October 6, 2022

#349 Paul Nicol – Transcript

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Jess Brady
This week’s conversation is with Paul Nicol. Paul is the managing partner and senior financial planner at GFM wealth advisory. And we talk a lot today about client experience. Now that’s a word that gets thrown around a lot. But we deep dive into exactly what they do as a business to reward their clients to say thank you for being part of their business. And many of them have been clients for a decade or more. So I wanted to understand what’s their secret sauce? What are they doing that keeps clients so happy for so long? And telling so many of their friends and family to come and see them as well? Well, it’s not hard to see why we’re going to talk community events, client care and the one percenters. Enjoy. Welcome, Paul.

Paul Nicol
Hi, Jess, thanks for having me.

Jess Brady
Thank you for being on today. You were a very kind person in that I caught I kind of cold called you to see if you would be keyed into today’s conversation. And bless you, you were intrigued and interested and then happy to participate. So I want to firstly call out and say thank you, thank you for your time. And thank you for not thinking that I was trying to sell you steak knives. I very much appreciate that. Because Paul, you run a really interesting business. And today we’re going to talk a little bit more about the business itself and want to spend more time talking through what are you doing on the client side, because you’re getting really great results, which we’re going to spend some time unpacking. And I think for all of us, we’re all trying to learn how can we make sure that we keep our clients happy, it’s one thing to get a good client, but let’s keep them happy. And of course, the knock on effect of that is you have people running around saying amazing things about you. And then more people want to come and work with you, which I know that you do really well. Before we jump into that, though, I’d love for you to give us all a bit of background in terms of you and your business.

Paul Nicol
Sure. So the business is GFM wealth advisory. We’re 49 years young, we’re going to reach 50 Next year in 2023, which is exciting. Yeah, I joined the business in 1999. fresh out of university. I was particularly fortunate in those early years of the industry that the barriers to entry weren’t particularly high. And I was lucky enough at a very young age at 2223 to almost immediately be put on the tools and see clients. It was a steep learning curve. But over the journey since 99, I was fortunate enough to firstly become a junior partner in the business and a senior partner now the managing partner of the firm. And yeah, I’m very proud of where the business sits today.

Jess Brady
And tell me more about I mean, this isn’t this isn’t old business, which is rare. I think

Paul Nicol
it will it is yeah, I think we’re very lucky our business on two fronts. The founder of the business, Tony Gillam, in many ways, was a very early adopter of recommending clients had superannuation, and I think his early foresight in being a real supporter of the Australian superannuation system, held our business in very good stead. And then I think, you know, we’ve been incredibly fortunate to have such a long duration of high quality relationships, early adopters of superannuation and then Self Managed Super Education. And and you know, and it would be remiss of me not to suggest that we have a really wonderful team here at jfn. Very loyal staffing base, you know, we’ve nearly got 20 staff that have been with us over 10 years. We’re fortunate enough not get many staff leaving, and most who are heavily immersed in what we’re trying to achieve. So yeah, it’s a good, it’s a strong business, it’s a stable business, it’s a business of longevity, but we’re also growing strongly. Hang

Jess Brady
on, we need to just take a step back, how many of you got new team?

Paul Nicol
Nearly 30? Just, yeah, nearly 30. And almost 20 of them have been with us 10 years or greater. So we have both financial planning and accounting. And, you know, we, it’s amazing, I think what we really want to invest in with our clients is, is a relationship that is long standing. And our strong philosophy within the firm is, is that we want long standing relationships with our clients. In reverse, we want to make sure that they feel a real stability in the team that we have here. So I think one of the core pillars of the pillars of the businesses is is relationships that are long standing. And we’re very fortunate that not just applies to our clients, but our staff are heavily immersed in their culture.

Jess Brady
That is amazing. Obviously, we’re going to spend most of the time I hope today talking about that longevity of relationship and what that looks like and what you’ve tried and tested and what worked and what hasn’t. But let’s just pause for a minute, because I think the the number of staff that you have, and the percentage of the staff that have worked for that amount of time in the business, screams to me that this is very interesting and quite rare. I mean, everyone likes to think that they’ve built a business that has a great culture. No one’s touting themselves as having a terrible culture in a business. But the proof I think a lot of the time is in Tanya, what do you think you’re doing? That’s different that’s kept people for so long?

Paul Nicol
Look, there’s no secret recipe to this, I guess we have a very strong DNA of our core and senior staff that have been here for a long while. Yeah. And I think when we do renew, recruit new staff as we’re growing. During that recruitment process, we’re very clear to them that we want to invest in them and invest in them being in our business long term. And and and then I guess, when those new staff commenced with us, and in their early years of employment, they can really feel that the senior staff that are heavily invested in the business, and have bought into this concept of of it being a long term relationship that we’re not just entering with our clients, but with our staff as well. So look, there’s no, there’s no secret formula, Jess, I think, you know, we all like to think we’re recruiting quality people. But I think the people that you put into the organization, your new staff, I think they quickly inherit the traits of the existing staff. And we do have a very strong core of staff that have been with us for a long while that, you know, that we continue to make it clear that our objective is for it to be a long term relationship,

Jess Brady
and give employees still see clients are Have you employed someone that does? I mean, that’s a lot of people to manage from a hierarchical perspective. Do you have someone who’s dedicated to that?

