In the Slipstream – Episode 16 – Bold Practitioner Interview – Phil Little


Introduction:

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Scott Charlton:
Hello, and welcome to a special edition of In the Slipstream FM. The podcast show for Slipstream Coaching. I’m Scott Charlton and the director of coaching here at Slipstream. Today is a continuation of the series based around people who have real life experience related to professional practices. I’m sure you are going to like this episode, which has a bold theme running throughout. Let’s get started.

My guest today for this bold practitioner segment is Phil Little. Our paths first crossed back in the days when I was a budding sole practitioner, stretching my wings in business development services. Since then, we’ve worked together and otherwise collaborated in various ways quite extensively. During this time Phil has started and exited successful businesses. He has bought and much later sold a majority interest in a significant financial planning firm. He has also held very responsible operational roles in some highly respected financial planning groups with a primary responsibility for growing revenue. In short, he is an entrepreneur I have a lot of respect for. I’m sure you are going to get a lot from this chat with Phil.

So Phil, in the introduction I’ve described you as successful entrepreneur in the financial services sector. Just to give the listeners some context, would you please give us a run through of your career?

Phil Little:
Scott, you know a real quick version. I started at an insurance company in Brisbane called National Mutual. Worked there as a graduate trainee working clerical positions. Got into human resources, into training, which I actually really liked. Then got into the very beginnings of financial services, which was before even licensees existed. So got involved in that. Then along with a group of National Mutual advisors, ran a business, which was if you like, a precursor to a licensee. That led into the group of us, we actually started a licensee, built that business, sold that business. Then I started to work in recruiting in financial planning, then finally bought a financial planning firm here in Brisbane and ran that for probably ten years. The last two years I’ve been business coaching other financial planning businesses for Fortnum, which is a licensee in Australia.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. That is quite a lot of territory you’ve covered in the financial services game. So we’ll explore that no doubt as we get under way. Phil, there is a bold practitioner flavour to this podcast, so I’d like to put this aspect under the microscope now if I could. Would you care to give us an example throughout your career as to where you’ve had to be bold and perhaps for the listener if you could give us a bit of the surrounding the circumstances leading up to the situation? Then perhaps what was at stake and the risks that were associated with where you found yourself?

Phil Little:
I’ll give you the context for this example and it’ll make a bit more sense. I said in the introduction that one of the things I did a long time ago, 20 years ago now, I was involved in a company called National Mutual. I worked for that company and that company then became a company called AXA, which a lot of people would know. AXA along with AMP managed a whole bunch of insurance agents and financial planners in Australia. Thousands, over a thousand of them. About 20 years ago they decided to instead of managing these advisors themselves, they were going to outsource the management of their financial planners and their advisors to private businesses. If you think about 20 years ago, outsourcing was sort of the name of the game then, and that was certainly AXA plan.

In that context there was about seven or eight quite big firms in Queensland decided that they would like to set up a business that would manage these other advisors and they asked me to be the managing director of that business. There was nine of us, if you like, who were owners of a business and our client was National Mutual, or AXA as it became. They paid us a big fee every month, or they paid us a fee to provide management service to their advisors. Over the course of two or three years we ended up managing probably 70 or 80 advisors for them, so it was a reasonably big concern.

That was all going along swimmingly and that business was pretty stable as you can imagine. We had one source of income each month, which was from AXA as it then had become, and life was pretty comfortable. To give you some context, there was another 12 or 13 similar businesses around Australia. Scott, I think your question of a bold decision, this doesn’t sounds as romanti as that, but I had a revelation. The revelation was that things were going very well. It was all very comfortable, but what struck me was that really we were incredibly vulnerable.

That all it took … You know this business was probably employing five or six people at that point in time. It was making some good money, but it really struck me with all it would require was for AXA to have a change in policy, and we were out of business. So along with the other eight partners, we decided we would create a second business, unbeknownst to AXA, that we would like to know as Noah’s Ark. Right? It would be a Noah’s Ark. Such that if ever they changed their mind, and if ever they want to get rid of us, we would move the animals two by two to Noah’s Ark. Sorry for any advisors who are listening who are in that business, calling it animals.

