What makes your business great?
Clients like the fact they get to deal with just me. We have 73 clients, which is a manageable number for one adviser also running the business to look after. If we got much bigger I would have to hire another adviser, which means I would need to get involved in supervising and that is just not for me. We would be running around chasing our tails and I am too old for that.
The number works well with the size of staff here. We have part-time administration and paraplanning, my husband looks after the IT side of things and we discuss strategy together. More importantly, though, it works for our clients. You are dealing with people’s complex issues so it means they get the attention they deserve. We are accessible and approachable and they appreciate that personal feeling.
There is all this talk about robo-advice but we are not concerned. Most people I know want to see the whites of your eyes. They want to know there is someone on their side and when things go wrong someone is fighting their corner.
What do you see as the biggest risks ahead for advisers and how can business owners prepare?
The single biggest risk is the cost of regulation. It is a big unknown quantity every year. Indeed, even though our turnover has stayed the same for the past three years, the cost of regulation has increased four-fold. All you can do to prepare is try and keep enough money in the bank. When that bill comes through with a month’s notice, you just have to make sure your cashflow can support it.
When it comes to regulation more broadly, simply having your clients’ best interests at heart means you cannot go far wrong. The FCA has said itself the people it is most worried about are those that do not have clients’ best interests at heart. If you are transparent with clients and truly want to do best for them, you cannot go far wrong.
What advice would you offer advisers wanting to go it alone?
Start as you mean to go on and do not take the easy option. I have come across so many advisers setting up on their own who have joined networks because they see it as the quickest and easiest route. The problem is they have then struggled to get out of it.
My advice would be to take on the pain at the beginning. Go directly authorised and get some really good compliance support. That will mean you are in charge and answerable only to the regulators and your clients.
What is more, if you take the pain at the beginning and build everything up slowly your business will be more sustainable. Yes, you will make mistakes along the way but do not beat yourself up about it. Take a deep breath, pick yourself up and deal with it.
What is the single biggest lesson you have learned when it come to running a business?
Do not be afraid to delegate. I am a bit of a control freak but I have found you can keep control and delegate. And always employ people that are better than you are at certain jobs.
What does success look like to you?
Everybody’s definition of success is different but, for us, it is all about happy clients. That and being happy in what we do and how we are living our lives. Success is doing what you want to do every day; getting up on a Monday and looking forward to going to the office.
What or who is your business inspiration?
I have to say founder and chairman of the Prestwood Group Paul Etheridge. He is a very special person and was absolutely brilliant in our early days. He used to run an “advanced planners” group that we would go to about 10 times a year. We would look at how he ran his business and then take inspiration and adapt it to our own firm and the way we wanted to live.
A lot of people see these gurus in our industry and think they can just adopt their way of working but it will not work for everyone. You have to review it and adapt it to your own lifestyle and business. After all, the two are intertwined.