Paul Nicol
No, look, I certainly I’m the senior partner in the firm. And the other partner in the firm is Patrick Malcolm. And, you know, he certainly assists me with the day to day running of the business, I have a great Operations Manager Melanie McLennan Oh takes, you know, a high degree of that, of that HR work off my hands. But look, I gotta say, Jess, I don’t feel like our staff need a lot of managing. Maybe that’s easy for me to say, because Melanie and Patrick, you know, share the load with me. But we’re also very big on our staff having responsibilities and autonomy. I’m very strong on our staff, wanting to be thinking about the business and acting in a way like they owned the business so that they feel like they’re important decision makers. So you know, a lot of our staff have very key areas of responsibility for which they set themselves, you know, goals and objectives each year, and then we largely allow our staff to autonomously. You know, they’ll always be reporting back but we I think it’s important that staff also feel like that they can be decision makers and, and are heavily involved in the successes of the business through their exertion.

Jess Brady
Great. Let’s draw client side. How many clients do you think the business has and what is your area of focus? And then of course, we’re going to talk client experience.

Paul Nicol
Yeah, well, I know how many clients we’ve got on the financial planning side. other business, we have around 800 clients. Okay, so we have financial planning and accounting, but I think it would be fair to say that JFM wealth, our niche client is the pre retiree or retiree. And the very vast majority of our clients do have self managed super funds. Now, you know, not one size fits hope fits all here at JFM. We, you know, we’re an off platform business we run individually manage accounts for all of our clients. But our service offering does suit the pre retiree or retiree and predominantly, that pre retiree or retiree is warehousing their wealth within a self managed super fund, for which we’re able to provide, you know, effectively a full end to end service within our firm having financial planning and accounting.

Jess Brady
I’m interested in in I’m interested in lungs, obviously, but I’m interested in understanding, because you have a really strong client retention rate, and you have a really strong client referral rate. So I want to before we get stuck into that, I want to talk about the experience that you offer someone so we can learn more about what is it that they’re getting? And then let’s talk more about sort of what are the things that are on top of that that you’ve offered and the successes and failures and learnings from that as well?

Paul Nicol
Okay, there’s a lot in that question.

Jess Brady
Basically, telling me everything, Paul?

Paul Nicol
Yeah. Okay. All right. So look, perhaps I’ll go back a step before we go forward a step. Yeah. There are many fine financial advisors here in Melbourne, we’re a Melbourne based firm, and there are many fine financial advisors throughout Australia. I don’t really feel like we compete against each other. But I think some of the work that we do is subjective in some of the work we do is objective, I think all are very, all very good planners, with the objective work they do around putting together a strategy are very good at what they what they do, then the subjective side of things is obviously the way we go about investing our clients wealth. Now, if there was a golden formula for that, wouldn’t that be easy? It’s not, but over arching that subjectivity and objectivity of what we do, it’s our firm belief that the client experience is where we can differentiate ourselves against our peers. Now, I stress again, I don’t really feel like we’re competing against anybody. Yeah, there are a lot of firms doing some very good work. And whilst I don’t feel like we’re competing against them, I do consider them competition. So it keeps us on our toes. So I guess the JFM philosophy is that we want to offer an exceptional client experience. And if we offer an exceptional client experience, then there’s a very strong probability that both our clients will refer, and more importantly, that we will get that long term relationship with our clients. So we’re, we’re really proud of the fact that in the near 50 years that we’ve gone, we’ve been going we’ve got hundreds of clients that have been with us 2030 or 40 years. And I think that longevity is very much a byproduct of our extensive focus on the client experience.

Jess Brady
What does that investment of time on the experience actually look like?

Paul Nicol
Yeah, yeah, great question. Just so firstly, as a an accounting and financial planning firm, unlike a lot of financial planners out there that don’t have an accounting firm, you know, perhaps accountants are a good referral source for them. We don’t really tend to get a high level of referrals from accountants, by virtue of the fact that we have an accountancy firm, which I can understand. Right? That makes sense. Yeah. So we know that the best chance of our business growing is by our clients been walking mouthpieces walking and talking advocates of our business. So as a firm, you know, our marketing team is led by my Davies, who’s been with us well over 30 years. Firstly, Manos all the clients and maze ably supported by the head of our SMSF team, Woody Sumos, almost been with us 30 years. And likewise, they she knows all the clients. So the first thing is none of our clients are a number. They’re all people. They’re real people that we have deep relationships with. And then I guess, just maybe something we do a little bit different or think about a little bit different is a lot of firms at financial planning firms advertise, or they market and they have budgets for that, too, but we don’t have marketing budgets that are to attract external potential clients. Our whole marketing budget is spent on our clients. Okay. So, not only do we want to the client experience To be the best possible experience, but in many ways, if somebody becomes a client of our firm, I kind of want it to be known to them that a reward of being invested with us, and in us our firm as a client that our marketing is actually spent on them. If that makes sense,

