Estate Planning – Succession Issues for International Investors

Are you the next Logan Roy? 

Estate planning for international investors is an essential but often over-looked issue.  Fans of the TV series ‘Succession’ will have seen the friction and fractures that can happen when a family sets about structuring, protecting and planning on how to pass on its assets.  Over-dramatised and writ large for TV, the show nevertheless exploits emotions and situations that are faced – even if on a smaller scale – by many families.  Spoiler alert: recently even the patriarch, Logan Roy, discovered that no one lives forever. Alas, our departure is rarely glamorous but a heart attack in your private jet?  The ultimate control freak found that death respects no business plans.

In my experience, very few clients enjoy mapping out their Wills. There is always conjecture or uncertainty about when it might be required, whether children will either be adults or have their own grandchildren, and even what is included or excluded from the estate.  It always seems to be a job that can be put off for another day.  But as the fictional Roy family is discovering, doubt can cause many difficulties, especially when the deceased is not there to explain everything.  

A better approach is simply including Estate Planning as part of your overall asset protection plans.  When looking at structures such as superannuation, investment companies, and trusts, consider the taxation and implications and what happens in the event of death.  Taking this approach means that the eventual ownership of assets is considered in the full ownership cycle, and makes the planning of Wills much easier.


So what’s in and What’s out?

It’s important to recognize that not all assets are included and that some may be subject to different rules and regulations depending on how they are held or structured.

In general, assets that are included in your estate include real estate, personal property, bank accounts, investments, and other financial assets. However, there are a number of exceptions and special cases to consider. For example, in Australia, superannuation is excluded from the estate and is distributed according to the terms of the superannuation fund. Similarly, assets held in a trust don’t normally form part of an estate – which is one of the main advantages of having a trust in the first place.

Another important consideration is assets that are held in a corporate structure, such as shares in a private company. In this case, it is the shares themselves that form part of the estate, rather than the underlying assets or property owned by the company. This can have significant tax implications, as well as impact how the assets are distributed and managed.

Another alternative is to do what Logan Roy did – transfer asset ownership to your desired beneficiaries while you are still alive.  His estranged wife Marica quickly returned to the scene to confirm that she was the owner of Logan’s stunning NYC townhouse (and nearly just as quickly agreed to sell it to Logan’s eldest son).  So, no probate issues, arguments or inheritance tax with this asset.  It’s not always easy nor inexpensive though, to transfer assets already owned,  Therefore, it’s prudent to put into consideration the ownership structure and its implications for your estate planning, before they are purchased.

The issues of Estate Planning are increasingly important as international investors have assets in multiple jurisdictions, each with their own testator laws, administrative rules and taxation regimes.

One or Many?

The issues of Estate Planning are increasingly important as international investors have assets in multiple jurisdictions, each with their own testator laws, administrative rules and taxation regimes.  What is the best approach?  Should there be one worldwide Will or separate Wills for each jurisdiction?

One of the key decisions you’ll need to make is whether to have one will or separate wills for each jurisdiction. While having one Will may seem simpler and more cost-effective, it can lead to complications and delays in the probate process if there are inconsistencies with the local laws in each jurisdiction. On the other hand, having multiple wills can be more time-consuming and expensive. 

International investors need to consider other:

  • How practical is it to have one executor having to deal with different estates via agents as opposed to several different executors
  • The potential for conflicting clauses in different Wills
  • The risk of inadvertently revoking a will while dealing with assets in another jurisdiction
  • The difference in language, culture legal terminology or legal principles, such as forced heirship rules

For example, Aussies are used to having no Death or Inheritance Tax, and the right (subject to legal challenges of course) to leave their estate to whoever they chose.  Not so in Switzerland, where there are statutory inheritance proportions for family members, and most canons impose an inheritance tax.  Similarly in the UK, where their inheritance tax is quite punitive and drives much of the sale of life insurance.

My personal opinion is that, in the majority of cases, it pays to have a Will in each jurisdiction where assets are held, but ensure that these are harmonised across assets and beneficiaries to minimise the potential for challenge.


