Three members of the Stromberg family operate an independent shop named after one of their forefathers.
Traci Beighle might have been a lawyer. Scott Stromberg might have been a farmer. Instead, brother and sister both stepped in when their father, Roger Stromberg, was struggling to take his brokerage business to a higher level. The trio now runs its own firm, F.O.S. Investments in Missoula, Mont., an affiliate of JWGenesis Financial Services.
But it was years in the making.
A producing manager at Piper Jaffray, Roger set up an internship program in his branch for University of Montana students in 1988. Beighle was the first to sign on. She helped Roger's sales assistant and learned about his specialty in bonds.
"He was a great mentor," Beighle says about her father. "I got to see every side of the business."
In 1992, Roger went back into full-time production, and the pace of his business increased. Beighle stepped in after graduation as a second, unregistered sales assistant. Younger brother Scott signed on to the branch's college intern program in 1995.
A year later, Roger's business was in crisis.
Roger had grown unhappy with his ability to serve clients at a wirehouse. Then, Beighle left when her husband accepted a job in a different city. Roger had trouble training a replacement. So Scott pitched in, taking a semester off to work as an unregistered sales assistant.
That Christmas, Beighle stopped by the office to see how business was going. "I didn't have to see much," she says. "I thought Roger would have a heart attack if things kept going the same way."
Beighle hopped back on board as a registered sales assistant, managing operations and client service. Scott went back to school and worked part-time managing the team's database. With business running smoothly again, Roger was ready to go independent.
To make the move work, the relationship between Roger and Beighle had to become more professional - and closer. "We felt a lot of pressure from ownership, from having to do our own back office," Roger says. "We learned she can't treat me like Dad in the office. We learned I had to listen and communicate more. I had to show I'm not always right."
Soon after the transition in 1997, Beighle became a broker-partner, specializing in marketing.
In 1999, Scott finished college and joined the team. His first love had been farming, but he couldn't see a way to make it financially feasible. This fall Scott became a broker.
The key to the family's success is that they balance each other, Beighle says. "Roger can be on the phone talking, and I can be across the room, hear if he needs something and get it to him without missing a beat," she says.
But it's tough working for a parent, Beighle says. "A lot of people say, `It must be nice, you get to go home early and get off easy.' But I'm under the microscope if something falls through. He put me through the test."
One thing that's no test now is having answers for clients concerned about estate planning. Since all three meet with clients, they are emphasizing their ability to serve multiple generations. "Recently one of our best clients asked me how she should plan her finances if she were to become incapacitated," Roger says. "She told me she wanted Traci to be her children's top adviser."
Roger's only regret: He wishes he was 20 years younger so he could enjoy the team longer. "I tell them, `I hope you're not in this career because you think I need you,'" Roger says. The truth is, that's exactly why they're in the business - but it's each other they need.
When parents and children work together, they must also work to protect the family bond, Roger Stromberg says. "The only negative of working together is that I'm constantly concerned about not damaging the relationship," he explains.
Daughter Traci Beighle shares the same anxiety. She says she and brother Scott Stromberg watch how they deal with each other. "We're best friends, and we were worried when he came on board that the relationship might [change]." But all's well in the family. They say that remembering to tread with care prevents problems.