Jess Brady
it totally makes sense. What I am fascinated by and I want to get stuck into more specifics about how you deploy those resources. But I think I’ve worked for the big end of town and the teeny tiny end of town. marketing people Hello, and welcome, if you’re listening are often completely siloed. And not at all slash ever given an opportunity to learn really at the coalface about the people that they end up marketing for, actually, is, I think it’s extremely unusual for your head of SMSF. And your head of marketing to know the client’s presumably that helps making sure that everything that you’re putting out is targeted and appropriate. Was that a deliberate? Yeah, how did that come about? No, it’s

Paul Nicol
organically grown. But he’s also very deliberate. I guess the longevity of those two staff members may and weedy combined with the longevity of our advisors and all of our advisors. Will the core of our advisors have been with us for a long while. We’re not an institution, okay, we’re not our clients are not a number. I think the number one thing for us is the clients to understand, they’re number one. And they are known, they are real people. So whether we have implementation meetings, that’s always conducted by a staff member in person, maybe called me a little bit old fashioned. And, you know, in the industry, we’re all looking for automation. And you know, so when you make a client appointment, you there’s all automation tools, and then you can send texts and emails. Well, I’m certainly not against that automation. And that creates a scalability but at the same time, I also love the old fashioned, we call our clients to make an appointment, or we get on the phone to make sure that we’re speaking to them. And I think one of the things that we probably did very well during the COVID, lockdown, so is is is, you know, all of our staff made sure that we were touching base protect, particularly being a Melbourne based firm, the fact that we were locked down for such an extended period, we wanted to know, we wanted our clients to know we, you know, we care deeply about them. So we were regularly making contact with them one on one, rather than through automated services. So I guess, you know, whether it’s appointment generation, whether it’s implementation, whether it’s just touching base to say hi, we, we don’t want a phone phobia in the office, and an automation can create that. In fact, we want the opposite. We want our clients to know that, you know, we can reach out and both were happy to reach out via the phone medium or catch up with them face to face.

Jess Brady
Phone phobia exists. I think for anyone sub 30. I have found that there is like this weird generational thing now where people are like, Oh, you’re calling me. But it’s so valuable and so easy and underrated I think at the moment.

Paul Nicol
Yeah, yeah, look, I tend to agree, I tend to agree again, I don’t want to sound overly old fashioned. And maybe I do. But I think an exceptional client experience does involve a degree of, of direct contact. Now, one could argue a phone call is indirect. I think it’s a better direct contact than an email or a text. But they’re face to face experience, particularly for our clients who are pre retirees and retirees, they really, you know, in the surveys that we do with our clients, around our client experience, one of those things that rates very highly is the fact that we, you know, we do very much like catching up with our clients face to face and believe it or not, that we call them when something needs to get done.

Jess Brady
Isn’t it amazing? When you survey clients and you you maybe have had the same thing? You know, sometimes you’re racking your brain around, okay, what do people really get value from or we deploy all this effort and energy in this particular thing, and we’re confident that that’s why they love us, and then you survey them and you’re like, oh, actually, what they really love is the phone calls. That’s really easy. And really simple.

Paul Nicol
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Yes. Now it’s not one size fits all. Of course, there are some busy professionals that we have that like the idea of getting the email on calendar and picking out a time and a date and we certainly understand and respect that but we certainly find for our longest standing clients or particularly the retired client, that retired clients that that face to face or those touch points via the phone, they very much appreciate those little extras.

Jess Brady
Sure. Let’s go back to the marketing piece. So I think it’s really clever to deploy your marketing budget on existing clients because they become the billboard for your your business. What does that look like for you?

