When a former branch manager at Salomon Smith Barney in Tucson, Ariz., told Linda Immerman-Stoffers two and a half years ago that she ought to consider the brokerage business, she thought he was kidding.
Immerman-Stoffers was then director of sales for the top group of radio stations in Tucson. "I wasn't looking for a change," she says.
Immerman-Stoffers was widowed in the mid-1980s and had three young daughters when she launched her career in radio. In 1989, she remarried a man who just happened to be a broker. With his two daughters, they have five children, ages 14 to 21.
"I loved what I was doing, but I wanted more flexibility with my home life," Immerman-Stoffers says. "There was no light at the end of the tunnel in radio, but ultimately there could be more flexibility in this business."
Her first thought when she considered the change was how it would affect her marriage. She discussed it with her husband, who left the decision to her. Not wanting to take advantage of his reputation, she dropped "Stoffers" from her name at interviews.
When the offer came, she went to a spa for several days of soul-searching. She drew a line down the middle of a sheet of paper, listed the pros and cons and decided to proceed.
As a financial consultant, she works as many hours as before but isn't on the road as much. Although she and her husband work in the same office, the business she is building is strictly her own.
"The only way I can distinguish myself in this business is by offering better service, which means returning calls promptly, finding answers to their questions and ultimately finding financial solutions for them," she says.
Immerman-Stoffers prospects by giving seminars for groups such as small companies, civic organizations, health clubs, women's groups and retirement communities. She directs each talk to the audience's needs.
She hasn't yet tailored her business to a specific market but has successfully targeted media people and women investors, and has some high-net-worth clients for whom she has hired portfolio managers.
What has been difficult? "I've had to make an adjustment in terms of my expectations," she says. "I'm learning to be more patient while I develop a new skill set in a new industry with new relationships. Being at the top of one field and changing directions is a humbling experience."
Although Immerman-Stoffers has been in the first or second quintile throughout her first two years of production, she acknowledges that she took a big step backward financially. Reaching her former salary will take a few years. She says, "I'm glad I made the switch, and I'm looking forward to building for the future."