The role of your personal Chief Financial Officer

This is all wonderful theory, but it means little unless action is taken. That is where I come in as an independent adviser.  Acting as your personal Chief Financial Officer, I take my understanding of your assets and family succession preferences and identify practitioner experts.  Next, together we brief them to draft appropriate solutions that complement each other and bring into reality the plans you have for your family’s assets.  Importantly, the qualitative values you hold are just as relevant as the assets themselves and these values can be explained and incorporated into your plan.

So if you’re an international investor looking to protect your assets and ensure a smooth transition of wealth to your heirs, contact me today to learn more about how I can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning and succession issues.


Geek Corner:

Dino De Rosa writes a good overview for Australian residents here.  Part of my role is to source and coordinate the foreign legal experts that he refers to and ensure the Wills are coordinated

An excellent list of the pros and cons of single v multiple Wills by Margaret O’Sullivan can be found here.  Though written from a UK perspective, the arguments are relevant for all jurisdictions.

An overview of Swiss succession laws – very anti-libertarian from this Aussie’s perspective!

Eben Nel put together a very interesting paper Estate Planning and Wills Across Borders: Sometimes a Quagmire in the Making.  

3 Business Lessons I wish I could tell 30-year-old Me

The coolest thing about being 55 years old is you really start to get perspective on life.  Your narrative arc even begins to become a little less murky.  The downside of this is it makes you realise how you could have done things easier.  Avoided the ‘d’oh!’ moments.   

A few years ago, I read some research that showed that peak unhappiness for men occurs at about age 52.  Later versions pin-point the nadir at age 48, but what’re a few years here and there?  

Frankly, I can’t argue with this.  At that age, a lot of things were going right for me, but I was pretty unhappy.  Like many others that have had the privilege of living long enough to confirm the accuracy of this research, I decided to do something about it.

The starting point for any change is to assess what has already come before, what worked, what should be altered.  Several years ago I was a panel member at a financial services conference when someone in the audience asked a great question: 

‘What advice would you give the 30-year-old Patrick?’

Good question!  To answer it, I’ve put together the 3 business lessons I wish I could tell 30-year-old me.


3 Business Lessons I wish I could tell 30-year-old Me

In the process of deciding the 3 business lessons I wish I could tell the 30-year-old me, I admit to a few regrets – but no remorse.

The late Christopher Hitchens described the difference:  remorse is sorrow for what one did do whereas regret is misery for what one did not do.  OK, misery may be too strong a term here, but you see my point.

Happily, there is little remorse in my life, especially in business.

If I am honest though, there are, in my business career, a few regrets.  If I had my time again, yes I would do things a little differently.

In business mentoring and financial advising, often my clients are younger than me.  The advantage here is that hopefully, they can learn from my mistakes.  That way, they are free to make original ones of their own!  

Seriously, though, any review needs to be more useful than just a trip down memory road.  Rather, I want to approach this and then apply my conclusions in the scenario where an 80- year-old Patrick is advising me as a 55-year-old.  

That way, both you and I move away from any lingering on regrets and transform the lessons into hope, enthusiasm and opportunity.  The best is yet to come!


Lesson 1: Be Bold

I regret that I wasn’t bolder in business.  What do I mean by that?  Well, my main gig was in financial planning – which in Australia is a very highly regulated profession.

I think I allowed my thinking to be too restrained within the parameters of this regulation.  I am not against regulation.  It is a very positive thing as it provides a framework for consumer certainty.  After all, financial planners are entrusted with their client’s life savings!  

Too often though, I allowed my thinking and business ambition to be anchored and framed by compliance and orthodoxy.  I allowed the regulatory environment to stifle my innovative tendencies.

On the other hand, perhaps I am being too hard on myself.  Back in the late 90s my business partner and I spent a day with Rodney Adler and his team.  This was just after HIH Insurance had bought Adler’s business FAI, and – as would later be shown – right in the middle of some very dodgy business dealing by Adler.  Adler was also expanding into financial planning services and we were there to start discussions on a potential sale.

Those discussions didn’t amount to anything, but later on, after the HIH situation became Australia’s largest corporate collapse and Adler and co were sentenced to jail, we reflected on our experience.

We might not have hit the heights, or made as much money – but we had our reputations intact.  There is no shame in paying your bills on time, meeting your payroll obligations every fortnight, and obeying the law!


Move away from any lingering on regrets and transform the lessons into hope, enthusiasm and opportunity. The best is yet to come!

