March 15, 2022

#291 Andrew Debono – Transcript

SERIES :

Strategy

Share :

LinkedIn
Twitter

Ben Nash
Hey guys, Ben Nash from the XY advisor team and I’m pumped to be here with the eagle, Andrew Debono. I had Andrew in for a podcast session back when he’s business was just born. He’s been going for about three years based out of Sydney. He’s got a team of five with himself and one other advisor. Andrew, great to have you back, buddy.

Andrew Debono
Mate, great to be here. Again, can’t believe it’s been that long already.

Ben Nash
I couldn’t believe it when you told me that’s, yeah, time flies when you’re having fun and keeping up with the Fun, fun world of growing a business and financial services, compliance and all that fun stuff. But I’m keen to get to hear a bit about the journey. Maybe we could start there. And you know, three years in you, you you’ve got your stripes, working in one of the bigger shops around town, maybe call to go out on your own started, like, like I started my business just, you know, with, with a dream and a prayer wanting to do things a little bit different and do it your way, mate. Tell us about that journey. And what’s changed?

Andrew Debono
Yeah, it’s been, it’s been a good, good, fun, tough, three years and few things are changes. It’s funny how it works out, like I started with zero clients to begin with. So that puts a bit of pressure and stress on there from the get go. But then over time, as you build up that client base, it gets a bit easier, a bit easier, then you get a new advisor and it gets a bit easier and easier. But then you’ve got all the other challenges, like the compliance challenges that have happened over the last couple of years. So we’ve been managed, or we’ve managed to sort of get through all of those. And then also decided after the first 12 months that the original license that I’d picked, a licensee that I picked wasn’t the right one for me. So did a change then as well. So yeah, the journey has had a few ups and downs. But But overall, it’s been pretty successful couple of IFA Awards, the back end of last year, we got newcomer advisor of the year for for Christian and Client Servicing Company of the Year as well, which was a bit of a shock, but But it gets to shows and acknowledges all the hard work that we’ve put into it will reap some rewards

Ben Nash
made, it’s great to get that recognition. And it’s great to see companies doing things a bit differently. I’d like to say very similar story to how I started the business back in the day and can fully identify that, you know, the good thing when you start a business from scratch is that your overheads are pretty low. But it certainly lights fire that when you know you’ve got no clients, no ongoing income to work with that you got to, you know, make sure that you’ve got that clear message that you’ve you know, got a compelling offer so that you can Yeah, build that base, build the the income and ultimately grow your business. In the early days. Where did where did your clients come from and and has that changed? Or how has that changed over time?

Andrew Debono
Yeah, I think the early days, it was like all about that and working with different like client or sorry, I guess partners. So like trying to meet out with different brokers, different accountants, probably guys just to try and get a wider funnel. And I did try and partner a little bit with with a mortgage broking firm, which is really, really successful at the moment, or now who specialized in in doing loans for lawyers. But we quickly learned that Andrew Debono and Peak Wealth Management and lawyers just don’t work out. And it’s just not a good match, just not a good mix. So we had to sort of stop that at some point or a couple of months afterwards. And then I just had to focus on going for other cold leads. So I used to do a lot of LinkedIn marketing, a lot of videos reaching out to people going to these little, little coffee catch ups with PayPal, and bit by bit, I picked up a nice little client base, built it up. And then after that, that’s when I felt like I probably got a bit more confidence. But also I had put enough put enough sort of hands in different pies to try and get get clients from other businesses. So other accountants and mortgage brokers and the the lead flow just kept going on and on. And then once you start doing a good job, it’s your referrals. So you get existing client referrals, couple old clients and things like that. It just keeps keeps building up.

Ben Nash
Yeah. Nice. And so at the moment, what’s the sort of breakdown where your your clients would come from the – sorry to put you on the spot, I probably can prep you with that.

Andrew Debono
Yeah, well, it’d be pretty easy to see that I’d probably say like 90% of them would be referrals from either existing partners like business plans, or existing clients. The remaining 10% We just get a few random ones every now and again, where they come through via the Google like SEO, Search. They’ll see us on LinkedIn or they’ll see something and then they’ll they’ll reach out to us. Back in the last year. We had a big influx when we got those awards in the LinkedIn marketing and social media marketing. We had a fair few people reaching out and that’s still flowed on you. We’ve had a couple more earlier this year where people have reached out they seen us on on the social medias and thought they’d catch up. I’m not sure They might be in another business with similar name to peak where they’ve maybe we snuck in. But the beauty of SEO?

