Mersberger Financial spreads its wing

Over the past 15 years, Mersberger Financial Group Inc. in Sheboygan Falls has experienced the kind of growth many businesses strive for, but seldom achieve.

The family-owned planning firm has gone from a start-up business with one employee and few clients to a thriving comprehensive financial services company, with nine employees and a strong client base.

Peter and Marilyn Mersberger founded Mersberger Financial in May 1994. Peter serves as president and financial advisor, while Marilyn is vice-president, chief executive officer and business manager for the firm.

Peter and Marilyn’s son Josh joined the company as a financial advisor in May 2009, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, with a degree in finance.

Son Zach is currently a junior, majoring in finance at UW-Oshkosh. He has served as a summer intern and is expected to join the firm, after graduating in December 2011.

After outgrowing its current office space in the Cole Historic District at 517 Monroe St., Mersberger Financial is poised to expand, with a three-story, 2700 square-foot building addition, presently under way.

Construction on the building addition project began Monday, Feb. 22, on the southeast portion of the current building.

“We’ve experienced so much growth that we need the extra space,” Peter said. “Rather than looking elsewhere and building something brand new, we knew this is where we want to stay.

There was room to add on, so we have taken advantage of the opportunity,” he said. “We are looking forward to when it is scheduled to be completed in July.”

The Mersberger Financial office building dates back to 1846, when it was constructed by the Cole brothers, whom the five-building historic district is named after.

“All of the white buildings you see in this area are part of the Cole Historic District,” Peter said. “The district includes The Rochester Inn, Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, an office building, and Richard’s Restaurant.”

“We are proud to be in a historic building and part of the Cole District,” he said.
After purchasing the building in 1993, the Mersbergers went to work on restoring it to its former glory.

Navis Custom Builders of Cedar Grove assisted the Mersbergers in the large-scale remodeling project. Family and friends also helped.

“It took one year to fully renovate the building,” Marilyn said. “Navis Custom Builders did a lot of the major work, and we did quite a bit of painting, staining, and demolition.”

The building, which had previously served as a barbershop/tanning salon, efficiency apartment, and a one-bedroom apartment, earned city and state approval to become part of the Sheboygan Falls Historical District.

“We had to meet state and local historical codes,” Marilyn said. “We also need to maintain the building a certain way to keep our standing in the historical district.”

“When it came time to add on, we had to go through the approval process again,” she said. “We needed to use the same look and integrity to comply with the historical district.”

“To meet the code, we are using the same paint, woodwork, roof line and crown molding as we did before,” Josh said. “It will have a new “ole” look.”

The Mersbergers credited Jennifer Lehrke of LJM Architects of Sheboygan for helping to formulate the plan for the new addition.

“Jennifer specializes in historical architecture and renovations,” Marilyn said. “There are a lot of rules and guidelines to follow, and she really helped us through that.”

“She is a very good architect, who made the process very easy for us,” she said.

D&D Carpentry of Glenbeulah is the general contractor for the addition project.

“The top level of the building will feature a dozen open work stations, and the first floor will have offices and conference rooms,” Peter said. “The basement level will eventually serve as a meeting room.”

“The addition will be bigger than our current building, which is two stories and 1500 square feet,” he said. “We anticipate that this expansion will meet our needs for the foreseeable future.┬áBy adding 12 work stations, we anticipate adding some staff sometime down the road.” Peter and Marilyn each worked as teachers before making the transition into the financial planning field.

“I was a middle-school teacher in Sheboygan, and Marilyn was a learning disabilities teach for Sheboygan County,” Peter said. “In 1985, I decided to change careers. I went back to school and earned all of my degrees, certifications, and licenses to more into the financial planning industry.”

Peter worked nine years at a local financial planning firm, before starting Mersberger Financial with Marilyn.

“It was a little bit scary to basically start fresh with just one employee and a few clients,” Marilyn said.

Using a straightforward, family-oriented, broad-based education approach, Mersberger Financial grew steadily over the years, through referrals and word of mouth.

“Our clients provide our best advertising for us,” Peter said.

Mersberger Financial provides a broad-based approach to financial planning by offering investment, estate, tax, retirement income and asset protection planning and advising services.

“When we started the business, we wanted to offer a comprehensive approach,” Peter said. “At the time, I felt many of the area financial advising firms were providing a narrow focus. I wanted our company to be different.”

“I think educating clients is the key,” he said. “I’ve always thought that the more our clients know, the better off we’ll all be.”

According to Josh, Mersberger Financial strives to make off its clients comfortable with individualized service.

“We always try to help everyone who walks through our door, no matter what kind of service they are looking for,” he said.

“Financial planning may seem complicated to our clients at first,” Peter said. “Our job is to unscramble the pieces of the financial and estate planning puzzle and fit all those pieces in the right places.”

“Retirement income, tax analysis, financial planning, and asset protection are the most popular areas of advising, planning, and service for us,” he said.

The Mersbergers credit an experienced, skilled, and dedicated team for much of the firm’s success.

“Our growth over the years is a compliment to the service our team provides,” Peter said. “We call ourselves a team, and we truly are one.”

Along with Peter, Marilyn, Josh and Zach, Mersberger Financial includes: financial advisor Jeff Jensen (13 years), and office team members Diane Zinkgraf (23 years), JoAnn Streblow (nine years), Rose Berlowski (four years), and Mary Murphy (six months).

The Mersbergers pride themselves on getting to know their clients and the families on a first-name basis.

“We are definitely a family business,” Marilyn said. “When people walk through the door, we want them to feel like they are at home.”

“We help our clients with many of life’s financial stages,” she said. “We feel honored that many of our clients really look forward to coming in and getting advice from Peter, Josh, and Jeff.”

The business has continued to thrive, despite a difficult economic climate.

“During this economic downturn, our business has continued to grow,” Marilyn said. “People want to know how long their money is going to last and when they will be able to retire. We’ve been extremely busy with pre-retirees and those who are retired, assisting them on planning for their future.”

“Many of our clients are concerned about tax rates and if they might increase in the future,” Peter said. “There is a lot of uncertainty out there right now.”

Peter estimates 70 percent of the firm’s clients are at or close to retirement age.

“We do have clients of all ages and stages in their lives, but over half of our clients are nearly retirement age or retire,” he said. “Retirement planning makes up a large majority of our business.” We’re able to show our clients how to have dependable income for the rest of their lives.

Looking to the future, the Mersbergers are aiming for continued growth.

“Fifteen years has gone by so quickly,” Marilyn said. “It’s exciting to have our sons joining us. We look forward to growing and improving our service for our clients and future clients.”
“The future looks to be very exciting,” Peter said. “We are appreciative of the clientele we have.”

“We are pleased to have built a nice level of trust with our clients and the community,” he said. “The industry is always changing. Our job is to stay at the forefront and continue to provide our clients with the best possible service possible.”

For more information, call Mersberger Financial Group, Inc. at 467-4909, e-mail pjmersberger@mersbergerfinancialgrp.com or visit the Web site www.mersbergerfinancialgroup.com.

Pederson, Jeff. “Mersberger Financial spreads its wings.” The Sheboygan Falls News. February 24, 2010, pages 9 & 16.
Pederson, Jeff. “Mersberger Financial spreads its wings.” The Review. March 2, 2010.