The Story of Tom Gallagher
October 29, 2019
Tom was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Ohio at an early age. From the very start of his life, Tom’s career aspirations were as clear as day. “My mom proclaims that when everyone else was telling their parents they wanted to be a quarterback or a fireman, I wanted to be a stockbroker—which always made her laugh.”
While attending high school, Tom’s prophecy started to grow legs with a love for numbers and a SAT score that landed him an academic scholarship to the University of South Carolina. “I was the first of family to go to college and having the chance to go to USC was like nothing I have ever experienced.” Tom had no shortage of experiences at his alma mater—from attempting (and failing) to walk on to the school’s highly competitive golf team, to watching the entire state shut down for the USC/Clemson football game, to meeting Lori, his wife of 30 years, while serving drinks at a local discotheque.
When Tom’s last semester on campus started approaching, he went hunting for a decent paycheck. “We had all these companies visit the school and interview students. I really wanted to start in finance, but the best offer I got was from a check printing company. Looking back, I could kick myself for giving into the money, but that’s where I ended up.” The position was supposed to be in Charlotte, North Carolina—Tom’s post-grad dream city—but after buying out a competitor, the company sent Tom to his new home in Buffalo, New York. This was a moment Tom forever saw as a bad omen.
Even in the face of hardship Tom did extremely well, seeing promotions before the end of his first year with the company, but still had a burning desire to be a financial professional. In preparation for his exit, he began taking classes in life and health insurance. From there, the final push into finance came from his lifelong friend and confidant, Mike Rea. Mike graduated from OSU and stayed in Ohio to work for Prudential Securities. “I remember thinking, man here I am stuck in Buffalo while Mike is back home and just killing it. He told me I had to come back and work with him—and honestly that was all the motivation I needed. So I got my licenses, left Buffalo, and started with Prudential at the age of 22.”
The Beginning of an Idea
Like any young professional starting in the finance world, Tom faced challenges right away—the big one being the build out of his client base.
“Mike and I had a sales manager that used to tell us we couldn’t leave Friday until we had 10 appointments for the following week. He would even take your list after and call your prospects to confirm they were legitimate! I hated him at the time, but he really beat into me the importance of accountability and getting in front of people. There would be some Fridays where I would still be in the office until 8 o’clock at night, but I always found a way to fill next week’s calendar.”
Over time both Tom and Mike were promoted to sales managers themselves when they struck up an idea: “We thought, instead of focusing on personal production—why don’t we start a partnership? Everyone told us that this would ruin our relationship, but Mike and I have been best friends since the 5th grade and I used to tell people ‘I don’t think you understand what kind of friends we are.’” From there, the duo set up shop in Mike’s basement and started building Regal Financial, a practice all their own.
The Rise of Regal
In just two years Regal Financial went from being “two guys in a basement pounding the phones,” as Tom would put it, to one of Prudential’s top agencies. From there, the firm started to grow like wildfire and they eventually took their practice over to MetLife. For Tom, things couldn’t have been going better, until one unfortunate day arose in 2014. On a morning like any other, Mike went out for a jog and was killed by a sudden heart attack. For Tom, this was a devastating moment. Mike was first and foremost a brother to him, and it was only through the love and support of his family and colleagues that he was able to mourn the loss of his best friend and come out the other side stronger. Not only was Tom up against emotional hardships, but now he had to steer the firm in the right direction without the help of his lifelong business partner. “Clients would ask me all the time ‘What if something ever happens to you?’ and I would reply, ‘don’t worry, Mike will take care of you.’ When I woke up that next day after he passed it hit me immediately—I thought ‘what am I going to tell everyone now?’”
In the face of tragedy, Tom continued the mission he started with Mike. Tom continued to build out the Regal Financial team. “I was fortunate enough to bring Mike’s brother, Joe Rea, onboard as well as our office manager April, two young financial planners, and Mark Zumack, who brings an incredible amount of experience to the firm.” Tom mentioned that seeing Regal Financial’s transformation—from two guys in a basement with an idea to a thriving office of 6—is at times emotionally overwhelming. “There are some days where I pull into the parking lot and just start choking up on how far this practice has come. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I owe all of my success to my wonderful family and every member of the Regal team.”
Tom and Lori now reside in Aurora, Ohio. They raised two boys, Andrew and Thomas, both of whom live in California. On the off chance you catch Tom with any free time, you will likely find him playing at the Barrington Golf Club, his favorite way to spend an afternoon.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Tom! Learn more about the Tom Gallagher here.