Paul Nicol
Yeah, great question. So we run a lot of client events, okay. And I think we could largely break down the events to either be purely social, or being part social part educational. So as a firm for many, many years, we’ve run events on behalf of clients face to face events. So I think some of the key events that we run that I’ll bracket under the Social umbrella is the fact that for many, many years, we’ve run movie nights for clients. So we are moving on, it’s actually so successful, we now have to run to that. That yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re very lucky, the clients love coming along with that, and they love bringing friends or guests as well. But, you know, we managed to run to movie nights, almost as our end of year event, late November, early December, where, you know, we’ll both evenings will will fill the cinema with 300 clients, you know, both evenings. So that’s a great capturing that in a social environment, many of our clients are able to come along and attend. And it’s almost sort of they almost asked, you know, what’s the date for next year, you know, I’ll put it in the diary. Now, because December is a busy, busy month. So that’s social, we run client dinners. We love having client dinners, generally more large scale dinners, where once again, we’ll invite you know, between 100 to 150 clients along to a dinner, often those clients, clients that have either been with us for a long period of time, or have been kind enough to be referrers, in the more recent period, and we just want to thank them for their kind word of mouth. And we’ll get a guest speaker to come along. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be financially related, just a person of interest. So our clients love that those dinners, we run a golf day, you know, our clients that like playing golf, and golf is not for everybody. And we’re conscious of the fact that not all of our clients play golf. But a lot of our retired clients love playing golf, of course, I love attending our golf days. So we do that. Yeah. And then, you know, I guess under the the umbrella of part social part educational, one of the things that we’ve always done for a number of years is we run, you know, four to six face to face educational seminars a year. So whether it’s an economic outlook, whether it’s a share market update, whether it’s us bringing in a fund manager, or somebody of know that that can explain to them what’s going on in markets or in the economy, or specific to, you know, an investment asset class, we do that four to six times a year, we often run lunch events, we do run some evening events for the working clients. But again, more often than not, that we you know, we’ll get 150 to 200 clients attend those events, you know, or we’ll do it on estate planning, or get an estate planning lawyer to come in or so again, remember, we look after pre retirees and retirees. So the the topics of interest for our niche client, that’s the area that we specialize in, you know, will often differ from those who perhaps are younger and looking at different topics of interest, you know, so. So yeah, those educational events are a very big part of what we do as well. And it’s amazing how many clients religiously attend, and also bring guests as well. And that’s, that’s also another touch point for the client, you know, often we see our clients once, two or four times a year, depending on the need of the client. But if they’re turning up to our client dinner, or a client Movie Night, or an educational seminar, then all of a sudden, you’re seeing that client, three, four or five, six times a year, both in a social and formal setting, which is nice.

Jess Brady
And I would imagine that given that these people come a regularly through the year, but also come year on you. Actually what you’re building is a community where people have seen that other person’s face for a number of times, and they end up saying hello, and do you find that people are actually socializing within those events as well and starting to learn more about who else you work with?

Paul Nicol
100%? Yes, yeah, it is a community. I am our firm, our clients, our community. Our clients turn up to these events, and they see the same staff, because we’ve got a very loyal core of staff. So there’s a familiar ality there, but there’s also a familiar reality with who they see when they come to the events. It never strikes or it never ceases to amaze me. We run our golf event, the clients ring up and say, Oh, ye we’re coming again this year. And can we play with so and so so and so right? And we’re like, wow, okay, so they almost fulfill their own groups or they come to the events and they see Sit next to the same person or they get to know. In fact, I’ve got to say I, you know, running a client event, which may in our firm does exceptionally well, it’s not easy, because you’ve got a whole lot of people that are coming and what you don’t want our clients that feel isolated or sort of standing there by themselves or don’t, you know, or perhaps, you know, don’t find that environment, a comfortable environment. I don’t believe that happens in our business. I’m 100% sure that when our clients or our guests turn up to our events, the familiar reality of knowing many of the other clients through attending these events, and or knowing the staff, well, it does become community like Yeah, no doubt. Yes.

Jess Brady
And I think in the world that we live in today, where for many people, perhaps not in your age group, but for many people religion used to be the community that everyone would rock up to. And, you know, we live in these fast paced societies, ironically, with so much access to social media, but we lacked true connection, and we lacked true community. I think this is a huge differentiator.

Paul Nicol
No doubt. Yes, yeah, really, you’re 100% Spot on, I guess, once again, without, you know, over reflecting on the COVID environment, Jess, and the lockdown environment here in Melbourne. But one thing that become very apparent to us was how many of our record, our retired clients actually viewed a large part of their social being in retirement being what we offered them, if that makes sense, totally, don’t really miss that. And since we’ve returned to running these events, you know, overwhelmingly, the feedback that we’re getting from these clients is how much they missed the community of our clients and attending these events during that period.

Jess Brady
I think this is so interesting, you obviously invest quite a bit of money in this I can imagine because these are, these are big events per per quarter, or whatever it is, you know, you’ve got 150 or 200 people plus you’ve got additional social events going on. So presumably, you’ve got the resources that are dedicated to so it sounds like me, who does the marketing? Also does the events, would it be fair to say that may is constantly throughout the year working on the next event,

