RAGS TO RICHES
Christopher P. Gardner is the head of his own brokerage firm and lives in a Chicago townhouse one of his three homes - with a collection of tailored suits, designer shoes, and Miles Davis albums. His path to this extraordinary success took a series of extraordinary turns. Just 20 years ago, Gardner was homeless and living, on occasion, in a bathroom at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in Oakland, Calif.
Raised by his mother, a schoolteacher, he says he never knew his father while he was growing up. But his mother had a way of keeping him grounded when he dreamed of things like being a jazz trumpeter. "Mothers have a way of saying things," Gardner said," She explained to me, 'Son, there's only one Miles Davis and he got that job. So you have to do something else.' But what that something else was, I did not know."
Gardner credits his uncles with providing the male influence he needed. Many of them were military veterans. So, straight out of high school, he enlisted in the Navy for four years. He says it gave him a sense of what was possible.
After the military, Gardner took a job as a medical supply salesman. Then, he says, he reached another turning point in his life. In a parking lot, he met a man driving a red Ferrari. "He was looking for a parking space. And I said, You can have mine. But I gotta ask you two questions.' The two questions were: What do you do? And how do you do that? Turns out this guy was a stockbroker and he was making $80,000 a month."
Gardner began knocking on doors, applying for training programs at brokerages, even though it meant he would have to live on next to nothing while he learned. When he finally was accepted into a program, he left his job in medical sales. But his plans collapsed as suddenly as they had materialized. The man who offered him the training slot was fired, and Gardner had no job to go back to. Things got worse. He was hauled off to jail for $1,200 in parking violations that he couldn't pay. His wife left him. Then she asked him to care for their young son without her.
Despite his lack of resources, Gardner said, "I made up my mind as a young kid that when I had children, my children were gonna know who their father was." Although a broker finally helped him enter a training program, Gardner wound up with no place to live. He was collecting a meager stipend as a brokerage trainee, and, like many working poor in America, he had a job but couldn't make ends meet.
Gardner not only made it through the brokerage training program, he passed his licensing exam on the first try, and went to work making cold calls at the firm of Dean Witter. Later, he became a top producer at Bear, Stearns & Company, first in San Francisco and later in New York.
In October 1987, Mr. Gardner established Gardner Rich & Company, Inc. as an institutional brokerage firm specializing in the execution of debt, equity and derivative products transactions. Through Mr. Gardner's brokerage expertise, the GRC has grown by focusing on its commitment to provide quality service and excellent trade executions for clients. Under Mr. Gardner's directions, GRC has adopted a "give back to the community" program. The Company donates 10% or more of the Company's earnings toward school and educational projects in the community it serves.
Columbia Pictures has acquired the Chris Gardner Project, based on Gardner's rags-to-riches story, for studio-based outfits Overbrook Entertainment and Escape Artists to produce. To be penned by Steve Conrad - who also wrote The Weatherman?the project is being developed as a starring vehicle for Will Smith.
Bio from http://www.nationwidespeakers.com/speaker/577/3