Perhaps it was a twist of fate that landed me here at The Dreyfus Corp. as a wholesaler, as I was days away from taking my professional career in a total different direction. Now my job is to cover the state of Michigan on behalf of Dreyfus, and I spend as much time as I can in front of brokers, helping them grow their business. At the same time, I am at the top of my field in many respects.

In my five years at Dreyfus, I am a four-time member of the firm's President's Club, which is one of my main motivations here. Although the requirements change year to year, in order to get in last year, I had to be at the top in sales, and also the number of relationships I was able to build relative to the universe of potential customers.

I've been on the marketing council every year I've been here at Dreyfus, which is very flattering because the people out in the field, other wholesalers and my peers, are the ones who vote on it. I have also served on the chairman's and president's council at my former firms, Merrill Lynch and PaineWebber.

But things haven't always gone as planned for me. Born in Bay City, Michigan, a small town on Lake Huron, I've barely left the state's borders during my years in the business. I'm home-grown. During college I sold cemetery plots, and my first job was digging graves--my parents owned a cemetery. I graduated from Michigan State University, where I studied business and anticipated going to law school following college. If it hadn't been for some unexpected happenings, I may have been a lawyer today.

I applied to law school and had a mix-up with the required letters of recommendation. One of my references had accidentally neglected to send in the required letter to a school I considered my "ace in the hole." Meanwhile, I then received a phone call from a branch manager at Merrill Lynch--my name had been referred to him. He wanted to meet for lunch and discuss the opportunities at Merrill, and at that point I would go just about anywhere for a free lunch. I started at Merrill three days later, where I worked as a retail broker for the bulk of my career.

Being that I never have really left Michigan, I've been to some significant places. From Merrill I then moved to PaineWebber, where I was hired by Mike Millard, who is now the president of Dreyfus. Mike then hired me a second time over at Dreyfus, and took a chance on me considering I had no wholesaling experience at the time. It was basically a career change for me at that point.

As a wholesaler, I try to become a very important part of my brokers' day-to-day lives. I want to have an impact on how they grow their business and help them with seminars. I also help them formulate their presentations and figure out which of our products might be appropriate for a certain type of customer.

Just because my first job was digging graves doesn't mean I'm going to pile it on when it comes to selling. Quite the contrary, relationships are built on doing what's right for the client. To get where I am today, I probably have worked harder than most. I am goal-oriented and activity is my measuring tool. I try to have more appointments, more time in front of my customers or potential customers, than anybody else.

But what separates the stars from the rest of the pack is that those on the top of their game truly take their clients' best interests to heart and try and find solutions for the problems they're having.

People tend to gravitate towards others with similar values. I think after 20 years in that business, I understand that you end up with a book of clients that have very similar interests, value structure and such. And my job is to go out and help people do more business. In the process of doing that, I'm exposing them to Dreyfus products and helping them find where it fits.

-- Written with Chris Frankie

Copyright 2003 Thomson Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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