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Dollar Sense: Szarka Financial Customers Enjoy a Network-Net Worth Connection

Dollar Sense: Szarka Financial Customers Enjoy a Network-Net Worth Connection

By Nina Polien Light
Photo by Thomas Skernivitz

Helping clients realize their dream retirements by providing retirement, financial, tax, and estate planning doesn’t typically conjure images of energetic and interesting events. But Kelley Drumm, the marketing director, and Mike Perry, the president, of Szarka Financial in North Olmsted are trumpeting the message that finances need not be boring.

“We use many types of events to reach out to our clients, their guests, and our prospects,” Drumm says. “We’ve focused over the years on an educational approach rather than a sales approach.”

Szarka’s twice-yearly economic reviews encourage clients to invite guests for dinner, education, and networking.

“Our clients look forward to it, and it’s easy for them to bring their friends because they know they will learn an awful lot in a two-hour session,” Drumm says. “They leave with objective, comprehensive information about what’s important in the current market.”

Guests don nametags so they can network with each other. When registering, clients often ask eagerly who will be attending.

As resident event planner, Drumm also has a hand in organizing employee education programs. Szarka teams with outplacement firms to provide seminars about managing finances when not drawing a salary. She also helps plan a monthly job seekers event at Mavis Winkle’s Irish Pub in Independence, a Career Transition Camp (slated for March 9 at Grace Church in Middleburg Heights) and the Next Level Planner. The latter teaches financial advisors in other markets how to use Szarka-style events to take their practice to the next level.

If Drumm is the resident event planner, Perry is Szarka’s networking guru.

Personally gratifying to Perry are the job seekers networking events at Mavis Winkle’s on the last Wednesday of each month. Job seekers meet and mingle with each other as well as with professionals who have conquered unemployment. Each event attracts up to 100 professionals who stay connected on LinkedIn’s Ohio Career Network.

“Many people found positions because of the contacts they made in that group,” Perry, who writes a blog called “In The Business of You,” says. “They tell us it’s the best job-seeking group around. During ‘Circle Time,’ people talk about their careers, their areas of expertise and see who in the room might be a good contact. It’s a supportive, professional crowd.”

Some companies send recruiters.

With 36 years of experience as a hiring manager, Perry began helping job seekers with Szarka when a financial planner asked him to help a laid-off client with his resume. Consequently, the client procured interviews and employment. Before long, other advisors sought Perry’s expertise. With Szarka’s blessing, Perry now delivers 40 to 50 presentations a year to job seekers groups on resume construction, interviewing, and networking.

“We don’t charge for this,” he says. “The owners of our firm are committed to helping the community. We’ve helped close to 750 people in one-on-one situations talking about their resumes. Close to 90 percent have been re-employed. We take pride in helping people get back to work and stay here locally.”
Szarka’s comprehensive educational and networking events benefit clients, prospective clients, and the firm’s bottom line.

“We didn’t go into this to say, ‘This will help our PR,’ but the reality is it distances us from our competition,” Perry says. “Can you imagine if even a quarter of the businesses in northeast Ohio spent some time helping others get back to work? Our economy would be a model for the rest of the country.”  
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  • Mar 13, 2012
  • CBC Magazine
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