Make others lucky too
Lesson 1, Corollary 1: Building 'social capital' often pays off in the end.
By Ryan D'Agostino, Money Magazine senior editor

NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- Harvey Jason's networking success was somewhat accidental - he treated people well because that's his nature, not because he wanted their patronage one day. But he nonetheless built what academics call social capital, according to Stephen Garcia, a social psychologist who teaches at the University of Michigan.

"Meeting new people can be a reinforcing mechanism that helps you improve your standing, although that might not be the goal in and of itself," he told me.

Four hundred miles away from Mystery Pier Books, I met someone for whom that was very much the goal. I had been traipsing around Paradise Valley, Ariz. all morning. Sandy dust coated my shoes, and I kept thinking about the TV show I'd seen the previous night in my hotel room about people in the Southwest who find rattlesnakes in their yards.

Finally, Kathryn Grosnoff opened the door. Her home was perched high on a corner lot and wreathed with saguaro cacti, mesquite and bougainvillea. She invited me in, assured me that her husband Bob would be glad to talk to me, and went about arranging flowers in the kitchen.

When Grosnoff emerged, sure enough, he seemed just as interested in talking to me as I was in talking to him - giving me the same feeling I'd had when I met Harvey Jason.

Grosnoff, 66, who is trim and calm and speaks in neat paragraphs, became a stockbroker near Philadelphia in 1969, not a good time in the stock market. He saw that potential big-money clients - mostly people who had recently sold businesses - were buying certificates of deposit, a sign that they wanted to play it safe.

But Grosnoff began selling a better-paying (and nearly as safe) alternative: short-term municipal debt that yielded 7.5 percent tax-free.

Like selling stocks, this entailed hours of cold calling, but the commissions were much lower than for stock sales.

"One of the earliest transactions I did was a $5 million order. It took hours and only had a $250 commission, and I only got 28 percent of that," he said. "The other guys would tease me and ask me why I was spending so long on an order that paid me so little."

But Grosnoff was hoping that when the market eventually picked up, his new clients would remember that he had served up safe tax-free notes when they needed them and would invest in stocks with him when they were ready to do that.

His gambit worked.

"One day in 1974, a guy who owned a coal mine called me from his plane," Grosnoff recalled. "He said, 'Bob, get out your pencil. I want to buy some stocks.' He started with the As, then the Bs, and he just kept going."

After that the guys in the office didn't make fun of Grosnoff anymore.


Lesson 1: Make your own luck...Beverly Hills, Calif. 90210

Lesson 1, Corollary 1: Make others lucky too...Paradise Valley, Ariz. 85253

Lesson 2: Have a growth mind-set...Westport, Conn. 06880

Lesson 2, Corollary 1: Never stop learning...Atherton, Calif. 94027

Lesson 2, Corollary 2: Calculate your risk...Lake Forest, Ill. 60045

Plus: Do you have what it takes to be rich? Top of page

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