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Instructors’ Background Information


Tom is a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner, and a partner in the CPA firm of STOUT STUART MCGOWEN & KING, LLP in Burlington, NC. He has over 30 years experience in the public practice of accounting and in areas of audit, tax and financial planning.

A graduate of Wake Forest University, Tom is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and has received their certification as a Personal Financial Specialist and their Certificate of Educational Achievement in Tax Planning and Advising for Closely-Held Businesses. He is also a member of the NC Association of Certified Public Accountants and the Financial Planning Association, in addition to the Greensboro Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals. He is a graduate of Leadership Alamance, the Triad Leadership Network, and Leadership North Carolina.

Active in the community, Tom currently serves as Treasurer of the Old North State Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the New Leaf Society. He is also currently Board Chair of the Foundation of the First Presbyterian Church of Burlington, where he has also served as Elder, Deacon, and Treasurer. He serves on the Board of the Alamance County Community Foundation and is on the Advisory Board of the J. Spencer Love School of Business at Elon University. He is a past chair of the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce and currently serves as chair of the Economic Development Committee of the Chamber. He has been both Campaign and Board Chair of the Alamance County United Way.

Tom is married to Gail Lindley McGowen and they have four children and three grandchildren. He is an Eagle Scout, as are all three of his sons.


Lou Pierce is President of Plybon & Associates Inc, A Member Firm of M Financial, in Greensboro, NC. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and immediately began his insurance career in the actuarial department at a large southeastern insurance company. After serving as both a home office pension actuary and a regional sales manager, Lou left that position and joined Plybon & Associates in 1981.

Lou works with closely held businesses assisting individuals and business executives with their insurance and employee benefit needs. He has developed a specialty in designing and administering unique life, disability, and qualified retirement plans. He has qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table every year since 1983, has 10 Court of the Table qualifications and achieved Top of the Table status 13 times. Lou recently served as Chairman of the Top of the Table.

Lou is active in many professional and civic organizations along with numerous local and national charitable organizations. He currently serves on the board of Search Ministries and on the board of River Landing at Sandy Ridge. Lou has served on the Committee for Young Life and is the past board chairman of his local YMCA as well as the treasurer of the Greensboro Tennis Association. Lou is also involved with the Lighthouse Project, which encourages high school youth throughout the Triad.

Lou holds the Chartered Life Underwriter designation and Series 6, 22, 63 and 65 securities licenses. Lou’s professional associations include AALU, ASPPA, MDRT and NAIFA and he is also a board member of the Greensboro Chapter of the Society of FSP.

Lou and his wife, Holly, have been married for 29 years and have two sons, Brooks, 26 and Charlie, 23.


Abby Donnelly is the founder of The Leadership & Legacy Group (LLG). LLG works with business owners and CEO’s, to navigate the often complex ‘soft-side’ issues of succession planning, and collaborating with them to build the strategies and framework for a very powerful and rewarding future.

She is also a partner at Sandler Training, a franchise specializing in sales and sales management training.

Abby is a 14 year veteran of Procter & Gamble, where as a Business Manager, Executive Coach and Global Business Consultant, she led improvements in productivity, streamlined business processes, and improved leadership effectiveness.

She has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from Fortune 500 to boutique professional firms. Her greatest strength is as a Trusted Advisor to executives at small and medium-sized companies. She has a unique ability to listen deeply and get to the core of an issue, positioning her clients to make better decisions and have a more positive impact. She is skilled at providing the kind of feedback and perspective leaders need to get past their blind spots, leverage their strengths and accelerate their professional and personal success.

Abby is the internationally recognized author of Networking Works! a book and training curriculum on how to strategically build your personal and professional network. The Sandler Training franchise is the sole distributor.

Abby is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Master of Statistics. She has been featured in the Triad Business Journal and is a renowned Triad area speaker on improving performance and living your best year ever! She is a certified speaker for Vistage International, an organization of CEO’s.

Abby serves in leadership roles in Rotary, Leadership Greensboro, Community Foundation of Greensboro, and was on the 2012 NCCJ Dinner Cabinet. Abby initiated the Sandler Training Polio Fundraiser, which raised over $145,000 to immunize over 650,000 children against polio. The event was endorsed by Bill Gates Sr., and Abby was recognized with a Rotary 4 Avenues of Service Award. The model has been replicated around the country. In 2012, Abby was selected to study with best-selling author, Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine.

Abby has been happily married to her husband Jim for 23 years. They have a dog named Lexi, adopted from the Animal Shelter. Abby enjoys exercising, dining out, dancing, and reading.

Christina Johnson, JD; CONNORS MORGAN, PLLC

Christina advises businesses ranging from small start-ups to multi-national corporations. Her areas of practice are general corporate (businesses formation and restructuring, buying and selling company assets, identifying and protecting intellectual property), contracts (license agreements, professional services agreements), trademark and copyright, marketing and advertising (sweepstakes and contest promotions in print and online). She is a graduate of Trinity College (B.A.), Yale University (M.M.), and Fordham University (J.D.). Prior to moving to Greensboro, she lived overseas for many years, first as a professional musician in Paris and later practicing law in London. She has served on the boards of several local arts organizations.

Paula A. Wells, JD (formerly Sinozich); CONNORS MORGAN, PLLC

Paula practices in the field of corporate and general business law with particular attention on start-ups, business acquisitions and divestitures, shareholder and operating agreements, creditor and debtor issues, commercial leases and employment contracts.

A graduate of the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary, where she was project editor for the ABA's Administrative Law Review, she also holds a bachelor's degree from Marshall University and a master's degree from the University of Virginia, and is currently pursuing an M. Div. from Wake Forest University.

Paula is a member of the Greensboro and North Carolina Bar Associations and is licensed to practice in Maryland and Massachusetts as well as North Carolina. She has authored several articles in the American Jurisprudence 2d series, and lectures frequently on topics that concern the small business owner. Paula was elected by her peers in the profession for North Carolina Business Magazine's "Legal Elite" for 2012 in the business attorney category.

Her community work includes board positions with Crescent Rotary Club, the Woman's Professional Forum Foundation, and G.R.O.W. (Gathering Resources for Outstanding Women), of which she is a founding member. She is also an upcoming Board Member of the Greensboro Chapter of the Society of Financial Services Professionals. She co-chaired the Piedmont Business Ethics Award in the years 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Jeffrey T. Workman, JD; CONNORS MORGAN, PLLC

Jeff advises and represents businesses and their owners in the formation of corporations and limited liability companies, the purchase and sale of businesses, the preparation and negotiation of contracts, and the resolution of disputes between and within businesses. He has a wide range of litigation experience representing businesses in matters involving contracts, commercial disputes, lien enforcement, fraud and unfair trade practices claims, and leasehold interest disputes concerning defaults, constructive evictions, and guarantor liability. Jeff also counsels business owners concerning business insolvencies, restructuring and personal asset protection planning.

A native of Greensboro, Jeff holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law.