October 20, 2022

#353 Adam Morse – Transcript

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Jess Brady
This week’s conversation is with Adam Moss from Blue Rock. They’re a big business. And he set out to build a wealth component within this business and have it grow and grow it did. So I wanted to learn more about exactly what his intention was when he started out. How did you decide to build a business within such a big business? How do the teams work together to help clients? And what would he do again, given his fast paced growth, he’s got a couple of lessons for us. Enjoy. Hi, Adam.

Adam Morse
Hi, Jess.

Jess Brady
Welcome back. Because I think you’ve already been part of some expert conversations before but never with me. So an enormous thank you for being today’s podcast guest. I have so many questions for you. I’m scared about the timing.

Adam Morse
Well, very thankful to be here. And look, I’m big fan of XY. So very happy to be contributing. So thanks for having me.

Jess Brady
No problem at all. Now, there are going to be people who are listening who have never heard of your previous chats with x y. So before we get stuck into the main things I want to cover today, let’s do a bit of a recap, can I get you to share a bit more about your story, Adam, but also, I think we need to then talk about the beautiful beast that is

Adam Morse
Blue Rock. Absolutely. So look just sort of skipping sort of way back, which is probably a familiar story for quite a few x y members. When I joined the industry back in 2005, I actually heard about financial planning when I was about 16, because my oldest sister’s boyfriend was studying financial planning at RMIT. And it’s like the concept of problem solving, helping people learning something that I could apply in my own life, family and friends, and then join the industry and was a bit underwhelmed, because the whole sort of financial planning and problem solving piece really sort of wasn’t there as as much as I would have hoped. And as we know, sort of traditionally, selling life insurance and setting up in investment portfolios is an important aspect of what we do. But there was really that missing missing ingredient from a from a planning point of view and the GFC sort of disrupted the business that I was that I was in which I was there for about 10 years, it was amazing part of my journey. And sort of coming out of the GFC we actually attended the build back rack course values based financial planning. And that was a real turning point for us in terms of our thinking around number one being in a business that was very funds, funds under management linked and getting knocked around by the GFC. And then really sort of using that as an opportunity to re engineer our thinking and the business model came back from a week in Sydney with Bill back rack and you know, with a handful of ideas, and we sat down and then sort of decided that the things that we really wanted to implement, were a very well structured goals discussion, which obviously comes out of the blue back rack course, implementing a fee structure rather than just been linked to funds under management. And then one day, we’re just sort of looking around in x plane actually, and came across X tools just stumbled across it and then sort of entered the, you know, the wonderful world of financial modeling. And, you know, that was also a really key ingredient to you know, helping us with bringing this planning piece together. So that’s sort of a little bit of the background as to I guess where I’ve been within that bit. Since where I was for about 10 years, I worked pretty closely with centers of influence. So that’s been a big part of my own sort of personal client growth has been working closely with accounting firms,

Jess Brady
I would say what does that mean to you? accounting firms? Okay. Yep, yeah,

Adam Morse
so sort of four or five accounting firms that I’ve worked closely with it. Look, we had relationships with lawyers and with mortgage brokers. But I mean, the attraction to accountants and to really good accountants is that they hold the traditional trusted adviser relationship. So being able to tap into that trusted adviser relationship, essentially, and then I’m talking to the preaching to the converted here, but you’re, you’re working with someone who has a client’s ear and has the ability to direct the client in a certain manner. So I work closely with with for four or five different accounting firms was introduced to Blue Rock in about 2010. So Blue Rock started in 2008. Technically, as an accounting business, however, I’ve always referred to the accounting function of Blue Rock as more of a business advisory function, which is a really key important differentiator and ingredient in the whole Blue Rock journey and how I found myself a blue rock in the first place. Because honestly, I think the you know, the sort of typical experience with within accounting approach is sort of backward looking tax and compliance. bluerock was sort of the first accounting firm that I worked with that had a really strong focus on forward looking strategy and business advisory. And just with my own personal approach, and thinking around what financial planning was meant to be that forward thinking strategic approach on the accounting side, was a real attraction to me. Because number one, I could see the benefit of that forward looking planning aspect provided to the client and number one, and number two, it just changes the conversation from being you know more about this focusing on what has happened to focusing on what could happen, and then translating that from the business world into the personal world. So it’s about 2010, where, you know, the CEO of the, of the business that I was involved with, and a very close mentor and supporter of mine over the years, actually went to the went to uni with the founder, I went to uni with the founder of Blue Rock. And we sat down at a conversation about what we did, and what Blue Rock did. And one of the first things that he said to us, and I’ve had a very close relationship with him over the journey since this time, but one of the first things he said was, look, I’m not a really big fan of financial planners, and it wasn’t sort of wasn’t, it was in more colorful language than that. But it was a bit of a baptism of fire, because we’re sort of on the on the on the backfoot, from day one. And it really actually took quite some time, it’s sort of working, working, you know, through building that personal relationship with a center of influence. And that was 2010. And then, in 2013, sort of started the conversation around, I could see where Blue Rock was heading on this growth path. It’s been a big part of our journey so far. And there was really the opportunity to kind of sit down and say, right, I can see what Blue Rocks doing. And that the, you know, the private wealth and financial planning part is obviously an important part of tying all this together for for business owner clients. And, you know, that was the window of opportunity to join Blue Rock and set up the wealth management business in early 2014.

