November 9, 2021

#266 Jordan Vaka – Transcript

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Fraser Jack
Welcome back to the xy advisor Podcast. I’m Fraser Jack and today I’m joined by Jordan Vaka. Welcome.

Jordan Vaka
Thank you, Fraser. Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Fraser Jack
You’re very welcome. Thank you for coming on. Let’s start with you. Tell us a little bit about your practice at the moment.

Jordan Vaka
Sure. So I my practice is planning solo. We’re a small firm, we focus on helping people going through divorce, and helping them rebuild afterwards as well. And also, we’re looking at helping people through, you know, bigger life transitions as well.

Fraser Jack
Fantastic. And of course, you’re an independent financial adviser, which we’ll get into get into shortly. But before we go there, let’s let’s follow your journey. Tell us about where it all started for you.

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, sure. I come out of university started working in a smaller boutique firm wound up at one of the big banks. For all the pros and cons of the banks. They were very good learning and vital. They were a very good learning environment. Lots of meetings every day. I went from there into a stock broking firm where I was the advisor in there, that was fun. When the GFC hits. I still remember all the phones ringing with the margin calls for all the stockbrokers and then at 25 had the brainwave of setting up my own business and going out on my own. And push through that, and merged with another larger firm A few years ago had a really great time with them, that we parted ways last year, partly so I could head towards that independent goal. And now here we are,

Fraser Jack
yeah, fantastic. That’s a very, it’s a very quick overview of the fact that you went and got your qualifications at uni, what did you get?

Jordan Vaka
I have a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in financial planning. Yeah, well, so

Fraser Jack
all you know, like, you’re one of the ones that didn’t just fall into this, you actually went out and studied it and wanted to become why why did you choose that?

Jordan Vaka
I actually always had the ambition of becoming a lawyer. And then I realized that I enjoyed economics and finance too much at school. So we had to commerce didn’t really know which way I would head. And had, I think it was in the fundamentals of finance class, and I came across what financial planning was. And it seemed like a really good overlap between the theoretical side of finance, where it’s all about the numbers and spreadsheets, and actually helping people individually. And that kind of what I fell in love with it first. And then as I went through the education, the complexity probably kept me going. I think, I think learning the superannuation rules four times in 15 years, has kept things pretty fresh. So yeah, that’s what sparked the interest initially.

Fraser Jack
Yeah. And you’re absolutely right. And I, as you say that I think about the the combination of the technical side, and the emotional side, and having that balance been out to be able to think about a situation from both the technical aspect and then the client’s emotional needs.

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, definitely keeps it interesting. And it makes it it’s quite a complex job, what we do so yeah, it’s been a lot of fun so far. Yeah, certainly

Fraser Jack
plenty to keep you interested. Talk to me about the first job, how did you land a job at the bank?

Jordan Vaka
Um, so I started off doing admin in a smaller firm for about six months. And that was really, I don’t think I realized the benefits of that until much later on, when you’re actually in the nuts and bolts of getting an application in and chasing through underwriting and that sort of thing. But then you just applied and went off in a role at Westpac. Yeah, and just ran with it from there. That was, I think it was two or three years,

Fraser Jack
tell me about that experience, starting with a bank. And then because obviously, back in those days, that’s where all the training was, you know, I guess there was a lot of there was big training, learning curve to be done, you could shadow some people, they would give you some training, forget, forget about the advice and the product. Like we’re not there to talk about that. But just talk to us about the training aspect and how that how that’s

Jordan Vaka
the in hindsight, the investment I put into training is significant. And as you say, the motivations are obviously something we won’t talk about. But I remember we did six weeks of training off site in a group. And that was from everything, a lot of it was obviously very product based to get to know your product. And I think there were accreditation is involved, you had to pass to know your product back then. But also how to run a meeting, how to position a meeting, how to position your services, how to structure advice, there was strategic education as well. Through that we’ll then put out into the branches. And I was partnered with a senior advisor, and we would meet up once or twice a week. But it was still me on my own in those first few meetings, and I shudder to think how they must have gone. They’re either really quick or really long, like I can’t quite remember. And then they had ongoing training through the process as well, every week, every fortnight you’d catch up with your peers every week, there’d be discussions. So it was a very intensive way to learn. But there was always that background hum of sales and leaderboards and targets and things like that. And I think that experience kind of left me wondering where I fit into the picture because that that side of things I realized now was just of no use when it comes to motivating me I don’t really care about a little bit.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, yeah, you’re absolutely right. You know, there’s you know, that’s that’s a culture that comes with with product sales and obviously, you know, banks have got product that they need to distribute and then let’s not that not bash them for that. But you know that that’s that’s the culture for any particular larger organization that has shareholders and needs to it needs to sign on new new clients or new bank accounts where there might be new mortgages. Talk to me about that process of like with the training, you go through that training where you get to sit, is it? Do you see that now in the in the professional year? Is that similarity? Or are we just sort of missing some of that stuff with the new year might look

Jordan Vaka
upon the professional year quite a interesting concept, I think, done? Well, it could go be it could surpass what we had in the past what I went through, I just, I worry about the resourcing that the firms that are doing the PMI are going to have to bring to bear to do it. And whether or not that’ll create a gap between the potential and the reality. I mean, at the bank, ultimately, they didn’t really spare any expense, because you were part of the onboarding process. They had the infrastructure in place to align you with a senior partner or senior planner, and technical resources to train you up in a smaller firm. So I mean, p y is something that’s in the back of my mind for our firm, the resourcing around that is something I need to get my head around and how we can adequately do that, because I think that next generation coming in, ultimately, that’s the legacy, those of us that are still in the game will be leaving behind. And I don’t want us to stuff that up

Fraser Jack
yet. And how old were you when you were coming through that baking channels? 22?

