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#330 Michael Khouri – Transcript

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Ben Nash
Hey guys, Ben Nash from the XY advisor team. And today I’m here with Michael Curry. Michael is a founder and advisor at better financial planning. He’s been added in his business for about five years and in advice for a bit over a decade. Michael, thanks for joining us, mate.

Michael Khouri
Thank you for having me.

Ben Nash
Man, I’m keen to talk a bit about some of the things that you’re focused on today and sort of how you’ve gone about building your business. But I thought a good place to start is if we could just maybe talk us through your advice journey and how you ended up where you are today.

Michael Khouri
Yeah, well, love. I started off as an advisor, just over 10 years ago, and I was working for my friend’s practice, and started my own journey as my own advisor. My own practice about five and a half years ago, as you said, and it’s in that five years, it’s been, it’s, I’d say, it’s been a bit of a journey, professionally, and even as the business owner not to work more towards being the advisor, or having the business suits, not just my family, but also suits me as a person. When I first started as an advisor, I would probably say that my main goal was to impress others, to impress clients, you know, that was my main priority for the first year or two. And I think that’s like anyone that starts off in any career, the goal is to, you know, they feel like they need to prove something to everyone else. But over the years, it’s gotten to a point where I’m still trying to impress clients, of course, don’t get me wrong, our job is to show them who we are, and to demonstrate our knowledge and our capabilities. But it’s been more about me not being too you could say self conscious about showing clients who I am, and as a person, and just being as raw as possible with them. And coming to that realization, I think, has improved conversations with clients. And it’s given me a lot more clarity about the type of advisor that I want to be and the type of impact that I want to have on the life of my clients.

Ben Nash
Yeah, it’s super interesting. And I think, like, I started in a fairly traditional financial advice, money management company. And I think like a lot of traditional businesses that we sort of, like, it used to be, in my opinion, that like finance, or financial advice is like a secret sauce. And, you know, it was only the super duper professionals, and you had to wear this suit and tie and, you know, be like, robotic, I suppose, in what you did, but it seems like, like a lot of industries, I suppose that people are recognizing that you can be, be who you are, like everybody’s people at the end of the day. And, you know, people that are professionals, you’ve got this expertise in a particular area, but you’re still human beings. So, you know, for me, I dropped the suits a long time ago. And I found that our clients that there, they appreciate us being who we are, we can still have a joke and muck around with them. But know when it’s time to do serious work, that we’re serious about how we go about it.

Michael Khouri
Definitely in infamy, I think I’ve always had tie, I’ve actually I think I’ve worn a tie three times in my life, partly due on up. But for me, it’s like, for example, when I first became an advisor, and other advisors said to me, you have to have a nice watch, because clients look at your watch. And I need no swaps actually wouldn’t bought literally my first watch I’ve ever had I’ve ever bought. And, I mean, I’ve now love watches. So and that’s, I’ve only got a couple of money, but now I love watches because I’ve got a fascination with them. But my point is, that’s the extent that I went with the stock. Not that I’m a fake person, but I just thought I have to do this. If I don’t do this, people won’t take me seriously. And, and then again, like, as I said, it took a couple of years to sort of just realize that I just need to be me. And I can’t just walk into a meeting unless I was fully shaved, for example. Now I look like an alleged terrorist suspect half the week. So it’s, um, yeah, it’s been interesting, but it just, yeah, I can relate to what you said, Ben as well, because we can then just become people. And that’s what our clients want us to be.

Ben Nash
Yeah, absolutely. So what do you think like five years into business? What have been the biggest changes? What have been the biggest shifts for you?

Michael Khouri
I would say it’s been first of all efficiencies. So just embracing technology. Because it was it was always me. Initially, I had to do that to be more efficient. But secondly, trying to minimize double ups in everything that we do from a compliance point of view and from a technology point of view as well. Just to be more efficient? And secondly, I would say it’s been that journey of working out what type of clients, we want to work with the most clients that give me energy clients that, you know, I could have a barbecue with them on the weekend if I wanted to. But that type of relationship.