Jess Brady
So from when you sort of first realized that, hey, we might be able to do this under the same brand. Was it a dating process? Like how long did it take before you decided fully? Yeah, this is where I’m going to do it. This is how I’m going to do it. Like, how long did that take you to get to that point where you were fully committed to going into the brand?

Adam Morse
Yeah, look, I think there was a, you know, there was probably a year or two of working with Blue Rock in the first place. And I mean, this is this is a, this is a really good lesson. I mean, I’ve always been very, very passionate about the estate planning part of what we do. I call it the great door opener. I think it’s one of the biggest missed opportunities in our industry. And I mean, there’s a lot more advisors doing it now where they sort of take the client on the estate planning journey. But providing the estate planning solution that at that point in time, we had set up in collaboration with a well known Melbourne legal firm, and essentially solving the estate planning piece for the directors of that business and then rolling that into life insurance that then linked to the estate plan. And then sort of rolling that into into some other planning initiatives. That’s what really opened the relationship with Blue Rock. And I mean, there’s been so many examples since where estate planning has been that trust builder in the outset. And I’ve always been a big, big, big believer in, you know, to make Centers of Influence work, they have to be based on deep personal relationships rather than just professionally what you can do for each other. I mean, it’s an important part of actually making the relationship work commercially. But over that, over that sort of initial two or three years develop a very strong personal relationships with the directors and team And within Blue Rock, I say that with a bit of a wry smile, because through that process, I actually met my wife who was one of the founding members of Blue Rock. I did I did. So, you know, I talked about not what not work life balance, I talk about work life integration. I’m probably extreme example of that.

Jess Brady
I mean, I’m trying so hard not to make like a deep relationship sort of joke. Very, very well. Well done. You.

Adam Morse
Yep. So so it all flows what you know, flows well together. So

Jess Brady
because in all seriousness, taking out the fact that you literally married one of them, it is a marriage, like you do, obviously want to make sure that, you know, yes, you’re aligned from a business perspective. But to your point, like, I believe as well, you do need to really deeply, deeply, you know, date them before you decide on something like a marriage. And I think a business partnership is a marriage. Because I have seen so many people rush into relationships together, not knowing each other really well, in terms of that values based who are you as a human? Who am I as a human? And it goes spectacularly wrong, but you have done it the complete opposite way. It looks like everything’s going so well.

Adam Morse
Yeah, look, as I mean, like, like any relationships, particularly when you’re growing and there’s a you know, there’s a there’s a big increase in the number of people within a firm, that’s been a big part of our challenges, culture has always been a very, very strong focal point for us as a business. And it’s one of the things that attracted me to being part of the boiler up journey early on was just, you know, really being passionate about growing, have great business and looking after clients and being an important part of their life. But then, working with people that you enjoy being around, you know, every minute of the day, every minute of the day that you’re with them. And spinning social time outside of outside of work as well, where it’s, you know, it’s not work, it’s actually just spending time with, with with friends, who you respect and trust. So, you know, that’s, you know, super, super important to me, and, and, you know, as we’ve got bigger, it’s been something that we’ve really needed to focus on from a leadership point of view. Because it’s harder to maintain when you’ve got sort of 350 people like we do now.

Jess Brady
And that’s what I’m gonna say it because today, I want to talk about growth, I want to talk about, you know, how can businesses successfully grow quickly? Because that’s the story that that you haven’t yet, let’s just spend a second on that. So Blue Rocks got how many staff across different varying areas of the business?

Adam Morse
Yeah, it’s about 350. Now across 11 different internal divisions that we have, across three different offices in Melbourne.

Jess Brady
That is an enormous business from 2008. starting block.

Adam Morse
Yeah, so 2008 was started as a team of about six or seven. Largely Well, as I said before, sort of technically accounting, but more business advisory. Yeah, legal practice was set up in 2009. But that original legal practice was, was actually sold in 2014, and started afresh. So when I joined in 2014, I was 12 is in wealth, one in law, and then about 25, in accounting. So over that sort of AEG, we’ve gone from that 30 odd people to you know, basically tenfold. And in sort of the first probably five years of that a lot of that was organic. So we sort of organically grew, we did a couple of accounting acquisitions along the way, which, which is an important part of our growth strategy. And we have bought other businesses over the last sort of two or three years to help with filling out some of the capability that we need and help achieve scale. But really, the core sort of m&a approach is, you know, buying aligned accounting firms that hold that trusted relationship with good business owner clients, where we can then provide, you know, the Blue Rock experience and the Blue Rock service offering across the other divisions that we operate. If you buy a you know, a legal practice, then that might be great in terms of adding capability and, and achieving scale. But the nature of a legal relationship is typically different to that of an accounting relationship or a wealth relationship. So that’s a really important part of that of that scaling strategy is making sure that those client relationships that come into the firm through acquisition, you actually have the capacity to have the right conversations with them, you know, with their advisors, who they who they trust and respect to then sort of open up to those other service offerings that you have.