Lesson 2: Results don’t always speak for themselves.  

At 28, I thought I had the world at my feet.  I was the youngest (by at least 10 years!) of 14 Sales Managers in the state, led the second-largest team and had the best KPI results across all of my peers.  I was looking forward to qualifying for my first conference at a swanky resort and making good money. 

So, I wasn’t too worried when the news came through that the number of divisions was being reduced from 14 down to 2.  After all, I was getting the results that the boss was after, right?

Wrong.  Sure, I was getting the results, but I hadn’t built the sort of relationship that reminded him of what I was doing.  The team’s success ended up just being a column on a page. 

That meant I ended up being one of the 12 that was without a job. 

I don’t mean it to be cynical, but not only do you need to deliver results, but you also need to make sure the people that need to know, do know.  You need to keep telling your story, keep telling your market what your value proposition is.

Truthfully, even with the best of intentions and interest, your customers need to be continually reminded of both your promise and your accomplishments.  People forget, or they don’t have the time to research – so tell them (hopefully without the ‘humblebragging’ element, but that’s another blog).

A great way of achieving this is by building networks and being more collaborative.  The problem I had at 28 was that I thought I had to do everything myself, as a way of demonstrating my competence. 

My advice is to do more networking more collaboration with other like-minded professionals.  You can’t be the expert at everything and just expect that your market will realise and recognise this.


Lesson 3: Stretch!

No really – stretch!  I’m not talking about stretch goals, I am talking about physically stretching.  At 30, I was pretty fit and strong, but completely inflexible.  Like a lot of young men, I was all about the muscles and less about the stretching. Too much time sitting at that damn desk!  

I should have had more walking meetings.  A smart move would have been to invest sooner in upright desks and better chairs.  Instead of waiting till I was 44, I should have taken up Bikram Yoga at 30.

What’s stretching and flexibility got to do with business regrets?  Everything!  Understand this:  when you are 30, you are not only exercising for the 30-year-old you – you are also exercising for the sort of body you want to have when you are 55.  Now that I am 55, I am also exercising for 80-year-old Patrick as well.

There are obvious business benefits to being physically flexible. And, the healthier you are, the better you can focus and achieve in your business.  The less obvious benefits are in your longevity.  

As a financial adviser, I was privileged to work with clients over many years.  These longitudinal relationships with people older than me also gave me an insight into the long-term impacts of health and diet.  Through this, I got an insight into the future.  Frankly, the people who ate well and exercised tended to live longer and have more active lives in their retirement.

I decided to adopt an ‘exercise for future self’ attitude to physical activity.  This has held me in good stead – but boy do I wish I had stretched more when I was younger!


Time Machine

Alas, I don’t have the time machine that would enable me to implement my 55-year-old advice to my 30-year-old self.

As a business mentor, I aim to apply these lessons for my client’s benefit, within the context of their goals, ambitions and capabilities.

If you would like to see some practical examples, you can read Julie’s case study in buying a business or how I worked with Carl to make his consultancy more sustainable and profitable.

More than that – I’m interested in your story!  Contact me today – I can’t wait to hear your story!

Insider’s Guide to Business Mentors

Taking on a business mentor can be a big decision.  A business mentor doesn’t just hold you accountable for achieving your business goals.  Ideally, through their input and modelling, they will also have a big influence on your behaviour.  

After all, the word mentor comes from the name of an ancient fictional guide whose narrative purpose was to impart wisdom and share knowledge with the hero’s son.

By definition, the right mentor for you is someone who has skills or experience that you don’t have.  The odds are though, that you haven’t worked with a professional business mentor before.


Insider’s Guide to Business Mentors

So what should you expect?  My Insider’s Guide to Business Mentors will give you a critical insight into what your business mentor is thinking.

Here’s the inside gossip on what you should know about your mentor.  Hopefully, it will destroy a few myths, help you understand how mentors feel – and most importantly, spur you on to getting the right mentor for you!


Mentors are not only for the young

Over 40?  Think you know it all?  Think again.  Sure, the younger you are, the more likely it is that you can benefit from a mentor, simply because they will have more experience than you.  But unless you decide to stop learning, you can benefit from a mentor at any age.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this.  What the research shows is that, rather than increasing mentee age excluding mentorship, it changes the nature of the mentoring and the subject matter.  Younger mentees tend to have longer mentor engagements that focus on broader life and career issues compared to older mentees.   

