at least, from my perspective. I mean, even from what I do, it's very important for people to, at least, ask the questions. The client may not take the action, but I think these are things that clients aren't going to think about unless somebody is prompting them to think about that. Would you agree?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, I definitely agree. And so, with my clients, and I'm sure with you as well, Corey, it's knowing the questions to ask, and then being able to relate to them, and then explain it to the clients in a way that they can understand, and that doesn't feel invasive or uncomfortable. So, just in my experience with you, making sure that the clients can have hard conversations with you and with their loved ones.
Corey Rieck: Well, I think, we have something that we try to create in our organization, and it's creating this air of consultation and engagement. And I think the only way you do that is if you can make people comfortable, and you can get them to talk. And if they can say, "Well, Cherish, I don't understand why this is important to me. I don't understand why this should be important to protect my legacy," and just being able to get them to be candid to ask the questions. And admittedly, what we do can be awkward.
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, definitely.
Corey Rieck: It doesn't have to be uncomfortable, though. And it is something that the education on either subject is something that people need to, at least, be aware of, so they can make an educated decision. Does that make sense?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes. I mean, I think for my clients, I want to empower them to make informed decisions. And so, I have seen the consequences of not making an informed decision or not making a decision at all. And so, what are the consequences? And I like to highlight that with my clients, but through storytelling. It's not what we ... you know, I could have a seminar, I could teach all of these things, but unless you can relate it to them in a way that they can understand, and they can comprehend, and they relate to the story that you're telling, whether it's about long-term planning, or if dying without a will, or having a plan in place. It's being able to connect with that client to explain it in a way that they can understand and relate to it.
And then, having them not feel intimidated about asking a question. Some people and some estate planning attorneys, not all, but for me, it's important to have that human connection. And so, having that human connection, because I've gone through those experiences and because I've heard the stories of my clients, helps me able to relate to them better. I feel when I engage with my clients that there's this human component where we start to build a relationship, so that when things happen, and they've lost a loved one, or they've lost a family member, or mom or dad got diagnosed with cancer, that I'll be the first person that they call along with their relatives, but that they can rely on me. It's important for me to have that relationship with them.
Corey Rieck: Well, one thing that I found in my experience with you is that you're relatable.
Cherish De la Cruz: Exactly.
Corey Rieck: I think that your personal experience - good, bad or indifferent - I think can ultimately help others if you're willing to share it with them and help them. Most people that you're going to interact with are fairly intelligent.
Cherish De la Cruz: Very intelligent.
Corey Rieck: And don't need to experience the adverse circumstances that you do to learn from it. And so, from where I sit, I think that that's a tremendous service that you give them is telling them about your experience, telling them what could have been contemplated or done differently, and then helping them understand what they should do. I think that being relatable is right at the top of the list. I think you have to make something that can be cumbersome, awkward, uncomfortable, and you got to break it down into pieces so that people can figure out what to do.
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, definitely. I mean, when you're dealing with topics such as disability, or death, or long-term care, or aging parents, those are hard conversations to have with anyone. And so, to even start that conversation, I've been lucky enough and blessed enough to be able to communicate it to my clients and to other people that I'm educating in a way that is not intimidating. And it's just lessons learned. It's real-life experiences. And I never want my clients to go through things that they don't have to go through. Hard times, especially with aging parents.
Cherish De la Cruz: I just wrote this article about how my parents, God loved them, but they're in their 70s. And my sister and I had talked about having them downsize from their five bedroom, 3500-square-foot house, which was 20 something year old, to a smaller home. We knew that my parents were aging and that we needed to have that hard, difficult conversation. And it wasn't without a lot of emotional ups and downs because my mother, who's a wonderful lady, very independent, fire spirited Filipino woman refused to move. She said, "I'm going to die in this house." And I said, "Mom, let's have the conversation." But sometimes, when you're trying to have those conversations with your loved ones, it's difficult. And then, bringing up, I could explain, you know, financially why that was a good decision, all of those things, but until I could speak to her emotions and that she could come to that decision on her own, then we were able to have those hard conversations. And it involved getting my sister involved and having family conversations.
Cherish De la Cruz: So, in terms of long-term care and aging in place, what are your goals? And she needed to express to me that being close to her church was important to her, that having a sense of independence was important to her. And my dad, my dad's pretty easygoing, but he wanted a garden, or he wanted certain things that I knew that were outlets for him. So, thank God, they're all moved into their new house, which is fantastic, but it's having those conversations. It's easier said than done, but if you are able to have those difficult conversations with a third party who's been informed of those consequences, then sometimes, it's easier.
Corey Rieck: Well, and obviously you did that out of love and all that. I think downsizing just from the standpoint of a couple folks living in a house that size, just the work reduction-
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, yeah.
