Opportunity knocked for Ben Jacobson during an early morning marketing class at Arizona State University.
A guest lecturer told the class it was important for them to take risks and not be afraid to fail.
Afterwards, Ben went up to thank him. The speaker told Ben about a new financial company in Phoenix called Longboard. He said his buddy there was looking for sales reps, and suggested Ben call him.
The phone call, scheduled for just 10 minutes, ran a full 40, and eventually resulted in a job offer.
Tough choice: startup versus an established company
But Ben was conflicted. He’d already accepted an offer from a major mutual fund company. He sought out Chris Neck, ASU associate professor of management, to help him decide between the two.
“Don’t settle for the big company where you may not have a lot of growth,” Chris told Ben. “If Longboard doesn’t work out, you can always go back to one of those big companies.”
Promotions come in quick succession
Ben started out at Longboard in business development in early 2014, right as he was graduating. He made cold calls to financial advisors, trying to interest them in Longboard’s funds.
Cold calling can be a challenge, but Ben considers it a valuable learning experience. “It teaches you to be tough,” he said. “It teaches you to be persistent. It teaches you to be smart and creative.”
His success with those calls earned him a promotion — after only 4 months — to regional director. “I went from cold calls of 5 minutes or less,” he said, “to now having 20 to 45-minute discussions with financial advisors. I talked to them, in depth, about how managed futures funds might fit into their client portfolios.”
Just 8 months later, Ben was promoted again. Now, at 24, the California native is managing director of all Longboard’s independent financial advisor sales accounts west of the Mississippi River.
In this job, he meets face-to-face with financial advisors across his region, and is responsible for finalizing the sales of Longboard’s mutual funds.
“In my role as managing director, I’m pretty much the West Coast CEO in terms of bringing in assets,” he said. “I have a team that I run. I have standards I hold myself to. I have goals for my portion of the business.”
Growth opportunities are woven into company culture
Ben admits the first thing that attracted him to Longboard was the chance to make money. But he quickly came to appreciate the company’s people, its management style and the growth opportunities.
“It was so refreshing to be in a place full of really smart people who were all willing to help each other,” he said. “Everyone treated their jobs as if they owned that part of the business.” This ownership mentality means managers can focus on leadership and coaching, and don’t micromanage the people on their team.
Ben flashes back to his former professor’s advice when he thinks about his time at Longboard: “Look, dude, you’re young,” Chris told him. “Take the risk.”
According to Ben, following this advice and taking some risk has led him to a rewarding career.