Michael McNamara, McNamara Financial Services

Firm: Commonwealth Financial Network

City: Marshfield, Mass.

Established: 1987

AUM: $306 million

Number of Clients: 500

Education: Tufts, Boston College

After graduating from college, putting in three years as a stockbroker with Prudential and one year with the real-estate investment firm First Winter Corp., Michael McNamara decided he was looking for something different. “I wanted to be able to talk to people, help them out and make some money at the same time — but not feel like a salesperson,” he says. So, when he left Prudential, McNamara divided his book up between seven friends and started from scratch with his own firm, signing on with Commonwealth. He's been with Commonwealth now for 27 years.

McNamara Financial Services is a full-service financial consulting firm serving 1,300 households and over 500 active clients in Boston's South Shore area. The McNamara team consists of his son Justin, daughter Alyssa and his daughter's fiancé, Kirk. Both Justin and Alyssa started working at the firm after college while trying to figure out what they wanted to do. Ultimately they found that they liked the business, and decided to stay put.

The kids are like a built-in succession plan, and he's grooming them to eventually take over the firm, McNamara says. Although McNamara runs the ship and directly manages most client relationships, he takes off two days a week, letting his children take the reins when he's out. Over the next couple of years, Justin (who runs the money), Alyssa (who runs the office management and helps with insurance work) and Kirk (who works on the operations side of the business), are going to learn all aspects of the business and play musical chairs with their jobs, he says.

The firm doesn't have any asset minimums, but McNamara says the ideal client has between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Most of them are either retired, or no more than five years away from retirement. “We work with regular people who need help to retire and get their kids through college,” he says. A lot of these regular folks have been with the firm for 10 years or more. “If your clients trust you, if they like you and if they think you're pretty smart, that's all you need. My goal is to have all my clients say that about me.”

The business is in growth mode: It expanded facilities about a year ago, and bulked up on technology and staff through Commonwealth. How did it get to where it is today? “The answer is one client at a time,” McNamara says. “Right now about 70 percent of new clients come from referrals; the other 30 percent come from a radio show I did for the last 17 years. Literally, we probably have a prospect a week call in and want to talk to us from the radio show. Never mind the referrals. It took a long time to do that.”