Corey Rieck: ... moving into a different sized home. I can relate to that because I can remember when my dad sold the place that he and mom had lived in for 35 years. My dad grew up on a farm. And so, he never throws anything away. And we had a whole barn behind the house. And I mean, it had like 1955 Schwinn bikes and snowmobiles. And I'm thinking, "Man, I'm glad he moved to a smaller house before they got ill," because it was just such a transition and such a production. And it's a lot of work. And I think the folks get to a point, and it's easy to keep going, but I think what isn't always manageable is the work that a big house and all the stuff that goes with it requires.
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, definitely, definitely.
Corey Rieck: And to me, I think, it's as I get older in my advanced age, I want less drama, not more. And I think that the less things that can affect your day on a daily basis, i.e. a smaller house and, in fact, probably a newer house for your parents, the easier things are.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, definitely. And it's simplifying. And it's having the conversation with your parents to start thinking about that because this was something in progress probably for the last three or four years. Every year, we would have this conversation. We would call it a family meeting. And it didn't have to be that formal, but it was just starting planting the seeds for anything in terms of planning. So, whether it's long-term care planning, business planning, but planting the seeds, and then starting to have the hard conversations, because the last thing that you want to do is be in a situation where you're reacting and where-.
Corey Rieck: Or you're not in a position of strength if you're doing.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right, exactly. But this is how a lot of people live. And that's fine, but you need to try to be proactive because it's less stress.
Corey Rieck: Just in.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, yes.
Corey Rieck: Plan ahead.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, plan ahead.
Corey Rieck: Less stress down the line.
Cherish De la Cruz: People will hear that, though, and until they really understand or they know somebody who has gone through that experience, they will not understand themselves. So, they have to either experience the heartache through somebody else's story or be educated on that particular topic, but it's something that planning, in general, that people push away because it's uncomfortable, it's not necessarily easy, and nobody wants to think about that because they want to think about funner things. But just knowing the consequences is important.
Corey Rieck: Well, certainly, asking questions in a way, being relatable, sharing your experience, engaging clients and just helping them. And sometimes help means that the client is fully informed, and they don't do anything. They don't take your advice, but I think, at least, they know, At least, they have the education.
Cherish De la Cruz: Definitely.
Corey Rieck: So, how does somebody that grew up in Toronto end up in Atlanta?
Cherish De la Cruz: Well, my mother ... so, this was in '93-'94. So, I was a ... in Canada, we didn't use terms like senior, but I was essentially a senior, and I was finishing up my last year in high school. And she got a new job down here. My parents were looking to live in a more warmer place. Like you know, Toronto's extremely.
Corey Rieck: That's why you succeeded there.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah, yeah. And so, my mom found a new job in Atlanta. And so, we were going to move all of our entire family there. My sister was in seventh grade. So, there's a five-year gap between us. And so, my mom got a new job, and we moved down here.
Corey Rieck: And how did you find the transition?
Cherish De la Cruz: It was challenging.
Corey Rieck: How so?
Cherish De la Cruz: I grew up in Toronto, very multi-cultural, open minded-
Corey Rieck: Cold.
Cherish De la Cruz: … very cold city. But Toronto is full of different cultures and different religions, and it's a very multicultural society. Atlanta back then was not as diverse as it is now. And so, that was a little ... it was a huge transition for me. And I grew up in a big city. So, I went to UGA for a year. And Athens, at the time, wasn't as cosmopolitan as it is now. If I go to Athens now, I'm like, "Wow, I'm in this trendy little place." It was not like that in 1994. And I know that dates me, but-.
Corey Rieck: Not like Stone and I have been dated, just for the record.
Cherish De la Cruz: But-
Corey Rieck: But thank you for bringing that up.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, yes. So, it was different, and it was a little bit of a transition for me. And not that I didn't love going to UGA because it was great. The football was great. I met wonderful friends. My best friend is in Peachtree City, I'm the godmother to Henry. And I made wonderful connections. But I also was dating my now husband at the time, and it was a long-distance relationship. So, I finished up university back up in Canada, and I came back down here in 1998.
Corey Rieck: And then, you went to one of the greatest law schools in the history of law schools.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes.
Corey Rieck: Tell us about that.
Cherish De la Cruz: So, University of Iowa. So, I was in this pre-law program called the Council for Legal Education Opportunity. And it was geared towards minority and low-income students and helping them make the transition from undergrad to law school, and just giving you ideas on what it's like to take a law school exam, to prep you. And so, I did this wonderful program. University of Iowa recruited me at the program, and I ended up going there. And they had a great international law program. And I thought that's what I wanted to do at the time. And it was the best decision for me at the time. I didn't realize how much I'd love Iowa City or the people that I met there. They were some of the most hardworking, very intelligent and just wonderful people. And it was a great law school environment. It was competitive but not intimidating. And so, the professors were wonderful. So, it was one of the best experiences I've had.
Corey Rieck: So, you were there 2001 to 2004. So, you were there the year that Brad Banks was runner up in the Heisman Trophy.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, yes.