Anyway, the Noah’s Ark. So we did that on the quiet. We spent about twelve months applying for licenses with ASIC. Getting all the back rooms in check. Getting it up and running. In fact, it got to the point that I actually resigned for the main business and left and worked for Noah’s Ark, and started to recruit external advisors into that second business. Now, you know, as it turned out, that turned out to be a very good decision. Within 18 months of us making that decisions AXA actually did change its mind. It decided to go away from outsourcing its management services, and really overnight all of those businesses were out of business in a heartbeat.

All except for one, and that was ours. Our business survived. Not only did it survive, but we ended up building that business quite substantially. It ended up being populated by advisors from AXA and from the outside world. We ended up having about 80 or 90 firms in that business over the next few years. That is probably the best example I can give you. If we had done nothing, we’d have been like all those other firms, and we’d have been dead in the water for certain.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. Okay, so the stakes were pretty high because I dare say that if AXA had got wind of what you were doing, they could have turned the tap off before you were ready?

Phil Little:
We were really careful about this. We knew, and this sounds all a bit under headed. It wasn’t under headed. I didn’t see it as under headed anyway. To my mind it was a matter of survival. Scott, what you said is right. If they’d got wind of us they’d have cut us off immediately so we had to be very careful about the structures that were being used to own this new entity. The partners themselves had to be very careful about the structures they used. We needed to be very pedantic about my position in both of these firms. We needed to be scrupulous in terms of make sure money went to the right place and didn’t go to the wrong place so we can never be accused of doing the wrong thing with the money. We had to be quiet, you know? We had to be quiet and do it all for twelve months, which we did.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. So with the benefit of hindsight, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Phil Little:
No, with the benefit of hindsight at that stage I’d have been 28 or 29 and I was thinking about this for the purposes of this interview, thinking no, that was a really good decision. A genuinely good decision. There was no middle ground. Either that was the decision that we were going to get right and survive, or if we got wrong we were out of business, so no, it was a good decision.

Scott Charlton:
Fantastic. Okay. Let’s fast forward a little bit. You mentioned that you were running a financial planning business. For the benefit of the listeners, this was one of your bold decisions on which we completely disagreed. It looks like you pulled off a master stroke, but at the time it seemed like you were buying the worst house in the best street. I shook my head at what you were doing, because at the time you were quite a successful executive, and quite a successful company, so why would you toss all that in for a renovator’s special?

Phil Little:
So what you are saying is right. It would have been about 2004, 2005. By that stage the business I was just referring to, actually I’d left. That business had actually ended up being sold. It ended up being sold to ING for quite a substantial amount of money, which was great. I’d ended up working for a business called Associated Planners, which became Genesis, which was quite a big name in financial planning. I was their head of recruitment for some years and that was going fine.

There will be people listening to this that will probably relate to this. At that stage I was probably 38, 39. We had four kids. The eldest would have been eleven, and the youngest was probably four. Four boys, and I was traveling a lot. I sort of had this … There was a couple of things that were going through my mind. The first was that to have four sons and be away from home the amount that I was for the next ten years was probably not a fantastic thing. I didn’t think that was a great thing.

I had learned … You remember earlier in the interview I said I’d worked in HR. I started HR in the late eighties. I had worked, working HR in the late eighties was a great time to work in HR, because in that period 1990, 1991, 1992 was a time when just hundreds, thousands of people got made redundant in Australia. When you are working in HR, I had a front row seat for that, and I can remember thinking as a 23 year old, watching really good quality people at 43, and 44, and 45 being made redundant. A lot of those people never worked again, certainly never worked again in anything near the capacity they had worked before.

I remember thinking in my early twenties, thinking in my forties I refuse to be in a position where someone can just cut me off at the knees like that. That is not going to happen, so then it stayed with me. The third thing that stayed with me was that I enjoyed working for other people, which was fine. I had made a lot of money for the people I’d worked with. That was okay, but I felt I was sort of near the prime of my working life, but if I was going to make money for people it may as well be sort of more than 50 percent for me and my family at that point in time.  So those were the three motivators.