And how did you go sitting in front of clients until retirement and whether within moments, they’re where you, you know, you’re questioning yourself as though they deserve to be there?

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, I think the imposter syndrome was pretty strong, I think parroting the lines that we were given helped a lot. But no, absolutely. Are you scared of your wits?

Fraser Jack
How did you get past that? What would you tell yourself?

Jordan Vaka
I think it was a bit of a bluff and bluster. Really, I think, knowing that we, again, the bank systems are easy to criticize, but knowing that personally, we were coming at it with the right intent that we were trying to help improve people’s situation. And that helped a lot. And also been quite open with the fact being prepared to say, look, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’ll come back to you with it. I think it’s a very powerful sentence to use. And it took me a while to learn that one. But yeah, you just blast through it ultimately, and hope that you can clean up any mess afterwards.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, exactly. Right. And you’re right. We’re not here to bash the banks. In fact, I think a lot of people have stuff in place now because of that process and system that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had talked to me about the stock broker days because you moved from a bank to a stockbroker, pre GFC everything’s going swimmingly? Well, you know, stocks are only going up, they only ever go up, do they? Tell us about that. That moment where you were the financial planner in with a group of with a group of, let’s say, bolstering stockbrokers.

Jordan Vaka
Sorry, I’m trying to keep my positive hat on for taking a few of the boxes and

Fraser Jack
just trying to wind you down a little bit.

Jordan Vaka
Go, I’ll be honest, I’m, I’m mystified at the way stock broking is treated in the scene from a regulatory point of view. I think that the complexity of the work that we do on our side of the fence, I don’t see why the rules are sort of managed a bit differently. But even though aside, I think for certain clientele for a certain group of people, a stockbroker is a fantastic addition to their wealth approach. I don’t think it should be in isolation. And I think that the the intellectual, or the theory that we’re seeing developed over years, does bring into question the value of the model that they’re currently operating through. So we were sort of in the middle there of them, the firm I was in, we’re transitioning across to more of a wealth management approach, where it was essentially financial advice trying to bring in the assets under management, charge a percentage on that rather than charging brokerage. I think that was quite an interesting model. And I believe this continued without a bit, but then the GFC hit, and everything fell apart. Essentially, we had brokers not come in for days. So we were taking the margin calls, and just passing on the messages, because not nothing more we could do. We had clients selling down, we, the firm that was in there were heavy into Babcock, and brown, though heavily into Orko. Companies that just wiped out, ABC learning was a huge part of the practice. So that was just horrifying. For me the idea of margin calls, spiraling down for people over time, when most of us listening will probably be of the opinion that buy and hold is a really good strategy rather than over leveraging and punting. So it was eye opening it definitely, despite some of the distinctions between our approach and what I’d be learning on the side compared to what I was experiencing in the day to day. Yeah, it was a fascinating experience. It’s not one I necessarily want to repeat there.

Fraser Jack
Now, it’s a very difficult process to get up in the morning go to work when you know what’s coming. Tell me about your your state of mind at the time going through that and talking to those clients and not being able to really do anything. I think

Jordan Vaka
it was irritation was a big part of it was that these weren’t our clients. None of our clients in our little financial planning part had margin calls. All our clients were sitting tight. We were we were buying, if anything we’re buying into McQuarrie and the 20 $30 plan. That was That was fun. Like that’s exciting. It’s nerve wracking because you’re trying to hold on to the theory, thinking it’ll get you through as the world melts around you. But then having to spend a good part of My day on the phone to lenders chasing margin calls and then having to leave messages for people or send emails to people for clients because the brokers had just disappeared. It was pretty frustrating. I was quite irritating.

Fraser Jack
And in, you know, like working with those brokers, what do they I guess they eventually showed up? What did that ruined your relationship with him?

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, I didn’t say the phone much longer after the GFC. I think I set out on my own six months into it. Nine months into it. Yep. I think maybe apartment I was in my mid 20s. So a big part of it was both. I couldn’t do it much worse. Which is the arrogance of youth?

Fraser Jack
Of course. Yeah, of course. So how old? were you when you started your own firm?

Jordan Vaka
I was 25. Yep.

Fraser Jack
So 25 years old, selling your own firm? How did you start it? Obviously you did you you had some relationships, existing clients, or did you just out of that, like, what was the plan? What was the game plan?

Jordan Vaka
I think the game plan the reality diverge pretty quickly. I think my experience is a really good example of how not to do it. I went out with a handful of clients, which was wonderful. And they’re still with me, which was fantastic. That really helped in the early days. But I was undercapitalized. I didn’t have the referral sources I should have had. And it was a really hard slog for three years just meeting people and acquiring clients very slowly. I partnered up with a really good finance broker early on, but negotiated myself into a terrible revenue splitting deal, where very quickly every deal was losing money. Yeah, I ticked every box on the mistake checklist for three years, it was very educational, frozen.