Older mentees – say over age 40 – tend to get better value from mentoring that is based on a particular skill or issue (for example, improving business profitability).

The corollary of this is that your mentor does not have to be older than you.  More important than age is the purpose of having a mentor (see below). If you are after expertise from your mentor, then their age is almost irrelevant.  It matters more that they can communicate and relate to you, not their age.

As a, ahem, slightly older person myself, I am super excited about all the young talent that is coming through our universities and who get on Youtube and other channels to share their knowledge.  I have learned more this year from people under the age of 30 than I have over.

Bottom line:  keep your mind open to the benefits of a mentor, whatever your age.


A mentor is not your parent

Too often, mentees expect that their mentor will come in simply whisk away their problems, or provide a silver bullet that will fix everything.  At times when I hear what people’s expectations of their mentors are, especially from younger people, it seems that they actually need a parent, not a mentor. 

Which is to say, your business mentor – unlike a parent – cannot take your responsibility away from you.

It’s totally ok and natural if you, as a mentee, want to project parent-like attributes on us.  It’s to be expected, especially if there is a reasonable age difference.  

Never forget that ultimately, the responsibility for outcomes is yours.  You can’t abrogate these to ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’. 

That said – I know personally that I will seek to build a close enough relationship with my mentees so that I can, without any loss of respect, nag, cajole and berate where this is needed!  So, if you are my mentee, I might sound like a father sometimes, but I promise I will never tell you to go clean your room!


Mentors love being challenged

It is inherent that a business mentor will challenge you.  That’s what we get paid for.

An important Insider’s Guide tip though: there are few things that mentors like better than to have their mentee challenge them.

We love it when a protege presents us with a problem that we don’t have a ready answer to.

Why?  No mentor will have all the answers.  

So when we are challenged, it gives us an opportunity to model the behaviour required to resolve the challenge.  It allows us to work constructively with you to demonstrate the process by which you can uncover the answer.  

This doesn’t mean simply googling it.  It means developing a problem-solving process for the enquiry that is congruent with your business goals and personal values.

It is inherent that a business mentor will challenge you. That is what we get paid for. An important Insider's Guide tip: there are few things that mentors like better than to have their mentee challenge them.

Pay your mentor

I remember once going to see my doctor.  She diagnosed my problem, gave me a prescription, it was everything I expected.  But then I said ‘ look, I’m just starting in business, we are operating at a loss. Would it be ok if I didn’t pay you?’

Of course, that is fictional, but it illustrates my point.  The right business mentor for you will be worth their weight in gold, so they should be paid.  After all, what did it cost them to get the expertise and wisdom such that they become valuable to you?

That there is even an expectation that business mentoring can be free stems from the essence of altruism inherent in mentoring.  In my experience, in business, you get what you pay for.  Free mentoring is probably no exception for this rule.

There are times and places for free mentoring, I get that.  In business though, you will value what you pay for.  There are many other compelling arguments for paying for your mentor if you need further convincing.

Still, like many other professions, many mentors do have a pro bono program or will agree to at least a free session if you make a good case.  I know I do – if you are reading this, and can’t afford a mentor, contact me and let’s talk.


Decide what sort of a mentor you need

Just because someone is a good mentor, doesn’t mean that they are the right mentor for you.

That might seem obvious, yet it amazes me the number of people that simply ‘want a mentor’ without knowing exactly what they need a mentor for.  You need to be specific.

As a business mentor, I promise you, we love it when people know why they need a mentor, and what attributes they have.  I’d rather decline a job that I wasn’t suited for than get hired and discover I’m the wrong fit.  And any mentor worth their salt would feel the same.

Plus, most mentors know other mentors.  If we aren’t the right person to mentor you, we may know who is.  We like referring people to the right mentor because we see that as part of our professional obligation.  We want you to have a positive mentoring experience, even if it isn’t with us.


Mentors have a lifespan

A mentor relationship is one where you should know when it finishes before it begins.

As a business mentor, I want to be sure that I am continuing to add value for as long as I work with my mentee.  If I do my job right, I should put myself out of a job.