In terms of how I made a choice that I was going to do this, I was very fortunate in my previous role, I’d got to see inside hundreds of financial planning firms, so I could tell the difference between a good one and a bad one. I could the difference between ones that could make money and the ones that couldn’t make money. The first step was to make a decision to do this. The second step was to just go through my memory banks and all the ones I knew to work out which ones I thought I could make it work. The one I chose was a business called Henry Financial Group. It ticked a lot of boxes for me, and that is what I did. In late 2006, mid 2006 Leonie Henry and myself came to terms on me buying their business.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. Look, I’m sure that there will be a lot of listeners to this podcast be very interested if you’d care to share just two or three things that you would have looked for in a financial planning business, to meet that criteria. I mean, how do you sort out the one from all the others you see?

Phil Little:
Yeah, so there is a couple things. As a purchaser of a business like this, and to put this in context, the founder of the business was wanting to remain a shareholder, not a worker in the business. We are in 2017, and Leonie still owns ten percent of this business, so this has been a very long, happy association. That is important. The fact that she was wanting to be there was important. I’d been around long enough so that ego wasn’t such a big deal for me. I was happy for the business to be still called Leonie Henry, Henry Financial Group. I was more than happy for that.

Things that were critical for Leonie, who was the founder of that business, there was a lot of things that were really critical for her, that weren’t critical for me. There was a whole bunch of stuff I didn’t need to control. For the purpose of the seller, these were things that I was more than happy to let her have. The things that were nonnegotiable though was that I need to find a way where there was a leverage point. Okay?

The big leverage point in this particular firm was that it had, what I would consider in those days, this is ten years ago, the average fund balance per client was probably 800 thousand dollars plus. Even in those days that was a pretty fair sort of balance. There were very good clients. It was a high touch firm, but I’d done a lot of work in trying to work out the pricing of financial planning firms around Australia, and I knew this firm was in the bottom quartile of what firms charged in the outside world.

There was a clear discrepancy between the level of service this business was providing, the type of clients that it had, and the types of fees that it was charging. There was a complete mismatch. I used the example with Leonie and some of the other people in the firm, and I asked them how would they describe their level of services using car analogies. Now we are all describing Beemers, and Audis, and all this sort of stuff. You know? I said, “Well, I think that was sort of probably right about that.” They were generally shocked when I said, “Well, from a pricing perspective, you charge like a three year old Corolla. That is where your charging is.”

Scott Charlton:
Yeah. Right.

Phil Little:
Yes.

Scott Charlton:
In a master stroke of timing, you bought the business just before the GFC. Then that was a scary time for anyone in financial services, even yours truly who was gracing the unemployed ranks unexpectedly around then. That was the time you chose to put the prices up. Were you that convinced you were right on the pricing to do that?

Phil Little:
Absolutely. Yeah. I was convinced. There is an aspect of this that is important to understand though. I’ve got a strong view about this. There is a couple of things I want to say about this. First is that people in the main, people like to be led. Right? That if you can mount a sensible argument and you put some genuine thought into it, and you can mount that argument persuasively, people will be led. That is the first point. I think people are genuinely frightened of putting their necks out and saying I think you should do X or I think you should do Y, but I think people genuinely want to be lead.

The second thing is that, to give you some context, the business had about 100 clients. A lot of them had been there a long time. Leonie, who was the founder of the firm was then sort of 70 or close to. She was exhausted physically and emotionally, and the clients knew that. The staff were well underpaid. They were significantly underpaid to what they should have been paid and they were working ridiculous hours.

My argument to our clients was really three things. Firstly, that like at forty years old I was coming in to make sure this business survived for another 20 years, so that was point number one. That was actually important, because a relationship with a financial planner is not something you want to flip and change every year. It is a really long standing, intimate relationship, so that was a big signal, that no, no, I am here for a long time. We’ve got to make this last for a long time.

