Today, as I complete 25 years of being in business, my firm Heritage Financial Services is celebrating its 20th anniversary. This journey started in 1990 when I graduated from Boston College with a Finance Degree and took my first job as a sales agent at John Hancock. After a few months of product and sales training, passing some exams and getting licensed, I began cold calling prospective clients from an agency in Leominster, MA. I called on retirees within a specific region until I connected with at least 50 people every morning. From these calls, I would schedule about 15 meetings a week at prospective client’s homes and businesses. This would generate about 1 new client a week. I was told by my sales manager that if I continued this activity religiously for 2 years, it would set the stage for future success. So, that’s what I did.
But, cold calling was miserable. I was called every name in the book, had doors slammed on me, got stood up countless times for meetings, and in some cases, I wouldn’t even be let in the house! But, it hardened my soul and helped develop thick skin early on.
This went on for a couple of years and I estimate that I contacted around 25,000 people over that period which generated about a 100 clients. There were no minimums back then and I would take on clients of all shapes and sizes from a $2,000 IRA to an advanced estate planning case funded with life insurance. But, nonetheless, it got the ball rolling.
I learned the art of going above and beyond servicing clients right from the beginning and would do anything to win over a new client. I remember the day of my very first sale like it was yesterday. It was a hot humid day in September 1990 and I was meeting with a retired woman at her kitchen table in Framingham. During our conversation about her finances where I was explaining the art of triple compounding within a tax deferred fixed annuity (they paid 8% back then!), she was complaining about some branches on her cherry tree in the front lawn that needed to be cut down, but couldn’t find any reliable help. It was about 90 degrees that day, I was in a full suit, and destined to get the sale. So, what did I do? I volunteered to climb up the tree with a chain saw I found in the garage and cut down the limbs. I remember being saturated in sweat and covered all over in saw dust as I climbed back into my car with briefcase in hand. But, I had a huge smile beaming ear to ear because I had a $10,000 check made out to a John Hancock investment. I earned a $300 commission on that sale and felt like I won the lottery! It was such a rush and it fueled my soul for much more.
In those early years, I answered the phones, ordered supplies, typed client correspondence, designed financial plans, conducted investment and insurance research, completed all the paperwork and placed trades. I offered many different types of financial products to help my clients achieve their goals (mutual funds, tax deferred annuities, long term care and life insurance).
My late grandfather, Joe Pelusi, at the time was a retired Hall of Fame manager at MetLife and my mentor. He had me advance my education early on in my career by attaining two professional designations: a Chartered Life Underwriter and Charted Financial Consultant. My grandfather always told me that if I wanted to be more successful by serving more clients and making more money, spell cash using the acronym, KASH.
KNOWLEDGE – is Power. In addition to earning the advanced designations, I attended a ton of seminars, conferences and did a lot of continuing education.
ATTITUDE – Always be positive. Stay away from negative people. The glass is half full. It’s this optimistic attitude and power of positivity that helps carry me every day throughout my life.
SKILLS – I would role play sales calls with my manager. I had index cards to memorize answers to every client objection, I attended marketing and sales boot camps, and hired sales coaches and consultants to help me refine my skills and master my trade.
HABITS – I would always do the things that unsuccessful people didn’t want to do. Work the extra hours, do things that were out of my comfort zone and go the distance. I would never put off to tomorrow what could be done today.
My grandfather had me write out my personal and business goals on the front and back of a business sized card and read them every day. It’s pretty pathetic, but I would tape my goals to the mirror in my bathroom, laminate and tape them in my shower, put them in my top desk drawer and in my wallet. Everywhere I turned, there was a subliminal message beating in my head to keep going, persevere and never quit until I accomplished each and every one of those goals.
I met with my grandfather every two weeks to review my progress, learn from my failures, celebrate the victories and he kept raising the bar to help me achieve higher levels of success! Some of his favorite sayings were:
“Hard work will never kill anyone” and
“If you’re a leader, then LEAD, if you’re a follower, then FOLLOW, and if you’re neither, then get the hell out of the way”.
I would do my best to lead by setting an example for those around me by outworking all of my peers. And, I think I took it to an extreme because for the first 15 years or so of my career, I would work about 70 to 80 hours a week, including weekends and many late nights ’til early in the morning.
Well, after a few years into my career with John Hancock, I discovered an easier way to get in front of prospective clients than cold calling. I volunteered to speak in front of groups on various financial and educational topics around the greater Boston area. I also started networking with attorneys and accountants that my clients worked with and began building relationships with influential people that could refer us business. And, Thank God, I never had to cold call again! For the past 20 years, all our new business has been by referral only.
But, as my passion for investing and planning grew, I became more and more attracted to financial planning and wealth management. So, my independent spirit and entrepreneurial drive led me to branch off from the mother ship, John Hancock, and take a leap of faith to start Heritage Financial Group on October 1st 1995, exactly 20 years ago to the day. After much due diligence, I affiliated with an independent broker dealer, Commonwealth Financial Network, and set up shop in a small 3 room office on the second floor in an old building in Norwood. Soon thereafter, I incorporated Heritage Financial Services on January 1, 1996. For 14 years, from 1995 to 2009 we used Commonwealth as our broker dealer and leveraged their back office support to build an independent financial advisory firm focused on holistic planning and personal wealth management. This set in motion the ability for us to offer more independent and objective advice without proprietary investments. And we never looked back.
The rest is Heritage.
I have my family, clients and wonderful staff to sincerely thank for their tremendous love and support all these years. The future is very bright for our firm, Heritage Financial Services LLC, and I look forward to celebrating many more milestones in the years to come.