Written by Lee Stoerzinger, CFP®
I remember it like yesterday. It was 1993, I was 22 years old, just out of college and drenched behind the ears. Through an interesting set of events, I was blessed with a unique opportunity to join the financial industry as an independent advisor. To this day, I have never met anyone who started their career this way, as the barrier to entry is extremely high and the chance of success must be close to zero. Yet, something told me was my path.
After a few years or so, while still very excited about my new career, reality set in as I realized just how hard my road was going to be. I did not know anyone in the business and had no circle of influence. Not sure what to do, I turned to a good friend and mentor asking how one meets people in the community to build a business. He said to me, “Have you ever heard of Rotary?” I admitted I had not but wanted to learn more. He told me it is a local business group that meets weekly at 7:00 a.m. to share fellowship, do volunteer work and raise money for projects, etc. So far so good. He invited me to a meeting and I gladly accepted. Nervously entering the first time in my new suit, I must have been the youngest in the room by twenty years. However, I was amazed as it was filled with leaders from the community - doctors, bankers, schoolteachers, construction workers, etc. I could not believe there could be an organized place where people gather, out of their own good will, to simply serve others. So, the journey had begun.
Fast forward over twenty-five years. With the world as it is today, it seems a perfect time to reflect on how we built our firm, what the future holds, and why it may be more important than ever. Before I was fully aware enough to understand it, I was given a magic gift. That gift was simply an invitation to become deeply involved in my own community and serve others. The introduction was just the beginning of my travels as I learned over time there were many different types of organizations. I joined the local business groups, the Chamber of Commerce, educational boards, foundations and neighborhood associations. I even started my own non-profit along the way. However, it wasn’t the structure of the organizations but the opportunities to serve within them that was amazing. Meals on Wheels, helping the homeless, community awareness events, mentoring young people, food shelves, diversity awareness, etc. The amazing part was that just as I had immersed myself in serving others, my business really started to grow. Someone had once told me if you help enough people get what they need, you will never have to worry about your own concerns as they will take care of themselves along the way. What wisdom.
I could not be more thankful to have been given the opportunity to build a company literally stitched together through relationships in our community. As I look back, it has not been what I have done, but what I have learned that has become so valuable. I have learned there is always someone who is in need if we just look around. I have learned that friendships are what life is about and community is what binds us all together. And, I have learned that service to others can break through all worldly boundaries.
I ask that each one of us finds the time to serve those in need. Not only will it allow us to take a big step forward toward a brighter future, but it will also reveal one of the greatest gifts of all - gratitude.