Fraser Jack
Well, this is why the story is so important, because it helps other people avoid, avoid similar mistakes. So 25 standing your own practice, I call this the apprenticeship stage, when you start your own business in you know, everybody thinks you can start a business and, and that’s great. You can have some runway, but you know, go back to the idea of starting a first year apprenticeship wages for the first year at least. And then then maybe they’ll double every year until you get something that resembles a real a real job. Were you were you did you just sort of set this up to start your own job? Or was this, you know, setting up a business,

Jordan Vaka
I think the plan was to set up a business, the five year plan was to bring myself out of the front line and try to hire other staff. Those delusions, they were they turned out to be delusions, and that arrogance was punctured very quickly. And it became a matter of survivals too extreme a term. But really just getting by for three years, while we built the foundations and recovered from some of my mistakes. That arrogance I mentioned earlier, it’s very hard to maintain that when you have to work, leave, move back home with mom to get by as you’re running a business. So that blew that out of the water. It was horrible at the time. Horrible. But in hindsight, it’s made me a much better advisor and a much better business person now I think and a better person to be frank.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, LAN, look, you know, I think you’ll probably look at when you listen back to this podcast, if you do, you’ll, you’ll realize that all of those different experiences turned you into the human that you are today. You know, it’s not easy. You know, like is it you’ve been training the banks and you’ve been through, you’ve been through some adversity with the within the GFC. And, you know, you call it arrogance, but you’ve got to have a bit of confidence in yourself to pack yourself to do these things. And in estate business, tell me about that merger with with the you know, the because it’s always people sort of give you that idea, you need to have a referral partner and you need to set it up, we do these things, and you’re getting this information from outside sources that are saying you should be doing this, tell me about that relationship you set out with the with the broker.

Jordan Vaka
So I sent out 150 Cold letters to finance brokers in my area, that in my sort of part of Melbourne. And I had three responses. Two of them were people that you do not really want to do business with. And one of them was somebody that was really good to do business with. And we started working together, I think there was maybe a mismatch in expectations in terms of the level of salesmanship that I would be bringing to the role. I’ve never been terribly good at sales. And there was a bit of a clash there. But on the whole, he had a wonderful group of clients, he approached it really well. And he was really generous with his time and with his clients. But signing up to a 5050 revenue split, if anybody’s considering that I would strongly discourage you in doing so particularly in the new world,

Fraser Jack
yet, well, it’s sort of not thing that you can really do in the new world at all. But back then, back then it was probably, you know, a fairly ambitious but you know, you edge. Was that something? Because did you sign on to that because you were struggling to win or get new clients in? And that wasn’t part of your, your, your personal values?

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, absolutely not. It wasn’t it wasn’t part of the initial plan. It was a matter of Well, here’s a source of clients, that people that I can help and then bring revenue into the business and it did meet that purpose. You know, for that two to three years. It was a very productive relationship. And let me springboard into a few other areas. And then when that relationship did come to an end, and we’re able to keep rolling on, which was something I’d be really grateful for forever, I

Fraser Jack
think. Yeah, and tell me about that ending of the relationship that was it’s obviously a difficult calling a time to any relationship Typical to end and of course, you know that with your current business co planning solo talking about divorce, but any any relationship typical to end so tell me about any net business relationship,

Jordan Vaka
it sort of died on the vine to be completely honest. He I think lost a bit of confidence in the way that I was doing because I wasn’t upselling hard enough, I wasn’t pushing the the envelope hard enough in some of the strategies we were doing. I am by nature, a fairly conservative person, my bias is towards keeping things simple. And I think that was a bit of a clash. And so the client flow dropped off the flow of clients dropped off, I generated or developed other relationships that were proving to be a bit more aligned. And so it sort of just drifted away until eventually we just we just stopped. Yeah, it was a bit of a shame. But I think it had run its course.

Fraser Jack
Yeah. So. So looking at these two businesses, your business is based on paper business on paper look like they’re a good match, but just your personal values were not aligned to his personal values. And that’s where the relationship broke down.

Jordan Vaka
Yes, yeah. And I think I mean, the story that was told so far, I think there is a consistency there. And that I often felt like, I wasn’t a good fit for the role that I was in, because my my values, I guess, as you put it on, my approach didn’t really align with what they wanted. And it took me a long time to come to that realization, because I always thought there was something wrong with me that I just wasn’t cut out to be that kind of successful advisor. And then I did some work with a really great coach who I think you may have spoken to as Gartner. And he sent me straight on that, which was really, really, really beneficial.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, fantastic. And this is a really interesting power that embezzles certainly somebody who does get get deeply into the into understanding your own values. And then and then taking ownership of them and just saying, You know what, there is no right or wrong. However, everybody’s own values as right are right. And once they get to know them and understand them, then they can really use those to their advantage. And just forget about the stuff that’s not aligned, because you’ll end up attracting clients. If you’re honest and open and authentic about it, you’ll end up collecting or attracting clients that are also aligned to your value values, and you’ll start enjoying your work. So tell me about what happened. After that you mentioned that you had some you had developed further relationships with more people that were more aligned to you.

