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|GA Spotlight: Celebrating 25 years, HLM Financial Group offers ‘one stop’ approach|
|by Laura Douglas-Brown|
|September 16, 2011 00:00|
Described as a “one stop” shop for accounting, taxes, mortgages and other financial needs, HLM Financial Group is also a “family” business — in every sense of the word. The lesbian-owned company celebrates its 25th anniversary this month.
Lynn Pasqualetti, president and managing partner, founded HLM in 1986 after leaving her job at a CPA firm, inspired by a speaker at a tax seminar who encouraged attendees to embrace niche markets.
“All sorts of buzzers were going off in my head as I was thinking about the LGBT community and how my services would really allow same-sex couples and individuals an opportunity to be themselves in the already stressful environment of finances and tax related issues,” Pasqualetti says, noting that “while our client base is more diverse today, our client mix is still made up of a majority of LGBT clients.”
Laura Bevins, Pasqualetti’s partner, supported the family with her full-time job as HLM got off the ground, then joined the firm four years later on a part-time basis.
Though she already had a degree in another field, she returned to college to study accounting, and is now a partner and vice president in HLM, serving as accounting manager.
“We manage to keep work issues at work and family/home issues at home 99 percent of the time,” Pasqualetti says. “Any time we’ve tried to cross over those lines, we are asking for trouble.”
Daughter Mercedes Pasqualetti joined HLM in 2001, launching HLM Mortgage Co. with her mom, originally serving as operations manager and loan originator.
“Since then she has moved into the tax arena, general management and still has her hand in the mortgage business where she oversees the loan originators,” Pasqualetti says.
Son Daniel Bevins, now a freshman at Elon University, is also included on the HLM website — in part, it seems, so his proud moms can let their clients and friends know about his many accomplishments, especially in musical theater, since he was often in the office growing up.
HLM also initially took an exclusively “family” approach to marketing.
“In the early years, we only marketed to the LGBT community through LGBT media and by volunteering five to six nights a week in the community,” Pasqualetti recalls.
“After about 10 years, while we were still involved and advertised in the LGBT media, we started branching out because our client base had begun to change so we felt compelled to change along with the client base.”
Being openly gay has helped rather than hurt HLM, Pasqualetti says.
“Being lesbians in business never seemed to hinder us, rather I think it helped us because we found our niche market,” she says. “When we moved to Atlanta in the early ‘80s we decided we would live our lives as out lesbians and let our business ethics and expertise guide us to where we are today.”
Launched before personal computers and accounting software like QuickBooks were common, HLM’s success comes, in part, from being willing to evolve with the times.
“Our clients had been gaining financial independence and were asking for our advice on financial planning, investments and mortgages. It was my vision to become a ‘one-stop’ financial services center and we began to find the right players to help make that happen,” Pasqualetti says.
She advocates a similar evolving strategy for individuals and businesses in today’s uncertain economic environment.
“Do what you know best, stay true to your vision. Be flexible and willing to change with the times but make sure you think it through,” she says. “Get professional advice and try not to do it alone.”
Top photo: Lynn Pasqualetti leads HLM Financial Group with partner Laura Bevins and daughter Mercedes Pasqualetti. (courtesy HLM)
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