Ben Nash
That’s it, you take it, you’ll take it when it’s there for sure.

Andrew Debono
Yeah, give me stuff permission.

Ben Nash
That’s it. That’s it. And sometimes it goes the other way. So if you’re on the right side of it, and that’s, that’s a win for sure. And one thing that I feel like you’ve done pretty well, I know that you work you you build a partnership with an accounting firm, which is an accounting firm that we refer our clients into, as well. And you mentioned sort of early days with the lawyer thing, and then just having building different relationships with centers of influence. That’s something that to code that I’ve never really cracked the in our business, but it is something that we’ve been giving a little bit more thought and attention to in the last little bit. What are the sort of the lessons of that journey that you’ve picked up? Or what do you think the keys are to doing that in a way that where the juice is actually worth the squeeze? Because I know for me, like you said that, you with that one particular partner, you’re getting clients, and they’re just not the right clients, even from a whether it’s from a profile, like psychographic perspective, or whatever the case may be that it’s sometimes hardest. And especially and I was actually having this conversation on the podcast the other day with another. Another advisor, that you sort of feel this level of obligation when you get a referral in from a partner to give them a fair bit of love, because you don’t want to just go well, no, you know, you’re not the right fit. Whereas if someone comes in, you know, makes an inquiry through your website, and they’re clearly not right, you just say, Hey, you’re not, you’re not really right. So what would you say? What’s, what’s important there? And what are the lessons learned through that journey for you guys?

Andrew Debono
Yeah, I think, I think one of the most important parts is really around that the cultural aspect of it, like identifying that your business and your cultural sort of beliefs around your business. And the way you treat clients or the service you provide, does marry up and match with the other business you’re trying to partner with, if you can get that if you get that alignment, or those synergies there. And that’s obviously the first step of success. The second bit, I think, which which I spent a fair bit of time on before doing any of these, or not the first one, obviously, the more the second one with this accounting practice, is, is really understanding what their processes, how they go about doing things. We’re not a sales orientated business where it’s just constant, like you meet someone, you send a service agreement straightaway and fingers crossed, they come on board. And we’re more of a slower, slow and steady sort of approach where we meet him a couple of times before we put the service agreement in. So we do invest a bit more time on it, but we are cut through is probably a little bit better. So understanding with that with the business, that you’re trying to partner with understanding what their process is, how they work with it, how much time they spend with their clients before trying to do different things, and then try and marry up a similar service offering on our end as well. So probably the two biggest things which I’ve found have worked out the best. But then also you got to look at the client demographic of what they work with and what you want to work with. Yeah, absolutely. willing to work with what you want to work with as well. So yes.

Ben Nash
Yeah. And I think it’s increasingly hard for financial advice businesses to be all things to all people that you sort of build your process, if you want to drive any level of efficiency to deliver a certain solution that needs to fit with the people that you work with underneath that if you’re trying to do an SMSF client one day, 30 year old accumulator and other day, business owner the next day, it can be really difficult, I’ve noticed for us and for our field team as well, because they end up every call is out of the box processes and tasks that can be can be challenging on the service solution. I’m interested to hear how that’s evolved in in the time since you started the business because I know that at that time, we were chatting and it was you it sounds like you’re now much clearer on who it is that you want to be working with. In terms of the how though the you know, practically what you’re doing, and how you’re structuring it. How has that changed and evolved?

Andrew Debono
Yeah, I think so. Back when we initially started, obviously, you’re pretty limited on cash flow, and not having much cash. And so you’re not really using all the tools available to you in the industry like and we’re pretty fortunate that there are a fair few tools in there. So we weren’t using like things like the My prosperity part. Even the CRM wasn’t the best. We didn’t have Monday’s like we’ve got now and a couple of other things. But I think over time, as we’ve sort of gotten more cashflow we’ve been able to reinvest in our service offering and a lot of things that we A lot of things that we implement are all about trying to make sure we can create more efficiencies in not just the business, but also the client interaction. So initially, it was always about trying to meet up with people trying to catch up with them frequently get on the phone with them all the time, and try in, I kind of build a really good relationship to keep them and work with them for a long term. Whereas now it’s all about trying to be efficient and helping them and adding the same amount of value by spending less time. Yes. So we’ve tried to change a little bit, and it’s been working really, really well. So clients understand that we’re busy as well. And I recognize that, that clients understand that we’re busy as well. And you need to meet up with us every single time. So if we can deliver a bit of information or, or a bit of advice to a minute in a much, much easier method, then that’s what we’ve done.