Corey Rieck: 2002.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah.
Corey Rieck: Well, I mean, for me, it was ideal. Look, it was a great, great experience. I was there at a different time than when you were there.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah.
Corey Rieck: [When you weren't going to school, what were some of the activities you like to do there?
Cherish De la Cruz: I am a huge foodie. So, I have this ability to find people who are amazing. I'm very blessed in the relationships I have and the people I connect with. One of the ways that I connect with people is through food. And I think that has to do a lot with how I was raised. Family and food were two important things in my life. If you talk to my cousins, everything centered around family. So, whether it's at the dinner table, and we were eating great food, or it was big parties, it was all around food. And so, I would find this group of people, and we would cook. We would have like dinners. We would do law school dinners. And plus, it was a great stress relief. And we would go out to eat, went out to the bars. So, I mean, it was fun. It was a fun time.
Corey Rieck: Well, they have bars at Iowa City?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the great thing about Iowa City, everyone is like, "Iowa, there's nothing there." And I'm like, "No, it is one of the most cultural cities that small town, college towns that you will ever go to." Very diverse in terms of the experiences that you can have, and just the experience of living in Iowa City was fantastic.
Corey Rieck: Well, I think I was there in the mid-80s. Again, admittedly at a different time than you were there. Notice I didn't say older there, Stone. And so, I took my wife back there last fall for homecoming. One of my fraternity brothers, his son played on the team. And so, it was interesting, the whole experience, the whole tailgating, the whole vibe, the airliner. I mean, a lot of universities change because they have a lot more buildings there now. But certainly, I look back on my times there in the mid-80s fondly, made a lot of good friends. And so, we met several of my other fraternity brothers there. And my wife said, "Well, you guys just picked up right where you left off?" And "How come you never talk about these guys?" And I was like, "It's not what men do." Our knuckles still drag on the ground. It's not what we do. But certainly a great, great time. And all kidding aside, it's my understanding that Iowa's Law School is very, very highly regarded, very highly ranked, but I can't say enough good things about the black and gold, and especially when their football team is relevant, I really would not.
Corey Rieck: So, you had a couple of different experiences work-wise after you graduated from University of Iowa in 2004 before state planning found you. Tell us about that and what was involved with that.
Cherish De la Cruz: So, I was actually a visiting student in the last year of law school. So, I went to University of Miami. I was engaged at the time. And so, I wanted to make the transition to Florida, to South Florida, and try to find a job there. And so, right after law school, I worked at the public defender's office in-
Corey Rieck: How's your experience with that?
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, it was amazing.
Corey Rieck: How so?
Cherish De la Cruz: Again, I mean, a lot of things that happened in my life, it's just the people. It's the people and connections that I have that really shape the experiences that I have. And so, there was a class of 20 of us that were sort of like one of those law school shows that you would see on TV. We were all young, eager public defenders going through the same things. So, we would have trials together. We would go out, and we would party on the weekends, and we were learning a lot. And so, that laid the foundation of these wonderful relationships that I still have today. And so, that shaped that piece of it. But I learned a lot about trial work, working with different types of people. I would have to go to the jails. I worked as a public defender in that juvenile section. And so, working with children who didn't have the same experiences that I did growing up or the benefits or the privileges that we had. And that has really shaped me, especially since I have my own children.
Corey Rieck: And you have three kids, right?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, Emma, Sophia, and Aiden. They would be really upset if I didn't mention their names, specifically.
Corey Rieck: Ages?
Cherish De la Cruz: Emma is 12, Sophia is 9, and Aiden is 7.
Corey Rieck: I have to maybe meet them at some point.
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, you will. Don't worry.
Corey Rieck: I excel. I excel at training other people's kids.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, I've heard.
Corey Rieck: And then, feeding them copious amounts of sugar, and then giving them back to their families, and then exiting the premises.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes. Yeah.
Corey Rieck: I think my brother and sister would probably echo those sentiments. Probably a good thing they don't live here. What led you to go to Primerica then?
Cherish De la Cruz: So, we had experienced all of the hurricanes back in 2005. Yes, yes. So, it was 2005. And we knew that we wanted to ... family's very important to us. And so, my parents lived here at the time. They still live here in Atlanta. And so, we knew we wanted to be closer to family, and we knew we wanted to have children of our own. So, the free babysitters are here. So, no. And I do have a very close relationship with my parents. God love them. So, we knew that we wanted to make Atlanta our home. And so, my husband got a new job. And then, I had just randomly applied, not thinking that I would have the experience.