A business mentor should work exactly like other service providers – you have a job to do and a timeframe within which to do it.  Just as a mentor holds you accountable for your actions, so a fixed term engagement holds a mentor accountable to deliver value.

The last thing I want is an open-ended engagement.  I want to add value, not get a sinecure.

In my experience, you should set a timeframe for the business mentoring engagement of between three to twelve months.

Of course, a lot of people will disagree with me on this.  Fair enough.

My belief isn’t as cold-blooded as it may sound, nor does it mean you can’t develop a strong relationship.  There is nothing to stop both of you re-assessing at the end and even renewing.  This happens after.  Equally, it is sometimes a good idea to take a break before reuniting to take on the next challenge.

My point is this – if your mentor doesn’t offer this, don’t be afraid to put a timeframe on the engagement.


Taking Action

OK – so now you have the Insider’s Gude to business mentors.  My secrets are laid bare. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – agree or disagree? 

Want to know more about how I work with my clients?  You can check out a case study here and learn more about what makes a great mentee here.

You can contact me here – I can’t wait to hear your story!

What Can Start-Ups and Small Businesses Learn from Billionaires?

Who wants to be a billionaire?

I do!  

I do?  Well, why not.  After all, as an avid fan of Succession, billionaires seem to have a lot of really nice toys to play with (especially that superyacht).

Actually, who cares about being a billionaire – as a business mentor, I care about answering the question of what can start-ups and small businesses learn from billionaires?  My passion is to help entrepreneurs achieve their business goals.  So, studying how extraordinarily successful people have done that is a natural place to get some good lessons.

Billionaires are great to study as they have many of the same issues that small businesses have – but they have greater resources to solve them.

Think of billionaires though, as the ultimate manifestation of capitalism.  They are the Mount Everest (or maybe the Mariana Trench?) of manifesting creative energy into economic wealth.  In that sense, there is a lot we can learn from what billionaires  – as business people – are and do. 


What can start-ups and small businesses learn from billionaires?

There is a lot of fascinating research on billionaires available.  The lessons that it reveals are very useful for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  

And there is a lot to learn:  For example – despite Covid-19 – there are more billionaires than ever before.  Just take 2019 – in that year, there were more than 18 new billionaires created every month. There are a lot of people making a lot of money today.

Forget the impression that all the super-rich simply inherited their wealth.  Nearly 60% are self-made and nearly 90% are self-made in combination with an inheritance.  Most weren’t born billionaires, they created this wealth themselves, in this lifetime.

what can start-ups and small businesses learn from billionaires

Of all the great information in these studies, when I ask myself ‘what can start-ups and small businesses learn from billionaires?’ I come up with three key lessons.


Lesson one: Opportunities are Endless

Most of the recent billionaire wealth came from industries that didn’t even exist 20 years ago.  Tech and healthcare are by far the biggest growth areas. From 2018 to mid-2020, tech wealth amongst billionaires increased by 42.5% and healthcare by 50.3%.

What I take from this, is that we need to look at societal trends and spot the business opportunities that come from them.  These trends are ever-changing and so they continually create opportunities for entrepreneurs.  

This isn’t always easy to do.  I come from Australia, where it seems that unless you own media or dig up stuff from the ground (that is, two hugely capital-intensive industries) you can’t get super-wealthy.

While many businesses have suffered terribly from the effects of the Covid pandemic, others have thrived on the changes.  Physical distancing, and working from home accelerated the ascendance of digital businesses, compressing several years’ evolution into a few months.

Aging, longer-living and increasingly affluent populations mean that spending on health care is only going to go one way: up.

What excites me about tech, is that, unlike many other businesses, the barriers to entry are relatively low.  You don’t need millions of dollars of capital or huge laboratories to start your business today.  Many businesses I know have reduced their costs by lowering fixed overheads.  They’ve embraced tech to improve their client experience.  

And the opportunities for a bright entrepreneur don’t just happen at the big end of town.  The pandemic has created a whole new generation of entrepreneurs that are realising that there is no finite limit on the available opportunities.

In 2019, on average there were over 18 new billionaires each month...and most of the recent billionaire wealth came from industries that didn't even exist 20 years ago.