Ben Nash
Yeah, definitely. And I think that you, I know that I felt at the start of the business that you feel like yeah, you sort of compelled to do a meeting sometimes, because that seems like the way but your clients are busy. And the increasingly, the more sometimes it sort of forced on you that you just don’t have the capacity. And then you realize how much can be done without following the traditional ways. But I know like, we get a ton of clients. And sometimes they’ll have questions and you might start to write an email or think about the response, but I’ll just fire up bloom and like record a video and it might go for a minute or a minute and a half and go there. I had a client the other day about trustee trustee for his estate, and he is us and is seeing us just sent it on. And this is a you know, client with, with like a $15 million asset position on paying us on one of our top two years of service. And they they were stoked at the end. They’re like, Oh, that was good. I could sit down with the wife at the end of the day. And, you know, we can decide on that piece together. And it’s just meet them where they are, which thankfully the technology is making a little bit easier for us.

Andrew Debono
But yeah, and I’ve also I’ve also found doing that. So we’ve done the loom thing a couple times as well. And doing that is it sort of it doesn’t let or it doesn’t allow many more questions that come afterwards, if you just type an email, you sort of enter their questions, they know usually come back with a whole bunch more questions. So during the video, you can just articulate it’s so much better and explained so much better, in my opinion, or maybe that’s just me, but much better. And I could just watch it whenever they want. And then they’re not going to come back to you and Bobby with a whole bunch of other questions.

Ben Nash
Yeah, totally. Yeah. And and so I think it’s it’s efficiency for us. But then it’s efficiency in them and getting their their issues resolved as well. Yeah. And so like, now your business has grown, you know, a fair bit in the last few years. How do you tackle your planning for like your strategic planning for the business? And what are you focused on looking forward from here?

Andrew Debono
Yeah, so I’m pretty fortunate we, so part of the license, this sort of community involved as part of the license or through Vinaka, and Gavin. And it’s really good that we do different activities around the business planning and about around solving problems in businesses, we’re in financial planning business. So a whole bunch of us get together on a quarterly basis, different topics to discuss that. But on top of that, then we’ve got one on one sessions with our with a business coach. And we’re going through some of the pain points and articulating how we can try and prove them. So it’s been probably the biggest focus for me over the last sort of six months. Probably a bit less actually probably the last sort of four or five months. That that lock down period at the back end of last year. I felt like I was just chasing my tail consistently. I caught up I did one of those little course with Vanessa Bennett. Oh, yeah. Yeah. So yeah, she’s awesome. caught up with her. And we went through a few different things that we can try and look at outsourcing and take a bit more off my plate. So I do have a bit more time to do things. That’s worked out really well. And we’re Stanford, right, the rewards of that. But for me, it’s always just sort of dedicating the time on the business to help grow it further advance it, get more improvements, streamline things, we use mondays.com for all our processes. So instead of using the CRM, which is always pretty clunky, we use Mondays so it’s just nice and colorful. Everyone can see where everything’s up to. Everyone can knows what they need to do for the day and just a seamless seamless process.

Ben Nash
Yeah, we use Monday fair bit as well and the ease of use compared to some of the the other tech solutions that are out there. We’ve just got this massive list of stuff is you know, it’s pretty overwhelming and it’s also hard to prioritize as well. Good. I think it’s all those efficiency gains. Helpful and Vanessa is a total legend and she she’s got some great sort of hacks to drive more efficiencies. And productivity as well like across a whole bunch of different levels. So I think it’s you need every advantage with that stuff for sure. With your with the the team growth, how do you tackle that? Like, how do you plan around that? I feel like there’s no right way because I’ve been asking because we’re, we’ve been sort of hiring, you know, for what seems like the last couple of years since the back of COVID. And I think like, I’ve been in a position like you before, where it’s like, you’re just getting things coming from everywhere. And I think that that’s the part of business. That’s the double edged sword, I suppose it’s the part that I really enjoy. But you go, there’s so many things and you see, as a business owner, that you go, I’ve got, I could be doing marketing like this, and there’s an opportunity there. Or if I had another advisor, then I could get them to look after this side, but focus more on this other thing. How do you tackle that in your business?

