Business Scouts

The Edutainer Wayne von Borstel goes a little crazy, ranting and raving to keep his seminar audiences entertained. Wayne von Borstel was a farmer turned insurance agent turned financial planner when he hit upon the idea of building his business through seminars. Last year, von Borstel, who runs von Borstel & Associates, a Linsco/Private Ledger-affiliated firm, signed on over 17 of the seminar participants

The Edutainer

Wayne von Borstel goes a little crazy, ranting and raving to keep his seminar audiences entertained.

Wayne von Borstel was a farmer turned insurance agent turned financial planner when he hit upon the idea of building his business through seminars.

Last year, von Borstel, who runs von Borstel & Associates, a Linsco/Private Ledger-affiliated firm, signed on over 17 of the seminar participants as clients and identified another 40 or so as prospects.

Von Borstel, whose firm is based in The Dalles, Ore., with offices in Portland and Redmond, Wash., teaches 30 to 35 seminars annually; each 10-hour seminar is spread out over three days. Many participants hire von Borstel as an advisor after attending an optional fourth session to discuss personalized financial plans.

Von Borstel, 46, uses a turnkey seminar package from Successful Money Management Seminars (www.smms.com). “I do two seminars: Successful Money Management, which is for anyone, and Financial Strategies for a Successful Retirement, which focuses on people who are retired or four to five years away from retirement,” he says.

The classes are sponsored in part by two local chambers of commerce and two community colleges, where the meetings are held. Von Borstel pays the mailing costs, which at between $6,000 and $9,000 per seminar, represent most of his cost. He sends invitations to 15,000 to 30,000 people at a time. From one solicitation, von Borstel says, he can usually fill three separate seminars with 15 to 45 attendees each.

Attendees pay $59 to $69, depending on which program they choose. From that fee, von Borstel is reimbursed $25 for books. The chambers and colleges split the rest.

Von Borstel, who co-hosts the seminars with business partner Gretchen Stangier, purchases mailing lists from Successful Money Management. “They're selected by income, home ownership and geographic closeness to the school,” he says.

“My job is to entertain as much as educate,” says von Borstel. “Most of the people have worked a whole day, and they spend the evening with us.” His booming voice commands attention as he, in his own words, “rants and raves.” He and Gretchen “play good cop, bad cop,” he says. “I'm crazy, and she's the normal one.”

Seminar attendance actually grew as the markets plunged. “People realize they can't play it themselves,” von Borstel says. However, turning prospects into clients isn't always easy. “The reality of the market downturn is that it has made me work harder and talk more. I tell people, ‘You can't control the tide; you can only control the ship.’”

Even with the expense, von Borstel considers his strategy worthwhile. “If you find one prospect, how many hours do you have to put in before they trust you?” he says.

“I wouldn't make as much money if I wasn't doing it,” he adds. “And I don't have to beg for referrals. I don't make cold calls. I'm talking to people who want to talk to me.”

The Radio Rep

Jim Mabbott rises at 3 a.m. to host Presidential Brokerage's radio show, ‘Morning on Wall Street.’

Waking up is hard to do. However, Jim Mabbott drags himself out of bed at 3 a.m. every weekday to host a radio show designed to lure new clients to his firm, Presidential Brokerage in San Diego. Mabbott, Presidential's producing branch manager, hosts “Morning on Wall Street,” a radio show on KCEO AM 1000, from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

The call-in show has been the branch's main method of prospecting for 11 years. And since joining the firm one year ago, Mabbott, 55, has been lead host. Presidential pays for airtime and even has an in-house studio for the live show.

Leads are produced in two ways. “Every day, we start out talking about investment opportunities,” Mabbott says. “It can be a list of stocks we've screened, like bioterrorism stocks.” He has to talk generally about stocks and markets, because SEC restrictions prohibit him from recommending specific investments.

Mabbott answers callers' questions. Listeners who want more information can call a toll-free number, where they are routed to brokers who pay $300 a month for leads. “We have 100 percent participation,” he says.

The branch also promotes its own monthly seminars on air, often linking the topic to a particular show. After Mabbott interviewed a mutual fund portfolio manager about sector rotation, for example, Presidential followed the program with a seminar on the subject.

“There's no problem bringing in 50 to 100 people” per seminar, he says. Attendees pay $15 to $20 each. In tough times, Presidential schedules seminars more frequently. Investors need encouragement when stocks take a dive, Mabbot says. “People go into this mode of being a deer in the headlights,” he adds. “They can't move; can't do anything.”

The toughest part is getting out of bed in the middle of the night to develop fresh material. Preparation takes about two hours, he says. Coming up with new subjects every day requires considerable thought. “You've got to be critical to make sure the things you're saying are of interest,” he says. “We want the phones to ring. It has to be timely, interesting.”

Despite the challenges, the show gets results. “If you come to San Diego and mention the name of the firm, eight out of 10 people who are interested in the market have heard of us,” Mabbott says.

The offer to host the radio show lured Mabbott from Merrill Lynch to manage the Presidential branch. “My background is in marketing. I love promoting things.”

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