No doubt about it. The biggest advantage of working as an independent rep is freedom. You can set your own schedule so you can blend work and pleasure in creative ways.
Meet reps with a passion for scuba diving, traveling and golf who have set up their businesses so they can take days or weeks off at a time to pursue these activities.
Mel Hertz's favorite place to hang out is deep underwater. That's why Honolulu is a good place for him to live and work. The rep with IFG Network Securities spends six weeks a year scuba diving. He also has a passion for skiing, hiking and adventure travel. In total, Hertz takes off at least 10 weeks a year. I'm never gone for more than three weeks at a crack, he says.
My goal in the next nine years is to be gone half the year, Hertz says. Every year, I add another week.
He says he can enjoy a heavy vacation schedule because he learned how to organize his time through The Strategic Coach Program by Dan Sullivan. The main lesson: Hertz plans his free time at the beginning of the year and works around it. It's my life that I'm living, not business.
From the beginning, Hertz is upfront with prospects about his travel schedule. I've only had two who have said they would rather not use me, he says.
It also helps that Hertz's focus is on financial planning and managed money. It gives me freedom, he says. He chooses money managers for larger clients and uses mutual funds for smaller ones. With his asset base nearing $70 million, he follows modern portfolio theory, applying asset allocation and diversification principles.
Hertz hasn't pared his client roster to vacation more, but he does have a $100,000 account minimum. I'm not taking smaller clients any longer, he says. He is, however, still looking to build his business. He has 80 active clients and 150 total.
If clients need money or have questions while he's gone, they can contact his full-time, salaried assistant, Pam Lesch. You have to have someone there to keep things on an even keel, Hertz advises. She's capable of doing anything and everything for clients except selling.
If that's the need, then there's another broker in the branch, Geoff Seymour, who can help. If something comes up that has to get handled, he does it, says Hertz, who supervises Seymour as the branch manager. The two are not formally partnered, but help each other when necessary.
Hertz likes a balance between work and play. I'll probably never retire as long as I can work 26 weeks a year, he says. I plan to live to 120.
Traveling the World
Frank Gleberman is a globetrotter. He travels internationally 15 to 18 weeks a year.
A 38-year brokerage veteran, Gleberman has racked up an impressive number of stamps in his passport over more than 20 years of traveling.
Where does the Marina del Rey, Calif.-based rep go? There are several places I enjoy the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and the Eastern Mediterranean including Turkey and Greece, Gleberman says. I pick out one new place a year. I have gone to 100 countries.
As a principal with The Century Benefits Group, which is affiliated with Jefferson Pilot Securities, Gleberman tries to pass his travel bug on. Using fliers and e-mails, he invites most of his 380 clients on these trips, and usually travels with 30 to 60 people. Half are clients, he says. The rest are friends from the yacht club and athletic club. When we come back, a few become clients.
The trips are typically two weeks, but some stretch longer. It's rare that we go for four weeks, he says. Even with e-mail and a cell phone, you still need to be in touch.
Working with managed money, predominantly mutual funds, Gleberman does little individual stock trading. He has a partner based in West Los Angeles, Jack Gregory, who handles his clients while he's traveling. Gregory is the district manager for Jefferson Pilot Securities. Their arrangement isn't formal and doesn't involve fee sharing. We're just doing it because we've been friends for ages, Gleberman says.
And to make his business even more manageable, he's planning to shed some accounts by giving them away to other planners. He has 250 insurance clients and 130 investment clients, but is aiming to trim out 20% of them. He will pass along clients based on the complexity of their accounts, not revenue.
Gleberman has no complaints about his lifestyle. In about seven to eight years, I'll probably be working half time, he says. I'll be 70 in seven years. I don't need to work. I do it because I enjoy it.
Leading a Double Life
Some brokers divide their time between their office location and a second home. Doug Hesse and Jarratt Bennett are two examples.
Hesse runs Hesse Financial Advisors, a Securities Service Network firm in Roswell, Ga., and shuttles 100 miles to his house in Lake Oconee, Ga.
Bennett heads Bennett Financial Advisors, an IFG Network Securities firm in Fairfax, Va., and regularly makes the three-hour drive to his second home in Ocean Pines, Md., near Ocean City.
Hesse's pattern is to spend 4 days in Roswell and 9 days at the lake house. When he's at the lake, he works for a few hours in the morning using PC Anywhere technology, which connects him to his office computer. After that, Hesse, an avid golfer, hits the links.
I have a wonderful staff, which allows me to play golf, he says. The staff includes Robert Fezza, CFP, who does financial plans, and Barbara Field, his multitalented client service rep for 14 years. She does whatever the client needs, he says. Jan Ingersoll is a full-time administrative assistant and Sharon Lynn helps part-time.
While golfing is his main pleasure, Hesse sometimes mixes in business by inviting clients for a round. I have earned a substantial amount of money by playing golf, he says. Hesse Financial Advisors has $180 million in assets under management.
Bennett also credits his excellent staff for keeping his office humming. Sarah Murphy, his licensed assistant for 11 years, runs the office and delegates to Judy Garber, who does administrative work, and Dana Wozny, who does marketing. All receive a salary plus a bonus.
After working in the Fairfax office Tuesday, Wednesday and half of Thursday, Bennett drives to Ocean Pines and stays until Monday afternoon. I go boating, play golf, write music, read, write and travel around with my wife, he says.
It's not all play, though. He has 40 to 50 clients in Ocean City and writes a newspaper column there.
Running a managed money business, Bennett has about 350 clients and hasn't pared back to accommodate his lifestyle. I haven't found a reason to do it, he says. I'm adding clients almost continuously. It's a nice problem to have.
Another interesting twist: As an eventual exit strategy, both brokers sold their businesses and now are employees of the purchasers. Hesse sold to Centurian Capital Management in La Jolla, Calif., and Bennett sold to Reliance Trust Co. in Atlanta.
They made the decision to sell for the same motive they wanted an exit strategy if they needed it for health reasons. Bennett's contract says he can stay on indefinitely, while Hesse's contract requires him to work a minimum of three years and as long as he wants after that.
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- Use time management techniques taught by The Strategic Coach (www.strategiccoach.com; 800/387-3206).
- Maintain a $100,000 account minimum.
- Employ a self-reliant, skilled assistant.
- Invite clients to go along when you travel.
- Partner informally with another broker outside the office.
- Shed clients when your book grows or when they don't fit your business.
- Hire and train a complete staff, including other brokers and assistants.
- Build business in another resort-style destination and see clients there.
- Sell the business to a consolidation firm, and then work as an employee.