But that is one thing that I learned. You never know what kind of opportunities until you try. And so, this is something that I've heard from different women. I was like, "Oh, okay. Well, like, how did you make the transition from criminal defense to ... you know, I was doing securities, compliance, anti-money laundering, all of those things." And you know what? If you don't try, you'll never, ever know. And so, it was this random application with my criminal background experience. I went to the interview, and I remember because I went up to a funeral up in Toronto, and I thought the interview went well. I thought it went really, really well. And he's like ... you know, he was ... you know, the person who was interviewing me, my boss, he was pretty much saying I got the job during the interview, but I hadn't heard from him in about a month. And, of course, I was a little disappointed, but I was still applying. I hadn't taken the Georgia bar, so I wasn't licensed here yet. I'm licensed in Florida.
And then, so he randomly called me while I was in Toronto. And he's like, "I don't want you to think that we didn't want you to come on board. It took us a while." Corporations, they take a while to get the funding for the department. And so, Danny, who is my former boss, he's like, "You've got the job. Here it is." And I had to learn everything from scratch. So, I had no idea actually really what kind of job I was going into. I just-
Corey Rieck: Was that advantageous looking back?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes.
Corey Rieck: How so?
Cherish De la Cruz: In terms of you never know, you need to be prepared to do anything. And so, you know what that means? That means ... and this is true in my life. Be prepared and be open to learning. Putting yourself in uncomfortable experiences. So, I had to take my-.
Corey Rieck: It's where growth happens.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah, exactly. Of course, when I was 27, 28, I wasn't thinking of that. I was just thinking, "Oh, okay. This is just happening," but I had to take my securities licenses. So, I had my six, seven, all of those fancy numbers. I took my insurance licenses. I really invested in myself in terms of learning as much as I could. And I did that for about seven years.
Corey Rieck: And then?
Cherish De la Cruz: And then-
Corey Rieck: Estate planning found you.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes. And then, estate planning found me. And when my aunt got diagnosed, it was a shift, an evaluation of my life at that time. Meaning, what was going to bring me joy? What could I do at the end of the day where I would feel good about helping someone? I love the people at my job. They were great. It was wonderful. It was a great place to work at, but it did not give me the satisfaction that I do have today.
Corey Rieck: Was it hard to leave the known?
Cherish De la Cruz: Of course, of course. And then, for me ... and this is why no planning is so important because when I left, I did not plan. I did not. I just thought clients were going to fall into my lap, and they didn't. And so, I had to start a business from scratch. I started originally with two partners, and that ultimately dissolved. And you know what? It was a failure. It was a failure on my part. And I had never experienced failure at all up until that point, like real failure, failure where I felt like I couldn't overcome it.
Cherish De la Cruz: And I learned that, at that point, there was a juncture. And I call that like this critical point in my life where I evaluated my life and I said, "Okay, I could." To the point where I was super upset, and then I said, "You know what? What can I control in my life? What can I do to make myself feel better?" And then, I really got into personal development. I started learning about myself, what makes me tick. I started learning about other people. I saw a therapist, I saw a coach. And all of those things helped me become the person that I am today. And I'm a much ... ask my husband, he will tell you I've changed significantly in the last seven years.
Corey Rieck: I had an old coach who used to tell me, he said, "Rick, you're not as good as you think you are, and you're not as bad as they say you are. There's somewhere in the middle." And then, I had another coach that used to tell me, "You really only got to do four things. You've got to show up, tell the truth, pay attention and be unattached to results. And if you play enough games, you're going to win more than your fair share." And I think there's to managing everything else that's going on. I think you have to, at the end of the day, will be able to look in the mirror and say, "Hey, did I do everything I could do today?"
Cherish De la Cruz: Right.
Corey Rieck: And at some point, that has to be enough. And what happened yesterday doesn't necessarily have to repeat itself today - good, bad or indifferent. And I think, as one ages, you get these experiences, and I think you get more effective or hopefully more effective at putting everything in their place in terms of managing this issue, managing this stress, and so on.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right. And I think a lot of that has to do with how intentional are you in your day, in your life, in the goals that you set. And that is one thing I'm trying to teach my children is try to live your life ... I mean, of course, they don't necessarily understand the complexity of it, but opening up the seeds of, "Hey, you can be anything that you want to be, but this is how you do it," or giving them ideas. And it's just trying to shape that and being very intentional on the person I want to be to other people, in the business owner that I want to be, in the relationships that I'm in, and the people that I serve.
Corey Rieck: You strike me as someone that has a lot of gratitude.
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, I do. I do.
Corey Rieck: So, how did you come to that? And how does that come about for you?