Jordan Vaka
So another finance broker who did a lot of work in our first time and space, so he was quite inspirational guy, actually. So we’re, I got a lot out of working with him. In Melbourne, we have very largely suburbs out on the periphery, that involves a lot of commuting back and forth. So I was working with clients in that space, all the time on the road, but just really great to be able to help people get that first step, you know, there’s just bought a house, we could make sure that everything else was tidied up in in the right place. So there was a fantastic relationship, he was a really great bit of a mentor, actually. And also, over time came to meet the person who became my business

Fraser Jack
partner. Fantastic. And tell us about tell us about deciding that you’re going to have an actual business partner.

Jordan Vaka
I feel like I’m not really sticking to the normal narrative of business owners hear phrases, but I was I was tossing out whether or not I should get out of it completely or keep going. large part of that was just that value clash that I kept feeling, I just kept feeling that I was not cut out to be a successful advisor by the other measures of success that I kept seeing. And then my licensee at the time put me in touch with Brian Jones, who now runs VA platinum. And we hit it off, and we got to talking. And it was either I was either going to sell or I was going to buy. And he opened my eyes to the third option, which was to merge with his practice. And we did that his business was a lot larger than mine. But it really opened up the opportunities for us to talk to different people and bring different approaches to our work. And it was just a really fruitful and beneficial partnership for me. Definitely.

Fraser Jack
And how do you merge your business? That’s completely I mean, I guess no two businesses are the same size ever, when you’re looking at doing a merger, but how did you go through that process of working on a merger because I mean, it’s very easy to just turn and go, I will go 5050, or well, we’ll just merge at the same levels. And you will be a major and a minor shareholder. But talk us through the the pros and cons of why they use the conversations that you had to weigh up how you can do it.

Jordan Vaka
One of the benefits I had is a brian is an incredibly commercially minded person with an extreme approach to fairness. And I don’t think that combination is very common. So I was very lucky in that regard. So we just looked at our revenue figures for the last two years, we took an average and we allocated percentages in a new entity based on that. Yep. And this is if anybody’s thinking about merging or any sort of operation like this, we had a conversation very early on about exit strategies and and how the partnership would be resolved and how we would approach it knowing that every business relationship runs its course. And that turned out really beneficial because that’s exactly how it played out.

Fraser Jack
Yeah. as do most almost every single business when you set up that that that equity split in the the new venture. Did you have options to sort of look at you know, purchasing and share, share transfer over time? Yes.

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, we did. We had it set up so that I could buy up more over time. That didn’t come to pass because of our friend Commissioner. Hey.

Fraser Jack
Good, good friend. So tell us about tell us about the business then. So that renders because Helen was at Halloween partnership for

Jordan Vaka
I think it was nearly three years. Yeah, in the middle of those three years was the Royal Commission. It was an acquisitive model. So we were buying other practices and rolling them up into our business, which I think that aggregator approach was very practical back then. We had grandfathered revenue, we had large risk practices. We were rolling it up and was working really well. And then obviously, the Commission Royal Commission happened and definitely a positive process, I think. But the men and the grandfathered revenue was valued down and all the constant other dominoes fell from there. So it really helped us review what we were doing. Yeah, fantastic.

Fraser Jack
Okay, so the the idea of just picking up a few where they see in the books or where they just hold hold on.

Jordan Vaka
A few a whole businesses are retiring advisors that we just dropped in. there quite a few CND books. It was a great strategy. I think it’s worked for quite a few practices. And it worked for us. It just we hit the brick wall of the new world.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, fantastic. They’re in the capacity of the new rules. Tell me about that. Like what tips would you give to somebody now thinking about buying a business or adding a book to their, you know, to bring in some additional revenue? What tips would you give them?

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, I think it’s a, it’s a really interesting proposition. I think, on the one hand, do it, you know, the revenue calculation stacks up really well, particularly with current interest rates, if you can have a really good first look at the book beforehand, to sort out the quality. That’s really important. I’ve seen some differential pricing where certain levels of fees are valued at a different ratio, which makes a lot of sense. Personally, I think that whole Chase is probably going to get me in trouble. I think financial advising fee, so your ongoing fees, I don’t think they’re worth anything anymore. I think the fact that you need to get them renewed every 12 months or four months, brings us back to the market of accountants. But if people out there see you differently, you can see some tension in the market, which is really good. On the other side, I do wonder if could you acquire a client base? Let’s say you’re spending 30 grand a year and interest on buying a book, if you diverted that 30 grand a year towards marketing or something else? Could you acquire a client base that was directly in line with your values and your approach? At this for the same money? Not at the same? You don’t have the same immediate revenue uplift? But is that a viable alternative? I think it might be?

Fraser Jack
Yeah. And you can tell where I’m gonna go with this next line of questioning in the fact that you’re absolutely right. Because when it comes to acquiring a book, if you’re if you haven’t then started with your own, you know, values and niche and target market and you’re acquiring a book that’s outside of that, then you’re probably acquiring a whole lot of additional years of, you know, pain or years of things that might, then you might target well, then then none of these are actually my target client. What am I what am I doing? So they might be might be a short term solution, but not necessarily long term solution. So tell me about the business because then you, so then you finished up with that relationship? How did that end,

Jordan Vaka
we both decided to go in different directions. Brian was working in VA partner, which is just going gangbusters. He’s running a great operation over there. I’m still a client of his through vi platinum. I have a wonderful VA that just keeps our business ticking. And he was obviously more interested in that area. I was more interested heading down the independent path and building out the practice. Exactly like we just spoke about really marketing towards our ideal group of clients. So we just kind of the decision to sell, we found a buyer who was very open to the idea when it was done within a few months, I believe. Yeah. And was Yeah.

