“Not So” Second Fiddle

Clare Mertz October 7, 2013 0

Not So feature

There is much to be said about being second in command. While you may not always get public credit for the good work that you do, you also get a reprieve from being the face of the company when things don’t go as planned. Someone else takes most of the risk, but you are able to make a good living, one that is impactful, dynamic, and rewarding, as well as lucrative. Your title might be Executive VP, COO, or CAO. No matter what you may be called, you are relied upon by the person at the top of the table as their right hand.

Joining a small company has its pluses and minuses. One of the big pluses is the opportunity to make a difference. There are many chances to develop and create and see your ideas brought forth to fruition. If you possess a special talent, such as writing skills, social media, or public speaking, you can employ that skill and implement your ideas without a lot of layers of management to jump through. You can be highly influential in shaping the tone and policy of the company.

The key to a successful role in the second seat is to have a conductor (e.g. CEO) who is not threatened by new ideas and innovations. You may seek ways in which you can enhance the CEO’s image, helping him/her to be informed and prepared. You may tee up a project by laying the groundwork, enabling the CEO to edit or to include the finishing touches. By working as a team, you can get much more accomplished than if each one worked alone. And, if you can find someone whose skill sets are different from yours, you may add some significant benefits to the team.

You don’t realize how much you need me, but you do.”

Shaking handsAt Capital Financial Planning, Clare Mertz, Executive Vice President, got her job by networking. In May 2003, she sent Todd Slingerland a letter after seeing the announcement for the launch of his new company in a local business newspaper. Clare came in and had a conversation with Todd and said words that resonated with him, “You don’t realize how much you need me, but you do.” Several months later, those words haunted him, and he called Clare up and offered her a job as Chief Administrative Officer.  Clare took the leap of faith in the fledgling firm, eager for new challenges and opportunities. Mertz is instrumental in operations, marketing, compliance, recruiting, and executive strategic planning.

“As my new business got underway, I realized Clare was right. I did need a strong second. I could not clone myself and do it all alone. I had too many goals to achieve”, said Slingerland. “Clare just celebrated her 10 year anniversary with the firm on August 4. She is our Executive Vice President, and she is the rock of our firm. Over the years, many great ideas came from her, and she is very motivating to me to get things done. She is truly my right hand. I could not have done this without her. We are very different but have very similar drive and values. Looking back, we’ve accomplished a lot.” Todd, who stands at 6 foot 6, and Mertz who is 5 foot 3 in heels, may be different physically, personality-wise, and intellectually, but the combination works.  “As different as we are, we are not oil and water; we get along well. It’s more like a recipe for cake batter – we blend together to make something better”, said Slingerland.

Clare remarked, “Todd and I are the opposite sides of the brain. He is analytical and I am creative. I was an English major undergrad. I run toward the writing projects. Todd likes anything math-related. We complement one another perfectly. We always say that together we make up the whole person”. Mertz has an MBA, earned from the University at Albany which she credits for providing an excellent foundation for executive decision-making. Both Slingerland and Mertz entered the investment industry in 1987, the year they graduated from the College of St. Rose and the University at Albany respectively. They had very different careers in the industry and with different firms, so their backgrounds really add some excellent experience and varied perspectives to the mix. They are the same age; although Mertz hastily points out that she is younger – by two months. “Todd just had a birthday, so right now I am a year younger.”

corporate2-1024x772Slingerland was named a “40 under 40” in 2001, and Mertz was recognized as a “Woman of Excellence” in 2003, two prestigious local business awards. Not a bad match as the management team seems to be doing something right. The firm is one of the leading national groups with broker/dealer ING Financial Partners. With offices in 9 states, the firm is poised for continued growth and enjoys a high rate of financial advisor retention.

“You can expect some sweet music out of this orchestra, the fiddle section is pretty loud”, said Slingerland.

Securities and investment advisory services offered through ING Financial Partners, Member SIPC. Capital Financial Planning is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by ING Financial Partners.