Navigating the Future: Unleashing AI’s Potential in Financial Advice… and the Looming Threat to Financial Advisers

Like many, recent conversations have involved the advancements of Artificial Intelligence (more generally) and its impact on financial advice (more specifically).  Personally, I have looked for ways in which I can benefit my clients and improve my practice ‘lifestyle’ without losing focus by chasing the latest fad.

I am excited about the recent developments in Artificial Intelligence and its rapidly increasing impact on our world. And, I am not just saying that to curry favour with my future computer overlords! It is inspiring to see the innovation, productivity increases, and pure excitement that Artificial Intelligence apps are creating. Beyond the ‘wow factor’ of ChatGPT and DALL-E though, there are broader implications of the types and potential risks of AI to consider. Even the current debate on how to best regulate these services causes us to ask ourselves questions about the type of society we wish to have in the future.


Advancement brings Disruption

Inevitably, indeed almost by definition, these advancements will bring significant disruption.  If not, what’s the point?  But the disruption will flow into a restructuring of our economy and, I believe, make a profound impact on our future workforce. Author and Physicist Max Tegmark explores many of the possible scenarios and issues in his excellent book Life 3.0. These range from a world of leisure and secure income to the complete annihilation of humanity as consciousness evolves to a non-organic form and humans lose their utility!

On a more immediate scale, it’s tempting for financial advisers to reject the notion that their expertise could be threatened by AI – or more particularly, Large Language Models such as ChatGPT.  After all, our work is built on the trust we develop over a long period of time, and on our technical expertise.  Others posit a value proposition of superior investment performance.  But complacency is naive and solipsistic. 

I recall a friend of mine back in the 80s, who had completed an apprenticeship as a Typesetter.  His entire vocation disappeared overnight with the introduction of software to replace the physical laying out of metal type in blocks for printing.  My friend was left in his late 20s with no other employable skills.  Try talking to him about the wonders of computer technology!

Many financial advisers are in denial about the impact that AI and technology will have on our profession.  Others simply hope that they will be spared and manifest this by continuing to offer more of the same, relying on market inertia to guarantee their success (at least until they retire or move on for their own reasons). To me, this is naive at best, and pusillanimous at worst. AI will result in profound changes to how we advise clients. But it offers staggering possibilities to improve as well.  These need to be understood and faced.

So what are the most significant promises and the greatest threats that financial advisers (and by extension, our clients) face from AI?  Are there any aspects of our work that are safe from AI challenges?

As I see it, anything data-related or driven is immediately up for grabs.  AI is simply built differently from humans and designed to process data in ways that are different and more efficient than our brains.


The Promise of Artificial Intelligence for Financial Advisers

The promise of AI is that it can relieve our profession of the lowest-value but necessary work and allow advisers to focus on what adds the most value to the client relationship – or more precisely, on what the clients that we seek to serve value the most.

An area of significant promise is portfolio construction and management.  Portfolio construction  – despite the protestations of many – is in my opinion as much of an art as a science at a human level.  No one person or even firm can consider the entirety of the investment universe, and construct a portfolio that still also meets regulatory hurdles let alone the needs of a client as it relates to their tolerance for risk, access to capital and cash flow requirements.  This is not a criticism, as the abundance of options means that the achievement of an investor’s goals is not hindered by this fact.

But portfolios are often viewed as photographs, whereas in reality, they are more akin to motion pictures.  Investments go up and down in value, markets change, and new products and securities are being introduced all the time.  In other words, there is a staggering volume of data to be considered, selected, assessed and then applied to an individual’s portfolio. 

It’s in this area that I see AI having a tremendous benefit to investors because it promises to be able to continuously market data with an individual’s preferences and objectives to optimally maximise a portfolio to be fit for purpose.  Imagine a system that had delegated authority to apply qualitative screens (e.g. regulatory approval, liquidity, currency) and act automatically to either buy, sell or rebalance based on both mathematical and statistical analysis of a portfolio as well as the subjective preferences of the individual client.  A system that could concurrently allocate assets appropriately for the time horizon of the portfolio whilst properly timing trades to market conditions on that day.  And to achieve all this within the context of a particular client’s cash flow requirements and taxation profile?

It is dangerous for financial advisers to consider their experience, expertise or even technical ability as some sort of moat guaranteeing a sinecure.