Ben Nash
Hmm. And I think both of those are interesting points. But how did you go about your niching

Michael Khouri
I sat down in a room, it was with Glenn, local, then he was out like a licensee, he was our regional manager type of thing. And we sat down at a room and we basically put all my clients out on this table and printed out a whole list couple of lists and highlighted the clients that I liked working with. And then I sat back and worked out which of these clients, but what do these clients will have in common. And from their work that they will couples, literally, they will couples, saying that it was hard because I’ve got clients that are single I do love working with as well don’t get me wrong, but it was a bit fun, I found that it was top 20 clients, I’ll put them in list of just those that love the most literally, and I won’t know all couples. And then from there, I worked out that that’s what I need to start targeting. Because a much I’ve done just not just because I love working with them. But I’ve got a wife, I’ve got three children Lifespring Joseph and I can relate to their their struggles, I can relate to what they’re going through in their life, whether it’s whether they’ve just gotten married, or they’ve just gotten together or whether it’s 510 years later down the track, I just found that the people that I was going to have the biggest impact on life both?

Ben Nash
Well, I find that with with couples in particular, there’s a lot a lot of things like especially for people that are having kids that it’s like, you know, there’s different stages of of that you’re planning to get married, you’re planning to start a family, you start a family, you’ve got the daycare staff, then you’ve got the schooling staff, then you’ve got all of the things that sit around, you know, upsizing and all of those things, that there’s a lot of a lot of opportunities for our clients to be making smarter decisions and doing better. And their big decisions. And as you know, I don’t need to tell you, but making sure that particularly through those years, where you’re having kids, you know, income goes down and expenses go up that what you need to do to make sure you’re in the best position on the other side of that is to, to invest as much as you can, but do it in a way that doesn’t make you compromise on the lifestyle side of things. And I know for our clients, they get a lot of support, you know, a lot of peace of mind with that decision making and get some good results as well. Let me ask what you say you’ve determined that you What do you enjoy working with couples and couples, you know, working with families and stuff? Did you change then your your services or what you’re doing? Or did you just, you know, yeah, how did you how did you sort of double down on that?

Michael Khouri
It was not much a change. To be honest. It was just I think my energy, the type of marketing, for example. So our website, the the imagery, and our website, the wording on our website, the social media content that I was putting out was more around couples and families. The podcast that I started a few years ago, is targeted literally towards couples. And the topics are at couples, you know, someone who related some one was about choosing school for your kids were interviewed. Someone that’s worked in education for nearly 20 years, I won was about to be the president of the National beekeeping Association about keeping aid of bees in your backpack. That’s something that most couples probably care about. So I just focused the topics towards that in for me the bonus of doing that with this, these are the things that I actually cared about. So it’s not like I was targeting. You know, I don’t know, engineers, and I was talking about the different ways of building a bridge. That’s probably the worst example. But I was talking about things that I actually cared about, you know, things that got me excited and things that I wanted to learn about, and that just makes it so much easier.

Ben Nash
Yeah, yeah. Interesting. And with the the other piece that you mentioned in your three kids, which, you know, hats hats off to you, I I used to think I wanted more than three kids but when we had the second one, I realized how full on it was and now I’m sort of second guessing myself. But you mentioned at the start that you you do your work in a way that allows you to balance your you know, lifestyle, family commitments around your work, how have you tackled that?