Jess Brady
I’ve been through a few m&ms in my time. As a staff member. It’s fascinating when you smash cultures together, presumably you’re buying everything including staff, given the business has grown so rapidly, and you are acquiring businesses which have innately their own culture and way of doing things. How have you managed to successfully integrate people given that really those trusted relationships is a lot of what you’re buying?

Adam Morse
Yeah, look, it’s a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. Because it Because to sort of grow in the way that we have, you obviously need to need to make decisions quickly. And as a result, get some things right, get some things wrong. And I think, you know, if we sort of had our time again, on some of those discussions, it’s always a challenge. Because if you’re in the middle of a negotiation process, I mean, one of the things that, you know, particularly the leader of blurp has been successful on has been being able to move through that discussion process and get to an outcome quickly. But at the same time, sort of spending time with those people that are going to become part of the journey. I mean, if you don’t do that, and then you get that wrong, and wait, and we had that with an acquisition, probably a couple of years ago. And there’s still there’s people who are still part of the business, so that have really added to our culture and added to our capability. But certainly, it’s, if you don’t get that right at the outset, then ultimately spend time number one trying to align things from a capability or a values point of view. And then Jim, you know, generally you’re fighting a losing battle. So spending as much time as you can, with those people that you plan to bring into the business and, and just working out that that personal relationship that you’re looking to hold that ultimately to the success of the of the of the merger is, is a been a pretty important learning for us with the with the businesses that have worked really well. And those were, you know, we’ve had to spend some time then you know, getting towards getting to the right outcome.

Jess Brady
Because the culture to me, knowing nothing about your business, other than doing some general stalking, it looks cool. If you haven’t been on Blue Rocks website, go on Blue Rocks website, I have not been sponsored to say this. I was telling them weeks ago, that I was looking at Blue Rocks website, at a cafe at an airport with this little kid who was sitting next to me who his grandmother was trying to talk to him. And the child did not care about the grandmother, because the child was so you know, engrossed in what I was doing. Because when you go on Blue Rocks website, you will possibly think that you are not on a professional services website, there was like dinosaurs popping up, it was like, awesome, big bold colors. I was like, Oh, I’ve obviously clicked the wrong link. This is way too cool. To be in our world. And obviously, the kid next to me thought I was playing some sort of game. But, you know, it looks like a really cool, young, fresh dynamic vibe from the outset, which is going to work super well for some of those people integrating in as part of the m&a. Definitely not going to be some people’s cup of tea. Right? Yeah. Which

Adam Morse
is, I guess, part of you know, us. I mean, it does reflect who we are as a business and kind of not taking ourselves taking yourself seriously enough to do what we need to do, to look after clients in the best possible manner. But also having fun along the way. And having a website like that, having sort of that then flow through into the look and the feel and the vibe of the business when you’re in the office. And with those people, it helps with natural selection. Because, you know, if clients sort of don’t, if they’re not interested by that, and maybe they’re just, maybe they need to ask a couple of questions, get comfortable with it. A lot of the time, that’s, you know, actually not the case. And, you know, we’ve all know, on the wealth side, we’ve obviously got some pretty sort of sophisticated high net worth clients as part of the overall client base. And, you know, there’s always a bit of a question mark as to, you know, how far you go with that, and how they perceive that. But, you know, generally the response has been really positive, because it is something different, and it is sort of it is interesting and fresh. So that kind of like the fact that in a, in a changing world, where there’s a lot of innovation and forward thinking going on, it kind of reflects what we’re trying to achieve, and the types of people that we’re trying to work with, which doesn’t just get pigeonholed to sort of young entrepreneurial people at the client bases, you know, really spread through the whole demographic. So awesome. That’s, that’s often that’s often a bit of a perception with blurb that we’re sort of dealing with the younger demographic, but it’s, it’s not the case and you know, sort of that older group demographic actually really like the fact that it feels younger and different.

Jess Brady
I mean, we’re completely ageist in Australia. And we are terrible at, I think remembering that there are lots of cool people who are older than a certain age points. So I think it’s awesome. Thank you for breaking the mold of what a financial advice needs, business needs to look like or a wealth professional services business needs to look like to be highly successful and to deal with people in you know, high net worth offerings as well. So I want to get really intentional about my questioning around growth and culture because I think if you don’t talk about both of them, it doesn’t make sense because you’ve got to grow. You’ve got to grow in a way that’s profitable and obviously, and build a team. That’s it. to support that growth, is it fair to say, Adam, that you went out of the blocks in blue rock with a really clear intention to grow quickly