Investment advisers may reel with horror at this suggestion that AI steals their alpha (though conceivably it could create other arbitrage opportunities – but that’s a discussion for another day) but as an independent financial adviser I would welcome such a time-saving service as a way to ensure that investment choices were effectively implemented and managed.

But such a Financial AI service – ‘FinGPT’ faces some very practical challenges, as identified in a recent paper outlining a design for a FinGPT Large Language Model. Simply accessing the data  – both historical and current  – in a non-proprietary and consistent format poses a significant practical challenge.  How do you extract and equate, for example, Earnings per share across stocks and jurisdictions?  What about comparing dividend yields on Australian stocks between resident and non-resident investors, or the effect of depreciation rates on REITs?  The devil, as always, is in the details.

Figure 1: FinGPT Framework (Yang, Liu, Wang 2023)

These will be overcome, but what about issues of liability and the fulfilment of KYC and AML requirements? I’ve yet to see a licensing regime that will accredit computer code, nor a jurisdiction that will allow a client to take action against a software program.  Liability remains with a legal entity, and prudent advisers will want to understand and approve any recommendations – effectively advice – provided by a FinGPT.  So does this negate or materially reduce any productivity benefits this might bring?


An Adviser’s Competitive Edge

There are many benefits to engaging a financial adviser (I would say that, wouldn’t I?)  In my experience though, the one that gets either overlooked or taken for granted is one of the most valuable.  Financial advisers precipitate and enhance the agency of their clients.  That is, they make sure important stuff gets done.  It’s quite true that any plan is usually better than no plan, and working with an adviser – a human adviser – means that decisions get made, actions are taken, follow-ups are made:  shit gets done. 

So often when I first meet with even the most experienced clients, they know roughly what needs to be done.  Often they even know where to start, and how to implement it.  However, they are looking for the encouragement and reassurance that an experienced independent adviser can provide.

Figure 2: Sense of Financial Security (FAAA 2022)

The manifestation of this call to action is reflected in qualitative research on the value of financial advice.  Both the Financial Advice Association of Australia and the Financial Planning Association of Canada have conducted research shopping the reported improvement in the overall wellbeing of advised versus non-advised persons. These are second-order effects but are, I believe, highly correlated with a strong sense of agency at the level of the individual investor.

This sense of agency, of empowerment, is an advantage that I believe financial advisers will always have over non-human advice providers like AI or robo-advice.  It goes beyond simple email reminders or phone alerts.  It is the nuanced understanding of client psychology that even the best Turing machine will struggle to replicate, because the financial adviser often makes the first call, rather than waiting for someone to respond.


How does this play out?

My sense is that AI will increasingly support financial advisers through their use in performing tasks that are technically complex and data-driven, such as portfolio construction and research.  Gradually, this will evolve to include true robo-advice that is focussed on specific goals or particular products (e.g. superannuation in Australia) and in only one jurisdiction.

Of course, as data collection and reporting move to fully standard and open-source, the depth and quality of financial advice produced by AI will continue to improve.  

Daniel Susskind (co-author of the prescient and excellent book Future of the Professions) hit the nail on the head recently when he wrote  “To claim clients want expert, trusted advisers is to confuse process and outcome. Patients do not want doctors, they want good health. Clients do not want litigators, they want to avoid pitfalls in the first place. People want trustworthy solutions, whether they rely on flesh-and-blood professionals or AI.”

It’s easy to forget how quickly and silently societal morés change over time, without us being aware.  Remember when mobile phones became truly mobile, and (in Australia at least) those who conducted a call whilst walking down the street were seen as ostentatious poseurs.  Now we can’t switch the damn things off.  

So I tend to agree with Susskind.  It is dangerous for financial advisers to consider their experience, expertise or even technical ability as some sort of moat guaranteeing a sinecure.  You ignore the market and take your clients for granted, at your peril.

But while I am in a nostalgic mode, I also remember a truism from my early days as an advisor: Insurance is not bought, it has to be sold.  Equally, the best financial plan means little if action is not taken, or steps are not implemented accurately and effectively.  My AI apps are fantastic at responding to my queries and  (at least for now) don’t have the ability to tap me on the shoulder and inspire me to take action.

I’d love to hear your views – contact me here to start a conversation.


Geek Corner

I would like to give credit to DALL.E 2 for generating the header image on this post!


Beyond the Bank Balance: Exploring the True Dimensions of Financial Wellbeing

Where is the Value in Financial Advice?

