Stanley Reeg’s amazing rags-to-riches story began with an inexplicable premonition that has clung to him as long as he can remember.
As a boy, starting at age 10 or 11, he just “knew” he was going to be wealthy.
Weird. How could he think he was going to be filthy rich when he had not yet come to grips with the realization that his family was dirt poor?
Reeg and his six brothers and sisters were huddled in a more-or-less forgotten stone house that didn’t have a furnace, bathrooms or indoor plumbing. The family had a little outhouse about 30 feet from the front door.
The house was located on the side of a hill about 1½ miles east of St. Donatus, a small town of about 135 souls just north of Bellevue.
“We had to walk up that big hill (along High Bridge Road) to the neighbors to get water and everything,” Reeg said. "You don't really think about being poor; you don’t know any differ-ent.”
His family was dysfunctional, as everything revolved around his father’s seemingly nonstop bar-hopping in Dubuque and East Dubuque, Illinois. Reeg viewed his father as a functional alcoholic. His mother did not drink, but she battled a severe anxiety disorder.
“Somehow living under those dire circumstances, I get the idea that I’m going to be wealthy,” Reeg said. “It was that inner-something that comes into you. I believe it was God.”
It also was his mother, who was a huge influence on Reeg in terms of positive thinking.
“She was very religious and very inspirational,” he said. “She always said, ‘You can be whatever you want to be if you’re willing to work. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.’”
These are the words that Reeg reveres.
Big goals. Over-deliver. Do the work. Dare to be different. Get out of your comfort zone. There is no shortcut.
Thirty years after that first notion of prosperity popped into his head, Reeg still was pushing and pushing for his expected financial whirlwind — to no avail.
College was never discussed. He did what his dad did; he worked in a factory — at International Harvester Farmall in Rock Island, Illinois, instead of John Deere — making tractor parts.
He knew he wasn’t going to get rich in a factory. So, at nighttime, he drove all over the Midwest to “show the plan.” He spent eight years as a distributor for Amway, the multilevel marketing company known for its direct selling of home-care products.
To put it mildly, Reeg worked hard. He signed up 1,700 people in his Amway organization. It was a phenomenal feat that theoretically should have made him a rich man, but it didn’t work that way.
“All those nights and meeting presentations, but you couldn’t keep all those people inspired because they weren’t making $100,000 per year like they were led to believe,” he said. “I wasn't getting where I wanted to go fast enough.”
Reeg kept slogging away at Amway and at his factory job. But the 1980s farm crisis took its toll. In 1985, the Farmall plant in Rock Island was shuttered.
Then something incredible happened. He attended a week-long career-assessment evaluation at Clinton Community College that was paid for by a government program.
His test results were surprising: He was told he was most suited to be a securities analyst or a securities adviser.
Despite no experience and no post-secondary education, Reeg decided to become an adviser. But the next step was daunting: He and 19 other trainees were given a telephone and told to make “cold calls.” Period.
He and the others were told to make 25 cold calls per day. A “successful” cold call was viewed as one in which they actually spoke with the prospective clients. Generally speaking, about one in 100 calls was “successful” in terms of real money changing hands.
But Stanley Reeg has stamina. He doubled down. He was making more than 300 cold calls per week.
“I didn't care how many hours a week I'd have to work; I just did it,” he said. “And that's why I become so successful, because most people work six or eight hours a day. I worked 12 hours a day. If I had a tough day, I’d go home and go straight to bed so that I’d be ready for the next day.”
It’s been uphill ever since. He’s now the managing director of The Reeg Group for Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. in Davenport.
His dreams have changed. For example, Corvettes used to be the crème de la crème in his mind. But they don’t hold a candle to Ferraris, he said. He has two Ferraris, both of which are valued above $200,000 and can go over 200 mph. He also is restoring a “muscle car” — a 1966 turquoise-blue GTO.
“Once you drive a Ferrari, you won’t want to drive anything else,” Reeg said. “I’ve put thousands of miles on these babies.”
So, what does it feel like to be a multimillionaire? It’s awesome … for reasons you might not expect.
“It really means just giving more back; that’s the best part,” he said, referring to more than a dozen charities that he and his wife, Betty, regularly contribute to.