It’s great to hear from leaders in the profession. They’ve often forgotten more than many of us actually know. This week’s guest blogger is one of those leaders.
Neil Bailey is one of the owners and leaders of Fortitude Financial Planning. I asked him 10 Questions and asked him to share some of his wisdom with the FP Advance community.
Here’s what he had to say:
1. What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
“Stick to your knitting” i.e. focus on the things that you are good at.
This applies in the context of running your business. At Fortitude we have a mantra “the Planner should only do what only the Planner can do” – everything else is delegated.
It also applies in the context of client relationships. Understand what you are good at and who you should serve and deliver your service effectively and efficiently. This should not prevent innovation and change within the business. However such change should be thought through and consistent with the business vision and the business plan, rather than a knee jerk reaction to some irrelevant stimulus.
2. Who is your business role model?
John Lewis because I am confident that they will
· have knowledgeable team members who can help me with my purchase decisions
· provide a quality product for a price that represents good value for money
· behave fairly if I have a problem with my purchase.
This means that I trust the brand. I would love it if our clients felt the same about Fortitude.
3. Have any other adviser/owners ever helped you with advice or support?
I am lucky to be involved in a profession where so many people are prepared to share their time, knowledge and experience.
For the last few years Fortitude has been part of a peer group of similar firms; we meet regularly to discuss challenges and share best practice.
4. Have you ever given up your time to help another adviser coming through?
I believe it is very important to help and encourage the individuals and firms that are coming up through the profession. The professional bodies can only do so much; the responsibility for developing the profession sits with practitioners.
Fortitude have encouraged and supported a range of activities including:
· Mentoring individuals through CFP
· Acting as branch chairman for IFP
· Board membership of IFP
· Speaking at branch meetings and conferences.
· PFS Practitioner Panel Member
In my experience what goes around comes around and helping others has often resulted in unexpected positive outcomes.
5. What was your most expensive or painful business lesson?
There have been many ups and downs on the journey. I think the most salutary lessons have resulted in taking on clients who are not a good fit for the business. This is why it is so important to have a clear vision and plan for your business so that you can focus your efforts on clients who will get the greatest value from your service.
6. Which person or business do you most admire in the profession?
This is a great profession with many wonderful practitioners so I don’t think I can single out one individual. I most admire those who have been prepared to put their heads above the parapet and fly the flag for real financial planning. In no particular order (well it may be in the order that I met them) they include Julie Lord, Paul Etheridge, George Kinder, Jason Butler, Nick Cann, Jackie Lockie and Paul Armson. I could go on (and on and on), but at the risk of offending the many worthy people that are omitted from this list, I will leave it with that magnificent seven.
7. What do you love about Financial Planning?
I particularly enjoy the practice of Financial Planning. My role is to help clients work out what it is that they really (really) want to do with their lives, and when, then help them to develop a sensible financial action plan to achieve it. The process addresses the questions:
· What is important to you?
· What is your passion?
· How would you be remembered?
The greatest kick I get is when the penny drops for a client that they will be able to achieve their goals.
8. If you could have your business career over again, what would you do differently?
My father wanted me to join the Merchant Navy. Given my love of travel, it might have been a good idea for me to follow his advice.
I regret not having the opportunity to establish the Fortitude business model earlier, because the “professional ensemble” approach to a fee-based financial planning model has proved successful in the sense that it has resulted in good outcomes for shareholders, employees and clients.
9. Have you ever been under severe financial pressure as you grew?
In 1997 my wife Helen and I founded The Sensible Financial Planning Company. Our objective was to provide a comprehensive Financial Planning service for clients who wanted a sensible plan rather than the other kind. We were one of the first practices in the UK to offer fee-based Financial Planning. The period of transition from commission to fees was challenging. It taught me the importance of ensuring that the business maintains strong capital reserves.
Sensible merged with Fortitude in September 2008 and the first year turned out to be quite a challenge. We were able to weather that “perfect storm” because we had strong recurring income and good reserves.
10. What’s the secret to happiness in life?
I think the closest I have come to discovering the secret of happiness was many years ago at a seminar run by Maria Nemeth. Her definition of success describes doing that which you love with “clarity, focus, ease and grace”. Have the courage to walk your own path. Mark Twain wrote “comparison is the thief of joy” – he wasn’t wrong.