Career Corner: A cross-generational friendship turned business partnership
By Felicia Holloman (3L)
Ask Larry Singleton (JD 12) and Daniel Weiss (JD 12) what they have in common, and they will list their accounting degrees from Florida State University, interest in all things business-law related and love of racquetball.
Perhaps the last thing anyone would guess is their 36-year age difference.
They met during first year orientation at UF Law, when Singleton was 59 years old and Weiss was 23. They quickly realized their commonalities, leading to a friendship that saw them to the end of law school, through numerous games of racquetball and to the beginnings of a company.
In October they formed Singleton Weiss Financial Services, Inc., a company offering corporate restructuring and financial advisory services nationwide. Although their company does not offer legal services, Singleton and Weiss expect their legal knowledge will be useful in their pursuit of customers and ultimately providing invaluable financial services.
“Our law degrees have already provided us with valuable credibility in marketing ourselves to attorneys and other business people in the restructuring industry. Attorneys especially realize the benefit of working with financial specialists who also have an understanding of bankruptcy law,” said Singleton.
Singleton’s years of experience as a financial restructuring adviser give leverage to this statement. Singleton began his career as a Certified Public Accountant for KPMG in 1972. In 1979, he was recruited to serve as tax planning director for The Charter Company, a $3 billion diversified holding company.
While working at Charter, Singleton applied in 1983 and was accepted to UF Law. However, Charter was experiencing financial stress, and Singleton was asked to delay law school to help restructure the company. This undertaking landed him as Charter’s CFO in an especially complex and successful Chapter 11 reorganization.
The Charter experience launched Singleton into a successful career as a corporate restructuring and turnaround specialist to over 18 different businesses. In the past 25 years, Singleton worked as CEO for Raytech, a $225 million manufacturer of specially engineered transmission components; CFO for Safety-Kleen, a $1.6 billion hazardous waste disposal company; and an adviser to the Central Bank of the Czech Republic, to assist the government in restructuring industrial companies in anticipation of entering the European Union.
But Singleton never lost the desire to attend law school. In 2009, Singleton enrolled in UF Law, which he believed to be “the best law school in Florida.”
While enrolled full-time at UF Law, Singleton maintained his position as CEO for Raytech. Despite the challenge, Singleton found coming back to school rewarding.
“In most classes, I was able to draw on my prior work experiences to better understand the objectives of the law course and to appreciate what the law was really trying to accomplish,” Singleton said.
After graduating from FSU, Weiss spent a year working for an accounting firm.
“My experience made me realize that I wanted to pursue something entrepreneurial and pave my own way, rather than follow a traditional path,” said Weiss.
It was clear to both Singleton and Weiss that they had a shared “entrepreneurial spirit.” After discussing their aspirations, they began to focus on business law-related classes in anticipation of starting their own company. Both men discussed their career goals with faculty members.
“I was influenced by Professor Jeff Davis from whom I took five classes. I met with Professor Davis often and discussed past restructuring experiences and new avenues of pursuit,” said Singleton. Singleton also noted that Professor Robin Davis taught him the importance of mediation in business matters.
Weiss was influenced by Professor Leslie Knight, whom he turned to for advice about his career path. “Professor Knight encouraged me to go after what made me happy, and if that meant pursuing a non-legal career, I should go for it,” said Weiss.
With the future now in sight, the two seek to expand Singleton Weiss Financial Services, Inc. both in scope and employees.
“We hope to grow Singleton Weiss into a boutique restructuring firm of approximately six to eight professionals who service multiple clients throughout the country, employing individuals with both a legal and financial background,” said Singleton.
In advising law students looking to branch away from the norm and become an entrepreneur, Weiss spoke from his own experience.
“Take the time to connect with as many people as possible and fully pursue any opportunity, no matter how small. Identify someone who has experience in the field you are interested in and don’t be afraid to target them as a partner or mentor,” said Weiss.
You may also find a life-long friend and racquetball partner.