Number two point I said was that it’s like a three legged stool, but for this business to survive for a long time, it needs to be a decent return for the owners, which was myself and Leonie. Got to be there. It needed to be good working conditions for the staff, in which case they needed to get paid reasonable money and work reasonable hours, and in return I was going to employ really good staff, which I did. It also had to be a good deal for clients. I said, “We’ve got out of whack. There is no return here for the shareholders.”

The business wasn’t making any profit at all. The staff were underworked and underpaid, and we didn’t have enough money to employ good staff anyway, but the clients are paying half what they should be paying. If we can get this alignment this business will go on and go well for a long period of time, in which case you’ll have your financial planner for a long time. If not, it won’t. So really the choice for our clients was one of paying that bit extra to have a sustainable relationship, or not, in which case it wouldn’t be sustainable. Out of those 100 clients, only two didn’t proceed.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. What sort of percentage increase would you have taken the clients through?

Phil Little:
A lot of them was double.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. Wow. Yeah.

Phil Little:
A lot of them was double.

Scott Charlton:
Yeah.

Phil Little:
Our only concession, like I understood that was a big deal. My concession to that was well, look, if a client was paying 5000 dollars a year, and the fee into the future was going to be ten. My concession to them was we’ll got to seven and a half next year, and the year after that, we’ll go to ten. No if there was one … In those days our fees were at least partially linked to fund balances, not completely but partially. In a way, if there was one silver lining on the GFC cloud, it was the second leap in fees wasn’t so much because the market had been smashed so heavily. We were protected from that a bit, and the clients were protected from the second leap a bit, but nevertheless, that is how we did it.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. I also recall during those times that you closed the office for an entire week.

Phil Little:
Yep.

Scott Charlton:
And the purpose of that was to work on systems and how business was being done. What was your thinking behind that and why was it important?

Phil Little:
There is a couple of things, just in context. Up until 2006, 2007, I said that before, the business was running on fumes a bit. We didn’t have good enough quality staff. The ones that we did have weren’t being paid enough and they were overworked. Leonie was exhausted. What that meant was for the two years prior to 2006, 2007, we were seeing bunches of new clients and just not getting the work done. Leads were just falling all over the place. We weren’t finishing them off, not getting to them, etc. etc. In other words, our services levels had slipped. Even though I hadn’t been working in the firm, I could read the files. I knew that was the case.

I made a fundamental call, and the fundamental call was that this was a really great business with really great clients, but our future was going to rely on us getting really good referrals, but to get really good referrals we needed to get really good at running the business again. That meant, this was a business that in 06, 07, was still running on spreadsheets and Word documents. We needed to jump about three levels of technology into one hit. I was very fortunate, the now managing director of the business, and my sort of 2IC in those days was a very experienced XPLAN person. We went from really 1990 technology to really cutting edge technology in a very short space of time. We were just determined we were going to make this thing run lean, run really well, run cutting edge, and then see if we can win the clients back.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. You probably really answered the question, but I’ll ask it anyway. What do you think would have happened to the business if you hadn’t acted so decisively?

Phil Little:
Leonie is a genuinely caring person, and she had two or three goes at succession plans, and they had failed. I think she’d have had one more shot at selling it. Her own mind, I’m relaying what she told me was that another year or two, she was just going to start farm clients out to people that she knew. In other words, the business was going to fold completely.

Scott Charlton:
Yep. Wow.

Phil Little:
I’ve got no doubt that was the case, she wasn’t going to leave her clients in the lurch. She just couldn’t, the business wasn’t earning any profit. There was no money in the thing. I think another year or two, she was 70 and not in great health. One more bad health scare and that decision was probably going to be taken out of her hands really.

Scott Charlton:
It is really interesting isn’t it that any time from some say early fifties onwards that the owner of a financial services business might say look, three to five years I’ll be out. Then you talk to them in three to five years time and they say three to five years I’ll be out. Leonie had probably been saying that for quite a few rounds of that conversation.

Phil Little:
Very much so. I have this conversation with this people a lot because I know a lot of people in financial planning and all the rest of it. I’ve seen this happen so many times. Usually what happens is that someone at 60 or 65 due to some catalyst in their life, a divorce, ill health, or rapidly impending sort of educational qualifications that they are not going to meet, make a hasty decision that they are going to sell. They make that decision when they are physically and intellectually exhausted. If you were to pick the wrong time to make that decision, it would be when all of those things collide.