Fraser Jack
And that sale process was reasonably reasonably good or everything went smoothly.

Jordan Vaka
Yes, yeah, no, it was very, very good. The person, the group that bought us had done a lot of acquisitions in the past. And one of our conditions was that we wanted somebody to buy the business and take our staff with us. So we had three or four VAs at the time who had been with us the whole time I was there and with Brian for years beforehand, and we wanted to make sure they kept a role. We also had another advisor, who was very good, and we want to make sure he kept a role. And we found a by the did all of that it was was wonderful, actually was a great outcome

Fraser Jack
that was within your existing license. No, no, that’s a license. Tell us about moving to a new license through a through a sale transition process. Was that difficult, or was it

Jordan Vaka
the the buyer was self licensed? So I think that helped a great deal. And our deal, our licensee had had a lot of experience with this because we had bought a lot of books. We knew the team quite well the transitions team. So they made it a lot easier. We had an office manager on shore here who was the most diligent and detailed person I’ve ever met. Without her we couldn’t have done it. And yeah, it actually from my perspective went quite smoothly. Brian and Mindy might have a different perspective but from my handles are easy.

Fraser Jack
Fantastic and to do remained in the new business? No, no, completely out. So how did you how did you pitch to them that you were going to means still been advisor, but sell your business?

Jordan Vaka
I think the approach the avenue we were heading down of focusing on helping people through divorce helped a lot. And also, I bought out the group of clients that I wanted to keep working with out of the business. Yeah, that’s I just made a very clear line. I said, I’ll sign anything you want. I’ve no interest in pitching across the other company. We’re here to help. And we have helped over the last 12 months with any queries they might have heard. So I think it was a leap of faith by them. But also just me making sure I don’t want to rip anyone off. I can’t be bothered. Yeah,

Fraser Jack
it’s your commitment, right. It’s your commitment and your name in the in within the profession. So that’s what you want to do to keep up. Now that that leads us to your target market. Why were How did you decide that this was where you wanted to be?

Jordan Vaka
So going back to that work I did with Bas. What he made me realize was that all the things that I thought were wrong with me as an advisor, I was too cynical. I was too. I wasn’t salesy enough. I was too. I went too overboard with clients. He said No, actually, they their talents and their strengths, they just not applicable within the usual model. So you know, that cynicism, really it’s skepticism that we bring to situations to protect our clients now that going overboard with clients is because I like to protect them through a process. And that was a really eye opening experience. And the next step of that was working out well who my favorite clients and something like eight out of my top 10 favorite clients, not by value, but just favorite people that I love to meet with when divorced women. And that opened the door to exploring okay, how does why is that eventually I realized that the work that sounds really silly, cuz I run my business, and it’s how I support my family. But the profit and revenue side of the business, I’ve never really given two hoots about. If the work is really boring and has no meaning, then I don’t really care what the fee is, it’s not really going to be enough for me to get interested. So I’m going to find work that is meaningful, creates an impact in people’s lives and has some complexity around it. That’s going to get me up every morning. That coupled with a divorce clients led me down this path. And I realized that there’s a lot we can do to help unsure or inexperienced people through the financial side of their divorce. And that’s proven to be the case, which has been very fortunate.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, that’s incredible. So, you know, protecting people, I know the words, you said, protecting people through a process or a transformation, you know, to solve their problems on the way through that and to help them move from one thing to another, light you up inside as a as a human. And therefore if you can turn that into a profitable business model it also it’s it’s the win win for you.

Jordan Vaka
It is it is and it did, I have thought a lot about the business and how I wanted to look. And I think it’s probably a bit different than the traditional planning approach. So for instance, we don’t have ongoing clients, we don’t have ongoing service arrangements in our business, we work to projects and engagements. For some clients, those engagements may be rolling 12 month engagements, but each one will be different, each one will be tailored to their needs that year. So I say our business is almost more aligned with a barristers business model where there will be no capital value, there’ll be no asset to sell ultimately, rather than the traditional planning model with the three times figure in the background.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, that’s incredible. So talk to me about that concept of that mindset that you put yourself through to say I’m not building a business to sell anymore, I’m building a business that’s going to you know, I’m going to really really enjoy working in and maybe somebody another person who’s like you will be just as enjoy working in it or coming in or taking it over. No asset, no asset to sell.

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, no small part of that is driven by a real distaste for ft. SS, I’ll be completely honest, I just felt like when I. But also, I was really influenced by Jim stockpiles approach of that rolling project engagement idea that played a big part in my thinking. But also, commercially, it means that every job you do needs to be profitable, which is a good discipline to have as well. It’s not a discipline I always had in the past, because the idea was, well, we’ll take a loss on the upfront, but we’ll pick it up on the back end. That’s not really an option for us anymore. Yeah, it’s just a matter of we get the value out of the work that we do for people. I don’t think we will have any clients for life, I think we’ll have people that we drift in and out of their lives over time. We have a big project at the moment that we’re about to start, which is how do we capture? Or how do we create that community of people that we’ve helped. So we’re not going to have a big book of clients that we service, but I want to have a huge cloud of people that we have helped in some way or another that we stay in touch with that as their needs pop up, where the person may call or with a group they call somebody complete separation from the traditional model, but just a bit of a tweak, I think

Fraser Jack
so that to me that’s keeping the relationship but not the financial relationship or the working relationship. You just keep the relationship and with you and your you and your staff and your brain and those sorts of things. And the community.

