Monthly Archives: December 2013

Tim and Me Since 1984 – by Guest Blogger Susan Scheide

I am a member of the class of 1983, University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  My degree is in English, although my dream was to become a veterinarian.  I failed chemistry—twice—and that dream died.  The job market was not good in 1983.  I had no marketable business skills, and almost no work experience because I spent my college summers teaching horseback riding at a YMCA camp.  Despite my father’s business connections in Boston, no one was interested in hiring an English major with no skills or experience.  So Mom and Dad decided I should attend Katharine Gibbs School and learn how to type and take shorthand.  So I did.

After successful completion of their Entree program (for college graduates), I took up the job hunt again.  My first job was just awful; I stood at a copy machine all day and made seemingly millions of copies in various colors, and then bound them into booklets.  I wanted to quit after the first day, but my father said, “It would be career suicide to quit your first job in less than six months!”  So I stuck with it for six months to the day.  Dad later admitted he was wrong, and that I should have quit after the first day and just never listed that job on my resume.

Back to the interviewing process.  And here is where my story gets relevant to The Trusted Financial Advisor blog!  Enter Tim Shanahan and Compass Capital Corporation, a newly founded Registered Investment Advisor in 1984.  Tim was seeking his first secretary/receptionist/office manager/assistant all rolled into one.  He had contacted the Katharine Gibbs placement office figuring he wanted to hire a “Katy Gibbs girl.” It took me approximately 30 seconds to decide I would take the job if he offered it to me.  The entire company was going to be Tim, Ken Smith, and me.  Ken Smith was a guy my age who looked like a red-haired Clark Kent and was built like Superman.  Tim had sparkly blue eyes.  Need I go on?  I was a 23 year old who had just spent six months making copies.  These guys seemed like a massive step up!

Tim Shanahan, 1984

Dad told me not to take the job.  The salary offer wasn’t great to start with, and Dad told me, “Guys like that are a dime a dozen.  Here one day, gone the next!  You need to be with a big firm…”  Sorry Dad!  Two good looking fellows have offered me a job, and you want me to turn it down?  I don’t think so!

In the early days, we had a two room office.  Ken and I shared one room, and Tim had the other.  Tim and Ken worked on trying to find clients and running financial plans for them, and I blundered my way through everything else.  We had blue letterhead, custom tinted correction fluid (“blue out” as we called it), a used typewriter, and a dot matrix printer that was so noisy it came with a plastic hood.

I’ll never forget that pivotal day when Tim came in with a “portable” computer (which was a Compaq, with a seven inch green screen and was about the size of a sewing machine case) and a huge box of software and manuals.  The keyboard doubled as a monitor cover.  I think the screen was about 7 inches tall, and personal computers were still monochrome. He dropped it all on my desk and said, “Here—figure this out, and then teach me how to use it.”  To this day I laugh and call that the Tim Shanahan method of learning: sink or swim.

Ken Smith, Susan Scheide, and the “portable” Compaq

That computer was a big step up for us.  Previously, we had been using a typewriter that could store a few pages of text in memory for our financial plans.  You had to tell it which stored page you wanted to have it type, stop it, type in the client’s name, and then let it continue!  To create the title page, you had to know how to center text on a page manually.  The computer was a miracle, except back then a separate program was required to print a spreadsheet on tractor feed paper (when it wouldn’t fit on letter) in the correct orientation.  That program was called, cleverly, “Sideways.” 

We all learned on that machine.  Ken was good with numbers, and I was good with words.  We worked hard, but we shared a lot of laughs too.  And some frustrations.  One day, one of the men said to the other, “Pass me that phone book,” and so the phone book was literally thrown through the air.  Landing, sadly, on the cord to the computer’s power, unplugging it, and wiping out hours of work.  Those were the days when figuring out a client’s spending pattern meant actually inputting the amount and payee of each check they had written over the course of a year.  The flying phonebook taught us all to back up our work frequently. 

Tim prepared income taxes back then because we needed the money.  Meaning Susan and Ken also did taxes!  Tim would fill out the forms in pen, and I would type them up and mail them.  And one day I got ahead of myself, and mailed someone’s return, and Tim hadn’t signed it.  We panicked!  He sent me down to the mailbox with a note, his business card, and told me to wait until the mailman came to pick up the mail and beg him for the envelope back.  It worked—and I have never forgotten to check for signatures again!  Sink or swim.

After a year that saw me learning more things than I could have imagined, including taking the College for Financial Planning’s now-defunct “Paraplanner” course (I think I was one of the first 10 people in the country to earn the designation of Paraplanner), I was ready to move up in the world, and when someone offered me a job that paid more, I took it.  Tim was reluctant to let me go, but as with most start up companies, the money just wasn’t there to pay me.  We parted on good terms, and he actually gave me a Cross pen set with my name engraved on it that I have to this day.  I’ve never gotten anything except severance pay from any other former employer.

Many years went by, and many jobs for me.  And Compass Capital grew, and thrived.  Tim and I stayed in touch.  We even met up in Boston a couple of times over the years for lunch and to say hello.  I eventually ended up the assistant/office manager for a one-man investment advisory shop, and worked for that gentleman for more than 10 years.  He was a very wealthy man, who only practiced his investment advisory service to have something to do (although he was exceptionally good at it, having been with State Street Research for 35+ years). After a long time, he told me he only needed part time help, and that I should feel free to use the office to search for a full time job, and to take as long as I needed.

As I always did when I needed a new job, I contacted Tim and asked, “Are you still good for a positive reference?” and he shocked me and said, “Why don’t you come in to see me.  I have someone working for me, and it’s not really working out.”  I was pretty surprised, but in I went.  I remember feeling really self-conscious because at the time I was a larger size than he had ever seen me, and I wasn’t feeling too great about myself.

You know those people you have in your life where you can just pick up like you’ve never been apart?  I guess that’s how the interview felt to me.  A lot of water had passed under the bridge for both of us, but Tim has always been one of the few people who seemed to just “get” me.  And Tim is the kind of boss who doesn’t dwell on HOW you accomplish a task he gives you, as long as you get it done and the end result is correct.  Exactly how I function best.  To my surprise, that very evening he called me and offered me my old job back.  He nearly fell out of his chair when I told him my current salary, but he has said to me, more than once, “You’re a tough act to follow.”  He gave me what I was getting paid, and two weeks later, I took over as office manager and assistant to the president. 

Compass holiday party host and hostess (Tim and Susan)

That was in the year 2000.  Since then we have moved twice, and seen numerous changes in the firm and in the country.  We were all together at the office in Newton when the terrorist attacks of September 11 took place.  We have endured many regular cycle SEC and FINRA audits.  We have grown our business with wonderful clients, learned new things, and through it all, I’ve remembered that this is a sink or swim job.  Tim is always supportive of my efforts, but for me, failure is not an option.  I don’t want to let down the only person, besides my Dad, who has ever just “gotten” me. 

Tim and Susan in their Nantucket Reds

As I have shared before in this blog, my father was afflicted with Alzheimer’s for many years.  But long before the disease took him, he told me that he was, “Dead wrong about that Tim fellow.  You learned more working for him in a year than most places would have taught you in 10.”