Lesson 2: Be Prepared to Pivot

You may be a market-leader right now.  But that guarantees nothing in the years to come.  In fact, the more successful you are, the more likely you are a target for one of your competitors.  

Billionaires don’t mind pivoting away from what worked in the past to what worked in the future.  Even billionaires must keep reinventing their businesses, reinvesting their gains into new ventures.

It’s telling that over the past 12 months, over 22% of billionaires have made a change to their business strategy.  The big news though, as that over 52% plan to do so in the next year.

I love examples like the teachers and other professionals in the USA that have seen the opportunity to change careers and get into vending machines.  

Billionaires, teachers – even Yours Truly, a former financial planner – aren’t resting on their laurels.  Be prepared to pivot to take advantage.  Because if you don’t you may be a victim of Lesson Number 3….


Lesson 3: Diversify your business

Even billionaires can get it wrong.  Over the past ten years, over 150 people dropped out of the billionaire club.  The main reason for this was a lack of diversification in their business interests.

Every small business knows the joy of winning a big account.  And you should celebrate.  It’s a double-edged sword though – suddenly a large percentage of your business can come from one client.

Equally, most of your revenue may come from one type of good or service. The lesson from the billionaires is – diversify before the market makes you redundant.

One of my clients owns an elevator-installation business.  Historically, his main revenue stream came from installing them.  This meant his business, although profitable, had very ‘lumpy’ cash flow, and his success was closely tied to the overall building industry.

Plus, if he missed out on just one job he could take a 15 – 20% hit on his income.  That’s a big variation when you are trying to grow and have a payroll to meet.

What he noticed was, after installing the elevators, somebody else was making money from serving them.  Yes, he got the risky once-off big fee for the installation.  But a someone else was getting the regular income stream for providing service over the 30-year life of his elevators! 

So, he made a plan to build up his service department.  It was a natural decision for someone buying an elevator from him to also get him to service it as well.

After five years, the service division was bringing in over 80% of the increased business revenue – and with a much greater degree of certainty.

What extra revenue streams can you develop in your business.  What other services do your customers need that they are getting somewhere else? 


How can a Business Mentor help?

Striving to be a billionaire or even a millionaire isn’t the point.  It’s that each of us has more opportunity today than ever before to realise our dream in business.

Think about it:

  • Most billionaires are self-made
  • They have most of their money in their own business
  • Most made their money in the last 20 years

Does that tell you something about how wealth is created? It’s people backing themselves with their business ideas and having a go – and often against the odds. 

They have faith in themselves and believe that they have innovative solutions to customers’ problems, then they work their butts off to make their vision come true.  

And, like billionaires, they get a team to support them all the way through.

If you would like to know more about how I work with people to help them achieve their goals, have a look at this case study

Contact me and tell me your story – I would love to know more about you and see how I can help you achieve your potential.

3 Simple Steps to Choose your Business Mentor

I’m going to assume you have chosen to get a business mentor to help keep you accountable for success (smart move!) But what steps can you follow to choose the right person?

It’s not as easy as it might seem. After all, this person has to understand you but also hold you accountable.  They need to be friendly, but not your friend.  They need to help you effectively work on your business, but not work in your business.  

However, you might need a coach or a consultant rather than a mentor.  The difference can be subtle, but crucial. Check out my post for more info on the difference between a business mentor, a coach, or a consultant for more on this.


So here’s my 3 Simple Steps to choose your business mentor:


Step 1: Be Prepared


Preparation is not just for Boy Scouts – preparation in choosing your Business mentor is key.  


Understand why you want a mentor.

The first time you ask this question, the answer may seem obvious to you.  If so, great.  Now, ask yourself this same question a second time, and then a third.  This technique is an excellent way of understanding your true motives for needing a mentor.  In turn, this will help you get the best value out of your mentor.

As an example answer, the first time you answer this, you might say: ‘I want a mentor to help me make the best choices for my business’.

OK, a good start, but why and how?

Example answer, second time: “I want to grow my business but it’s hard to find good people to work with.  I’m not sure exactly where to start though.”

Getting better. 

Ask yourself one more time, why do I want a business mentor?: “I want a mentor to help me identify the key aspects of my business that I can delegate, then hold me accountable to my plan for doing this over the next six months.  My mentor will understand my business drivers but also empathize with the difficulties I face is letting go to a degree.” 