Michael Khouri
It’s, um, it’s just about the worst schedule my appointments So it’s, we, I schedule my appointments, literally during school hours, so I can do the school drop off, pick up the kids in the afternoon, spend time with them after school. And then normally Monday to Thursday, I’ll do two or three hours at night, working from home. And the the benefit benefit of that is for me personally, first of all, I work well at night. I don’t know why just do in secondly, I, I’m sort of there for my kids. I was having a conversation with someone a while ago, and he was telling me that, you know, well, kids are up until they become teenagers, they want to spend time with you. After that they don’t even know their sport state. It’s, and that was sort of my thing was like, Okay, well, I mean, it’s, yeah, I could money’s money. But at the end of the day, as long as you’re earning enough, and you’re providing and you’re creating something, if you could make it fit around a lifestyle. You know, as you know, spending time with kids or friends or family or partners, you can’t really put a price on that. So I just made it work towards that. And to be honest, it actually suited the business because because I was working with couples, most couples work nine to five. So telling them, hey, I can do a seven o’clock Zoom meeting is is is so valuable to them. Because it’s like, Well, okay, that works really well. Especially professionals that are busy. Seven o’clock at night suits me because kids are in bed, and I can pop into the office and do a few hours on a meeting suits them because they’ll normally sort their kids out before then as well. And it’s it’s sort of work with that. Again, I think it’s because I was working and I’m targeting couples in I can relate to that situation if I was targeting people that worked shift work on this very bad example website. If somebody worked nonstop during the week, and could only do weekends, I wouldn’t be able to work with that type of client, for example.

Ben Nash
Yeah, and I get the you know, your comment there around you know, team and growing that to support you and hesitation around doing that. Initially. I know for me personally, I did exactly the same. Like when I started the business, it was just me, it was me for about a year then I I wrote in my now wife, we work together just the two of us for two and a half years before bringing on any team members because I was reluctant to have the what I saw as sort of that obligation to, to other team and being a manager and all that sort of stuff. How did that sort of come together for you? And what was the what was the tipping point to make you realize that you needed to go down that path. And then what happened from there.

Michael Khouri
The tipping point for me was reaching capacity to the point where, you know, I’ve signed up this many clients for the month so far. And I found myself doing basic admin tasks that I know I shouldn’t be doing, you know, tasks that I know someone else can do, I should say. And working honestly, hats off to x y, to this podcast show, I’ve learned so much from it. On that note, I’ve never been too embarrassed to ask for help from anyone, literally anyone? Worst case, they’re just gonna say no. And I’ve never been too embarrassed to explain my issues to people to to other professional other advisors, if I feel like I can be doing better. And I’ve and I’ve always had an open mind to listening to podcasts like this and getting little, you know, as Emily would say, nuggets of gold, but just little ideas and things like yes, I need to do that and just writing notes down and just check every week changing something in it. So, so for me, the tipping point, I think was just not having time and just sitting in, like doing file notes for three hours and be like, I could have seen a client and this time, you know, and but instead I’ve had to rebook that client for two weeks from now, which is the next time I could see them. And that just made no sense at all. I mean, everyone said this to me that once you get when I was obviously obviously before took on a staff member, I was talking to friends and family and all that. And they all said, once you have someone that you can’t live without them, you know, you’ll you’ll wonder why it took so long to have someone to have a staff member.

Ben Nash
Yeah. And what have you done from a process perspective to support that and make sure that it was coming together in the right way?

Michael Khouri
It was, I think for the first when I decided I needed a staff member. I had a pen and a notepad and a pen next to me at the computer for about three months. And every time I did something which I hated. I wrote it down. And every time I did something which I think someone else could do, I wrote it down. And then I ended up summarizing the list and being like, okay, all of these things are, what can I really get someone else to do. And I just passed it off, I just made that list from them. And secondly, before I had any staff members, I created workflows and systems and processes. On my end, pretending I had different staff members, if that made sense, just for the whole client financial planning process from start to finish. And literally from sending off an authority form to calling five days later to ask this, you know, to do the research for the Superfund and when the implementation is complete, calling the client and letting them just basic things, but literally documenting it. And then when I did get a staff member, it just became a lot easier because they could sort of slot into this part. Like I said, Okay, these are the this is your part here. This is my part. Again, it wasn’t perfect, and it still isn’t. Every week, we’re realizing that there’s something we forgot to do. But my point is, it was just, it’s this isn’t my idea. I can’t take credit for it off. I don’t know who I borrowed or stole it off. But it’s just something that I heard. And I was like, yes, that’s that makes sense.

