G. Brint Ryan, the oldest of four children, was born in 1964 in Big Spring, Texas. His parents married after their high school graduation and lived in a small house purchased for them by Brint's paternal grandfather. Brint's father worked the night shift at a nearby gas plant, and his mother worked part time. 'My mother was so young,' says Brint. 'She was playful and creative, and she always told me that if I worked hard enough, I could achieve anything.'
Unfortunately, both of Brint's parents struggled with alcohol abuse, which led to arguments and physical violence. As young teenagers, both Brint and his sister also began drinking. A few years later, when Brint's sister was 17, she had an accident while driving drunk; as a result, she became a paraplegic. 'That accident put a lot of pressure on my parents, and they divorced,' says Brint. 'That's when my father quit drinking, but my mother was never able to do that. Three years later, she was killed in a drunk-driving accident. After that, I decided that I had had enough. I felt I was headed down the same path as my sister and mother. I decided I wanted to go in a different direction. I have been sober since November 1990.'
Despite his troubles at home, Brint was a hard worker and a diligent student. His great-grandfather was a homesteader, and Brint helped his grandfather working on his ranch and building fences. 'There's nothing in the world that will make a college boy out of you faster than that,' he says. At the end of his senior year in high school, Brint received his acceptance to North Texas State University. At the time, he had a girlfriend who was a year behind him. The two of them decided Brint would stay in town for a year and wait for her to graduate so that they could go to college together. When Brint revealed the plan to his father, he was told he had two choices: he could go to school on time, or he could get a job at the gas plant because he wasn't going to be allowed to sit around for a year. 'I remember when I was young seeing my daddy coming home at night covered in oil and grease from his job at the gas plant,' says Brint. 'I always knew that life was not for me. I decided to go to school without my girlfriend, and that pivotal decision changed not only my life but my family's life for generations to come, because I'm convinced all the success I have today would not have happened if I hadn't moved forward right then.'
Brint's upbringing was challenging and often-times difficult. He had no role models in his life who could demonstrate to him what it took to be successful. He drove his used Buick to North Texas State with $300 in his pocket; on the way, he wondered if he had it in him to achieve. Brint took out loans and worked his way through school as a grocery bagger at Piggly Wiggly, where he eventually became the assistant night manager. Brint loved his major and proved to himself that he could achieve, graduating with a combined bachelor of science and master of business administration degree in accounting with an emphasis in taxation.
In 1989, Brint went to work for Coopers & Lybrand, now PricewaterhouseCoopers, as a public accountant. Three years later, he left the firm with his then boss and started a new firm, specializing in state and local taxes.
It wasn't long before Brint's partner asked him to buy him out for $250,000. Brint was only 29 at the time, but he saw the proposal as a great opportunity. He and his 15 employees cobbled the buyout money together, and, in 1991, Brint founded Ryan, LLC as a CPA firm. By 1997, Brint had helped to grow the company to 75 employees, added new offerings, and increased the number of clients outside of Texas. By 2010, the company had grown to 42 locations across North America and the United Kingdom and recovered nearly $1.5 billion for its clients. Today, with 75 locations, including operations in Australia, Canada, France, India, Netherlands, Portugal, and the UK, the company has annual revenues of almost $600 million and is the largest tax services firm in the world focused exclusively on business taxes.
The company has been recognized multiple times on FORTUNE's 100 Best Companies to Work For® list. In 2011, Brint was named one of Texas Monthly's 25 Most Powerful Texans. In 2017, he received the Wings of Eagles Presidential Award from the University of North Texas (UNT) for his impact on the university.
Brint has never forgotten how much his alma mater helped him to launch his career. He and his wife, Amanda, gifted the school $30 million to create the G. Brint Ryan College of Business. Brint says, 'My experience at UNT transformed me. The school took in a wide-eyed, substance-abusing 18-year-old kid from West Texas and exposed me to a world of incredible possibility. The skills and lessons I learned at UNT enabled me to build and lead a fantastic team of people to the top of the global tax services and software business. I'm thrilled to be able to share some of that success with UNT business students and faculty.'
Not only did Brint want to do something for his alma mater, he also wanted to do something for his hometown. In Big Spring, the Hotel Settles was a landmark business founded in 1930 but fell into decline and finally closed its doors in May 1980. In 2006, Brint purchased the hotel and invested $30 million to fully restore the old hotel. 'My career has given me the opportunity to give back and help revitalize my hometown, which has been very rewarding. Part of the reason I restored this hotel was a homage to my mother. She is the person who always told me I could do whatever I set my mind to if I worked hard. She was right, and today there is a ten-foot portrait of her hanging above the hotel's main staircase.'
Education turned Brint's life in a more productive, positive direction, which is why he believes it is a key ingredient for success. 'What I learned at UNT provided me with a foundation for everything I've done,' he says. 'It gave me a level of confidence to join one of the biggest public accounting firms in the world and be successful there. Education is truly the great equalizer.'
Brint agrees with his mother's philosophy that great effort reaps rewards. 'I have never been the smartest person in my schools or in my business,' he says. 'But I made a commitment to work my hardest, and I have been happy with the results of that labor. The path to the top is full of roadblocks and mistakes. I see people all the time who quit too early. If they had been more persistent, they would have been successful. So hard work, determination, commitment, and persistence are all the key ingredients. And those are the words you hear over and over from Horatio Alger Members. That is why I'm so honored to become a part of an organization that promotes my core values.'
Brint's childhood was full of turmoil and tragedy, but he moved through those challenges and came out of the chaos with love for his family. 'When I talk with young people who have had a similar background to mine, I tell them that what happened in the past may not be their responsibility, but what happens in the future is. We all have the ability to redefine ourselves. Our adversities build character, and that grit is what gives us the opportunity to move forward to a brighter future.'
Brint is quick to say that his greatest achievement is not his business but his family. He and his wife, Amanda, have been married for 24 years and have five daughters. 'We are raising our daughters to see and believe in the American Dream,' says Brint. 'I have had great success, but for me the dream continues because I'm just not done yet. That is what is wonderful about this country. We have the freedom to achieve our own version of success in life because we have the freedom to seize opportunity'and there is always opportunity.'