It’s axiomatic that every single client I have ever seen is seeking to improve their situation.  The challenge lies in identifying exactly what improvement is required and how this can be measured.

Financial Planners can conduct a range of services for their clients.  Most are orthodox:  cash flow planning, asset allocation and investment recommendations, estate planning.  Some less so:  in my career I have helped in mergers & acquisitions, lawsuits and even a few death-bed visitations. All of these services are demonstrably valued to at least the extent that our clients retain our services.  But is there a better way to determine value?

A recurring challenge for both financial advisers and their clients has been, how do you quantify the value that is created?  Is it simply looking at the increase in one’s Bank Balance?  An army of asset managers will answer with a resounding YES.  Yet it is simplistic to assume a linear relationship between wealth and satisfaction.

Never ignore the possibility that sometimes the best advice is to spend money, especially in later life.  Or should we seek the highest percentage rate of return on a portfolio?  Perhaps, except that in many cases we don’t look for the highest return, we look for the best risk-adjusted return.

The overarching purpose of quality financial advice is to improve financial wellbeing.  Personally, I believe that people and families that enjoy high levels of financial wellbeing live happier, healthier and more prosperous lives.  This in turn impacts their broader community, and it is not a stretch to say that this made, at least in their corner, the world a better place.

What is Wellbeing?

Wellbeing is one of those concepts that most feel they understand intuitively.  To describe and define it is another thing altogether.  Researchers themselves argue over whether measuring wellbeing is something that can be assessed objectively or if it should remain a subjective assessment.

There have been efforts to define and measure wellbeing objectively, although these are not without challenges.  Wellbeing is not an easily measured or counted number like a nation’s economic output.  As Robert Kennedy observed: ‘the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile’.

This does not mean that wellbeing cannot be measured.  But first, it should be understood and defined.

Researchers have identified three broad types of wellbeing:

Life Evaluation:

Life evaluation refers to people’s thoughts about the quality or goodness of their lives, their overall life satisfaction, or sometimes how happy they are generally with their lives.

Hedonic Wellbeing:

Hedonic wellbeing is sometimes defined as ‘experienced’ wellbeing.  It is centred on positive emotions, pleasure and satisfaction.  Feelings such as sadness, anger, illness and pain diminish this perception.

Eudemonic Wellbeing:

Eudemonic wellbeing relates to a sense of purpose and meaning in life. It is a sense of wellbeing derived from living according to one’s values, being true to oneself, reaching your full potential and developing personally.

As can be seen, there may be many circumstances where these three types of wellbeing do not correlate within an individual.  Anyone who has gone on a fitness regime can relate to sacrificing Hedonic wellbeing for increased Eudemonic wellbeing as the pain of a diet or exercise is (hopefully more than) compensated with the feeling of being true to our personal potential.

To better understand and measure these interactions, a more granular distinction in wellbeing is required.  The Gallup organisation has developed a Global Wellbeing index, which is designed to measure the behavioural economics of gross national wellbeing.  To do this, they measure overall wellbeing in five components:

Purpose (or Career) Wellbeing

Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals.

Social Wellbeing:

Having strong relationships and love in your life

Financial Wellbeing:

Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security.

Community Wellbeing

Liking where you live, feeling safe and taking pride in your community.

Physical Wellbeing

Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

Interestingly, Gallup’s data shows a U-shaped relation between wellbeing and age in high-income, English-speaking countries.  Wellbeing begins to decline in the mid-40s and only starts increasing again in the early to mid-50s.  There is scientific evidence for the mid-life crisis!

Cantril Ladder Financial Wellbeing

Figure 1: Life evaluation and age in four regions (Steptoe et al, 2014)

There is scientific evidence for the mid-life crisis!

There is a growing consensus among academic experts and policymakers that, of the five components, it is financial wellbeing that is the ultimate measure of success for individuals’ overall wellbeing. A society that faces financial constraints also faces profound consequences for its overall welfare.  The state of living in financial instability, in poverty, or having financial problems has a detrimental impact on single individuals, their families and society collectively.   The lack of financial wellbeing can lead individuals to live precariously, affects their economic mobility and may transform a small financial problem into an ongoing financial constraint.

Very importantly, financial vulnerability and low financial wellbeing seriously affects and distresses a worker’s productivity.