Andrew Debono
Yeah, I? It’s a tough one, isn’t it? It’s like a, I think you said before, it’s a bit of a double edged sword. Because you’re trying to get someone you don’t want to get them too late, where it’s like everyone’s chasing their tail, and they come in and it’s not a it’s not a fun environment, because everyone’s stressed. And panicking. Yeah, you don’t want to give them too early. Because it’s like all they’re just sitting there playing playing on the phone. Because yeah, well, exactly. So you want to try and find the right balance. The way I sort of view it is, as soon as I am getting tasks back to me, or tasks are coming back to me, which are a bit delayed, or they’re not there at the right time. Like, even if it’s just a day delay, I look and go, all right, we need within that solution. So we need another, another person helping the team and, and help out. And then when you fall, what we end up finding, or what I’ve ended up finding is that if I do bring in one of the early, I’ll go back and look at all the stuff that I’m doing on a daily basis, and go, What else can I outsource? What else can I not do on my task list anymore? And then so what we do bring the new person on, it’s like, well, you’re going to help out for a bit of overflow here and a bit of overflow here. But also, you’re going to do this part, this is your domain. And I’ll coach you a bit on that. And let’s get that going. So, yeah, there’s always there’s always gonna be something I think as, as a business owner, I’ve found that as as it grows, there’s always something else that pops up another task and other role as compliance changes, new legislation. Something’s always gonna pop up. Which there’s gonna be a time we don’t want to do it anymore. So you can outsource?

Ben Nash
Yeah, yeah, there’s all that that’s that’s a good thing about a growing business as well is that everybody sort of upskilling including yourself, and then you go, Well, you can add more value to the business to the clients to the solution by doing the next thing and then you go, Well, now we can bring someone else in to do those things, which might still be very valuable, but they’re just lower value. And then everyone’s on that that journey, which I think is helpful when you’re building teams, because ultimately everyone wants to be developing. And this is the thing that I’ve noticed from having a lot of sort of candidate interviews over the last little bit there were a lot of people getting frustrated as if they are just dipping into a role. And there is no they don’t have that opportunity or, or room for growing and developing their skills. I think especially with what we’re seeing the the great resignation, or the talent, drought, or whatever it is that they they’re calling it for younger people. And I I find that younger team members are more attracted to our business like we’re younger clients, younger team already. They want all of those things too. And it’s interesting stood up blows me away. In some cases, we see these established businesses, and they’re just not built for that. And they just want people to just punch in and punch out and just do that thing and expect them to do it for the next 10 years. Like,

Andrew Debono
yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been pretty fortunate that as well. I haven’t had to replace anyone yet. So that’s probably going to be one of my biggest learning curves or challenges that will eventually at some point, hopefully never does, but I’m sure everyone goes through that at some point.