Adam Morse
look from a personal perspective, and I’m I’m here to be here to be transparent, so to share the learnings from a blurb point of view, but also from a personal point of view, I mean, I’ve always had a very strong personal focus on wanting to build a certain type of business with, you know, really high quality foundations. So, but at the same time, the, the journey for Blue Rock has been to grow. So the challenge in that is, how do you take the time to actually build strong foundations, but also grow, because the two things don’t naturally coincide with each other. So it has been a bit of a balancing act, to be honest, because we’ve been wanting to get things right. So ultimately, what we deliver to clients, we sort of had our heart feel we’re doing the best that we possibly can, but at the same time, sort of grow quickly. And, look, it’s been helped by, by having a multi divisional business in that you can then grow sort of from a wider from a wider group, rather than trying to rapidly grow a wealth business. And I mean, we’ve grown from, you know, a team of within the original private wealth business, a team of two now to about 25, we recently had another wealth business join us that added another six people to the group. So the wealth offering as an overall is sort of in the in the low 30s. So whilst it’s you know, a good size, you know, we’re we’re certainly not, you know, 100 person wealth business at the current point in time. And that, if you look at it across the board, and this is part of the reason, you know, part of the way that we’ve been able to grow and maintain culture is that the Blue Rocks, overall growth, you know, takes us up to that thread from the 50 odd people, but then sort of across the board, we’ve got each little part of the business sort of growing in its own right and developing in its own right, that contributes to that overall growth. And that’s, you know, that’s also an important part of how we’ve maintained culture, because, and that comes back to, you know, top down bottom up. So making sure that the leaders across those divisions are aligned in terms of what we’re trying to achieve from a blur up point of view, and having very strong relationships at a leadership level, because that obviously, then really drives how we lead the business as an overall and then at a divisional level. And then, you know, then directly flows into how each of those divisions bring people into the team, and how those people then aligned to, you know, the values and the culture of what we’re building. So that sort of top down bottom up aspect is, you know, a really important part of kind of how we’ve grown across the group as a as an overall, but then at a divisional level, whilst maintaining culture.

Jess Brady
Interesting. So because the business is big, or than just wealth, presumably, you also get to lean on that because there would be precedents around HR strategies and operational functions and precedents around contracts that are you know, that there’s a lot that you can grab from your immediate areas or the other parts of the business that then you can pull in. So that creates some efficiency there, but just on a practical level, like how, I mean, I’m saying this as someone who’s worked in a big corporate, but like, how do you support that level of quick growth and culture? Well, is it quite divisional? Like, do you feel like culture is managed at a divisional level within Blue Rock? Or is there like, how, how do you? How does someone in one division know that the culture or the team over in somewhere completely different? Or is it unrealistic to assume that they all are getting a similar experience and kumbaya firing and knowing each other? Now look,

Adam Morse
it’s multifaceted I mean, we do have so blur on has, has an operational team to help support the overall group and its growth. And the sort of the practical operational functions of each division in a centralized manner. That includes the performance of culture team. It includes sort of centralizing, you know, what we do from in terms of social events and client events, but at the same time, allowing divisions to have their own initiatives as well. So there’s, when I say it’s multifaceted, so there’s that centralized operational team, there’s the leaders of the Blue Rock as a whole, that communicate pretty regularly on what the vision of the of the businesses so then that, you know, everyone within Blue Rock, I mean, we’re a pretty open book. And we, when we do firm updates, you know, the p&l and the business strategy, and essentially what we’re doing, you know, across the different leadership teams within blue rockets all openly communicated, which means that everyone sort of understands the journey that we’re on as much as we can possibly share. So therefore, when it comes down to the down to a divisional level And that align that alignment that we’ve got across the leadership group. It then helps ensure that each division sort of on a day to day practical level is then singing from the same hymn book, as you said before. So multifaceted is a sort of comes from different angles, but as much as possible, all aligning to you know what Blue Rock as a whole is trying to achieve together.

Jess Brady
In my well thought out plan for today’s meeting, I was going to focus on growth first, and then HR. But because I’m not taking conversations, wherever they naturally go, I’m flipping and we’re going to talk more about HR. Now, I want to get deeper on this, because get this stuff, right has such phenomenal impacts, get it wrong, and you can spend so much money and spend so much energy directed away from helping people and helping clients, which is what we’re here to do to fix those foundations that you were talking about. But some serious problems that can that can erode good businesses if you don’t get them right. So I want to understand, look, there aren’t many, many businesses, I would imagine that look similar to yours. But I also know that over the next few years, many businesses are looking at amalgamating they’re looking at m&a is they’re looking at adding, you know, other divisions to be more efficient and deeper in their relationship with clients. And so even if this is something that businesses aren’t ready to do just yet, I’d love to start getting some learnings from you having already done it. So can we go deeper? Can I be nosy?

Adam Morse
Absolutely. That’s open book in the NBA MDRT rules of how we work together and help each other? Absolutely. So I mean, I’m just going to share it from our perspective, obviously. So it’s not necessarily right or wrong. It’s just what what’s worked for us along the journey. And, look, I think the clip that one of the key things and really important, important aspects for us has been, what are we like, what are we trying to build? And how do we what’s the client offering? And how do we want to work together to achieve that. Because if you’re clear on that, then you know, I mean, the client journey, which is ultimately what we’re delivering, if we understand, you know, how we’re all meant to interact together to actually deliver that deliver the best possible outcome for the client. And then ultimately, what that means for the business is a really important part of actually how divisions work together. Because if you don’t have a strategy around that, then you run the risk of segmentation occurring, and then sort of divisions doing their own thing, and not necessarily bringing it back to ultimately looking after the client in in the best possible manner.

Jess Brady
I think that’s so common, that fragmentation of relationships of communication, the siloing, that that happens when you get big and you get busy, and you’re rapidly growing. And you have the best intentions to make sure that you communicate really well with a different division, but something falls away. What’s been your learnings on how to make sure that that doesn’t happen from a practical perspective?