Paul Nicol
not just working on the next event? She’s working on the next 12 months, as I said, just we are entering our 50th year next year at CHI FM. And we think that’s worth celebrating, oh, man, he’s already got the schedule all sorted out for next year. In fact, may already you know, she’s asking me well, September next year, when we’re running the client in and out, don’t quote me on that. I think it’s September, I don’t have the calendar in front of me. But it’s around that time. She’s saying, who’s going to come and talk at this seminar? And which clients are we going to invite? So yeah, we don’t we’re not event to event we in fact, made puts together an events calendar, sort of three quarters of the way through the year, so that we’ve got the next calendar year fully organized. In fact, we need to do that, because we want our staff attending the events, we want to make sure our staff are available, we want to make sure we give our clients good notice of when the events are on the market in their diary. So yeah, this is not an ad hoc approach. This is a very carefully thought out approach to the activities that we want to conduct on a year by year basis. Yes. So yeah, we are very lucky that Mei is completely dedicated to that, and to the client pace where she’s calling clients and touching base with them and or making appointments, if that’s necessary. Because she wants to still keep that touch with the clients, but at the same time, be running the events. Um, just one thing that you said that I think was interesting is is is not Yeah, there are some activities that are expensive, you run a client dinner at a decent client, you know, and you have 150 people come along, you know, that that clearly costs money. And it’s a, it’s a, it’s a decent investment. But in fact, if if we actually think about what our total marketing budget is, and we express that, which I won’t hear, but if we express that per client in $1 term, to spend that small amount for a client that’s been with us 1020 or 30 years, as a thank you, it’s, it’s not a lot. And in fact, not all marketing activities are expensive. Jess, one thing that I was really proud of what we did during the COVID lock downs is pretty much when we got locked down from March of 2021 of the things that I was really concerned about is the loss of touch of clients. And the fact that we ran so many face to face events, clients would miss that. So we got on the front foot, I’m sure we were one of the first firms that started doing, you know, Zoom events where we were asked where we were, you know, where we were running an educational event that went for an hour which clients could dial into, we’d have our manager or somebody that we would ask questions of, we were getting hundreds of people that were dialing in live and hundreds of people that were watching the recordings, and it didn’t cost a thing And so, you know, we found that as a pretty good point, and there are lots of little smart things your phone calls, that doesn’t cost a lot of money, right? But yeah, there are other activities like golf days dinners, movie nights there any investment, but I, you know, I think there are a reward. And what

Jess Brady
I love about what you do is it’s very targeted. It’s very specific. It’s very strategic and tactical, because I often have found that some people think that marketing and events are cute, and that they’re a nice to have, and they’re not as well thought out or given as much attention as they could be given. And I think you’ve proven is, we all need a May. But if you are clever and considered an organized, you can build something that is very special, and very rare and basically have people knocking down your door to figure out when the movie night is for the next year. I mean, that is something to be hugely proud of. Massive congrats to you and the team that is obviously a lot of hard work and years of effort. And I think very rare.

Paul Nicol
Thanks, Jess. Yeah, yeah, well, I’m can I just, I just want to stress, we love seeing our clients, we love catching up with our clients. I gotta tell you, I genuinely enjoy reading at these events. Yeah, you get a little bit nervous beforehand? Is it going to go? Well? Is this going to work? Is it not going to work? We’re trying this. We haven’t done this before. What about that? Firstly, you know, again, it’s a team effort here. But you know, may having done this for a number of years instills a high degree of confidence that if we’re going to try something more, more often than not, it’s going to work. But we actually want to do it, we want to do it. So yeah, we are highly organized, we are very strategic about the way we go about it. But at the core of this is, it is a thank you to our client, it is a community we do we do want to do it and we love catching up with our clients. So it’s easy to do it if you actually enjoy doing it too, if that makes sense.

Jess Brady
Totally. And what was quite clever about a movie night, if I can just say it as a secret introvert, zip best social event, ever, because you get to spend a whole night with someone. But actually, for about two hours of that you don’t have to talk to people. That’s cool.

Paul Nicol
Yeah, 100% Yeah, you’re right. You know, we pack out the Movie Night, I you know, I am all over trying to get around all the clients to say a quick hello, they know, it’s a busy evening. So they don’t, you know, they don’t really ask for much of your time. And we get up at the start of the movie and say thank you, we just want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your support. And they leave contented, you know, they get they they you know, they get fed and they you know, get some popcorn and some ice cream on the way and they get to watch a good movie who doesn’t like that?

Jess Brady
Completely agree, this is very clever. And also what you’ve created is a very clear sense of who you work with. Because if people are able to see over and over again, regularly, you’ve really reminded them, these are the types of people that we work with. These are the types of people we love helping. And so I’m keen to get more into the referral sort of side of things. But I would imagine it’s quite easy for for a client who’s been with you for a long time, who loves what you do and who’s seen not only the work that you’ve done for them, but also the work that you’ve done for people that look similar or different, I’m not sure. But it surely makes it easier for when they see someone who is a good fit to refer to you.

Paul Nicol
100% just very good again, yeah, we can shift the conversation to referrals. But the common feedback that we get from a prospective client that attends our educational events, a prospective client doesn’t get to come to the dinner or movie night. That’s a reward the client, that’s social. But these seminars, these webinars, these educational events, they are free for anybody to attend. Our clients bring guests. Yeah, there’s no, this is all informational. It’s a very, it’s it’s a very relaxed environment. But the overwhelming feedback we get is, oh, wow, we can’t believe how many of your clients come along. And we can’t believe how many nice things they have to say about you, you know, so whether they’re dealing with our advisors, Patrick or SAM, or James or Amelia or myself, or our associates Karen and Nora candle and and the like. The first bit of feedback we get is the clients that attended always attend once they know it’s a guest that they’re speaking to. We don’t ask them to do it, but they just say, ah, you know, they’re wonderful. And I’ve been a client for X amount of years, and we’re so happy. And you know, I think that can only assist in the process of potentially having a client who maybe was thinking about becoming a client be more confident in their decision to become a client.