Scott Charlton:
Wow.

Phil Little:
Yeah. So my advice to a lot of the firms I coach is that really, you need to be … When you are contemplating doing a merge or selling a business, you need to be, if possible you need to be feeling well, and you need to be feeling strong. The business needs to be profitable. Everything going, it needs to be going great. That’s the time. That’s the time to seriously think about putting it on the market.

Scott Charlton:
It might be a case of taking your own advice Phil, because fast forward a few years and you’ve got the business in good shape, and things seem to be going well. You’ve got seemingly a comfortable rails road through to retirement, so why did you choose that moment to substantially exit?

Phil Little:
I’m wondering if any of the listeners have ever worked in HR. HR is to my way of thinking, is a really great opportunity to work. A great place for business people to start work. You see a lot of people at different stages of their working life. That was great. I had some very good mentors working in HR. I met lots of people working in different stages in their working life. One part of this is it takes away the romance out of life. It is almost like you are reading … You get to read the back part of the book. Skip ahead and read the back part of the book, but if you can use that to your advantage, that’s really great.

I made a decision at 47 or 48, if I returned to that sort of HR background. I did feel strong. I felt well. The business was going great. I had a successor, a ready made successor that was already a shareholder that we worked very closely, and could work closely together. Financially, I’d have made more money staying in the business for ten years, but the life situation that I had ten or eleven years previous, when the kids were eleven down to four. The kids were now 21 to 14. They didn’t care whether I traveled or not anymore. They didn’t care, and I quite like travel for work.

I also came to the conclusion that at 48, 49, 50, if I wanted to do a career change, and that career change involved me working for someone else, that would still be okay. But if I was 57, or 58, and I wanted to make a career change and work for someone else, I was probably going to hit a brick wall. That people wouldn’t be interested in employing a 57, 58 year old. A bunch of things collided. Our lives had changed. The business was going well. I had a good successor. It was a case Scott of really taking my own advice. Really.

Scott Charlton:
Yeah right. Okay.

Phil Little:
That’s what happened. In fact, by the way, I actually wanted to be a school teacher. I was going to be a school teacher when I left university. Yeah, at university. I didn’t become a school teacher because I thought at 30 I’d get bored. That was probably the right decision. At 48, I thought, I’m going to be a school teacher again. I actually enrolled at university. I was six weeks away from starting and a fellow called Ray Miles, who was the chairman of Fortnum, who I’d worked with at Associated Planners and Genesis, we’d stayed in contact. He asked me to come and join his business, Fortnum, to be a business coach to some of their financial planning firms. Kind of long story short, that is what I’ve been doing the last couple of years.

Scott Charlton:
Fantastic. I think anyone listening would get some senses of the value that you bring to the table as a business coach. For those listening to us right now, it seems to me that there is a time to be bold and a time to sit tight. You’ve been able to make some decisions, and been confronted with this. Are there any particular things that you consider before you pull the trigger on the bold option. In your time you’ve selected a few of those.

Phil Little:
Yes. Yes. There is a couple of things. I can only talk about how my mind works, and other people’s minds work differently. If I think about the three, for times I’ve made what you would call bold decisions, which turned out to be the correct ones, it was not a matter of, all right, today I’ll make a decision to do X or Y. It wasn’t like that. They were decisions that sort of I would have a general broad concept of a decision.

For example, that business I described at the beginning. The general broad concept was AXA can cut us off here anytime they like, so that was a general broad concept of a decision. Then over the course of maybe a couple of months, I would workshop sort of solutions in my own mind, under the shower, or wherever. You just almost do it subconsciously. I’ve probably workshopped 100 scenarios, and maybe arrived at one. Then you workshop that one and look for the wrinkles in that. Then knock those wrinkles out, and then eventually you might be left with one where it just tries you. Try as you might, it’s still holding water.

