To this day, I make 30, 40, 50 cold calls a day.
Jeffrey Heinel
The Firm: Foundation Asset Management,
Blue Bell, Pa.
Principal: Jeffrey Heinel
B/D Affiliation: The Investment Center
Year of Independence: 1995
Assets Under Management: $100 million

I went from food to finance in my career. After I graduated college in 1976, I went into the restaurant business. I was running a restaurant in Jenkintown, Pa., outside of Philadelphia, and there was this Dean Witter office three blocks away. Every afternoon about 20 or 30 brokers would descend on the place for cocktails. I got friendly with all of them, but one gentleman in particular took me under his wing and said I could do the job of a broker.

He set up the interview process and away I went. I left a $35,000 job with a wife and two kids and a mortgage to go to work as a broker for straight commissions.

I made it with them. I was a stock jockey, transactionally oriented initially, but I very quickly realized that if I was going to have staying power in this business I was going to have to specialize in something. So I chose to specialize in retirement planning and de-emphasize the transactional aspect of the business. I became a retirement planning financial expert.

In 10 years, my assets under management grew to more than $100 million.

Then, like that, it was all gone because there was a dispute and I chose to testify on behalf of the NASD and the SEC, along with a couple of other brokers.

I was permitted to resign from Dean Witter. As a big fish in a big pond, I figured I'd have no trouble landing in another wirehouse in no time. Wrong! I was blackballed from the wirehouses. And they weren't about to let me take too much business away with me.

Fortunately, I stumbled across The Investment Center. The thing about The Investment Center that really meant everything to me was their affiliation with Prudential Securities. They cleared through Wexford, which is a Prudential company. Since I had grown up as a wirehouse broker and that was the only thing I knew, and they had this affiliation and that was the closest I was going to get to a wirehouse, I really needed them.

So I limped over to them with maybe 30 accounts and maybe $6 million or $7 million under management. They welcomed me, took a shot on me and supported me in every way.

When I would go out and compete for business in the retirement community, I was still competing against the Merrill Lynches, against the Dean Witters, against all the big wirehouses. Having this Wexford/Prudential affiliation enabled me to continue to operate as if I was still a wirehouse broker.

If my clients want to see their accounts they can pull them up right through Prudential. All the amenities a wirehouse can provide, I can provide.

Since I wanted to appear like a wirehouse broker, I needed the trappings of a wirehouse broker. So I took the half a million bucks in my deferred compensation plan from Dean Witter, paid the taxes on it, then fully automated an office and hired a full-time assistant.

Today, I'm still in the same office. And today I have more than $100 million under management again.

How do I get my leads today? To this day, I make 30, 40, 50 cold calls a day. At any given time, along with my VP of marketing, we will have 60 to 80 active files of people who are going to be retiring soon. Where do I get those names? One, I burrow my way into corporations. Two, I have a tremendous referral network. I just have a strong word-of-mouth business.

And I'm better than a good salesman. I'd say that out of every 100 prospects we identify, 90 will meet with me. And I'll close 80 of them. Today I'm well ahead of the commissions I was earning at Dean Witter.