As a child, my family moved a lot. My father was a Master Sergeant in the Air Force. We lived in Germany, toured Europe by staying in campgrounds, returned to the United States and moved to Oregon, Oakland, Calif., Atlanta and Pittsburgh. Leaving childhood friends behind feels like your world is being torn apart. But it also forces you to be outgoing if you want to make new friends.
One of the biggest gifts of these sometimes painful childhood experiences is that I can relate to people from all over the country and from all walks of life. It also boosted my self-confidence at a young age, which had a positive effect on my entire career. Because I believe in my abilities, I don't quit when someone tells me "no."
That's a good thing, too, because I've been told "no" a lot. After graduating in 1986 with a degree in business administration and marketing, I interviewed at Smith Barney, but the interviewer told me I didn't have enough sales experience. He said to go get some and come back. Rather than give up on the firm, I went out and got that experience with Noxell, which made Noxema at the time. I was promoted after 19 months.
Then one night, by sheer coincidence, I ran into that same Smith Barney manager at a convenience store. We met for lunch. This time, he said "yes." I started at the firm a few months later, just after the crash in 1990. In the beginning it was difficult to get traction, but I obviously love a challenge, and I could see the potential of the industry.
My brother also worked for Smith Barney. I got tired of being the younger brother there, so just over a year after I started, I moved to A.G. Edwards. I wanted to move into management, but the company said that at 35, I was too young and that advisors would eat me alive. Another "no." But I knew that I could do it and that they weren't promoting me because they hadn't taken the time to find out who I really was.
A friend told me that Wedbush had an opening in management, so in 1997 I interviewed and was hired as vice president and assistant sales office manager of the Portland private client office. I was promoted to my present position in 2012.
I'm kind of hard-headed, so being told "no" as much as I was in my life spurred me on. My dad raised me to work hard and never quit. I learned that lesson playing sports, too. Ultimately I may not be able to do something, but no one's going to tell me I can't. In my office I have a framed compilation of quotes about perseverance by famous people. At the top it says "Don't Quit." A friend gave it to me about 30 years ago, and it goes with me on every move. If I'm not successful at something, it won't be for lack of trying.
As Told to Pat Olsen
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