Jess Brady
I think in our world trust is so exceptionally important and We know that there often is fear and hesitation around. Is this person trustworthy enough for me to deploy my life savings to them? And so having people who are not paid by you, who are complete advocates creates so much immediate trust?

Paul Nicol
Oh, yeah, yeah. 100% I wouldn’t got my hair cut last week as you do. And I go see the usual hairdresser. And, and he was unavailable. I didn’t know I turned up and he was unavailable. And I had a different gent that was doing my hair. And straightaway, I was a bit anxious. I was a bit like, oh, geez, I don’t I don’t know. I hope he does a good job. And, and there was his inbuilt anxiety because I hadn’t built a rapport with him. I built a rapport with my hairdresser. Now we’re talking about a haircut, Jess? Yeah. What’s it like for a client that’s got their life savings that they’ve got to make a decision on trust isn’t one immediately, trust is earned. And if there are different touch points, in the decision making process of a prospective client that solidifies that they feel like we’re the right type of people to work with. That’s got to be advantageous. So prospective clients come into our seminars, I know, they’re impressed, they get to see what we stand for. They can see what we are as a business, they can see the people they know our DNA. And it’s gonna help Jess, I think

Jess Brady
totally. And do you do any tracking of whether it’s likely that someone will come to a number of events before they come on? Is it as a client? Like, do you do any tracking of the success of non clients coming to those events?

Paul Nicol
We? The answer is yes. And no. Okay. So partly is because we ask all of our clients, it’s mandatory, when we have a client event that we ask for our clients feedback now, for the clients have been coming years and years and years, they take excellent, excellent, excellent, excellent, thank you love that rah, rah rah. But we actually want them to give us feedback that we can use to improve. The beauty of the client providing an evaluation is we also are asking the prospective client for an evaluation. And we’re also asking them if they haven’t had a meeting before with one of our advisors, they’ve been brought along as a guest. Would they like to have a meeting? So we do find that a high number of our guests that attend in the back of their mind is that that they want to deal with a financial advisor, they’re perhaps not ready yet to make an appointment or feeling courageous enough yet to make an appointment, because they don’t really know who we are, then they attend the event, we asked them to fill in the evaluation form, would you like a meeting? The very vast majority then say yes, they say, Yes, we’d love to have a prospective client meeting. So we absolutely ask the prospective client if they would like an appointment via the evaluation after the events.

Jess Brady
Is that a physical form? Or is that a form that that you email out?

Paul Nicol
Yeah, both with so we do have a physical form for some events. And then some events, we have an electronic form, okay. Generally, the the events where we are more likely the very the events that are educational, that we’re more likely to have the prospective guests come along, we actually asked we do a paper evaluation form that they’re literally handing on the way out. Now, again, a little bit old school. But one of the things is if you do an electronic one where you’ve got lots of guests, then, you know, it sits in their emails, do they address it, I leave it alone, that I really feel the need to do it. But if they turn up to our event, as they’re leaving, we’re like before,

Jess Brady
exactly, I’ve had exactly the same I mean, I’m younger. But so that’s why I was interested, because I think that the hardest part, if you’re going to do an E post event survey or wrap up, getting the feedback from any you know, people are well intentioned, but people also busy. So no, I’m, I’m going old school with you here as well actually think paper is the way to go here, because you do get

Paul Nicol
feedback. Yeah, I think for those events, yeah. But then there’s some events where the electronic evaluation form makes a lot of sense, because it’s easier to collect the response and to know what to do with responsive view, ignore one spot. So we’ll do both is the answer just depending on what we’re looking to achieve out of the evaluation.

Jess Brady
And so presumably, the growth you’re on your of your business through client acquisitions is predominantly referrals from existing clients and or people who have attended the event?

Paul Nicol
Yeah, quite right. Yeah, no, no, I’d suggest 80% of our referrals are from existing clients. And, you know, we have got a growing level of inquiries with I guess, people have looked at us from our website. And you know, that’s still a growing we, you know, we prefer the client referral because we find it’s a far more warm referral and more more likely than not that prospective client knows the type of client that we look after. Yeah, forget, we as I said, we don’t really get many referrals from accountants, or other profession. regionals we do very much, it’s all just to get out the large, vast majority is generated via our clients. What do you do when you’ve got a client

Jess Brady
who sings your praises? Loves You refers lots and lots of people. But the advisor that they work with either isn’t the right advisor for the client that they’ve referred, or that advisor doesn’t have capacity to take them on. Does that happen? And how do you manage that?

