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How Daughter’s Death Turned Salon Manager Into an Advisor

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After the sudden death of her daughter, Jenie Connors needed a change. She was managing a high-end salon, and her husband had a sculpting studio that, after the loss of a child and the added stress of a recession, was struggling.

“When I had the salon and my husband’s sculpting studio, I noticed people who could make a difference, and make a difference in a really profound way,” she told ThinkAdvisor. “I studied them and tried to think, ‘What is it that they have that I want so that I can not only take care of my family, but so that I can give back?’”

Connors concluded the two things those people really needed were an understanding of business and knowledge about how to make money work for them, so she went back to school to study economics.

Although she enjoyed studying economics, Connors said, “there was something that was missing. As I looked at what economists did, I thought, ‘I can’t see myself being an economist, and yet I love the study of it. I love that through models and math you can look at human behavior.’”

A discussion with a school advisor led her to an elective financial planning course. “I had been there for three weeks and it just struck me. All these connections started being made in my mind and in my heart. This brings the skills that I’ve learned with people over the years, and it brings in the economics background that I was loving.”

Connors finished a double major in economics and financial planning. “I just fell in love with everything I was learning and I saw so much practical application to life and to helping others that it was a perfect fit for me.”

Despite the clear differences between the beauty industry and financial services, Connors noted there were some parallels. “One thing that is the same is that they are both people-oriented industries, and the ability to be able to develop a relationship with someone is huge. If you can do that, then you’ll have a lifelong client.”

She joined her firm Diversify Inc. as an intern, “learning some of the paperwork, really trying to get my feet wet. They did a great job introducing me to the industry and how it worked. When I graduated, they wanted to keep me on full time, and I made this seamless transition.”

Dan Luke, the CEO of Diversify, is one of personal finance commnetator Dave Ramsey’s endorsed local providers. Diversify is a branch office of South Jordan, Utah-based broker-dealer DFPG Investments. The firm serves over 5,000 clients, and manages more than $200 million, according to Diversify’s president, Ryan Smith.

Connors has been with the firm for less than a year and serves clients on the operational side as an account manager. “I have started taking simple cases to be the lead advisor on them,” Connors noted. “I am really grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be in this role because I can see from behind the scenes how it all works, and how it has to happen, how to move money and where it needs to go. That’s something you can’t really study when you’re taking the college CFP courses.”

Her advice for others considering a new career as a financial planner? “Do it!” she stated. “I know it’s scary and it’s hard, but it’s so worth it.”

She recounted a story about a client she helped after his 100-year-old father died. After Connors helped him close his father’s accounts and distribute the assets, the client went to her daughter’s former school and tended to the memorial her classmates had built for her. He brought Connors photos of the refreshed memorial, as well as a piece of granite from it.

“He took this stone that my daughter’s picture was on and he sliced off the bottom so it was flat and made a backing for it, and that’s the stone that I have on my desk,” she said.

“As he left I thought, ‘This is why I love this job — because of these amazing relationships that can be built.”

After her experience changing careers, Connors would like to focus her future practice on helping people going through similar transitions.

“I’m just barely starting this, but it has been an incredible ride and I would love to be able to [help] other people who are switching careers, or women who are afraid to make the change and get into this industry, or own a business that started as a hobby and then it grew and now they don’t know how to scale it. My heart goes out to them because I’ve been there and I would love to be able to serve that community.”

— An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Diversify’s AUM. This article has been corrected. 

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