Five lessons we’ve learned to help the next generation

Five lessons we’ve learned to help the next generation

Written by on 28/06/18

This article was originally published in Money Marketing on 13th June 2018.

The first person I spoke to as I sipped my early morning cup of tea at this year’s Money Marketing Interactive event was a young financial planner starting his own firm.

I love these conversations. He was full of great ideas and his enthusiasm for financial planning was infectious; if he’s reflective of the younger planners coming through, the profession is in safe hands.

However, it got me thinking about the challenges that lie ahead of him.

Building a new business is challenging and incredibly hard work, but hugely rewarding too. The buzz I get from watching our business and the people around me grow is indescribable.

There’s no doubt that threats lurk too. So now, 18 months since we started The Yardstick Agency, it feels like the perfect time to take stock, look back, and share some of the lessons we’ve learnt (sometimes the hard way) which will hopefully help the young chap I chatted to over our disposable cups.

1. Know your ‘why’ and your ‘go-to’ people

Building a new business can be a lonely experience. There will be occasions when you wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea. It’s at these times that you need to remind yourself why you started. Understanding your ‘why’ (as it’s now trendy to call it) is hugely important; revisiting your ‘why’ in times of stress and anxiety will remind you that the pain you are currently feeling is temporary and will be ultimately worth it.

It’s also important to have people you can turn to when the going gets tough. These supporters and advocates are at the end of the phone to offer advice, wise counsel or just to listen as you let off steam when things don’t go as you hoped. I know who mine are an I’m hugely grateful to them.

2. Focus on your business

At its best, the financial planning profession is open, caring and transparent. That provides huge opportunities for younger planners to learn. Providing it doesn’t stifle your own creativity and innovation, why wouldn’t you want to learn from others?

But the focus must be your business, not what others are doing. That extends to avoiding being openly critical of your competitors; it’s a small world and frankly, it’s not a good look.

3. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t live in the past

We’ve all made our fair share of mistakes in the past. I’m certainly no exception. The key is to channel those experiences and turn them into constructive lessons which help reduce risk in the future, without living life constantly through the rear-view mirror.

I’ve heard it said that venture capitalists in the US are more likely to back entrepreneurs who have previously failed because they have learnt from their mistakes. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it has a certain logic to it.

4. Build your team and delegate

I firmly believe there’s a strong correlation between the quality of your support team and your ability to grow a sustainable business.

The natural temptation in the early days is to keep cost to a minimum by doing everything yourself. That’s understandable, but it will soon restrict your growth. Finding good people to support you, training them, then delegating everything you can will free you up to build your business. The key is to find flexible support that you can trust to deliver; do that and you will see it as an investment, not a cost.

5. Know your numbers

The greatest opportunity in starting a new business is that you can get things right from the off.

Nowhere is that more important than when it comes to your finances, particularly your pricing. Post RDR, many advisers have simply fallen into their current charging structure without necessarily paying enough attention to fundamentals such as profit margin. You’re at the start of your journey and what you charge now will be difficult to change in the future. Better to get it right from the off.

That means understanding the cost of delivering your services and then building a profitable but fair pricing model.

We hope this helps

These are just some of the lessons we’ve learnt over the past 18 months, which we believe are transferable to planners. They are by no means exhaustive, however many commons themes emerge:

  • Know when to delegate
  • Have confidence in yourself and the value you add
  • Keep your chin up
  • Be a good egg

Apply these in your business (and life in general), and you can’t go far wrong.

And if you do? It doesn’t matter, so long as you learn from it!

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