By Alison Bailin
In 2016, to the outside world, it looked like longtime Scottsdale business leader Dillan Micus had it all.
As the executive vice president of Equitable Advisors Southwest (formerly AXA Advisors Southwest), Micus led some of the brightest financial minds in the region.
“When I moved to Arizona in 2005 to take the position, I was just 29 years old, the then-youngest person in the company’s history to take on a role,” Micus says. “At the time, the regional team was struggling and among the lowest performers in the nation. Within a year, we were placing among the top 10, and by 2008 we earned the top spot in the country.”
Almost overnight, he was earning seven figures and finding solutions for clients despite the cataclysmic effects of the Great Recession. But a serious drinking problem almost ruined him.
Micus and his team continued to take the business into the stratosphere, growing from a few hundred million dollars under management to $3 billion under management. During his first 12 years in the position, Micus made community stewardship a priority as well, notably founding Weekend Jetaway, a charitable event put on by his team to collectively give back.
Over the annual event’s near-decade in Scottsdale, they raised nearly $1 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs, Elevate Phoenix, Pat Tillman Foundation, Folds of Honor and The Challenge Foundation. When not working, Micus also gave his time as a Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale board member and became a Thunderbird.
The jovial former college football star and one-time NFL recruit also spent significant time in the party scene, both locally and around the world, especially after getting a divorce in 2013.
“At the time, I just thought I was having fun,” Micus says. “Looking back, I was covering up deep wounds from my childhood.”
Given his continued outward success, it was all too easy to write off what was clearly becoming a problem for many years.
“The leadership team and I focused on recruiting, retaining and supervising the best and brightest talent on the market as well as understanding every intricacy of the processes and products that impact financial freedom, including estate planning, asset management, business continuation, qualified plans, the tax code, market conditions, client behaviors and more, and we did it well,” Micus says. “Our success also hinged on developing specialists while becoming them ourselves. Things just kept working.”
For many years, Micus was such a functional alcoholic that even many of his close friends didn’t suspect a thing.
“In my own heart, however, I knew,” Micus says.
Micus’ journey to sobriety began quietly.
“Though I didn’t tell anyone, I entered a 60-day rehab in 2016,” Micus says. “Subconsciously, I knew it wouldn’t stick.”
By the holidays, Micus was on vacation in Europe and drinking again.
“At this point, I was about 50 pounds overweight and always sick, not to mention missing work or coming in hungover often,” Micus says. “Then things came to a head.”
On June 20, 2017, Micus took his last drink.
“I was at a planning meeting in Colorado, which kicked off with me arriving seven hours late thanks to some hard partying in Vegas the night before,” Micus says.
“I remember staring at the ceiling in my room and feeling hopeless, barely able to get out of bed and dreading the thought of playing golf with my team because my wretched state would be obvious.”
Micus did make it to golf, but he could not even lift a club. Everything hurt. Everything was tired. Micus was sick and tired of it all.
“My mom lived in Colorado, so I made up a story about her being sick and needing to see her, instead calling her in tears and begging her to pick me up,” Micus says. “She came and got me, and I spilled my guts to my parents for the next several hours. The next day they got me back to Scottsdale to get real help.”
The first step was an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
“I remember pulling into the parking lot, almost leaving five times before walking in,” Micus says. “I felt like this was other people, not me. Boy was I wrong.”
Within 15 minutes in that first meeting, Micus knew he was in the right place.
“As everyone courageously shared their stories, I saw myself in them over and over,” Micus says.
The next step toward recovery came thanks to his best friend, Dodge Earnhardt.
“He took me to spend time at his family’s ranch, enveloping me with love and a support system,” Micus says. “The trip inspired me to open the ‘AA Big Book,’ which I tore through with a voracity I didn’t know I still had. Each of those things together set me on this path, preparing me for what I was always meant to do.”
Now five years sober, Micus recently left his longtime role at Equitable to launch 345 Wealth Management, a financial services firm focused on comprehensive planning as it relates to the accumulation, distribution and transfer of wealth. He leads the business with longtime colleague and dear friend Patrick Kearns.
“Pat has been with Equitable since 2001, including as vice president of the Las Vegas location for 13 years,” Micus says. “He worked closely with me in that role before moving to Scottsdale to serve as senior vice president of Equitable Advisors Southwest in 2018, where we led successfully together and now find ourselves as business partners.”
In less than six months, the firm has already grown to 16 team members and will move into its permanent location in Scottsdale this month. Micus also has a thriving division within the firm called Asset Location Planning (ALP), a tax planning strategy designed to help clients reduce their tax liability risk when it matters most so that they can do more of what they love.
“The dedicated, unwavering work that we have done to facilitate financial transactions, create systems and processes, and advise clients is what has led us to start this firm,” Micus says. “Through starting our own business, we’re realizing a dream and now we will be able to help others realize theirs, too, starting with financial freedom on their own terms.”
In addition to 345 and ALP, Micus is a life member of the Thunderbirds and working with fellow members on a new large-scale charity event in Scottsdale in December and will launch another business called FRESH in 2023.
FRESH — an acronym for Finances, Relationships, Education, Spirituality and Health — was developed by Micus in partnership with functional nutritionist and biometric expert Ashley Grimmel, who works with elite athletes including Olympians, UFC fighters, PGA players and NFL stars. The step-by-step program identifies obstacles in our lives and provides coaching to help overcome them, knowing that challenges in one area in our lives affect the others.
“It helps you maximize your potential, chase your passions and live a well-balanced life. Currently, FRESH is being piloted by a large university in the Southwest and a California-based music business,” Micus says. “Through each endeavor, my goal is to differentiate systems for financial growth but address personal and professional development in a way that has never been done before. It is the culmination of my own journey.”