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, yeah. And it’s how do we do that? Cost effective leader, as a business, but also effectively for the people that we’re talking to. I mean, we all have newsletters, we unsubscribe from all the time. I don’t want it to be us. But it’s a bit of a tightrope, and we’ll experiments and we’ll play around with it. And I’m looking forward to getting that one off the ground.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, it is an interesting project. Now that talked to me about Jim’s projects and engagement. What did you learn from them? How did you? How did you go about transforming your business into a projects engagement style business rather than you know that it’s too easy, this is the way we’ve always done it traditional planning.

Jordan Vaka
I have our friend Commissioner Hayne to thank for a large part of what I think he, he applied him and his team applied the blowtorch to the status quo of the way we did things, and it made me really revisit it particularly because in the business we were in, we were doing it the traditional way. And not didn’t blow up on us. But it got really hard. That’s not the way the wind was blowing. So that sort of triggered the reevaluation of how we work. And then I’ve been following Jim stuff for a long time, I think if I think he’s been ahead of the curve for a lot of years. And it just makes sense. We are there to help them address the complexities in their life and help them improve the odds of achieving their aspirations. That isn’t going to be achieved by 1%. On farm every year, it needs to be a lot of this specific work. And if there’s a year where we’re not going to do much for clients, we don’t charge them very much, you know, we it is directly aligned to the work that we do and the value that we add. And it just I like it, it just makes a lot easier. It means that my job, my fee calculator, my job sheet calculator is horrendously complex, and I can never share it with anyone because it’s just a mess. But it works. And it stacks up really well, I think.

Fraser Jack
And do you get you go through that fee calculator with the clients?

Jordan Vaka
No. So we’ll have our initial meeting or exploration meeting where we scope out what they’re looking for, and how we think we can help. We then prepare a proposal that outlines our understanding what they’re looking to do, the services, we believe should be priorities over the term of the engagement, and then the fees associated with that. Or our costs. We use that terminology. Now. Professional costs, operational costs, we change the heading in our proposal. Thanks to that. I believe that’s from you, isn’t it?

Fraser Jack
I think I wasn’t the originally I think I I saw it somewhere and repurposed it. So yep. But But I do like saying that did change it change from fees to professional costs.

Jordan Vaka
So we wait and show the actual calculation in the background, because there’s quite a lot to it, but we just show the the figure and then we divide that across the time of the engagement. Yeah,

Fraser Jack
fantastic. And so that’s in the second meeting, and then they either do or don’t go ahead, and then you go ahead and scope out the project. Yeah, correct. Yeah. Yeah. Fantastic. And inside that, that’s that, you know, that’s the that’s all the then the advice, and then the implementation or becomes part of the project.

Jordan Vaka
Exactly. And we’re finding the new one, we do quite a lot of work. In year two, this generally less work, it’s more just okay, how things tracking along. Part of that’s our investment philosophy, we’re very much in the passive group. But then you three and four, there tends to be a bit more, you know, we start talking to the broader family, we start talking to different groups. So it’s been a good pattern.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, fantastic. And so talk to me about them, they want to get to the independent thing in a minute, but the marketing side of that, so changing, you know, creating a new name, working out exactly who you want to work for exciting time, I guess, you know, new business concept, new, new idea, new marketing. Tell us about that. What you what work you put into that.

Jordan Vaka
I know a friend told me early on in the process that he was a bit jealous of it, because we were essentially starting up again. And I think that’s fine when you start off. So yeah, which was nice to be able to say, a lot of thought went into it, having the client having the hard part was working out what made me happy in the work. And that’s where that work with bears. And I keep returning to that, because that really paid off. Knowing the three or five things that really made me happy with my work and made the rest a lot easier. It made it easier to say no to certain work. Let me focus down on this nation really drill into that and, and have the confidence to go out to family lawyers and say, Look, I don’t really know how we can help. How do you think we can help and rolling on from there. So in, in terms of marketing, and, and that a lot of it was just that research piece that we did for the first six months, even under the old company. And then I like writing, so I write a lot of stuff. And that’s mainly I put it out mainly through LinkedIn on my blogs, and that has driven a lot of activity, actually. Now LinkedIn has been a really good opportunity to go and meet other professionals, not just family lawyers, but and then talk about what we do. And that’s been a really great source of clients and of work, and our blogs and our website. You know, I try to follow SEO a little bit. But it’s complicated. So I just throw a huge amount of words out there and it seems to be working out pretty well.

Fraser Jack
Yep, fantastic. It’s also you letting the algorithms pick up those words and deliver them to the right people. To you, you write a lot of blogs and obviously you can get to then you know, send those to family lawyers and other referral sources or people that work in around what you’re doing?

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, it’s been quite useful as well. And I think we’ve come across a lot of our stuff shifted a bit to just doing long form posts on LinkedIn. And that’s generating a lot of conversations, you know, through messaging and things like that. And just building out that network, you know, slowly.