Cherish De la Cruz: For me, a lot of it has to do with when you lose ... I mean, this all stems from the fact of losing my aunt, who is like my mother. You realize that life is fragile, and that you are never, ever ... and I was just having this wonderful conversation with my friend, Suzanne, this morning. You start to appreciate the things in your life. So, when you're sick, you appreciate your health. But why do we have to wait until we're sick. And then, it's also learning about yourself as well too. I started this experiment of getting up early last year. So, I listen to the-
Corey Rieck: The experiment is continuing.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, it is continual. Yeah, definitely. So, I listen to The Miracle Morning. And so, I decided, "Okay, I'm going to get up early," because I was living a life of reaction where I would get up, and the kids would be waking me up, which just does not ... with three children, that's not an ideal situation. And so, I started getting up early. I started doing ... this is my daily practice, I write 10 things that I'm grateful for every day. And so, now, I've tried to methodically do it where I'm like, "Oh, okay. I'm grateful for being on this show with Stone and Corey. I'm grateful for this wonderful-"
Corey Rieck: Well, you might want to reserve judgment on that. There's only 30 minutes here.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right. But just trying to because when you recognize that life is fragile, that today is not promised, what are the moments of the day where I can create joy, and be appreciative of that because I think there's a tendency, and this is an experiment for me, but there's a tendency to only be grateful when you've lost something. And so, to try to experience joy in the moments and really like, "Oh, you know, the birds are chirping." And I try to teach my children this too or if their sky looks like cotton candy, we'll look up at the sky, or did you see that cardinal today? It's those little moments that bring me so much joy.
Corey Rieck: I think, gratitude is really important. And I think it is contagious. And it's easy to say ... and I did this for a while, and I realized a couple of years ago that you can ... I used to find myself saying, "Well, I'll be happy when."
Cherish De la Cruz: Exactly.
Corey Rieck: And then, I think, I realized that, you know what if one never happens. and what if it doesn't happen the way you think it will happen? And so, you might just as well be happy with where things are at now.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right.
Corey Rieck: And have a positive outlook even when things don't look good. So, that really, personally, taught me a lot about ... what I try to do is thank two or three people right away in the morning, whether it's via email, or LinkedIn, or texting, and that has an energy that it gives off to me that-
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, definitely.
Corey Rieck: ... I can take with me throughout the entire day.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right. And I think that's the great thing. I'm very expressive. So, I will always be telling random strangers or just people, "I love that," or "I love this." And for a lawyer, that's very different than other lawyers.
Corey Rieck: It's very out of the box.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah, it's very out of the box. And so, sometimes, I find this as a compliment. Most of the time. Actually, I do find this as a compliment when people say, "You know what? You're not like any other lawyer I know." And I'm like, "That's such a compliment," because I want people to be able to relate to me. I know I'm intelligent, and I know I can communicate things in a way, complex things like trusts or business planning, but in a way that somebody understands. But they also get the personal, relatable side to me, which is great. But I appreciate that, and I appreciate the people that are in my life.
Corey Rieck: You've had some experience in terms of giving back on some boards. Why don't you tell the listenership about your role there and how that came about?
Cherish De la Cruz: So, I was president of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association, which is a wonderful board. Again, another God wink where I was just blessed to get on that board. And eventually, I became the president. So, it was what we would call working board. These are partners, general counsel, partners of big law firms, all the supposed important people, but they're important to me because of the relationships. I mean, they helped me in terms of like growing the organization, getting out there, giving back to the community. And so, our organization has grown over the years. I mean, 25 years ago, we're just a group of 10 attorneys who started this. And when I was the president, we celebrated our 25th anniversary. We had a Southeast Regional Conference.
Corey Rieck: Well, congratulations.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah.
Corey Rieck: That sounds great.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah. And we had a gala, but it's all because of the people that were involved. And so, that is close and near and dear to my heart. I was the first attorney/lawyer in our family. And so, we share very similar experiences where we are the first lawyer in our family, we come from immigrants. And so, that shared experience has shaped the way that we do business, the way that we interact with other people. And our organization, even though it's geared towards Asian American attorneys in Georgia, we have a diverse membership. So, we have African-American people, Spanish people, everybody, Caucasians. And it's great because it's the community. Community so vital to me. It's community at church, it's community at my friends, my relationships. That's what I want to build and I want to model for my children.
Corey Rieck: What did you learn from that experience that you take with you in your day-to-day activity today?
Cherish De la Cruz: How to have hard conversations. And so, of course, we're a board of working lawyers. Sometimes, we would disagree on how we would approach things.
Corey Rieck: Really?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah. And also, how to be diplomatic and to be a leader in terms of not title, but of what I can do and how I can interact with other people. And it doesn't matter ... I mean, for me, it wasn't the title. Everyone is like, "Oh, you're the president of the PABA, that's wonderful." But at the end, it's, what did we do to serve our membership, what did we do to serve the community, and how did we grow as an organization? And I also wanted people to feel warm and welcome because, sometimes, lawyer functions can be boring, but we were all about connecting. And the biggest compliment is that when somebody comes to a PABA event, they say, "That was so fun. I got to really connect with other people," and it's creating those experiences for our membership that was important to me.
Corey Rieck: Well, you do a lot of education in the Atlanta area, Gwinnett. Tell the listenership about that.
Cherish De la Cruz: Well, I am on several boards. So, I did Leadership Gwinnett, which is a wonderful organization.
Corey Rieck: How was that?