Ben Nash
It absolutely does. And our business coach is big on that as well. And also, the just he had our business, which talks about like, read time and green time where you look back in your calendar and go, What are the things that that bring you energy that you that you get jazzed in doing? And what are the things that drain energy from you? And yeah, and then, you know, figuring out what the what are the most important things or the most valuable things to get off your plate? And, yeah, it’s a pretty liberating exercise, I think, regardless of what what point you are in your career, or if you’re a business owner in that journey, as well. What I’m keen to hear like, mainly from a selfish perspective, I suppose, but like, what’s your biggest hack for 13 for either in managing them or in managing, you know, and work workload workflow?

Michael Khouri
Biggest hack? It’s, honestly, it’s no magic recipe at all. It’s it literally every Tuesday, we just have a meeting, or I mean, we have meetings in between, we have a staff meeting every Tuesday, we look at what we’ve had the weeks been what we think we can improve on. I’m always asking staff members, if there’s something that they think we can be doing differently. Honestly, literally no magic formula. Just I think it’s just improving and never feeling like things are perfect. I think and I think if we have that mentality, if anyone has that mentality as a business owner, they’ll just continue to improve. Compared to be like, I know, we’ve got our systems things are going well. And you could, you know, the machines well oiled. But

Ben Nash
yeah, yeah. I think the the one of the things that always attracted me to advice is that, you know, the rules are always changing around advice and advice strategies, but I think business and business conditions and, you know, teams are always changing as well. So it means that there’s always there’s always something more, I think you probably doing pretty well, if you think you’re up at that perfection point, you know, in the environment that we’re in today. Michael, you mentioned to me just when we were chatting a little bit offline, that recently, you’ve been focused on the conversations that you’re having with your clients and having deeper conversations, talk to me a little bit more about how that’s happened for you.

Michael Khouri
So for me, I’ve always been a people person, it’s in my DNA, I’ve got an obsession with helping people literally like before I even knew an advisor was if I could help someone, I just didn’t shut up about it. And it’s just been something that I’ve always wanted to do. And when I used to sit with clients, when I first started, I’d sit there and talk to them, I spend the first 20 minutes talking about what type of holiday they want to take. And over the years with all the compliance and all the technical things that we need to do as advisors and the things that we have to be really good at. And the time constraints that I started to have a lot of that got lost, where it was more about the process and what I need to do what’s next. I still cared about the client, don’t get me wrong, and we still had discussions like that, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t as deep anymore as it used to be. And I engaged. A business advisor slash coach bas gardener is his name about a year ago and after listening to some of his work and seeing what he does, and something has taught me as to you know, he calls it how to become an exceptional advisor and a lot of that is about having deeper conversations with clients and not just talking about money. Spending the first half of the meeting talking about what that person wants in life. Are they happy with their life? Do they need clarity in their life? What’s what is happening? workwise relationship wise mentally, I mean, we’re not psychologists, but I mean, as you know, when we talk about money, all these other things come in, like the relationship people have with money, any conflict in a relationship when it comes to money, and even just not just looking at the figures and the budgeting, and the savings and the superannuation, the life insurance and estate planning in the investments, but looking at the goals, on a much deeper level, like, for example, my last, probably one of my biggest one of my most, you know, you could say, fluffy stories recently was I had a client that has a business and every you’ve been doing the financial planning side of things, doing what we do, doing a pretty good job, and he can see that and he appreciate it. And he’s moved forward financially as a person. But I had a discussion with him about six months ago, his business saying, Listen, I don’t think the amount of time you’re putting into your business is worth what you’re earning. And now as simple as that sounds, it was a hard thing to say to this person, because I spent a really long time building his business, but I literally just critiqued every single part of the business that I couldn’t, everything that he was doing. And he’d literally just admitted to me that Yeah, I mean, I’ve actually lost, I’ve lost my, my vibe, I’ve lost the excitement I used to have. I’m over it. And he thought his solution was going to be to go and hire more staff. But that was only going to make the problem a lot more complicated. And we worked out that what he had to do is he needed to just restructure what he was doing. And he needed to stop doing the things that he hates doing. And again, like I mean, something so simple, right. But it’s had a humongous impact on his life, to the point where the business is now more profitable. He feels amazing. And I’m able to do more for him, because he’s more open minded, as his goals have expanded, he wants to do more personally. And as a business owner, he just wants to grow more than ever. So if I hadn’t had that discussion in that, and I hadn’t stopped there for a second and be like, Well hold on a sec, we just go back to basics, what’s going on here? None of that would have happened. And a lot of it was mindset, I think and this is something that has helped me with that mindset around, you know, it’s okay to have these awkward discussions with clients. If they mentioned something, don’t just move on, stop. And just push harder, if that makes sense. Push on that point. If if they say oh, yeah, look. Yeah, it works out. It’s a bit stressful. Instead of just brushing it off, like Yeah, work gets like that you probably need a holiday and then just moving on be like, Well, hold on a sec, why is it stressful? What’s what’s happened recently? Are you happy? Do you think you probably need to go and do some study and move into something completely different? Like, these are things that no one will really tell these people, especially if they’re really established professionals? I mean, they’re not going to listen to people at work that tell them go find another job. This is where we’re in that position where we can do that.

