Lakeside Wealth Management is a leading wealth advisory firm based in Chesterton and what makes the company exceptional is the people. Whether you’re working with an advisor, an administrator or a member of the support staff, you know that you’re being taken care of by professionals who care about securing your financial future and making Northwest Indiana a better place to live and work.
Four particular ‘Lakeside Lifers’ - Shirley Long, Kelly Siemen, Kelley Weisenbacher and John Polakowski - have been with the company a combined 44 years. Recently, they took some time to talk about joining the company, the changes that they’ve seen over the years, and what it is that makes Lakeside Wealth Management special.
Shirley Long joined Lakeside Wealth in September of 2007. In that time she’s worked in a myriad of positions for the company along with serving as the resident “mother” who cooks, sews, ties neck ties, has been a shoulder to cry on and a counselor to lean on when times get tough.
“She’s our life coach, our seamstress and I think every Lakeside baby has something made for them specifically by Shirley,” described Lakeside Wealth’s Jenn Brown. “Shirley is the powerhouse in the participant’s section as well.”
“She (Shirley) probably talks to more people on the telephone than everyone else here put together!” said Kelly Siemen when speaking about Long.
Amidst all of the roles that she fills, Long took or returned 2500 calls last year working on the 401K side of things. She serves as the liaison between Lakeside advisors and plan participants. Lakeside’s 401(k) division services nearly 140 plans which incorporates roughly 12,000 people.
Formerly, the Lakeside Wealth Management offices were in downtown Chesterton and 12 years ago Kelly Siemen, Senior Client Services, moved in right across the street.
“We were literally moving in and Mark Chamberlin (Lakeside CEO) came bouncing across the street to welcome us to the neighborhood,” Siemen said. “I said, ‘Hey, are you hiring?’ He said, ‘Sure, come on over!’ And I’ve been here ever since!”
One day a week for Siemen turned into two, then three, then four and it’s a schedule she’s been able to keep ever since. Similar to Long, she’s done nearly every job in the Lakeside world. “I was ‘Kelly the Copy Girl,’ then the receptionist for a while,” Siemen said.
Kelley Weisenbacher, Operations Coordinator - Retirement Plan Division, came to Lakeside Wealth over 11 years ago and now works in the 401(k) division, helping with committee reviews, putting projects together, plan reports, and, as Long put it, ‘impromptu concerts.’
“There’s not a day in here that you won’t hear Kelley singing,” said Brown.
“She loves to sing her own words which makes it even better,” Siemen said. “Kelley and I shared an office at one time and, literally, she just breaks out in song!”
“That doesn’t mean that I sing well, it just means I’m singing!” Weisenbacher added. “Working here at Lakeside, they’ve seen me get married and have two kids so they’ve got all my good years!”
John Polakowski. Project Lead, worked 36 years in the steel mills, making it through seven downsizings before his number was called the eighth time around. Before coming to Lakeside, he worked at Walgreens for a while and volunteered with the local Chamber of Commerce. Through the connections he was able to forge with the Chamber, Polakowski found out about Lakeside Wealth Management.
“I didn’t want to volunteer the rest of my life and I was looking for some kind of office job,” Polakowski said. “At the time it was practically across the street and I interviewed with K-Dub (Weisenbacher). I had already planned a couple weeks off at a timeshare to go golf so my first comment to her was ‘I need a couple weeks off,’ before she even made the offer. ‘And oh, by the way, I don’t know how to type!’”
At that time, Polakowski was working at a desk in the lunchroom until finally he was given an office which he shared with about every new employee. This gave him the opportunity to get to know a good portion of the growing staff at Lakeside Wealth over the years.
For these ‘Lakeside Lifers’ who have watched the company and each other grow over the years, they’ve become a, sort of, family of their own. They’ve experienced the good with the bad and have become stronger and closer for it.
Shirley, Kelly, Kelley and John all talked about what’s kept them at Lakeside Wealth over the years and what it is that makes working at the company, and together, special.
For Kelly Siemen, “They’ve given me so many opportunities. I would go and read to my daughter in her kindergarten class. I was the Junior Achievement teacher for my daughter for weeks. My kids would come across the street during spring break and everybody watched my kids grow up. To me, I would’ve taken a cut in pay just for that opportunity to stay with the company. I was still a mom and I could never have said that I wasn’t able to be a full-time mom. And I love the people that I work with. These are my people and I know that I could pretty much ask them for anything.”
Kelley Weisenbacher said, “They’ve given me the opportunity to grow. If I had an interest in something they said, ‘Hey, do you want to learn this?’ and they’ve never stopped letting me learn. They joke that I have the ‘five-year itch’ where I’ll do something for five years and look for something different. I’ve been able to completely switch divisions and mindsets, and they gave me that opportunity. I’ve been fortunate in that they just keep letting me grow. They’re like family and they’ve helped me through so many things. I don’t know where I’d be in life without my co-workers? They’ve shaped who I am and they’re so supportive.”
“I think the unusual thing amongst the four of us is that we celebrate the good things and there’s really no jealousy,” Shirley Long said. “We’ve all been through some hardships in ten years and I feel like we all have each others backs. Bad attitudes in a group can trickle down and the same happens with a good attitude, I think. It’s just kind of a ‘feel good’ thing to come to work. We keep coming to work because we have to but we keep coming to work here because it feels good.”
John Polakowski added, “When I started at Inland Steel the plant had probably 36K employees and the first day on the job I lost my car! Going from that to a company of 30 employees and a company that, if I needed help or had a question, I’ve never been told no. Everybody in this company, that’s their focus to drop what they’re doing or put aside what they’re doing and help to answer your question or help you. I’ve never been refused.”
Even during the move from a smaller, more intimate office to a larger, more modern location, to the ‘Lakeside Lifers’ the feeling stayed and has never changed.
“Every day is like Thanksgiving because everyone all sits down and has lunch together,” Weisenbacher said.
“There’s usually 15 people at lunch together,” Long added. “It’s mostly women but we are raising some of the best future husbands and fathers because of our lunchtime conversations.”
While these Lifers, and the whole Lakeside Team, love to have a good time, when deadlines hit or it’s crunch time, all hands are on deck. That, and the experiences and stories that these Lakeside Lifers share, is just some of what makes Lakeside Wealth Management special.