Adam Morse
Well, it’s sort of there’s a few aspects to it. From, from my point of view, you know, one is still being clear, as I said, on what that client offering is and the role that each division is ultimately there to play in creating the best outcome for the client. So if we continue to go back to that, then that should be the driving force behind how we should be collaborating and communicating and getting the best outcome is ultimately that’s going to drive great client relationships, it’s going to drive referrals, it’s going to drive, shared wallet and profitability. And it’s going to drive collaboration and communication, because divisions are going to see the benefit of that. So that’s at a high level, ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to achieve. But then from a practical point of view, it comes back to education. So process and education. So how do we actually take the client on the journey? What roles are we playing? How to how do those divisions work? What are they great at? What’s the best way to introduce them? So we’ve done some work on when having client conversations like this is it’s probably the hardest for Blue Rock in our in our accounting or business advisory team because that’s, you know, has been the heart of Blue Rock. And it’s the biggest part of Blue Rock and it’s where those business conversations are happening that then create the conversations across other parts of Blue Rock along with you know, sort of private wealth, doing that on the personal side and flowing it through into other areas as well. But primarily the there’s more of a to holistic conversations that occur. So then each sort of having an understanding as to how to introduce those other those other services in a strategic holistic manner. Where it’s not a sell, it’s more about is taking the client on the journey is an important part of it. And then just having having you know, you’re here all the time, you know, people you do business with people that you care about, you know, having relationships strong relationships with other advisors and leaders of other different divisions where you genuinely care about helping each other, helping the client. And you respect the capability of what those different operators bring to the table. And you get a kick out of actually sitting alongside a client together and solving problems and getting a great result for the client and for the business and for each other. When you get that right, then it actually becomes quite a rewarding thing to do, rather than a chore of, you know, having to meet a KPI around collaborating.

Jess Brady
Do you formally or informally end up working in sort of pods?

Adam Morse
not formally, no, like, one thing we’ve done from a private wealth point of view is that, you know, we have a fortnightly sort of opportunities strategy meeting where we sit down and go through HubSpot. And we and because because we’ve got, obviously quite a lot of internal people and divisions, we have basically allocated sort of relationships to different lead advisors within the private wealth team to make sure that we’re spending, you know, social and professional time with those other sort of key advisors and influences across Blue Rock. Because as you said before, like you get busy, you’re responsible for running a division, you’re responsible for looking after your team and your clients. And then you know that the blinkers can go up in that situation. And the way to, to, you know, the lower to lower the lower the blinkers is to just spend time with people and do that at a deep and meaningful level, rather than the city sitting down to ask about what clients you know, they might they might have for you to look after, you know, set the relationship at a deeper level and the client base will come.

Jess Brady
Yeah, so you’re very intentional about that to the point where there’s a meeting, to actually ensure that there is enough time dedicated to those relationships and building that trust in that connection so that it becomes much easier and natural, when there is an opportunity, and then vice versa from the other team.

Adam Morse
Yes. And we do you know, we do structured, structured educational sessions between divisions, we do and off the back of those, you know, social events. So you know, where we are very, very focused on making sure that we get those activities, right, because when you when they drop off, then you just see that, you know, you see that segmentation that you mentioned earlier start to occur, like it has to be a conscious and continued effort to continue to flow that. Yeah,

Jess Brady
I agree. Do you all like, let’s talk communication, let’s get real basic on this. How do you do cross divisional communication?

Adam Morse
In a few ways. I mean, we have a we have, you know, things like a, you know, a firm meeting, that sort of across the whole firm. We have a lot of a lot of social events that just brings everybody together to help foster those personal relationships. We use, you know, teams, as I’m sure many businesses do differ across different channels. We ended as I said, we have those, those structured sort of educational sessions, we have lunch and learns. And then when working with clients, we, you know, we create sort of little mini working groups that work across client groups together, which helps foster all of that. And we do quite a lot of that through Asana as well as a tool for managing, managing, you know, joint client projects across different divisions.

Jess Brady
So using project manage project management software, when there’s a client that’s got a relationship with different areas of the business, that you can all sort of see what’s going on, see who’s interacting, see what the latest notes are?

Adam Morse
HubSpot, Asana, and teams are probably the three channels that we use quite heavily for that for that. Teams more so from a business point of view as to what’s going on. But still sort of some plan updates. And then, you know, really running things through HubSpot for as clients come through the you know, the new clients come through the Blue Rock journey, and then Asana for sort of in managing things and executing on an ongoing basis. Because ultimately, I mean, clients are here for us to execute things for them. And when we do that, they feel good about what we’re doing. So it’s important that getting that execution piece, right.

Jess Brady
Yeah. And the worst thing in the world is when you don’t realize that someone else’s done something, and you call a client, and they’re like, Oh, I just spoke to blah, blah, and I thought we were doing this and you’re like, Oh, God, this was not well communicated. We look silly. We don’t look like one team. approach. So interesting that you’re using Asana for that,

Adam Morse
yeah, like Asana just a really good, a really good tool for you know, running like within within the wealth area. For more sophisticated clients, we run what’s called like a wealth board. And that and that wealth bought or made, like a business board that wealth bought or made monthly, or every two months or quarterly. I say bi monthly, but my I’m one of the directors of wealth always quizzes me, does that mean twice a month or every every two months? So I have to, I have to say every two months. Yeah. So you know, that’s a great tool for have, you know, storing documents and collaborating, setting action items, having agendas, having everybody in there sending notifications just works really well for doing that? Yeah, right.