Ben Nash
Yeah, interesting. And is it some Is it a matter of like, when you’re working with new clients, in particular, like having like a direct line of questioning around, you know, the big sort of questions that you mentioned? Or is it just as you said, they’re like, where? If someone says something, then you do dive deeper? Or is it some sort of combination? Because I know, for me, and we tend to get into some pretty personal type conversations, but I don’t really have like an overt line of communications, when we’re talking to initial like, clients in the initial stages, specifically about that.

Michael Khouri
Yeah, it’s, it’s not nothing to structure like, we don’t have like a set, you know, some set questions or anything like that. But it’s, it’s, it’s to me when I start off the appointments now, again, since since making these changes about a year ago, I’m just initially very explicit about what I expect of the client and what they should expect of me. I’m very explicit that they need to be as honest as possible with me, in that, I expect that and I’m going to be as honest as possible with them so that I can help them. I told them that this isn’t for everyone, but this is just how we do it around here. And I feel like when I do that, I then give myself permission to just ask the hard questions and to ask the awkward questions and, and in just asking things, like, anything, this is all the stuff that I sort of went through with the business coach has but you know, asking with in three years, if we’re looking back back at this discussion, this is a very popular question. But in three years, what do you want? What would you have to like? What would you like to see has happened to be like that was an awesome three years. An author wrote a book about that question, but just asking things like that, and then figuring out with to dig, if that makes sense. And then asking lips The upfront questions like, Are you happy in your relationship? Are you happy with your work? Do you enjoy what you do every day? Like, think about it if you stopped anyone in the street and said, Hey, are you happy with your life right now? That person probably has never heard anyone asked them that question except for their mum. It was always too scared to ask these questions because like, oh crap, what do I do? If they say they’re not happy? You know, I don’t want to offend them and say, Ah, you know, get a haircut. So it’s sort of, yeah, it’s, um, it’s been good. And again, I think it because it’s in my DNA to talk about these things. And I just love doing it. It’s, it’s just grown from there. And just another actually really cool example I want to give recently is I had a client, his a, his a trading, and he was in a situation where he worked out that he doesn’t have his enjoying what he does, but he enjoyed it more when he didn’t have his own business. And talking to his partner. She was She does a lot of the admin side of things in the business, and we sort of worked out after talking is that she doesn’t really enjoy it anymore. Like she she doesn’t like the paperwork. She hates it. And he dreads quoting. And they thought their solution was to hire another trading in the business to pick up the load. But just, instead of just moving on to getting another trading, what do we need to do to make that happen? How much is it going to cost? What does he cashflow need to look like? I did that whole digging deeper thing. And what we literally worked out is they don’t need another plant, or another electrician in the business. They need an admin person, not not not his wife just because she’s his wife, but they need an admin person that does these things that knows what they’re doing. And by doing that, it means he can focus on his trade, it means that she can focus on her own career, which had nothing to do with the business, they would be happier, the business would probably be a lot more efficient, and he’ll enjoy what he does. And, and that’s what worked at they needed and then are working on that. But it was just having that discussion. So just to work out that one thing. And in most advisors care about their clients, most advisors care about these things, but they don’t feel like they, they sort of they walk around the awkward conversations, or they don’t dig deeper, because they’re just rushing to get on to the next client or the next task, or something like that. But But I think, you know, imagine how much energy that conversation gave me. You know, I’ve talked about I could talk about Tom for like 10 hours if I wanted to.