Ben Nash
Absolutely. Yeah. I think that it’s I always say to new people when they join our team that would be selfish, short or unrealistic for me to think that people’s journeys won’t take them beyond our business. Obviously, we we do everything that weekend to ensure that that doesn’t happen for the right people in supporting them. But ultimately, it doesn’t, I think, yeah, for me, that’s been been a lot of learnings we’ve had, we’ve had some people that are just as, as time has gone on, they’ve realized that the pathway that they thought they wanted to go into was probably less aligned with where they wanted to be. Which is unfortunate but like that’s just people right? Especially if you got younger people that still are still fine They’re feeling their career or earlier on like the first 1015 years, 20 years of your career, that there’s a lot of different pathways in front of you. We’ve also had people that I think were good that we probably didn’t support in the right way that ended up doing similar things at other places. And I think, when that happens, it’s a real learning. And it really for me, it forced us to go okay, well, what what did happen there, and let’s do a diagnostic to unpack like, they said, you often can’t save the situation, like once something has happened, but you go, what can we learn so that when someone is aligned with the culture of the business, the vision of the business, what the clients want, what we need? And how do we shape things in a way that what they want to do? And for me, one of the biggest things, and it sounds like a simple thing, but our business coach has got this all set up, in which I can’t actually remember exactly what that stands for now, but it’s essentially like you do this three year plan with a team and go, Okay, well, in three years, like what sort of work do you want to be doing? What? What do you want your focus to be? What sort of income do you want to be earning? What sort of? What? Yeah, what sort of impact do you want to be having? Actually, it’s results up in results plan massive action? Because it’s like, what are the results? And then the big thing that for then the super helpful thing for me is go or what action will you take to make that happen? Because it’s great to go? Well, I want to earn 250k, working four days a week, and I only want to do you know, X Y, Zed roles, or tasks or whatever. But you go, well, obviously, this is a business and then needs to be a commercial, like a way that that can work commercially. So what what is your plan to make that something that is gonna benefit you and benefit us and benefit everybody as well. And it’s really tip the table. That seems like a simple thing like one you just asking people what they want. But sometimes we’re so focused on trying to give people what they want, that we don’t always ask them what they actually want. And say we want that, how are we going to do it? And then yeah, for me, I’ve found that to be helpful, we do that without onshore offshore team, like we just did a team planning session, and it gives you things to talk to them about when you’re doing your check ins with them periodically. So that that is a is a helpful part in keeping them engaged and working towards what it is that they actually want, as opposed to where, like where the where you want them to go? Well, I think we could think about growing businesses that there’s a lot of different opportunities that if someone wants to play in the compliance space versus the advice phase, or the investment management space, is probably your way that you can make that happen. Yes, certainly. Yeah. And what what does a typical week look like for you? And how do you you mentioned that you use Monday for a bit of your task management stuff, but how, what does a week look like? And how do you actually carve that up and manage your time?

Andrew Debono
Yeah, I am. I’m usually in the office early on, I’m a bit of an early riser. I am usually in here, sort of between seven and eight o’clock, if free every day, depending on on what footballs being played. Sometimes I’ll be in a little bit later if there’s a Champions League game on during the week, and Liverpool is fine. But most the time, it’s between seven and eight o’clock, I’m in the office. I’ve tried to say typical day. So we usually have our so the first like couple of hours, just getting a couple of tasks off that I can pass on to to the team. So it’s things that I don’t need to do or a bit of that workflow process where I can just go into it and pass it on, then we have a daily huddle. So with the offshore guys, we catch up with him at 10am. So it’s at 7am their time. So we catch up, catch up at 10am we have a bit of a chat, see how everyone went every year, see how they went the day before what they’re up to this week, anything holding back anything we could do a bit of an update as well on the new clients front with the advisor. So how’s it going? I’m heading off this meeting, you know, what’s this prospect looking like or anything I can help and vice versa or anything you want to run on bias that usually goes rare 15 to 20 minutes we find then from then it’s just you know, getting on speaking to clients couple of meetings, I make a decent effort to go to the gym at 2pm. So I’ll do that three days a week. Then the other two days I’ll do other forms of exercise after work. So I’ll try and get that exercising every single day. Looking great. The guns Yeah, they get in there I disappeared. But yes, that’s that’s pretty much the day and then we just have meetings throughout the day. I think it’s been a lot better. Since that the post COVID environment where clients are willing to catch up with you during work hours, which traditionally or when I first started, it was a lot of after hours meetings. So, six o’clock 6:30pm meetings were that’s a lot less frequent these days. There’s a couple of hours here and there, but the majority of meeting up with us in during workouts because they’re either working from home so they can sneak a little our rain or sneak a 45 minute meeting in and, and have a bit of a chat. Yeah. That’s about it. And then yes, sort of once a month I catch up with with Gavin talk a bit more about the business and different ways we can improve it. Then quarterly meetings, but it’s typical week for us. I think the biggest thing for us, we just keep that consistency on the 10am. huddles. Yeah, see everyone’s up to that’s just it’s I find it so powerful. It just gets by they know, so much started, but it just gets me going, oh, shoot, I need to do this. This needs to pass on to these people so that I’m not holding up holding them up on a roll and vice versa.

Ben Nash
Yeah, well, I was gonna ask you about the remote team, because I know that you got a few staff offshore. And I think for us, we’ve done that that cadence of meetings is something that’s super helpful. Any other key hacks that you that you find makes it easier for you to work with the with the distributed team? Yeah.