Jess Brady
And given that you basically have set out to build a big wealth division, which you have done, and presumably that’s going to continue to evolve over time. You talked a little bit before about how difficult it is to manage the foundation building and the rapid growth simultaneously. What have you done really well on that journey? And what do you think you would not do the same if you could have your time over?

Adam Morse
Yeah, so the webinar on sort of the wealth journey for about eight and a half years now, and the one of the key things that we kind of set out from day one to do was to achieve sufficient scale across different teams, we’ve call it the three we call it the three pillars of private wealth. So being strategic, you know, holistic goals, based advice at the center, wealth protection, being life insurance, estate, planning, structuring succession, and then wealth accumulation being investment advisory property, supporting the you know, that the the asset allocation asset accumulation piece, and then sitting over the top of that an operational team. So, you know, we’ve kind of track this from day one, we have what we call a staff matrix, which kind of visually shows how the team is built out over that period, we sort of knew from day one to achieve enough people in the right seats to allow an operational team with an AFSL, and an investment committee, and a good strategic advisory team with, you know, led by directors and associate advisors and, and administrators, along with a life insurance team with a similar structure. And then sort of the the investment function, which is largely run through the through the Investment Committee that we set up, sort of knew that we needed about 30 people to get to that point. But at the same time, you know, having a 30, having a 30 people business, and you know, having four or $5 million of revenue doesn’t leave a lot of the bottom line. So we have to consciously got in the path of building that, knowing that it was going to be a hard slog from a financial point of view until we reach that scale, but then knowing that the growth from sort of five to 10, was going to come with much less, with much less people growth.

Jess Brady
So basically, you you realize that to get to the critical mass that you wanted to get to you needed to get X amount of stuff, let’s call it 30. And as a business, you were quite prepared to sacrifice process profitability and or copper loss. Because you can, if you’ve got a bigger business that can sort of cross subsidize during that period, so that you can employ the right people at the right level of seniority so that they can bring with them all of the knowledge and insights. To do that, presumably, that also meant that, you know, there would be people in the business who had skin in the game who were prepared to financially make personal sacrifices to be able to get the business to the point where it needed to be to then start coming along.

Adam Morse
Is that what happened? Correct? Yep. And we’ve made Blue Rocks has a very open equity structure. So we basically make our equity available to and that’s been one of the I guess, the big differentiators led by our founder, that’s different to the norm in that normally, equity is, you know, guarded with lock and key. But within bluerock, there’s been, you know, a lot of sort of young leaders that have had the opportunity to, to get good exposure to equity from early on in the business. And then each year, we make the equity available for staff to invest into at a discount. So across the whole group, we’ve got about 40, shareholders within within the team, obviously, different different levels, depending on sort of tenure and level of investment. And, you know, we’re going through a process at the moment where, and this is across different divisions where those that have had been in the business for a longer period of time, are selling down, you know, reasonable equity to, you know, the next generation of leaders that have been helping drive the business over the last few years at a pretty heavy discount to bring them on the journey as well. And really have, you know, we talked about sort of employees as being you wanting to have intrapreneurs, which are, you know, employees that act like business owners, but where you can take, you know, convert those intrapreneurs into actual, you know, business owners where they feel like they’ve got sufficient skin in the game for it to make a difference to their life, then ultimately, that’s a win win for everybody involved. So that equity structure piece and having people have skin in the game and playing the long game, you know, being really clear on what we’re trying to achieve. And then I mean, within the private wealth, and this is the same across all of all of Europe, but I can obviously speak in more intimately within the private wealth team. I’m in the CO directors and head of advice, our practice manager and sort of going through the whole team. I mean, they’re people that I just generally have a lot of respect and care for. And you know, it’s like we’re in the trenches. together. So we know what we’re trying to achieve when times are tough, you know, we’ve got each other’s backs. And that’s because we’ve got a pretty clear idea as to what we’re trying to build and what we want to achieve for each other.

Jess Brady
So when you set out to do it, you obviously gave yourself a timeframe of really understanding what you were obviously very clear, firstly, and intentional about what you needed to build to be the business that you were looking to be, you obviously then scoped out really successfully, the sort of business that you needed, in terms of, you know, an investment committee or, you know, whatever it was that you needed to have to deliver whatever it was that you were looking to deliver. And then you acted upon it. Awesome. When you did your assumptions, and presumably your pitch to the equity partners to be like, Hey, this is a long game. But here’s where we’re going. And here’s what’s going to need to look like for the first little bit thinking about what didn’t go overly well. You know, if you’ve got any learnings for people that are, you know, growth minded and really ambitious, and have done these plans that are seemingly huge to achieve around what you would do, because presumably, you achieve the thing, you’ve got 30, it sounds like the business is going well now, but what what didn’t go well, at

