Catherine Robson. on starting a new practice. Income investing the new black? How to turn clients into advocates QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE REVIEW

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1 Catherine Robson on starting a new practice Income investing the new black? How to turn clients into advocates QUARTERLY PERFORMANCE REVIEW

2 Masters of business This time last year, Catherine Robson was a salaried adviser with a pipe dream of opening her own financial advice practice. The only thing standing in her way was what she believed to be a lack of experience in running a business. Six months later, in late September 2011, she confidently opened the doors to her new life and practice, Affinity Private. Catherine says the five days she spent at the MLC Advice Business School (ABS) gave her the confidence and the knowledge she needed to step out on her own. Infocus Lisa Dunne caught up with Catherine to chat about her new business and find out how she made the transition to becoming her own boss. Catherine, congratulations on your new advice practice! How s it all going so far? Thanks! It s been a little over six months, so it s very early days at this point, but so far so good! At the moment, it s just me as adviser, business owner and all things in one! I ve outsourced my paraplanning and administrative support, so I don t have to do everything myself; however, I m the only employee. One of the things I ve really enjoyed about running my own business is developing new skills. It s been a challenge, but it s been very exciting and energising. You ve been an adviser for 15 years. Had you always planned to eventually open your own practice? It s interesting; I m not actually one of those people who ve always wanted to own their own business. It s an idea that emerged over the last couple of years, but I probably wasn t serious about it until after I d been to the MLC ABS. I d always been daunted by the prospect of running my own business. I was worried about where I d get my clients from and all the business management expertise that I didn t feel I had. However, I wanted the opportunity to work with more flexibility and at my own pace. 6 edition

3 edition

4 What was the catalyst that pushed you to open Affinity Private? Once I decided to do the ABS, things really took off from there. It s very much a business school; it cuts right to the skills you need to run a good business. So it s perfect for someone like me with practitioner experience and technical background, who wants to turn their advice skills into a good business of their own. In particular, hearing from practitioners at the school who d been down this path before really solidified in my mind that it was something I was capable of. This helped give me the sense that anyone can do it; it s not some super human breed of person who s born with the skills to do this. It s something you can learn, and you can build up your confidence and expertise as you go. The other thing I found really helpful was the fact the school involved a full five days out of the office. When you re absorbed in an existing role, it s hard to get the headspace to think about something that s quite different, such as stepping out on your own. Dedicating a period of time to think about your new project is a great discipline for testing out whether you re serious or not. Plus, new ideas percolate to the surface when you give that much time and energy to it. Did you have any idea of what to expect around the day-to-day management of a business, or were there any surprises? Having gone through the ABS and after giving myself some time to think it through, there weren t many things that were a complete surprise. If anything, I was probably surprised on the upside. One of the things I was really surprised about is how willing people are to help you when you run your own business. Particularly through the MLC adviser network; you expect advisers to be competitive with each other, but that s absolutely been the opposite of my experience. 'I m not actually one of those people who ve always wanted to own their own business... I probably wasn t serious about it until after I d been to the MLC Advice Business School.' 8 edition

5 Advisers who I ve come across from the network have universally been really open and happy to share their experiences and tips. I was very surprised by that; it s a much more collegiate feeling than I was expecting, which has been really valuable. What were the main things you got out of the ABS that have helped you with your business? The message came through very strongly that there are two key things you need to focus on when you start a new business. One of them is where you re going to find your clients. The second one is how to manage your cashflow. I learned you need to manage cash flow on a week to week, month to month basis. There are plenty of businesses that can go broke even though they ve got a great adviser and a strong service offering, but that don t manage their cash flow well. The school provided a fantastic cash flow model which included all the costs of running a business you can take for granted when you come from an employed environment like postage, stationery, cleaning, electricity. It also taught me some handy techniques to quite easily understand the timing of my cash flows. It s made me factor into my budgeting things like: When are my licensee fees due? When is the insurance due? What about buying a new computer if I take on a new staff member? Will I have sufficient cash flow if it takes two or three months for revenue to hit my bank account?. Being able to model these things out across the first 12 to 24 months has been really useful and this framework means I can judge how I m going on a month to month basis. We also worked a lot on client acquisition strategies. It wasn t just about what your marketing activities would be, but really going back to basics. Going though the essentials like: What s your value proposition going to be? What does your ideal client look like? Why are they going to be attracted to dealing with you? How are you going to meet them?. I think devoting time to this is so important. You can go to lots of one or two hour seminars about how to run a marketing campaign, but when you re thinking about setting up a business, drilling right down to the deepest level gives you much better insight. Simply understanding why people want to be your client and then learning how to make sure they can find you are great foundations to starting up any business. If you hadn t been through the ABS, how do you think things would have worked out? I think there s a strong possibility I wouldn t have done it and that I d still be working for someone else. I don t know where else I would have got all that confidence to go and actually do it. Who knows, maybe I would have found a way to go and do it myself, but I m sure I would have made a lot more mistakes. So I expect I d be more stressed and anxious if I hadn t done the ABS. Looking back, how did you feel for those first few days or weeks on your own? I was quite surprised actually. I felt really calm and happy. I think that was because I d done enough to feel I was in the right spot and it was the right time for me. It was funny; I ve always worked in big open plan offices, so this was the first time in my professional life that I could close the door to my office! I can go home when I want to, arrive when I want to, so I ve really enjoyed that feeling of freedom. That s certainly not how I expected to feel. What would your advice be to other advisers who are thinking of starting a business? I d definitely recommend the ABS. I d also recommend that advisers think carefully about who their licensee is going to be. As a new business owner, there are so many things you can get distracted by, so having a really good quality licensee helps a lot. A licensee that will keep you on track, provide you with resources, help you get ahead of the game and let you concentrate on those primary things like getting clients and managing your cash flow is a big help. I d also encourage talking to as many existing business owners as possible to learn from their experiences, as that really helped me along the way. The Advice Business School is a dedicated program for planners thinking of starting, or who have recently set up, their own business. For more success stories from planners who have started their own business, visit mlc.com.au/abs The next program will take place in Sydney on 30 April 4 May For more information, visit mlc.com.au/abs, or contact Adam McGuren on or for a confidential discussion. Timothy Dent Sean Atkins Tony Bingham edition

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