Zachary Meissner had plans. He was going to team with a buddy and, fresh out of college, they were going to open a bar. A student at the University of Washington, where he was studying business administration with an entrepreneurship sub-major, Meissner thought he was doing exactly what he was destined to do. “I always knew I wanted to start a business. That was my eventual goal, but as a college student, that’s a very lofty idea.”
Still, Meissner committed to the process. In fact, Meissner says he and his friend were three months into the planning and preparation stage when Meissner decided to attend a career fair. “I decided to go to at least one career fair while I was at college.”
It was a last-minute decision, too. “I was the type of student career counselors hate,” he says with a laugh. “I hadn’t studied up on any companies beforehand. I was just there for something to do.”
He struck up a conversation with one company — Pacific Capital — and he hit it off with the recruiter. He went through the interview process, insisting all along that he was trying to start the bar business, but willing to explore the option in front of him.
Eight years later, Meissner is a vice president managing the Seattle office for Pacific Capital Resource Group/Penn Mutual. The thirty-year-old is entering his ninth year as an agent, and his current business lines include life, disability and long-term care insurance, as well as the whole investment spectrum. “The more I got into the process, the more I realized this was the opportunity I was looking for. It’s the opportunity to be entrepreneurial and to start a business, but to have structure and instructions tied around it. It wasn’t just guesswork — this had been tried and done before.”
What also wasn’t guesswork was Meissner’s plan for building a solid business foundation. A big believer in continuing education throughout one’s career, Meissner practices what he teaches. He’s continued his education, earning his ChFC, CLU, and CFP designations. Currently, he’s working toward a master’s degree in financial services.
He’s also garnered plenty of recognition. During his first two years in the business, Meissner was the company’s second-place career builder winner. Plus he’s won the 5-star Wealth Management award three years in a row, won the Advisor of the Year Award of Excellence “for a few years” and was named a life sales leader and a brokerage sales leader.
These awards still grace his office though he’s moved into a management role. They serve as a reminder to the agents he trains that he’s been where they are, he says. These agents ask him frequently what the promotional and growth opportunities are in the industry. “The growth opportunities in this career is growing your practice. You can make all the money you want to and have all the success you need simply by staying in the role and running a personal financial planning practice.”
That advice comes from an agent who himself had to struggle to find clients. Meissner says it wasn’t easy building a business when he first started: He’d entered the business just as the market was crashing. At that time, the conversation was about how to move into more conservative vehicles in order to stanch the financial bleeding.
Now, he says, the conversation is about how to handle a significant gain and prepare for what may be coming in the future. “We were dealing with fear-motivated decisions — now we’re dealing with greed-motivated decisions, both of which can be positive or negative depending on how you incorporate those into the discussion. People have short-term memories — we’ll always have to have that kind of conversation.”