Cherish De la Cruz: It was wonderful. I mean, I had lived in Gwinnett County for the past on and off since 1994. So, my parents were in Gwinnett County. My sister was in Gwinnett County. And so, we've seen the change in demographics. We've seen the changes in the community. And I wanted to do Leadership Gwinnett because I wanted to feel as a stakeholder in the sense of my children are being raised in the public schools, I think it's important to give back to the community, my churches there. So, how could I impact that? And so, I decided to join Leadership Gwinnett, and thank God I was accepted, and I'm able to connect with the leaders in Gwinnett.
Cherish De la Cruz: And again, it goes back to the relationships. When my sister was going through a medical issue, I was able to call my colleagues and now my dear friends when I needed help with a hospital question or just different ... I was able to call on hospital administrators to get their expertise in transferring my sister from Savannah to Atlanta. And the ability to have that relationship with the leaders in community was so impactful. And I mean, just amazing in terms of like appreciating that relationship.
Corey Rieck: How do you go about getting your clients now?
Cherish De la Cruz: For me, again, it's relationships. It's building a relationship with a financial advisor, or a CPA, or other leaders in the community. And I don't do any real SEO or Facebook ads. It's really creating relationships with people.
Corey Rieck: What's the most challenging thing about what you do with your business?
Cherish De la Cruz: In terms of clients or what do you mean?
Corey Rieck: Anything, anything that comes to mind that's challenging with your business.
Cherish De la Cruz: Okay. So, my business is growing right now. So, it's finding the right people to fill the spots, but also in terms of creating an excellent experience. I can't remember the book, but so the CEO of the Ritz Carlton, it's the journey of excellence, I can't remember it. So, my word for the year is excellence. And so, it's like excellence, not perfection, because I think a lot of women I hang out with - wonderful, amazing, successful women who just, sometimes, they're very hard on themselves. And I had this issue as well too until ... and I still have this. So, I still struggle with this, but you want to be the perfect mother, you want to be the perfect attorney, you want to be the perfect businesswoman. And sometimes, you'll never achieve perfection. You can only strive for excellence. And for me, it's, in what ways can I be excellent? And so, sometimes, the stress of wanting to deliver perfection but, really, I'm trying to strive for excellence. And I want everyone, all of my clients to experience that excellence, but that doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey. And it evolves.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, it certainly is a journey. There is an evolution. I think there's one word that I certainly use and that we use in our offices, and that's intentional.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right.
Corey Rieck: What is the outcome you're trying to drive for? What are you going to do every day? What's the goal at the end of 30 days, 60 days, 90 days? And what activities are you going to execute and harness to try to get there? But every interaction that you have, you can give something to somebody. And I've read countless articles about folks that you just never know when something you say to someone is going to make their day.
Cherish De la Cruz: Oh, yes.
Corey Rieck: You never know if someone is struggling. And if you smile at them and say something kind, how it could impact their day. And I do believe that. I didn't always believe it, but I certainly do now.
Cherish De la Cruz: I agree with that philosophy because when I was doing corporate work, when I was in-house, there was no need. I pretty much did the grind. I dropped off the kids at daycare, then I would just go to work, do my work. But there was no intention behind that. There was no intentional living purposely because I didn't have to. And so, when I became an entrepreneur, I had to learn that. I had to structure my day. So, how can I bring joy in my day? And so, it's going back to living intentionally. And it can be challenging at times, but the more intentionally I live, the amazing people I attract into my life.
Corey Rieck: How do you structure your day? And how did you arrive at how you structure your day? Is there any sort of evolution that you can tell us about?
Cherish De la Cruz: Okay, I'm an excessive planner right now. So, when I was in corporate, I would always use a regular planner. And so, I plan my day that way. But when I became an entrepreneur, I had completely unstructured days. So, it was nonproductive. And I didn't realize it. And then, now, I use ... I don't know if you've ever heard of Brendon Burchard, but he's this motivational speaker, and he has this agenda. It's called the High Performance Planner. And I use that religiously. I bring it in the car with me wherever I go. I plan out with my husband, Justin. We spend probably an hour on Sundays going over everything, trying to manage, "Okay, what do we have here? What do we have in terms of business? What do we have in terms of goals that we want to accomplish with our children? What activities there are? When are we going to church?" I mean, if you look at my house, I mean, people always make fun of me, but I have calendars all over the house with different color coded systems. But because I live intentionally, and I structure my days that way, it gives me more time. So, when I say, "Okay, I'm going to be done by 5:30 today," I am done by 5:30 today because I've built in the time to do my billing, or I've built in the time to call back my clients, or to do the things that I need to do to have a successful business.
Corey Rieck: Discipline sets you free.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, it does. Of course, that's a transition. It's an evolution. And it's hard initially to start that process because you're like, "Oh, no, it's okay. I'll just get to it." And I was always of the procrastinator mindset. And then, that transitioned. I mean, I have what you would call entrepreneurial ADD where I'd be like, "Oh, shiny object, shiny object," and then-
Corey Rieck: Squirrel!