This research is supported by my experience with assisting clients in improving their financial wellbeing over decades.  I’ve seen first-hand the difference being financial organised makes in a person’s self-esteem and peace of mind.    This assuredness can and does radiate out into other areas of their lives.


What is Financial Wellbeing?

Like wellbeing generally, financial wellbeing can be challenging to define.  It is not simply being financially affluent:  we’ve all known people who are wealthy yet unhappy, or poor yet without a care in the world.  Equally, simply understanding or knowing a lot about money, taxes, share markets or property does not guarantee financial wellbeing either.

Research shows us that subjective knowledge and how we behave with money has a stronger correlation with financial wellbeing than education alone.  This is not to say that improved financial literacy is not important.  Understanding how money and our financial system works is an essential skill to master in order to participate in our modern society.  Yet, it is not enough to simply promote financial literacy – we must also consider encouraging confidence and motivation to act in order to increase financial wellbeing.

The Institute for Financial Wellbeing (IFW) in the UK describes financial wellbeing as ‘how money can be used to increase our happiness.’ As noted above, the other areas of wellbeing are very dependent upon financial wellbeing for their function.  Therefore, it is about how we use our money to support other areas of wellbeing.

The IFW has taken this further and identified five factors that contribute to financial wellbeing.  At Kenwell, we have integrated these elements into our financial advice programs, whether these are provided on an individual or group basis, face-to-face or via our online platforms.

These five elements are:

Clear, Identifiable Objectives:

One of the greatest contributing factors to stress in life (regardless of the subject) is uncertainty.  Identifying and quantifying financial objectives is the essential first step towards achieving these.  Simply deciding what you wish to achieve with your money is empowering.

Control over Daily Finances:

Prudent financial management is a critical element for financial wellbeing.  This means understanding where your money comes from, and where it goes.  Without this knowledge, priorities cannot be consciously established, and wellbeing (and wealth) remains hostage to factors outside of your control.

Ability to withstand Financial Shocks:

My experience teaches me that the only certainty in financial markets is uncertainty, and this is true for even the best-laid plans. Even in calm times, preparation for unexpected events needs to be put into place.  Whilst uncertainty and shocks cannot be avoided, their impact can be managed and planned for.

Financial Options:

When you need money, you need a smart place to get some from.  This could be savings, or credit, or simply varying your spending habits.  Having different options on how and where to access your financial resources is an important contributor to financial wellbeing.  Equally, understanding what trade-offs may be necessary to take with each of the options is an empowering experience.

Clarity and Security for our Family and Loved Ones:

Although an individual measure, financial wellbeing is influenced by our interactions with family and friends.  Money itself depends on the framework of our societies’ laws and institutions, and its subjective value on our stage of life.  Assuring those close to you of your values, intents and instructions is a very real part of increasing financial wellbeing, regardless of what stage you are at in life’s journey.

Having now arrived at a conceptual understanding of wellbeing, and a definition of financial wellbeing, how can this be applied for your benefit?

In other words, what practical steps can be taken to increase your own financial wellbeing and how do you measure this?

Overview of Types of wellbeing

Figure 2: Interrelationships of Financial Wellbeing, Kenwell Engage with overall wellbeing.

The good news is that, with the appropriate attention, enhancing one’s financial wellbeing is entirely within an individual’s control.

Why is Financial Wellbeing important?

We live in a society that is increasingly interconnected through digital communication, and transacting using electronic currency via either debit or credit cards.  Current trends suggest that it will not be long before people not only completely manage their financial lives virtually, but they will have to also choose which currencies (fiat or crypto) to use.  Money, whilst fungible, is almost completely virtual and intangible.  Good financial literacy is obviously important for an individual’s personal success.  But, as we have explained above, financial wellbeing goes beyond a simple intellectual understanding of financial concepts.  Financial wellbeing involves a sense of control and preparedness, and an experiential grasp of money usage.

The lack of financial wellbeing manifests itself in some concerning societal statistics.  In the UK in 2018, 47% of workers experienced some degree of financial difficulties and over half (51.1%) reported financial worries.  Employees who have these financial difficulties can be up to half as productive as those without.

Similarly, more recent research in the UK also shows that 55% of average income earners and 1 in 3 high income earners worry about money; 45% don’t feel confident in managing their quotidian finances.

We fully expect similar situations in developed economies, as they face similar circumstances and trends.  Arguably, the need to address the lack of financial wellbeing has never been greater if families and individuals are to achieve a better quality of life.