Paul Nicol
I just got to get on the front foot straightaway. You know, I think you’ve got to talk to the roof, the referrer. And which we do I book on, you know, I’m an advisor, I’m still on the tools here. I deal with a handful of clients. And, you know, and those clients are kind enough to refer on occasion where it’s not possible for me to see the clock, the person that they’ve referred. Or, if I’m not sure that I’m suited to them, the first thing I do is get on the phone and speak to the refer I you know, so if you refer just to say, hi, Jess, just want to let you know, so and so contacted me, I’m getting a little bit of a feeling about this, what do you think I’m thinking this might be? And I actually really enjoyed the firstly, they’re thrilled that the prospective client has contacted us and that they’ve listened to them. They’re thrilled that we’ve called them and spoken to them about it and said, thank you. And then yeah, and then from there, we you know, I think it’s just about the upfront communication. And I, you know, the, the, our clients know that, whether I’m the advisor or somebody else’s the advisor here in the firm, we all think alike, and we’re all doing exactly the same work.

Jess Brady
I’ve a strange question. Given a lot of the sort of 1% things that you do that really differentiate you actually require you to be time critical and proactive, particularly with phone calls. How do you manage that from a diary perspective?

Paul Nicol
It’s not easy, not easy. We have busy diaries. And if you do call a client, for whatever purpose it is, Hi, how you going, Hey, I need to talk to you about this, hey, you’ve referred this person I want you to the never two minute conversations. Those conversations can actually take quite a while because inevitably then you talk to him about other stuff. I hear you go and watch your footy team doing rah rah rah rah rah stuff that you talk to them about all the time, right? Yeah, look, so you know, each of our advisors have different workflows during the day. Jess, I am a little bit strategic about the way I handle my workday. I like to get into the office very early.

Jess Brady
However, how early tell me share your secrets. 7am Oh, yeah, that’s early. Yeah, keep going.

Paul Nicol
Yeah. And I’d like to spend the first hour or hour and a half doing work where I know, I largely won’t be interrupted. And where I know that it needs my strongest focus. Okay. As the day progresses, and I’ve had a client meeting or a staff meeting, I probably know that my level of sharpness is slightly declining, I’m more a morning person than an afternoon or evening person. So I actually like to do a lot of my phone calls in the afternoon. And, you know, I’ve got also say, I do call a lot of my clients from the car on the way home, I’ll take a list of two or three clients that are just want to say hi to or ring them for a purpose. I’m on my way home. And I say, Look, I’m in the car, I hope you don’t mind. But I just wanted to touch base rah rah rah rah rah. Or I call them late in the day because I know that that’s the time of the day, we’re a most likely to get a hold of them. But the it’s better for me to be having those more social or easier conversations. I find phone calls very easy, right?

Jess Brady
So I love that you call from the car, can we just stop and I just need to we just need to stop this for a second calling from the car. So let’s just think about this. Yeah, many people listening to this would be like, oh, you can’t call a client from the car. That sounds unprofessional. Actually, presumably, you’ve got a relationship with them. But we’ve already covered that. I think that is so clever. Because it says to me, a there’s a huge authenticity piece that you’re human and doing human things. But be it’s like, you are so important that I didn’t want to miss talking to you today. And this was the only opportunity to but I had to because you are so important. I hope you don’t mind that better

Paul Nicol
at 100%. Um, in fact, when I read and I first thing I say I say look, I’m in the car runner, I just wanted to bring you on the way home, I wanted to make sure I got a hold of you today. First thing as I say is that Paul, you don’t need to call me now I say, but I want to I want to call you now. Look, part of it is clearly wanting to clear the decks by the end of the day. So I feel like I can come in the next day and start a fresh day without perhaps the overhang of some things I wanted to achieve the day before and you’ve always got an overhang Ave Jess, you know, but in fact, the clients quite like it.

Jess Brady
Right. I think that’s very clever. And also, like being stuck in traffic is terrible. And if you can use it as part of your workday. I’d be more efficient. That is smart.

Paul Nicol
100% Yeah, it takes me you know, with peak hour traffic, I leave early. So I get to work in reasonable time and on the way home, it could take me up to 45 minutes to get home. So if I can make two or three calls. And before I sort of know what I’m three quarters of the way home, and actually then I’ve got to say, that’s a very good mechanism for me to turn off. Because once I’ve made those calls, and I get home, I think to myself, beauty, you’ve done what you wanted to achieve today. Yeah, focus on the family now. Right? So it’s part selfish, that I can do it in a time that isn’t that productive when you’re driving. But the clients, actually the number of them who say, Oh, thanks, Paul, thanks for calling. Now, I really appreciate you kind of catching them at a good time to I feel so

Jess Brady
yeah, I could ask you many questions all day long. But we can’t Alas, because you have work to do. As we’ve just discussed, I think it’s extremely obvious why people want to stay with you for a long time. And people want to refer people that they know and trust and need help to you. You’re doing some big stuff really well. But you’re also doing some small stuff really well, the stuff that’s hygiene that often gets missed or slipped. It sounds to me like you’ve built a culture where those one percenters are not taken for granted and they become everyday things that are must dues that I think with it’s a

Paul Nicol
good reminder. Yeah, 100% Yes. People notice attention to detail. Right? You know, the number of times somebody will do something for you, but you knew that the attention for detail wasn’t there. So whilst you’re grateful they’ve done something for you, but you know, that they weren’t fully focused on it can let that piece down. I think the attention to detail is the most important part if you’re gonna if you if you really feel like you’ve got an exceptional offering, which I think we do. Our I think our client offering is exceptional. The attention to detail has to be there or it’s not exceptional.

