Written by Janece Shaffer Tuesday, October 09 2012
Snapshot: Jillian Holly, wealth advisor, Hartman-Curio Group, UBS
Do you dread “the mixer,” “the networking breakfast,” the opportunity to mix and mingle with an eye toward business? And is this reluctance stunting your growth, limiting your potential?
Chicagoland’s Jillian Holly, a wealth advisor with the Hartman-Curio Group at UBS, is a superstar in the networking arena. Here she shares how she uses generosity and savvy, open-ended questions to turn a room full of strangers into clients, friends and new contacts for her golden rolodex.
Womenetics: You are known as someone who really understands how to network and, in fact, I’ve even heard enjoys it. What is it about networking that you enjoy?
Jillian Holly: I enjoy meeting new people and learning about their practices. I inherently love helping others as well as being a connector. Once I learn about someone’s business, I immediately think about who either can use their services or someone who might be able to be a good strategic partner for them. A strategic partner is someone who can recognize the need for your services and refer you. I look at networking as an opportunity to meet others who can possibly become friends, strategic partners or potentially clients but mostly to add other professionals to my golden rolodex, so I can be considered someone to turn to as a great resource for others.
Womenetics: How do you know what you know? Did you have a mentor that taught you about the art of networking or did you learn by trying?
Holly: When I was young, I used to canvas our neighborhood with my mother collecting for the American Cancer Society. It taught me to be outgoing and friendly and not be afraid to ask for money or ask uncomfortable questions. My mother also sold Avon and Christmas Around the World on the weekends. From time to time, I would go with her on sales calls. I learned how to ask open-ended questions, and it has now become second nature.
Womenetics: When networking at an event, how do approach the opportunity and what is the first thing you do when you enter the room?
Holly: I approach each event with optimism. I typically have looked up the venue and have an idea who will be attending and who I might want to meet. My goal is always to make three good connections. I don’t try to meet as many people as possible but rather connect with three people that I can have coffee with after the event.
The first thing I do when I enter an event is look for a group of two to three people, so then I can introduce myself to all of them at once and hope to make a meaningful connection with at least one person. Finding small groups of people allows me to save some time rather than introducing myself to only individuals standing alone.
Womenetics: I think one of the things that many of us find challenging is how to break the ice, how to walk up to that stranger. What’s your best advice? How do you start the conversation?
Holly: My best advice is starting a conversation by introducing yourself and then asking them what they do. My next question is usually how did you get into your field and who is the best client for you. If the conversation goes cold, I ask if they have any vacation plans. It typically gets people talking about vacations that are going to go on or have gone on. You get to know the person better, and it makes them feel more comfortable.
Womenetics: How do you manage your network, as I imagine it is so large?
Holly: I use Excel and Outlook to manage my contacts. I have 26 different Excel spreadsheets to manage my business contacts. Each sheet is a different industry. After a networking event, I take my new contacts’ business cards and have my intern or assistant add them to one of the lists in Excel as well as under business contacts in Outlook. This helps me keep organized.
Womenetics: Can you give us an example of a time when you networked successfully and it had a direct impact on your bottom line?
Holly: I accepted an invitation to a morning networking group through a local chamber. Each attendee represented a different industry, and they were looking for a new financial advisor to join their group. At the end of the meeting, we were put into smaller groups of three, where we arranged to meet outside of the general meeting to have coffee.
I met with the two women at a local coffee shop two weeks later and instantly hit it off with both of the women. They liked my approach as well as my investment philosophy. I also gave them a few referrals.
A month later, one of the women called me to tell me she would be inheriting $4 million. She explained that she had never met a financial advisor who had tried to help her. I sent her a few clients over the past month, and she deeply appreciated it. She went on to explain that most financial advisors she had met tried to sell her their services or gave her a standard pitch. She liked how genuine I was and wanted to meet with me and my team after she received her inheritance the following month. I had only met her twice before, and she chose me over other advisors. At the time, she became my largest client, and now she is my close friend.
Womenetics: Tell us a little about your background.
Holly: I've spent the majority of my life living in Chicago. I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago. I lived in a two-story flat with my family on the first floor and my grandparents upstairs. My father worked for the city of Chicago, and my mom was a licensed practical nurse. I got my undergraduate degrees from Southern Illinois University in French and political science.
During my undergrad, I studied abroad in Switzerland and vowed once I graduated to go back, so I taught English in France for a little over two years in three grammar schools and for several business schools until my father passed away suddenly in 2004.
After seeing how devastated my mother was, I began to consider going into government to teach women globally about the importance of financial literacy, but after doing an internship with the European Union while getting my masters from DePaul University, I changed my mind and decided to be a financial advisor locally. I realized that by educating individuals locally, I could make a change and spread financial literacy. I started my career with Edward Jones then joined my current team, the Hartman-Curio Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in 2009. In January, our team moved to UBS Financial Services, Inc.
Womenetics: What do you wish we had asked you about?
Holly: What motivates me and what keeps me going? I have a passion to educate others about smart investing, and that keeps me going. When someone thanks me for helping them send their child to college or finally have the ability to retire, I know I’ve done my job. When our clients thank us for taking the time to explain to them what is happening in the market, it motivates me to meet more people so they can also have the same understanding so they can explain investing to their own personal networks.
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Janece Shaffer, senior editor of Womenetics, is also an award-winning, professionally produced playwright. Her plays have been produced in theatres across the country including the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Alliance Theatre, and Taproot Theatre. She also has more than two decades of experience in the communications field and has held communications positions at Emory University, The NAMES Project Foundation/AIDS Memorial Quilt and the Alliance Theatre. Shaffer holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in communications from Georgia State University.