Measuring Financial Wellbeing

Of course, defining and understanding financial wellbeing is one thing, but how do we measure this improvement?  Without a robust methodology, the risk is that any improvement in financial wellbeing becomes anecdotal, ephemeral or simply conjectural.

An intuitive response to anything to do with money is to look to financial measures as a yardstick.  What improvements have there been in cashflow? Has the person’s savings or income increased?  Have they prepared and kept to their budget?  These are all important matters but are only loosely correlated to financial wellbeing.

There is plenty of research showing that increased wealth does not necessarily positively correlate to financial wellbeing.  We all know the stories of wealthy but unhappy people.  Similarly, increasing income has a diminishing positive impact on financial wellbeing – that is, above certain levels more income makes virtually no difference.  So, it is not simply a matter of becoming wealthier or earning more income.

As financial advisers, we understand that sometimes, especially in later life, the best advice is to actually spend money!  Or, in times of market volatility, the best action is no action, allowing the market to recognise the intrinsic value of assets held.

For these reasons, my colleagues at Verse Wealth developed a Financial Wellbeing Scorecard.  This simple self-assessment allows for a measure of financial wellbeing and places this within the context of the person’s overall wellbeing.  It provides a reliable self-assessment that can be compared over time.

The Financial Wellbeing Scorecard is a basis by which a financial adviser can measure the value of the services provided over time through financial advice and consulting services.

What’s Next?

Positive and high wellbeing is an important and valuable contributor to one’s overall quality of life and happiness.  Understanding the five areas that contribute to this and living in a fashion designed to enhance them is a way of living that is to be recommended.

Financial wellbeing itself is shown to be the critical component that can positively influence the other four elements.  The good news is that, with the appropriate attention, enhancing one’s financial wellbeing is entirely within an individual’s control.  As a financial adviser, it is this criterion, rather than the bank balance, around which I base my personal advice.

By engaging with this perspective, specific investment and structural recommendations can be made with the aim of improving financial wellbeing. And, by measuring this over time, we have a relevant and objective self-assessment to measure the value that this advice brings.

Want to know more? Contact me today to start the discussion!





Abrantes-Braga, Farah Diba M.A, and Tania Veludo-de-Oliveira. “Development and Validation of Financial Well-Being Related Scales.” International journal of bank marketing 37.4 (2019): 1025–1040

Aegon ‘Our insight into the nation’s financial wellbeing’ 2021

Ali, Shahzad, and Nighat Talha. “During COVID-19, Impact of Subjective and Objective Financial Knowledge and Economic Insecurity on Financial Management Behavior: Mediating Role of Financial Wellbeing.” Journal of public affairs (2021): e2789–e2789.

Berstein, Shai, McQuade, Timothy, and Townsend, Richard “Do Household Wealth Shocks Affect Productivity? Evidence from Innovative Workers During the Great Recession.” The Journal of finance (New York) 76.1 (2021): 57–111.

CIPD/You Gov COVID Working Lives Survey, June 2020

Cooper, Cary L., and Ian. Hesketh. Managing Health and Wellbeing in the Public Sector: A Guide to Best Practice. 1st ed. Milton: Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

Gallup Inc, “Well-being: What you need to Thrive” 2010

Kirkwood, Thomas and Cooper Cary. Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide. (Wellbeing in Later Life). IV. Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

Iacus, Stefano M., and Giuseppe. Porro. Subjective Well-Being and social media. Milton: CRC Press LLC, 2021

Money and Pensions Service Financial Wellbeing Survey 2021

O’Connor, Genevieve, and Sertan Kabadayi, Exploring Financial Wellbeing. Emerald Publishing Limited, 2019.

Personal Group ‘Financial Wellbeing Report for Employers’, 2021

Riitsalu, Leonore, and Rein Murakas. “Subjective Financial Knowledge, Prudent Behaviour and Income: The Predictors of Financial Well-Being in Estonia.” International journal of bank marketing 37.4 (2019): 934–950.

Secondsight ‘The Personal financial wellbeing assessment’ 2021

Steptoe, Andrew, Angus Deaton, and Arthur A Stone. “Subjective Wellbeing, Health, and Ageing.” The Lancet (British edition) 385.9968 (2015): 640–648.

Vernon, Mark. Wellbeing. Stocksfield: Acumen, 2010.

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.