Andrew Debono
One of the other things I’ve found is, and this was part of doing that, though, doing that little course with the program with Vanessa was getting off my emails. So what we found then was all of our like Mondays notifications and processes, were hitting our emails, and then you look at your email thing you’ll see like an ad from on a Sunday, can you click on that and have looking at it distracted pretty quickly, right? And then you just focusing on your emails to your workflow processes. But then what we did is we, we’ve linked Mondays to slack. Yeah, so you get a notification on Slack, have a look at that and update anything from there. So then we’re spending less time on our email. So we’d like to sort of designate a bit of time on your emails. And then we’re not getting distracted as much from different ads and other stuff that comes through there.

Ben Nash
You’ve got to do anything you can because it’s so it’s hard. It’s easy enough to distract yourself just with the work, let alone with everything else that’s out there. But I think that that’s the key. Yeah, for us, I’ve got the team on to doing these Pomodoro. So I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. But it’s like, haven’t heard of that Pomodoro Technique is like you do 20 minutes of focus to some sort of thing. But it’s like you do 20 minutes focused time. So I use that for myself, it’s got like a little timer that you can have as a plug in on your on your web browser. But it’s amazing when you do it, especially if I haven’t done it. Sometimes you get slack off and don’t do it for a little while. And then you go back to it. And because you know that that’s it, you’re like supposed to be hyper focused in that time. I’m particularly mindful when I do distract myself. And it’s like, I’ll start doing something that I’m like, oh, I’ll just check on this thing. Or I’ll just what did that person say about that thing again? Or I’ll do that, go to do it. And I’m like, oh, no, no, no, come back, come back to it. And it’s amazing how much ease just wander when you’re doing it? So I think yeah, that’s, that sounds like something that would, yeah, helpful

Andrew Debono
benefit me. And then the other thing was, I realized that in the last year, I was just wasting so much time going to grab a coffee, not not not saying going out of the office and walking down the cafe or anything but like even just getting up and going into like somebody when they shared offices work club, but even just going up there and just putting a party in and getting a coffee. And I’ve just cut out the coffee slightly. So like I’ve just haven’t been having coffee. So I find myself just saying saying like this contextual and so much more work than you go grab a coffee, then you see someone to shed off as you see someone have a little bit of a chat for you know, 1520 minutes has passed. And it’s like, gosh, we’re gonna meeting coming up now. And yeah.

Ben Nash
It’s, I can talk about efficiency hacks all day. But my last question for you is, if you could go back to yourself day one, you know, you fire up the the website, you know, pull down the shingle, and give them one piece of advice. Give yourself one piece of advice. What would that be?

Andrew Debono
For? It’s tough on a i, I think I’ve been pretty fortunate. I’ve been pretty fortunate around doing the right things and really taking advice from other peers in the in the industry. But I think the one thing is that I didn’t do initially was probably the licensing side of things. Like really, really do my research around what’s going to be the best license for me as a small business, and to try and grow my business and not have that pressure or that stress around, you know, costs or restrictions on technology as well. So that was probably the biggest thing that I would that I would have probably changed in my first year from day one.

Ben Nash
Yeah, it’s a tricky one and it’s It’s also hard when you haven’t gone down that path as well to not know it’s like you don’t realize how much it can impact when you haven’t been over decisions like that as well. But definitely a big one. And it’s it’s painful to make those changes as well. So, good advice for all the people about to kick off they’re listening in. Yeah, certainly. My Andrew, thank you so much for sharing your insights. Mike. Great to see you kicking goals. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Andrew Debono
Yeah, I look forward to it. Hopefully it’s not three years down the track.

Ben Nash
Well they’ve put me back in the chair so sooner rather than later. Yeah. All right, guys.

Listen to the podcast on the links below or on your favourite platform

General disclaimer for this podcast and all XY Education podcasts
https://www.xyadviser.com/disclaimer/

DISCLAIMER: The XY Adviser website and all content contained on the website is limited to general information. It does not constitute legal, financial or other professional advice. XY Adviser does not hold an AFS licence and does not provide any financial services. Nothing on this website should be interpreted as financial advice. Before making any investment decision, XY Adviser recommends obtaining financial advice from a qualified financial adviser.