Fraser Jack
That’s a really interesting point, you mentioned just in slowly, you know, you can I always say this with podcasting t can be an overnight success until three years from now, if you just consistent if you just consistent with the sort of stuff, How long had you been, you know, creating long form blogs and posts before you really sort of that subtraction happening?

Jordan Vaka
Easily two years, easily. And that’s pretty actively building the network as well. Putting stuff out a few times a month, making a lot of mistakes, but yeah, at least two years and, and I think there’s a lot more upside for us left as well,

Fraser Jack
yeah, of course, and how much of that then was local to your region or area versus been able to sort of work around the country.

Jordan Vaka
So one of the blessings I had partnering up with Brian is he already had the business set up with a VA structure and working remotely. So there wasn’t an office, we all worked from home, at the time was a real shift. For me, it was really weird. But then COVID hit, and all of a sudden, the way we were working was sort of the norm. So we’ve been set up, we have clients across the country. We have clients, we communicate with all different formats that’s been abnormal for the last couple of years. So COVID, in terms of our business operations didn’t really have an impact.

Fraser Jack
Fantastic. And talk to me about the because you’re, you’ve gone down the independent financial adviser, Route, tell us about why that was and where that started.

Jordan Vaka
So I’m starting to realize how many of my business decisions with interest and by annoyance. It was annoyed me that,

Fraser Jack
sorry, this is a therapy session. Thank you for coming.

Jordan Vaka
Just how powerful irritation is as a motivator in my life? Yeah. Oh, it always annoyed me that I couldn’t call myself independent. It was I mean, that’s a silly thing, right? Like, the advice we I given the advice most people give is independent inform, if not by the law. But it always irked me, it always bothered me. And then as the more I looked into the section nine to three, a definition of independence and what it could mean, and how it can work as a business. It really attracted me, it really attracted me the simplicity of it. And I know it’s a big shift from a traditional way of operating. I’d had the benefit of already deciding I wasn’t going to take insurance Commission’s anymore. And I wrote a few blogs around that on LinkedIn that tried to just articulate that in my mind. Sorry, take that artery cross that bridge. So the next shift was really okay, I need to change to my own license, because I can’t call myself independent under a license where anybody is receiving a commission. And so that’s what we did. I applied for the license, got it within 30 days at the start of this year. And we’re off and running.

Fraser Jack
Yeah. Well, and tell us that process was that you do engage somebody did that for you? Or did you? I didn’t

Jordan Vaka
I did it myself? Yeah, I think there might be some control tendencies, perhaps. But I wanted to make sure that I read the pack and I read all the background RGS and covered off on all the compliance work myself before we put it in. Honestly, when you account for the time that I put in, it probably would have been cheaper to engage somebody. But it’s left me a lot more confident around the process. And then now obligations and responsibilities as a licensee.

Fraser Jack
Yep. And is it changed any of the processes within the business itself, that you’re performing as apart from the independent thing, but the fact that you’re now the responsible manager, and

Jordan Vaka
it’s put some blocks in my diary of time that went in there before just reviewing the video that came out, like just that ridiculousness. I’ve had to review that and go through all that. But if anything in terms of our operations or advice, it’s simplified it, it’s made it a lot clearer of what was maybe surplus in our systems from before, and we could cut out. So that’s been quite liberating.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, great. Okay. Now, so tell us about the independent part of that process. Like what did that mean for you? Did you have did you have commissions that you had to turn off? Or what was the

Jordan Vaka
know in the old business? We did? And that’s why that was part of the factoring into selling that business off. In the current one. No. So we didn’t have any commissions at all.

Fraser Jack
Yep. So it was a fairly easy transfer. And I guess you were prepared, and you knew what was coming when you use sliced out the client base that you wanted to take with you? Right? Yeah, you can do that you could operate in the independent form.

Jordan Vaka
Yeah. And yeah, there was a cost to that, though, that was there was some impact for that.

Fraser Jack
Is this a new apprenticeship phase that you had to go through? I mean, obviously, we you’ve been through the starting your own business before you’ve learned a few lessons along the way. What did that do to your revenue,

Jordan Vaka
it’s a lot easier the second time, our revenue was up for the year. If your pro rata for where we were last year were up. And I think our full projections are a lot more rosy than they were ever before. Which was uncomfortable to say. Again, like that’s not a huge focus for us. But as a business owner, it’s really encouraging because that’s also going to drive our our growth. We have some pretty yeah growing growth plans that we have developing as well.

Fraser Jack
yet Fantastic. Now planning Solo was the the content that you went out with. And obviously that transformation and helping people through a really difficult process or time in their life. But, but as you’ve been writing more and more blogs and more and more LinkedIn posts and information, you’re getting quite a bit more inquiry just around the independence as well. So talk to us about, you know, the target market, is that changed? Or is it?

Jordan Vaka
It’s in the process of changing, I think. And that’s been a bit of a shift for me, I’m a pretty stubborn person until I make a decision, I tend to stick to it. But yeah, we’ve been getting a growing number of inquiries for people looking for that independent advice side. They then look into the way that we work and what we’re putting out there, and it’s aligning with what they’re looking for. But then they say to us, I’m horribly sorry, but we’re happily married. Do you still help us? And yeah, of course we do. We turned away a few people. But I realized that the value for me and the work that we do with people going through divorce is having that impact on people. And there’s behavioral things around that, that we can extend to other parts of life and other transitions people go through. And so that’s what we’re exploring at the moment.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, that’s an interesting thing. So So you’ve, you’ve created branding and marketing and ideas and concepts around a specific nation. Now you’re sort of widening that to be would it be to knishes? Do you think or is it?