The better you can know and express your motives, the more time you can save in briefing your mentor.


Understand your working rhythm:  

Knowing what you want from your mentor is one thing.  Deciding how you would like to work together is another.  For example, will weekly sessions be right or too frequent?  Would monthly sessions be too far apart?  

Often I will have a ‘sprint’ at the start of an engagement where we do weekly sessions for the first two months, then monthly for the rest of the time.  


Decide on your budget:  

At least have a range of what you can afford in mind.  I get it, money is often tight, especially if you are in a start-up.  And sure, if your potential mentor offers a freebie at the start – take it!  However, trying to save money by getting a cheap mentor is a false economy.  Paying a fair price ensures you value the advice and make sure that the mentor delivers value too.

But given that, according to the Wall Street Journal, more than half of businesses fail within five years, having a mentor who can potentially help you avoid that fate is a smart insurance policy.  

A good rule of thumb:  expect to spend 5% of your turnover on professional services, which include mentors, book-keepers, lawyers.

Preparation is not just for the Boy Scouts. Preparation in choosing your Business Mentor is key.

Step 2: Do this when choosing a business mentor:


Decide what attributes they need to have.

Do you need someone with specific technical’ ability?  Or are you looking for overall business ‘savvy’?  

The issues that Business Mentors deal with are usually more strategic and so don’t require specific technical knowledge, but it can help.   Still, if a prospective Mentor has had a career in large corporations and you run a small business, there might be gaps in understanding. Make a list of the skills and experience your perfect mentor would have and use this as a checklist when making your selection.


Get a pool of three candidates

It’s a good idea in business to never choose from a selection pool of one.  Try and meet at least three potential mentors before you decide.  I recommend starting with searching online services – for example, Growth Mentor or ask on Reddit.  

Then, ask a few business-people who you admire who their mentor is.  This is often the best recommendation (I get 90% of my work through referral).


Ask about their business successes – and failures

There are a lot of so-called mentors out there that talk a good game.  But have they achieved anything themselves in the past?  The whole point of a mentor is to learn from their experiences.  No-one knows what winning is like except a winner.

Equally though, you can’t get your toes a little wet without making mistakes.  It’s pretty good to have a mentor who has made a lot of mistakes because it means there is more for you to learn from!  


Step 3: Don’t do these things when choosing a business mentor!


Pay by the hour

Yes, you can meet by the hour but don’t pay by the hour.  You want to have a relationship with your mentor.  Nothing stifles a relationship like the knowledge that the meter starts as soon as you call her for help on an issue.  Rather, see if you can negotiate a price per month.  This can include several formal meetings but also the ability for you to contact them for help at any time.


Don’t be vague:

Bottom line: you want to be the sort of a client a really good mentor would want to work with.  Define exactly what success looks like for you, as a result of having a mentor.  Decide how long you would like the initial period of engagement will be.  This means that you will get the best out of your mentor.

As a mentor, I promise you that we love it when a client says things like:

‘I’d like to work with you for three months to improve my cash-flow and make some tough decisions to increase my product margins.”


“I have been working 50 hours a week, sales are up but I just don’t seem to see any improvement in my bank account. I can’t go on like this forever

But we silently groan inside when we hear:

“I think I need a mentor, would you mentor me?”

Life is too short to be vague.


Don’t ask a friend to mentor you

It might seem like the easy solution – but don’t.  Just don’t.  Sometimes, a mentor has to show some tough love in a way that a friend may not.  Combining the two roles is just asking for trouble.


A Business Mentor is an important choice

If you follow these 3 Simple Steps to choose a business mentor, then you are not only ahead of the completion, you will also enjoy the journey.

Choosing a business mentor is an important decision, but one which will help you maximize your success.  Want to know more?  Contact me today.

Choosing between a Business Mentor, a Coach or a Consultant – Advice for Start-Ups

Choosing between a Business Mentor a Coach or a Consultant

Advice for Start-Ups

When you are starting a business, you need all the help you can get.  You are consumed with the workload and trying to do a million things at once.  You are smart enough to see the value in getting some input from an external source.  Usually though, as a start-up  you only have money – and time – for one.  Choosing between a business mentor, a coach or a consultant is an important decision.  But what is the difference?