Ben Nash
Do you ever get any pushback from from people? When you when you say, you know, this is the way that we do things around here?

Michael Khouri
Never. Never, I mean, I’m sure a couple don’t, might have some pushback, and they don’t really show it. But to be honest, no one’s ever had any pushback. They just most people just acknowledge that. Yeah, that sounds good. Because it’s like, I’m showing them that I’m there to help them. I’m not there to judge. And it’s, it’s powerful. Honestly, it’s very, very powerful. Because it’s, again, it means I’m getting permission from them. And secondly, it means that I’m personally setting that expectation for myself, where it’s like, okay, now I have to ask the questions, because I’ve told them, I’m gonna

Ben Nash
totally, and I think that as you know, technology develops more to do more of the sort of the basics of of what financial planners historically have done, that it is really, you know, what people have wanting and should be looking for and why they should pay an advisor instead of just using some tech platform is to have someone that understands them deeply and make sure that they’re shaping their financial decisions around that appropriately. So yeah, I think you You’re certainly, you know, riding the wave of the future, when it when it comes to that, as well. So it’s great to see. Yeah, are you interested to know how that question goes with? Are you happy in your relationship with the couples? Do you do that? Or they’re both in the same room? Or

Michael Khouri
sometimes, if I can see that there’s, there’s a bit of conflict, like isn’t, you know, this is a both happy in your relationship is, is, is not again, as you know, with money, there’s things you know, one person’s cause could be a saver, one person’s a spender, and you can sometimes see that you can sort of feel that tension in the room sometimes. And just asking isn’t like, Hey, is everything right? Yeah, no, obviously, trying to come up with someone else or anything like that.

Ben Nash
Nice. Mate. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My My last question for you is, is to say if you could go back to yourself, you know, five or so years ago, when you were about to kick off the business and give themselves give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Michael Khouri
It would be to work with people that give me energy, not people that suck my energy. If that’s what it would be, it would be working to not just take on a client, just because I have to take on a client or because they want me to become their advisor, but just working with people that bring me joy. And, and I think that would have made life a lot easier for me. And a few clients as well. To be honest with you, I’ve never had any sour or bad relationship with any client at all. But it’s, it’s normally very obvious when there’s a good fit and when there’s not a good fit. And I think and I heard this years ago from someone, but it’s the clients that you don’t take on that define your success. And, again, not that I’ve had any bad clients, I can’t say I’ve got a single client who I regret taking on but there if I had focused more on the clients that I love working with, in those that give me energy and those that bring me joy, I think I would have defined a lot more as to what type of advisor I want to be and what type of practice I want to have, as well.

Ben Nash
My love it was words and you know, I think it’s it’s so much learning, especially when you you know, common story, you start your business because you love advice, and you you’re good at advice, and there’s a few things that you want to do differently, but there’s so much stuff to learn. So the key is that you are learning and growing. But absolutely, you know, making sure that any client that you someone told me that you if you ever regret jumping, I’d not regret but like, you know, don’t feel really good about jumping into a meeting with someone then they’re probably not the right fit for you and you’re probably not the right fit for them. So yeah, love hearing that and definitely wise words.

Michael Khouri
That’s it. And as I said to you, when we were talking earlier, like it sounds like the perfect business, it’s definitely not in its in every week. It’s literally just about improving and about trying to work out what I can do differently, what I can do better. And how we can help more people.

Ben Nash
Made I love it. Michael, thank you so much for for sharing your story, mate. Really appreciate it. Yeah, keep doing your great work.

Michael Khouri
Yeah, thank you, Ben. Likewise.

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