Matt spent over 11 years working as a money market trader. He was a currency trader and broker for several international financial institutions both in Australia as well as New Zealand. Financial services is obviously in Matt’s blood because he is continuing the tradition of his father’s long career advising clients and their families on how to secure their futures.
When Matt launched Collins Financial Services 17 years ago, he was doing so as an expert in his field, so any risk he was taking with this new venture was very much minimalised by his early career.
On his father’s retirement, Matt merged his own company with his father’s existing business and for the last seven years he has been principal adviser at Financial Decisions.
Right from the outset, he was one of those lucky entrepreneurs who did not need too much seed capital to launch his business as he was lucky enough to have his father let him work out of an existing office, but in common with many brand-new business people, the biggest risk that Matt took was the fact that effectively, he began with what you can only describe as a ‘zero income’!
Although professionally qualified, Matt says that he did benefit from sales training because after all, the process of financial advice is no more than figuratively taking a client by the hand and leading him or her down a path to financial security – believe it or not, there are still customers who undertake that journey somewhat reluctantly!
Matt experienced the usual difficulties of a brand-new financial adviser – they mostly consisted of an initial lack of clients and having to start with a blank sheet of paper. It used to be said that the fastest way to clear room at parties was to tell everyone that you were a financial adviser, but Matt was not afraid to let people know what he did for a living, and consequently from a one-man outfit, he now has 20 employees.
He is one of the many business people who are embracing the universal move to employing freelancers on an ad hoc basis. It makes both financial as well as organisational sense for Matt’s company to outsource functions such as document preparation and industry research, as well as the more modern mundane functions such as computer maintenance and website development.
Between 30 and 50% of Matt’s time is what is known as ‘non-billable’ but that is quite normal for the financial services industry where travel and preparation as well as administration within a tightly regulated industry takes up a substantial volume of time.
There’s an old maxim in life ‘Do we live to work or do we work to live?’
If you have a family, finding the appropriate work-life balance can become an issue….. but the wise executive and company owner realises that time away from the business is not only therapeutic but absolutely necessary for the efficient functioning of oneself and therefore, the business.
In a way, with five children and a partner to think about Matt doesn’t have a choice (not that he needs one!) and has created what he considers to be a very good work-life balance with surfing and rowing among his and his family’s primary activities.
Separating work from personal life and not taking work issues home with you is a management skill and people like Matt, who have acquired that skill have very little chance of what is known as ‘executive burnout’.
Even the most successful of us needs a coach or mentor. Matt is no different and does occasionally take advantage of business coaching, success coaching etc. in order to ensure that he remains as efficient as possible, both as a company owner and family man.
We asked Matt whether there was anything that he wished he knew before he started in his business and he was surprisingly frank by saying that ‘You don’t have to take-on every single client that you come across!’
There is a temptation when you start up in business to take on absolutely anyone just to get your numbers up, but it is also well worth developing the skill of spotting clients who are likely to be troublesome. The ideal client is someone who respects you, your knowledge and who is willing to take your advice or buy your product. It is a hard-learned lesson for many of us in business, but unfortunately, that particular skill is a function of time and not something that you can learn in the classroom.
Ultimately, any kind of business is a numbers game – as Matt has clearly demonstrated by growing his business from zero to the success that it is now.