Everyone has their own definition and interpretation of what a mentor is, what a coach is, what a consultant is.  That’s cool, but let me explain how I see them.  My perspective is based on over 30 years building and running my own business.  I have engaged coaches and consultants galore.  Interestingly,  I could never find a real mentor that suited me, that could both understand me  as a person and also comprehend how my business worked.  Which is why I now serve as a business mentor myself.


What a Business Mentor is not

When making this choice, it’s imporant to understand that a business mentor is not a coach – although we do coach in the course of our work.  Tony Robbins is a pretty impressive guy.  He defines coaching as: A life coach encourages and counsels clients on a range of professional and personal issues. Life coaching is distinct from giving advice, consulting, counseling, mentoring and administering therapy.” 

In my experience, the starting perspective of a coach is that the coachee (that’s you) already has the answers they need to resolve any given situation.  The skill of the coach is to draw out that knowledge.  That way, the coachee themselves can come up with a plan to resolve or address a given situation.

This can be really useful, as I discovered when I engaged a coach.  You don’t need to be out of start-up mode to take advantage.  He had the best questioning technique that I had ever experienced.  His queries helped create a process through which I could select and prioritise all the options that I was facing.

The downside: he knew nothing about my business in particular, or business in general.  He didn’t know to get a legal review on an important contract or how to negotiate a pricing agreement.  There wasn’t an appreciation of the challenges of balancing stakeholder expectations whilst hitting growth targets in a highly regulated environment.  That wasn’t his fault – it was just outside his area of expertise.

I could never find a real mentor that suited me, that could both understand me as a person and also comprehend how my business worked.

A Business Mentor is not a Consultant

Equally, a business mentor is not a consultant, though they do provide specific and structured advice. 

I have had plenty of business consultants during my career.  They can quickly identify areas of business improvement and provide options for how to solve these problems.  They can be invaluable – in Australia, Business Health were instrumental in helping my business win the FPA Professional Practice of the Year award.    

However, it was outside the remit of any of these consultants to try to understand me as a person, except as that immediately impacted the business.  They looked at my situation purely from the metrics of the business.  Things like my profit margin, return on equity, client funds invested, etc.  

What they struggled to understand is the deep loyalty I had to clients who had been with us 20 or more years.  These clients weren’t profitable any more because they had drawn down their funds.  Sure, I might lose money on them, but my personal values wouldn’t let me cut them loose.  They still needed advice and there was a relationship of mutual trust that had been built up.  They  weren’t just clients – they were friends.

Consultants simply aren’t paid to consider business karma.


OK, so what is a Business Mentor?

A business mentor is someone who understands your goals and priorities.  This means what is important to you, not just in business, but in life.  They also place a huge importance on knowing your values, beliefs and morals.  As a start up, you will be pulled in all sorts of directions and it is easy to lose your compass.

A business mentor has proven experience in business.  They understand a P & L, a Balance Sheet, can spot a cash flow squeeze from a hundred metres away.  They know the principles of good corporate governance.  They have the wisdom to know when to be cautious and when to be bold.

Just as importantly, a good business mentor will understand the accounts of the heart.  These are the intangible aspects of business that mean while you build a business, you also build a character.  A business mentor will understand that success is more than a bank account balance or winning awards.  A business mentor possesses the skills to understand you well enough to ensure your actions are congruent with your best version of you.

If you want to read more, let me recommend this blog post from Growth Mentor.  Like me, they love working with start-ups (so if I am not your cup of tea head over there!) 

With that background, a business mentor will work with you to identify your clear business goals, with an agreed timeframe for achieving them.  We will also clearly define what success looks like.  From this, you will design a plan.

But it doesn’t end there – the key value from mentoring is having accountability for your action to someone who only has your best interests at heart.  


Choosing between a Business Mentor, a coach or a consultant.

What’s Next?

All three – a business mentor, a coach and a consultant – can play an important role in a life of a start-up.  You need to choose the best service for your particular circumstances.  If I may offer some unsolicited advice:  at least make a conscious choice and take action.

If you think you can benefit from my experience, I would love to hear from you.  

So, what’s next?  You tell me.  You can click on, or you can click here and start our conversation.