Jordan Vaka
This is the discussion we’re having internally, I almost picture it as, as a matrix where on the horizontal, we have the elements of our approach that make the bring value to people going through divorce. So we’re very empathetic trust is incredibly important to us, we see it as a real privilege. We’re pretty humble about the way we go about things, simplicity, transparency, we’ve got those behavioral aspects. And I think they extend across a number of potentially across a number of verticals. And one of those verticals, is helping people through divorce. The next one, you know, an area that we’re doing some work in is helping people with bereavement. So they’ve lost a loved one. What does that complexity look like? And how can we alleviate some of those stresses? So that’s kind of the picture I have in mind of those verticals, being the transitions that people go through. And I think our model of project work, limited engagements fits really well for that. If we can get them through that corridor and out the other side, then our work is likely to be done, and then we can revisit along the way. So that’s kind of the picture I have in my mind. It is a work in progress. It feels weird, the niching almost. But I think we’re still making in a way, because it’s it’s the way we approach the work is going to be it’s the niche that we’ll be focusing in rather than a specific technical area or transition.

Fraser Jack
Yep. And is that something that you’re able to do that you’ll be doing as sort of a small practice solo? Are you looking at growing?

Jordan Vaka
Both? I think it’ll, again, that barristers model, I think it’ll still be made primarily for the for the foreseeable future. And we’ll just focus our practice around that. We’ll focus heavily on admin support and technical support. So we can deliver that service as well as we can. But I can foresee a point in the medium term where that’s we will have to grow, we will have to bring in other advisors, we will have to bring in other systems and support. And that’s another point of stubbornness, where I was very fixed on this barristers sole operator idea. But to deliver what we want to the clients, we want to help. I think I have to turn away from that. So it’s been another point that I’ll need to Malaysia for the next few months.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, fantastic. Could could be another murder on the cards. You never know. Another circle?

Jordan Vaka
I want to close any doors, but I’m not. I don’t see that one opening anytime soon.

Fraser Jack
But yeah, fantastic. And just with your meeting process, you know, you mentioned the the the project, does that mean that you have no set meeting process? What after after you’ve presented what that might be? It just, it just completely depends?

Jordan Vaka
Pretty much. Yeah, so we are very structured at the start. So we’ll have an initial phone call to work out if we’re the people to help an exploration meeting that takes 60 to 90 minutes where we go through our process, proposal proposal discussion, although what I’ve started doing now is recording a learn as we go through the proposal, and I find that’s really helping clients get on board with it. So that’s been really cool. And then we enter the advice or discovery phase. And that can look like maybe we’ll have a discovery meeting. Maybe we’ll do it all remotely, however, and then it is a bit more fluid after that.

Fraser Jack
Yep. Fantastic. And just probably turn and ask you this to be before we go. You You’ve spent a bit of money on a couple of business coaches that you mentioned over the years. And in Bas and Jim, tell us about that investment in what tips would you give to people that are thinking about doing it?

Jordan Vaka
So I have to say, I’ve been a strong follower of Jim but I’ve never engaged him as a coach. Unfortunately, it’s it’s on the drawing board as well as the investment. I was pushed into that to be completely honest. I was pretty skeptical. I don’t need a life go try to meet a coach. Yo Yo Yeah. So Brian pushed me into doing that. And I can’t quite remember the investment but it wasn’t insubstantial. But it would have made it back 3040 times easily just from the shifted, and it ultimately changed the direction of my life, which is pretty hard for a lifelong cynic to say.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, well, no longer a cynic, the non traditionalist, we call you a non traditional. Hey, mate, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your journey, your story with the podcast audience really appreciate it. If someone wants to continue that conversation, what’s the best way they can reach out to

Jordan Vaka
you, your LinkedIn is really good. My email addresses always there as well, Jordan Vaka, and planningsolo.com.au. And my phone number is all over the internet as well. We’ve had a few discussions with advisors lately trying to navigate the divorce of their own clients, and more than happy to talk about that. And we’re hoping to have some sort of sort of how to guide or some ideas around that out, hopefully, by the end of the

Fraser Jack
year. So that’s really interesting. You actually work with other advisors who have got clients that you just take them through the project and then hand them back.

Jordan Vaka
Yeah, lately, it’s just been a phone call, just you know, here’s some things to watch out for, you know, keep an eye out on this talk to this person, just trying to help people, because it’s hard for advisors as well, when you have clients that divorce, particularly with all the uncertainty thrown up by the face here. Notes. So we encourage people to refer their advisors, their clients out, will happily help but also, every advisor will know another advisor that their client can work with. Refer one party out to them makes life a lot easier, but we’re hoping to have a guide that sort of ticks off a few of those. Here’s how to maybe look at doing that. Here’s why SMSFs are a nightmare and divorce all that sort of stuff.

Fraser Jack
Yeah, fantastic. And if you’re filling your LinkedIn profile, then you’ll probably see those pop up from time to time. Yep. Jordan, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. I wish you all the success with how the business pans out in the future.

Jordan Vaka
Thanks so much for it’s a really enjoyed that chat. Thank you

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