Mariane Miller, Salomon Smith Barney
My schedule in New York is monstrous. In Florida, I work at a more leisurely pace, says Mariane Miller, vice president, investments, Salomon Smith Barney. Health reasons won her permission from the firm to join the snowbirds who leave New York for Palm Beach, Fla., where she and her husband go in the winter.
I started going for one month. One became two, and two became three, Miller says. She has had an office in Florida for the past five years.
She admits to having mixed feelings about leaving her Park Avenue digs: I miss the networking, the noise, the people. Yet I always look forward to the people Ill be seeing in Florida. Many of her Floridian clients are people she first worked with in New York.
She has never tracked what percentage of her clients are in Florida. Although some are retired, a number of them work there for part of the year at occupations that range from computer experts to wine connoisseurs, Miller says.
Personal contact with clients has always been an important part of Millers business, which entails placing clients in long-term investments and doing estate planning. In New York, meetings are usually at breakfast time, which is always rushed. In Florida, she meets clients for a leisurely lunch or perhaps a drink at sunset. I usually choose a restaurant with a view, she adds.
Sometimes Miller drives with a client to watch a polo match. Other times she invites people to the pool at her condo complex, which is right on the ocean. A tranquil setting, she believes, is more conducive to productive discussions with clients. You see a different side of people in a different geographic location, she adds.
Miller maintains an office in her Florida condo with a once-a-week helper who does filing. In the past, clients reached her with an 800 number that rings in New York. But beginning last year, she added another toll free number that rings in Florida. She has three phone lines. Everything she needs is on one computer.
Once she goes south, she usually stays until mid-April. She prefers to fly there and drive back. Coming back, she stops in Georgia to shop and in other states to visit clients. This year, she tried to leave early in December, but her accounts kept her so busy she couldnt leave until Christmas Day and then the only option was to travel by train.
Millers husband took an early retirement and wanted her to do the same. She hasnt. I love the business too much to retire, she says. Most her new business comes from referrals these days, and she says there is an obvious advantage of opening an office in a new location. Its great way to expand your business!