Growing up, one of Rachel Barzilay’s earliest memories of the business was watching her mother and father go out to dinner and asking her father Arthur if they were dining with friends or clients. He answered, “Both.” “I thought that was the coolest thing ever and knew I wanted to do something where I could work with my friends, too,” Barzilay says.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Barzilay entered Merrill’s Practice Management Development training program in 2008. Working under her dad, Barzilay thought of him more as a mentor and manager in the office. “But also the advantage to having him as my dad is that I could call him at night or on the weekend and ask him questions. No question is a stupid question if it’s your family, so I get the best of both worlds there,” she says.
Barzilay also credits her early success to having an experienced team behind her, helping to manage the approximately 60 client relationships. “I struggle to think how people can do it on their own,” Barzilay says, crediting senior client associates Liza Reis and Charlene Rice with helping smooth the way with older clients.
Much of the Barzilay’s growth has come through referrals, but in the beginning, she says it was a struggle at times to overcome her lack of experience with clients. “Experience matters. It’s hard for someone who is 50, 60 or 70 and has seen more of the markets, certainly more than I have, to trust you,” she notes.
But many clients were very receptive to Barzilay joining the team. “It’s interesting, because a lot of them had watched me grow up, so they truly knew my age,” she says. Additionally, only about a third of the team’s clients are local, so much of the business is conducted over the phone, which, she suggests, lessens the focus on the age gap. “It’s more of an intellectual, emotional conversation, and I think people are able to get over the fact that I’m young much quicker,” she explains.
Barzilay participates in the community through business networking organizations and nonprofits. Although she acknowledges that it’s a “much slower path” to growth, working on community projects gives her opportunities to meet potential clients. “You find nice people who are generous and give back and those are the people I want to associate myself with,” Barzilay says.