Douglas Fodor lost his mother to cancer in just nine months, right before he graduated from college. Before her passing, she left him this wisdom: “No matter what life gave you, you have to do your best,” recalls Fodor.

The 48-year-old first learned the disciplines of hard work from his mom, who raised him in New York. She worked as a seamstress and sent him to Xavier High School in Manhattan, where he credits the Jesuits who run the school for teaching him the values of a strong work ethic: “Dedication, dealing with adversity, learning from failure and how to overcome it — those were definitely building blocks for me.”

He studied accounting at Villanova University and after graduation in 1989 returned to New York to join the audit department of Touche Ross, now part of Deloitte.

Fodor got engaged the following year and confessed to his future father-in-law that he was discovering that his accounting job wasn’t really a good fit for him.

The father-in-law, who was in senior management at Paine Webber at the time, suggested Fodor consider becoming a broker at the firm. He decided to take the risk, and as soon as he started interacting with clients, he realized that he had found his calling.

Fodor stayed with the firm through its merger with UBS and worked his way up to become a branch manager in 2001.

He later became a complex director and jumped to his current position at Morgan Stanley in 2011 where he serves as recruiter and mentor for 44 advisors and 20 support staffers out of the Stamford office.

“I think an ideal branch manager challenges the people he works with to make them better,” he says.

Fodor, the father of two girls, regularly plays sports and works out.

He started cycling a couple of years ago and decided to take his interest to the next level at the New York City Triathlon this summer. His participation helped raise about $6,000 for the Ronald McDonald House in New York.

He encourages advisors to pursue similar challenges. “It’s all about having a passion,” he says. “You work hard at it, you see the results, whether it’s for your business practice or you personally.”

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