Fort and Schlegel agency is expanding

Financial firm formerly called Michael Fort and Co. takes on new partner

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter Jeremiah Schlegel, left, visits with Melissa Thompson at the Fort and Schlegel office recently. The firm has been in business for over 30 years under the name Fort and Co.

For more than 30 years Michael Fort has been helping small businesses navigate the regulations, rules and requirements through his financial planning agency. Now Fort is joined by his new partner, Jeremiah Schlegel, as the agency continues to grow.

The name of the firm is now Fort and Schlegel.

“We’re just expanding,” Fort said. “You have to take care of your clients. The clients I’ve had for all these years, they ask ‘What do we do if something happens to you?’ … With our staff, with Jeremiah and Wendy, they’re in great hands.”

Before the firm was reaching a point where they had to turn away business, he said.

Schlegel grew up in Iowa Falls, where he attended high school, and finished his education at Drake University. He spent six years in the United States Army, and then worked in Des Moines for a CPA firm.

“I’ve been with Mike since December last year,” he said. “I’d been in Des Moines for the last 13 years before that.”

Fort has run his own agency since the mid-1980s.

“I worked for a firm. Then I became a partner in three years, and I bought out my partners a year or two after that,” Fort said. “Actually, Oct. 15 is when the firm had hired me, in 1977, so it will be 40 years I’ve been in this type of business.

“I was hired on because those partners were getting older, and there you go. Circle of life.”

That amount of experience is of great value, said Schlegel, and partnering with Fort will allow him to avoid any mistakes one might make starting out on one’s own.

“This is an exciting new chapter,” Schlegel said. “I had other opportunities to buy out individuals and just be on my own, but I can’t replace 40 years of wisdom and knowledge and experience, so it’s nice to be able to partner with someone.”

Fort got his start in an office in the Boston Center. He had his new building put up in 2005 and has been there at 800 First Ave. S. ever since.

The building is designed based on everything he saw and liked in other offices in all his years of practice, Fort said.

The firm has a staff of six full-time plus five or six part-time employees, and generally has an intern on hand from Iowa Central Community College. These trained experts specialize in helping small businesses, especially new ones, navigate the laws, regulations and business relationships that affect new business.

“There’s just always new laws, new issues. And our clientele is basically small businesses,” Fort said. “That’s what makes up the bulk of businesses in the United States, and that’s where our expertise comes in to help them, and work with them as if we’re their chief financial officer, is what I’ve always said.”

“Somebody new is good at whatever they like to do, but they don’t necessarily have banking relationships. They don’t have contacts,” Schlegel said. “We can help them build those relationships with bankers, with insurance people.”

“What are the regulations they have to follow for a small business?” Fort added. “You need more guidance.”