Adam Morse
all, probably the I mean, there’s obviously a few things like any business journey, and, you know, it’s taken longer than we would have liked. And part of the reason with that is like where we started the business. You know, being a team of two, we were were a retail, financial planning, Corp, I guess. And that was our licensing structure as well. So the ability to set up an investment committee and, you know, ultimately launch an NDA suite of portfolios. And so to do that properly, with a professional investment committee and all the rest of it, we started that process. Ideally, we would have done that from day one probably started that after three or four years. And then it took two years to really sort of get it to a point of feeling like it was client ready. And that meant that we sort of played the hard game in the early days of charging fees based on sort of time. And like a lot of financial planners well and truly under charging for both the time that we spent the value that we were providing, we’re still going on that journey. But we’re obviously a lot better than where we were eight years ago, that was probably the biggest mistake that we’ve made or should have, which is, you know, wanting to provide this comprehensive financial planning service and kind of try and do it for everybody in the same manner. Whereas actually getting to the point of realizing, well, how much time are we actually spending? What value are we providing? And how are we segmenting that across different types of clients, not trying to be, you know, all things to all people making sure that we align what we’re doing to the right types of clients, charging accordingly. And then realizing that as part of achieving scale business, that the investment pieces is critical to that. But in order to do that, we wanted to hand on heart, not just go out and build something and then start to provide it to our client base, but actually build something that we felt was, was delivering different options for different different types of clients, and really doing it in a way where we could, you know, just confidently stand behind it and feel like we were empowering our advisors to use different tools within the within the tool bag, whether that’s, you know, the estate planning function, the investment function, the life insurance function, other parts of Blue Rock, feeling like they can confidently plug those in to ultimately help the client and, and create a bigger, bigger outcome for Blue Rock in

Jess Brady
the process. Okay, anything else you’d do differently,

Adam Morse
you know, probably being a bit a bit faster as well. You know, and, I mean, one thing that we have done, which, which is probably, again, a little bit a little bit different to the norm is that like, I constantly sort of have conversations with a smaller businesses where they’re debating with, you know, hiring, you know, the first person to support them, or the next person to support them. And one thing that we did sort of do from some day one was, was make sure that we hire ahead of need, and actually get people in that seat and that feel the capacity, being confident with the ability to find the find the work rather than, you know, being so stuck in doing the work that you couldn’t go out there and find it. How far in advance were you hiring? Well, we started with a team of sort of two, two, and a part time person, and then within four months hired another person. And at the starting point, we had, you know, like 80,000, of recurring revenue. So we had, you know, $100,000 in the bank, which came from selling down selling down some shares. And then a year later, bought across another business partner, and he bought equity off me. And then we use that to put back into the business in order for us to hire more people and invest in more of our resources. So we were pretty aggressive from that point of view, knowing that it was going to hurt us financially in the short term, but we were trying to achieve a level of critical mass as quickly as possible.

Jess Brady
Yeah. I think lots of people struggle with when to hire them. And then because you’ve brought on so many people, and you’re juggling all this stuff at the same time, I want to talk about like, how do you maintain consistency when you’ve got a team that’s growing so big? Yeah, look,

Adam Morse
it’s been a really important part of, instead of two of our bigger hires, which again happened happened ahead of time was bringing on a practice manager. Yeah, at that point in time, we had someone who was more of a, probably a, a, a client service manager that had a bit of a, an affiliation with technology and systems, and he was sort of doing client work and practice work. And then when he decided to leave, we thought the whole world was going to cave in. And then as things happen, sort of the moons aligned, and we’re able to bring in someone who we’ve worked pretty closely with. And as a practice manager, we talk about life before Kate life after Kate, that was her joining the business. And at that point in time, that was a big, that was a big decision for us. Yeah. And then about two years ago, we bought on a head of advice. And she’s amazing. So and but again, if you’ve sort of looked at the p&l of the business, then and said, Well, are you going to bring on a head of advice that was well ahead of time, looking at the financial performance. But having those two people we knew was critical for making sure that we ran the FSL properly and maintaining consistency with client process and digitization of data collection, client Pro, as I said, client process, and then training. So you know, we run what we call the, you know, the BRP, W blur or private wealth Academy, where we’re going through processes in education that are all saved as videos and manuals. When people join the team, you know, they get access access to those resources. So very much, I mean, you want to give the advisors the ability to, you know, flex within the client conversations based on what clients need and their goals and their life. But from a process point of view, you want to keep that as tight as possible. And we’ve done a good job of really structuring that from day one and try to stick to that as much as possible. It’s a constant. It’s a constant effort, though, because you get drift. And you’ve got to look back on it and go, right, where have we drifted? What are the learnings from that drift? And then how do we then reset and then move forward in a structured manner? Again,

Jess Brady
you know, I think our journeys are different. Obviously, what you’ve built is different to what I’ve built, but we’ve both gone out of the blocks wanting to grow quite quickly. And I didn’t do that. I didn’t hire someone in a really senior level that could really manage the growth from an operational or advice standpoint, who wasn’t in the trenches, giving advice day to day and stuck in the minutiae of doing the job. And it was one of an I did a podcast a couple of weeks ago on some of my learnings. Because I think as an industry, we, we have normalized, just putting more CSOs in or putting more admin people in or putting more power planters in. And I really wish, Adam that I’d have heard you say that many years ago for me, because I believe it was a big investment for you, I believe it knowing now what we’ve done. But if you’ve got strong growth ambitions, I want you to know, Adam has done what I would do if I could go back in time, because I don’t I genuinely don’t believe without significant stress, and serious structural problems. I don’t think you can grow really successfully without really safe hands, guiding that growth journey, who is someone unlikely to be giving advice at the same time, just because you can only be in so many places at once. So well done you for having the foresight to do that.