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah, exactly, squirrel. And I tend ... because I love working with entrepreneurs and small business owners, they have that tendency too, but I've learned that by trying to have self-discipline, it's easier that way.
Corey Rieck: When you're not helping your clients or giving back to your community, what sort of activities get your free time? Any free time that you might have. A total qualifier in there.
Cherish De la Cruz: I love to travel, and I love to eat. So, it's traveling. It's having new experiences with my children, whether it's going out, walking up Stone Mountain, volunteering at the food bank, the experiences where I feel like I'm giving back, or I'm at one with nature. I really enjoy that. We went to go visit our friends up in Blue Ridge, and the kids learned how to kayak. And I was like, "Oh, kayaking is fun." And I never ... so, there's always this conception of, "Well, I've never done that before. So, why should I do that now?" or "Just let the kids experience it?" But when I push myself out of my comfort zone, and I actually do it, it's an experience that I can enjoy with the children. So, now, our goal is if we do certain things, "Okay, we'll buy a kayak for the family." Never thought I'd be a kayak person.
Corey Rieck: What other things did you like? Does your husband work?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, yeah.
Corey Rieck: What does he do?
Cherish De la Cruz: He does fire protection engineering. So, he works for a national fire protection engineering firm. He's wonderful. He's super supportive. We've been together forever. But as I was talking to him this morning, we've evolved a lot as a couple. And he was there for me when I was at my very lows, very supportive, but we've evolved as a couple. And so, now, we're trying to do things intentionally. So, whether it's like I'm waking him up at 4:00 in the morning to journal, to walk, to pray the rosary, all of these things, but it's helped us in our relationship to connect with one another because the only time we really have to connect is really at 4:00 in the morning because the kids get up at 6:30, and it's just craziness at that point.
Corey Rieck: Best time of the day.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yeah, exactly. Well, I know you're an early riser too.
Corey Rieck: What's the most satisfying thing that you do on a day-to-day basis in your business?
Cherish De la Cruz: It goes back to the connection and making an impact on my clients' lives, whether or not you know. So, people, some of the people, some of my clients, they will call me when they're at their very low. If somebody is ... their father has been diagnosed with cancer, and I'm helping them through that difficult process. That brings, of course, it's a difficult process, but I've experienced that in whatever joy I can bring to them, or relief, that just feeds my soul.
Corey Rieck: Yeah. I totally get that from you. I mean, being relatable, intentional, you have the discipline. And I know you've shared your personal experience with the listenership about getting into estate planning, but was there any other jumping-off points that led you to become an entrepreneur?
Cherish De la Cruz: Just that, and then the joy that I would feel when I would connect with other entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs and small business owners, they have this attitude in this energy about them that is contagious where we will sit with other entrepreneurs. And it doesn't matter whether or not they've been in business for 25 years, or one year, or they're just starting out, there is this energy about them that is so contagious where you're brainstorming ideas, you're thinking about things. And the entrepreneurs that I surround myself with are always asking, "What can I do for you? What can I do for you? How can I help you?"
Corey Rieck: The right ones.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right, right. And so, I've been lucky enough and blessed enough to surround myself - and, of course, this has been a process - with people who bring joy to my life but who also raised the bar for me. They're very successful entrepreneurs, very successful professional women that have been my mentors and that have been just around me. And I'm so blessed to be around them. And even without saying certain things, the behavior that they're able to model, and they're impacting me in ways that they don't even know.
Corey Rieck: Yeah, I think unselfish is probably another word that I would throw in there. I think it is ... from where I sit, it's just great to be able to tell somebody, give somebody advice to help them business development-wise, to be able to say to them, "Hey, I tried this. It didn't work. Here's why it didn't work. But here are some things that did work for me, and here's why I think they worked. And it might fit for you. It may not."
Cherish De la Cruz: Right.
Corey Rieck: And I think as you go on, I mean, you build this Rolodex of high-end people that can help out, that will follow up, that will be relatable, that will help the clients, and not back them into a corner. And certainly, Stone is one of those people. He's been extremely helpful in terms of relationships and building, but there's probably 20 or 25 others that would make that list, you included. And I think there is-
Cherish De la Cruz: Thank you.
Corey Rieck: ... there's an energy, there's an unselfishness, and then there's, "Hey, how can I help you?" And they're not necessarily thinking about helping themselves; although, at some point I think when somebody helps me, I think, "How can I help this person?" And that's the way-
Cherish De la Cruz: Right, right.
Corey Rieck: It heightens the urgency to help them out.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right. And it's that contagious energy that's generated when you're with like-minded, wonderful, forward-thinking people who just share and who are givers. And I think like attracts like. And so, when you raise the level for yourself, you attract that abundance.