Jess Brady
Thank you so much. Before we wrap up today’s conversation, can I ask you some bigger, more random less business questions? Oh, gorgeous.

Paul Nicol
I promise I’ve got a life so I will be able to answer some of these Okay.

Jess Brady
Life you get home, put the car in the garage, no doubt. And then you have a real life which is exciting. I want to finish with some rapid fire questions before I do go. A huge thank you so much. As I said, cold calling is not dead dead people. Thank you very much, Paul, for being part of today’s expert podcast. If people want to learn more about you, how can they

Paul Nicol
about our business, they can just hop on our website, I think a website full of information. So today our businesses JFM wealth. So if you’re looking at Yeah, lots of information, and there’s bios on all of our staff and everything. I particularly

Jess Brady
like that you also put which Football Club people go for so then I can laugh, whether they’ve done well, or not. So well. I felt sorry for you about the racist ones. Yeah.

Paul Nicol
Yeah, well, AFL was almost like a religion in Melbourne, right. So if you’re ever struggling to break the ice here in Melbourne, you just ask them who they buried for right. And now is the time that does the job.

Jess Brady
I’d imagine that creates some interesting conversations for you. Okay, so, rapid fire questions for you. I’d love to know, what’s one thing that you do to look after your mental health

Paul Nicol
port? Ah, yeah, yeah, I’m quite conscious of this. There’s two things I do. Yeah. So firstly, when I switch off from work, I either like to be surrounded by family and friends that helped me switch off. Obviously, I just find the company engaging and easy to just enjoy. Yeah. But I I am, I do make a little bit of an effort to just spend some quiet time with myself. I think, you know, a large part of what we do in the business here is is that we’re constantly engaged with our clients all the time. And then you’re very, you know, if your social and your social life. So I do try to spend some time to myself, if that makes sense. So whether that’s going for a quiet walk, whether it’s just sitting there and watching the TV without really watching it, whether it’s exercising, I think that time to yourself matters.

Jess Brady
I agree. Do you have a piece of advice that you would give to young poor?

Paul Nicol
They’d be lots of advice. I think probably. Listen, listen. Yeah, I think you learn so much when you’re younger, but how much of it you absorb? Because you’re probably not really listening. I think I could have been a better listener when I was younger.

Jess Brady
Okay. What is something that’s on your bucket list that you haven’t seen yet?

Paul Nicol
I’ve got lots of stuff on the bucket. I’ve kind of I’ve got this itch I want to scratch I want to I want to go to Mount Kilimanjaro and walk to the top. Just don’t ask me why I have no idea why that’s exciting. And I want to do it before I’m 50. So I’ve got a few years to go yet good. And I want to do it with people. Although I kind of I almost kind of want it to be like my fifth year thing, so I’ve got to find the right people who are prepared to take up the challenge with me. But yeah, I want to do that.

Jess Brady
Awesome. Last question. I have a fake book club. Do you have a book that you could recommend to me as part of my fake book club?

Paul Nicol
No, yes and no, I’ve, funnily enough, just this weekend, just this weekend gone? Yeah. A good mate of mine. Gave me Dave Grohl Xbox. So Dave Grohl from Chile. I call the storyteller now I’m not into the Foo Fighters.

Jess Brady
I just said the Red Hot Chili Peppers from the Foo Fighters. Yes, yeah.

Paul Nicol
And I’m not a massive music person. But I made a mind said to me over the weekend, he said, You’ve got to read this. It’s dead. Good. So it’s sitting on the bedside mantel, and I’m going to be getting stuck into that over the next couple of weeks.

Jess Brady
What’s it called?

Paul Nicol
It’s Dave Grohl. I think it’s called the storyteller. Yeah, yeah. I’ve got to be honest with you. It’s not the type of book I would normally read. But he was very insistent. I read it. So I will.

Jess Brady
I think we all need diversity in what we read. Yeah,

Paul Nicol
I think that’s probably what he was saying.

Jess Brady
I have learned so much from you about your business about how connectivity and community can be brought into financial planning businesses with care and consideration. And it’s amazing to see what you’ve done is generating growth within the business year on year as well. So a huge congratulations to you and your team. And thank you again for being part of today’s podcast.

Paul Nicol
I’ll thank you Jess. I appreciate your interest in our business and in me and I’ve really enjoyed the chat. So thank you.

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