In half a sentence, a smooth alto voice with a hint of rasp gives away a robust sense of adventure, a deep appreciation for humor and the ability to command the respect and attention of an entire room.
Bliss Morris is the owner of First Financial Network, the nation’s first loan sales advisory firm. She started the company in 1989; she was in her late 20s with two small children and a new husband. She had no business plan, no major investment help, no college degree. Morris grew the company into a national leader that advises banks, insurance companies and the FDIC. CNBC has called her the toxic loan avenger.
Morris, now a mother of four and grandmother of one, avid traveler and civically engaged, squeezed in a chat with Oklahoma Magazine to talk about how she got where she is today.
Oklahoma Magazine: Where did you go to college?
Bliss Morris: I didn’t go to college. That surprises a lot of people. That must be why I’m such a strong believer in higher education and have not given my children any choice in the matter.
OM: When you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?
BM: I envisioned going to college and joining a sorority. I don’t think I had a picture of what I wanted to be. If I’d gone to college, I probably would have ended up in medicine. But I don’t have any regrets. I feel so fortunate to have made my way to the point I am without really expecting how it was going to unfold.
OM: What advice would you give to that little girl today?
BM: That it is very important for young women to be every bit as prepared as men. I think it’s important whatever you choose, women need to be prepared for the unexpected. A lot of people think I mean divorce, but that is not what I mean at all. My father passed away very unexpectedly when I was 14. (My mother) was 48 and was able to fall back on a career that she had left 14 or 15 years before and do very well in that career. That made a deep impression on me. The other thing would be really to have faith that things will work out. Even in dark times, keep the faith. There will always be a day when you can look back and gain a deeper understanding.
OM: Do you ever feel like your success is qualified by you being a woman? How do you feel about that?
BM: I think so. Moreso sometimes than I think. It will be sometime when someone says something to me and I think “Huh. I never really looked at it like that.” I realize that some people step back and look at me like that. I definitely think people think, “Gosh, you didn’t have a college education, how did you think of this?” People find that surprising.
I think it is really important to – and someday I really want to – mentor young girls and really let them know at the high school level or the college level that there is nothing you can’t do if you really want to, if you believe in yourself. I really believe that. It is hard sometimes, whether you are female or male. It’s one thing to say we won’t fail. It is another thing for it to not be in your being, for failure never even to occur to you. There were a lot of people who said, “Did you every worry about failing?” I didn’t even think about it. And there were probably a lot of times we were very close.