Adam Morse
Yeah, look at some, you know, by design, and also by just sort of chance and opportunity as well. But it has absolutely been a game changer for us having those two amazing ladies in the business looking after those aspects, which just set the advisors up for success. Yeah. And I mean, as we grow, like we go from, you know, where we are now to, you know, to doubling in double as we double in size, which over whatever period of time that we don’t like, we’re going to need people to support our practice manager in our head of advice. But we’re not, we’re not going to need to double down on those roles, we’re not going to need another a for sale, we’re not going to need another investment committee, like we’ve got those foundational pieces there. But you’ve got to invest the time and energy and actually setting them up in the first place if you want to grow a scale business. But that’s, you know, as you said before, everyone’s different. And you’ve really just got to try to work out where you want start with the end in mind, and where do you want to end up and then you know, what are the foundations you need to get there?

Jess Brady
It’s hugely exciting to see and hear about the growth journey that you’ve had, and no doubt you will continue to grow because you’ve set those foundations in place and you’re in a business that has got an enormous precedence of growth. So huge congrats to you. Sadly, alas, we’re out of time. Um, a couple of things. If people want to learn more about you and your journey, should they go to your fabulous website, or how should they learn more?

Adam Morse
Yeah, absolutely. Check out the website. I mean, sort of one of the things I said to you recently, Jason has been a real massively important part of my journey, sort of in particularly over the last 10 years as you know, I really love forums like x y And, and MDRT in particularly MDRT, where it’s about sharing and helping each other on the journey. Very rarely do you cross paths with advisors that we know in terms of client relationships. So I’m always happy to spend, you know, spend time with people on a phone call or catch up in person or whatever it might be just to, just to share ideas, because that’s how I’ve learned as well. And through those conversations, continue to pick up ideas from other what other businesses and advisors are doing. So don’t really have like a big profile in terms of, you know, blogs and podcasts out there, but always very happy to, you know, to share one on one with people. So if so, feel free to hit me up. Yeah, I

Jess Brady
thought, Hey, before we go into Can you do some rapid fire questions for me? Because I can. Let’s do it. All right. I’d love to know what’s one thing you do Adam to look after your mental health. Go fishing. Oh, that was not what I thought you were gonna say. Do you? Sorry, do you do any good? Are you any good?

Adam Morse
Fish? Oh, well, look, the last two years has been a bit slim pickings because of kids and COVID. But um, yeah, it’s I look at something that when I’m doing that, I mean, I’m just focused on doing that. I love the whole process around it, whatever it is up in the in the high country or out on the ocean, or whatever it might be and doing it with friends. And it’s just a great way of focusing on something that I love doing that, you know, brings back great childhood memories,

Jess Brady
imagining you in a bucket hat on the beat. Love it. Do you have a piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?

Adam Morse
Just I think relax have typically been a pretty serious person. So I’ve had to sort of work on that over the years, just my level of seriousness and intensity. Because I mean, the flip side is people often suggest that I’ve got a split personality, because on the other side, I can you know, I can really, I know how to have fun as well. But just finding the balance between the two.

Jess Brady
Interesting, what’s something that’s on your bucket list that you haven’t done yet.

Adam Morse
My wife and I like Sharon avoid, you know, the plumber with the leaky tap, we. And we go to Mount Macedon in sort of May or June each year and do our goals and hire an air b&b and sit by the fire and have red wine and sort of do our financial planning. And one of the things that we would love to do is leaving the US for a year and other you know, work and or travel over there.

Jess Brady
Good on you. Both fronts. Good on you. Last question for you. Do you have a book that you would recommend as part of my fake book club?

Adam Morse
Look, I will confess I’m not a massive reader. However, one thing that’s really stuck with one book that really stuck with me, is Extreme Ownership. By Jacko willing. And it just really goes back to just a simple methodology around being a being a leader in the business and taking responsibility for anything that goes wrong within the business. And ultimately leading it back to what broke down from a leadership point of view and how do we fix it? She has been somebody that’s really helped me a good stead with how we interact within our team and learn and grow when things don’t go to plan. Well, I

Jess Brady
think as a business that is growing and aspirations to continue to grow, I mean, the leadership piece and getting that right, obviously is really, really important in that stage. Thank you. I haven’t had that as my recommendation. So I’m going to add that to my list. Adam awesome, huge congrats on the growth as I said, I can’t wait to see how your website evolves, how your business continues to grow and evolve. And I want to say on behalf of the expat community. Thank you for being part of our podcast today.

Adam Morse
Thanks for having me Jess, and congratulations for the whole XY crew love what you do.

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