boiler-room

The Worst Business Advice I Ever Took…

I built my practice calling total strangers. I’d moved to Los Angeles not knowing a soul except for my then girlfriend, now wife.

In my second year at Big Name Firm, I was finally getting pretty good on the phone. 100 dials, 30 contacts, 5 prospective clients, 1 meeting. Minimum. Everyday.

My goal? Grab a cup of coffee with you. 

The year was 2002. It was a grind, I won’t lie. Down 200 on the Dow was the norm. The S&P 500 was down like 13% my first month in production. And here I am, the “stockbroker” calling. People weren’t exactly thrilled hearing from another stockbroker on the phone. Some would yell at me. The others hung up as soon as they heard my company’s name. And some people did take the meeting just for a free cup of coffee.

Fortunately I wasn’t pitching hot stocks or bonds. I was talking about asset allocation and expense ratios. They were still novel concepts especially in the wake of the IPO craze, where diversification meant you owned Tech stocks AND Biotech stocks.

I’d perfected my proposition on the phone. And after two years, people with considerable assets were finally starting to listen to my silky offer of:

“Hi I’m ______ with Big Name Firm. The reason I’m calling today is because I specialize in working with people just like you (insert distinguishing characteristic of the phone list I was dialing)…”

“we can grab a cup of coffee…”

…”And worst case scenario, we shake hands and be friends with you more sure about your current situation ” or “I’ll show you where I can add value.”

“How’s that sound?”, or I’d go all assumptive on them. “So, are Tuesdays or Thursdays better for you?”

On the rough days I’d play around a bit and open with “…I specialize in helping people lose less money.”

Some would laugh. They’d all hang up.

Then one day it happened. He laughed. And he didn’t hang up. He has a couple of million invested & he’s unhappy about his situation.

So we meet. I run reports showing him the fees and underperformance, yada yada. We meet again & I report to him. We meet a third time. I answer the questions he thought of afterward.

I am about to have a 4th meeting with him. Reports still in hand. Conveniently ready with paperwork. You know, should he’d like to start today.

My manager calls me into his office and asks, “how’s it going with the prospect?” I always preferred to succinctly repeat to him, “oh, the prospective client?”  He never got it. The way he said, “prospect”, always made me feel like we were selling aluminum siding. In hindsight all of the quoting of Glengarry Glen Ross he did seems so cliche.

I said, “it’s going fine; we’ll see.” As I sat down in that faux cherry thinly backed worn 80’s print office chair (which eventually became a crappy leather chair), he said, “Here’s what you do… Lay out everything you’ve done, remind them what a great firm we are, and then tell him he has to decide if he wants to hire us or you’re moving on.”

“Lay it out there.”  he added, “We’re Big Name Firm. Act like it.”

It reeked of car salesman to me. I did it anyway.  Shocked, disappointed were the two most striking words I heard from the meeting. He walked out. At one point he said, “You sound like a different person.” I called him (quietly agonizing). He never returned my call.

I was disappointed too. Personally, I’d never want someone to push me like that either. But that’s how my manager had built his entire empire. That was the advice being handed out to the office rookies, and slurped up. Our branch managed $1.6 billion. And he went on to become the complex manager of 5 branches.

I never took his advice again– about anything.

I ran into that prospective client years later, in a better place than before. I told him I remembered what a mistake it was and the backstory. He smiled. Then we shook hands, and decided to be friends.

Source:

Asset Allocation – Wikipedia

Expense Ratios as Predictors of Mutual Fund Performance – FiveCentNickel.com

Disclosure: GDP,inc. donates funds to Wikipedia.