Corey Rieck: You've been invited on the show because you are successful, you've been favorably introduced by a former guest. There's a lot of things that set you apart. I think we've outlined discipline, being relatable, intentional. What else sets you apart in your business?
Cherish De la Cruz: I think my need and my quest for creating an efficient and excellent customer experience. I go to these conferences. I learn about myself. I learn about processes and educate myself, so that I can create that excellent customer experience for my clients. Many of my clients, like I would say 95% of my clients are busy entrepreneurs or very successful professionals. They don't want to think. They have to think about everything else. And if I could streamline or bring them a process that's easy, then I will. And if I have to research it and refine my processes, so they don't have to think about it, then I will do that. And I do do that in terms of learning about what's the best technology out there, or what is the best way that we can effectively communicate. And also, refining my communication skills. What does that mean? Are they a visual learner, or do they need a checklist? And so, really understanding human nature, developing it, and then applying it to a process. I think that I love doing stuff like that. People think I'm crazy, but I love doing that because it brings all facets of psychology but also efficiency.
Corey Rieck: Well, I think it's helpful to be around like-minded people, to think out of the box that are intentional, that have discipline, that are givers. I think you are true, like attracts like. And on that issue, I think, as I go on, I think one of the first things that I look at is if I like the person. And if I don't like the person, it's just a non-starter. I can't do it. And I am physically incapable of that. And that is what it is.
Cherish De la Cruz: Well, Corey, I'm glad you like me.
Corey Rieck: And I think, well, I don't like you, Stone. I don't know why you're laughing. Because if I don't like them, I don't have any interest in getting to know them. And if I don't know them, I'm certainly not going to trust them.
Cherish De la Cruz: Right.
Corey Rieck: So, there's like no trust. But I think one of the things that's important in building relationships with people is being able to say, "Hey, I just need you to do this, and you need to tell me what I need to do."
Cherish De la Cruz: Right.
Corey Rieck: I mean, I know that I've got a really good client when they say, "Look, I trust you. I want you to just handle this for me. What do I gotta do to get this done?" And I think, I think about going to my CPA. I've known Ben for 20 years. He knows what to do. He knows. And I just say, "Here's all my stuff. You tell me where it fits in," because I trust him. And I think when I go to the lady that cuts my hair, I've been going to her for years, and she'll say, "We're going to do the same thing?" "Yup." And then, we talk about goings on and current events. So, I think that the trust, and the familiarity, and just being able to go and not think, I think one of the ... my nephew is is very good with his hands and he builds things. And so, like I really enjoy it when he hires me, in so many words, to come over and do strong body, weak mind jobs. Like he'll say, "I got to tear out these cabinets," or "I've got to tear up the deck," or "I gotta have you move these logs or this firewood." And it's great because-
Cherish De la Cruz: Good.
Corey Rieck: ... it's brainless, and I don't have to think because he's the one that is going to be doing the building. So, I totally get that, the people that are high flyers and that are working and applying themselves for 50 to 60 hours a week don't want to think after a certain point. And I think people, if you have the right relationship, they just want to trust somebody and go, "Hey, you've got to tell me what I've got to do here. I don't know what to do. That's why I'm here talking to you."
Cherish De la Cruz: Right. And to rely on your expertise and to turn to you for resources. So, one thing that I've done with my clients and my community is whenever there's an issue, clients will call me up for anything - housecleaners, realtors. They solve my problem, and I love to do that. I love to be a giver.
Corey Rieck: The quarterback.
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes, the quarterback, and then to solve other people's problems. If I can lighten your load, it brings me joy.
Corey Rieck: Hundred percent. Well, you've certainly been a tremendous guest. And I wanted to ask you if there were some advice you could give the younger version of you, what would it be 15, 20 years ago?
Cherish De la Cruz: Take chances. Don't be afraid. In my 20s, I was fearful, and not live like a life with fear. That, you know what, everything, you can figure it out.
Corey Rieck: If there were a young lady that wanted to follow in your footsteps, what would your insight and what would your words be to that person?
Cherish De la Cruz: Look at yourself, and really evaluate yourself, and then learn about yourself. The more you learn about who you are, what makes you tick, what makes you angry, what makes you happy, the better off you will be in all aspects of your life.
Corey Rieck: Well, Cherish, you've been a great guest. Congratulations on all of your successes. I certainly have great respect for how you conduct yourself, how you get out there. If the listenership wanted to get a hold of you, how would they do it? Do you have a website?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes. So, it's www.delacruz-law.com.
Corey Rieck: Is there an email address or a phone number that they might call to set up a meeting with you to help be a benefactor of your expertise?
Cherish De la Cruz: Yes. So, 678-922-1532. And then, you can personally email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corey Rieck: Continued success. Thank you for being such a great guest on the show. And we wish you nothing but the best going forward. Thanks, Cherish.
Cherish De la Cruz: Thank you, Corey for having me on here. Thank you, Stone.