One of the first things financial advisor Lee DeLorenzo did in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis was hire a top salesman from a competing bank to join her RIA firm, United Asset Strategies, Inc.  The move proved to be brilliant. The company’s assets under management doubled in the following two years and then grew another 30%.

“2008’s success was based on my experiences of my failures in the year 2000 – 2001 and partially 2002,” she told the audience attending the Women’s Advisor Forum in New York on Thursday. Back then, she didn’t keep her eye on bringing in new money, a mistake she didn’t want to repeat.

As successful as she’s been, DeLorenzo and the three other “Multi-Million-Dollar Woman” panelists – Carrie Gallaway, financial advisor at Morgan Stanley; Sacha Millstone, investment advisor representative at Raymond James; and Dorie Rosenband, managing partner at &Wealth and Partners – talked surprisingly little about their success.  They focused instead on what they could have done better and the lessons they learned from their mistakes. All four, for example, recalled the clients they wanted but didn’t get.   

“The famous one that got away,” DeLorenzo said, was a client she felt sure she’d nab because of the strength of the firm’s pension business.  Because she took it for granted that she’d win the business, she didn’t prepare as careful and polished a plan as she could have.  “Always assume there’s competition,” she said. The others fretted over not having followed up on great leads and referrals and sloppy presentations that cost them long-time clients.

The women nevertheless insisted they handled rejection reasonably well, possibly even better than men, according to Rosenband.  “No isn’t no, until you’ve heard it seven times,” said DeLorenzo, an attitude she picked up from her father, Mike, with whom she started in the business.

How did the women know they had made it, the moderator asked?

The responses were surprisingly humble. “When people come back for help or refer one of their friends,” said Gallaway.