We consistently spent a lot of time in continuing education and we learned how to manage money in all kinds of markets.
Roger Smedley
The Firm: Smedley Financial Services Inc.,
Salt Lake City
Principal: Roger Smedley
B/D Affiliation: Securities America
Year of Independence: 1983
Assets Under Management: $128 million

What's unusual about me is how I got to be a financial planner, how I got the money to start the business, how I got my first customers and how we found our very lucrative niche in the vast financial world.

I never worked in a wirehouse. I've been an independent financial advisor since June 4, 1982, the day I got the notice that the SEC had registered me. And I started this company on April 7, 1983.

What'd I do before that? First, I worked for the Postal Service, which is like a nonprofit organization, a government entity. Then I finished my MBA and went to work for a credit union, another nonprofit, where I was an internal auditor for 16 months. Then I went to a publicly held company, a computer corporation. I stayed there for two and a half years and managed a $28 million portfolio.

Then, believe it or not, I went on my own. Not necessarily because of any money I had earned and saved, but because I inherited some money on my wife's side and, through just pure luck, we were able to turn $5,000 into $10,000 in three years, and then in the next three years I took the $10,000 to $80,000 and that gave us the seed money to start this company.

I mentioned we started this company on April 7, 1983. On the very same day, we started a radio show, which we did for five years. If you want to know where my first clients came from, that's where. We did the show for an hour every Tuesday morning from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., on a local Salt Lake City radio station. People would call in with their financial concerns and I was the financial expert who supplied the answers. Back in the early '80s people's concerns were pretty much like the concerns today. You know, what to do with retirement accounts, should I buy a house, should I lease or buy a car, should I retire early. Basic, straightforward kinds of things I was able to answer from my own experience.

It worked. The phones started ringing and we started getting clients. They were our first clients because when we first opened I had zero dollars under management.

How did I decide to go on the radio in the first place? It was just a gut instinct that told me to do it. It worked, but it took about two-thirds of my seed money before we had enough business to stop the outflow of personal money.

Today we have 10 employees, 1,200 clients and $128 million of our clients' money under management. No, all those clients didn't come from the radio program. Today we do seminars for our current clients and for the prospects we ask them to bring with them. We do six to eight seminars a year.

What we do is pretty interesting. Here's a typical example. An employee of a company who has a 401(k) really likes what we do, because we don't ask him to go through the hassle of changing providers. We use the investment options that are available through his employer's plan. So this employee will get a group, say 20 to 25 people. We'll buy the lunch, sometimes on site, sometimes off site. And then everyone gathers around and we'll go through their benefits program and what value we can add.

We've had a remarkable success rate with that, both in terms of the number of people who sign up for our services and the number of people who are willing to organize these seminars. It's kind of self-perpetuating.

There are a couple of other things I did and do to fill in the missing parts of my professional experience. We consistently spent a lot of time in continuing education and we learned how to manage money in all kinds of markets. We read a lot. I'll bet I read or scan three to four books a month. We take 30 magazines and I'm just constantly looking for ideas.

Our broker/dealer has always been there for us, too.

Finally, there's one other thing I believe has contributed to our long-term success. We've been in the same building since 1983. Same building, same location. So instead of just moving around constantly and people trying to follow along and keep up, we have a post office box. It's been the same P.O. Box for years. The same location. So I think that helps add to the stability.

Sounds simple, huh?