At that point, then you start to get a little bit serious about it. I use the example, by the time I approached Leonie to buy into that business, I had workshopped that in my mind 150 times. I’d looked for every wrinkle I could find. I’d workshopped everything that could have gone wrong. I’d envisioned the GFC and done the numbers accordingly. I just didn’t realize it would be as big as it was. I didn’t get that quite right.

The best way I can describe it is in each of those cases, I’ve made a broad general decision about a big matter. In the case of that first one as I described, the big matter was AXA can kill us whenever they like. That was a good decision. In the second one when I bought into Leonie’s business, the decision was, I’ve got four young kids. This is a bad time to be traveling. It is time for me, if I’m going to make money it should be for my family. That was the big, broad decision, and the rest just took two or three months to evolve.

Scott Charlton:
That’s really well explained. The consequences of these decisions are really quite significant. You’ve got a fork in the road, but it is anything but impetuous. It is well thought through, and you are doing it with your eyes open. Yeah. It’s bold-

Phil Little:
That’s exactly.

Scott Charlton:
Yep. Yep.

Phil Little:
That’s right. To the people who watch us, because when the decision comes, it comes out of the blue. Like I don’t talk to people about it, because it’s just why would you do that? In terms of it just annoys them and it just muddies the waters. To the people on the outside when each of those things occurred it might have looked like it was just out of the blue, but it was not out of the blue. Would have been in my mind for some time.

Scott Charlton:
Fantastic. Phil, in your current role you spend a lot of time imparting this valuable knowledge and sharing experience with certain lucky practitioners, so that is their good fortune to have you. Offline we’ve spoken before about a practitioner that seemingly was considering a very bold option, which was to borrow a million dollars to buy a client base. Yet this was a seemingly a not so bold option of following in your footsteps of putting fees up across current clients. In that situation, I think I’m right in saying you were counselling to not do the bold option.

Phil Little:
Absolutely. In actual fact Scott that was three million dollar in acquisition. It was a million dollar of ongoing split fees worth three million. There is a number of partners in this thing. They are a lovely firm, great firm. They are all well and truly past fifty. To me, and maybe because I’ve had the benefit of seeing lots and lots of firms, and seeing lots of things that go wrong. If you think about the idea of someone past fifty, well all of them are past fifty, borrowing three million dollars today. All of them are relatively financially sort of safe as they are.

We could all go through of lots and lots of examples of where that can really be catastrophic. That can be completely catastrophic. Interest rates go up. Bunch of clients go south. The market for financial planning firms crashes. It is a massive risk that is not worth taking. In the context, but I already know that the fees that, that firm is charging their clients is a fraction of what they would be paying in the outside world. Part of this is the fear of leading clients, and saying to a client, “You are paying ten thousand dollars a year, but I’m going to have to charge you twenty.”

A lot of people just find that so confronting that they would rather risk their own livelihoods, and their family’s financial stability, and their marriages, the whole works and jerks, rather than have that conversation. I’m sorry, from where I’m sitting that is just not an acceptable level of risk. It is not acceptable to the people of your family and the people that rely on you. It is not acceptable.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. I guess that demonstrates the advantage of getting an external perspective on otherwise pretty important business decisions, so that sounds like very good counsel that you’re offering there. Just in closing, I know we’ve been hammering on about this, this bold decisions, but it really intrigues me. For somebody listening to this podcast, any final tips in terms of decisions they might be contemplating? Perhaps it might be something similar to that case we were just talking about.

Phil Little:
This is slightly different context, particularly for accountants who are listening to this, or financial planners, and I used this phrase earlier on. I don’t mean to take the romance out of life, but if you’ve sat in meeting after meeting with people at different age groups, from 25, to 35, to 55, to 85, to 95. There are obviously variants in people’s life experiences, but there is a whole bunch of commonalities. People aren’t as nimble at 85 as they are at 45. They don’t travel as much at 95 as they do at 55. There is a whole bunch of stuff that is there.

I suppose, what I’m saying is that looking ahead isn’t cheating. It is not like cheating on an exam. Everything thinks about these things, and oh, I can’t look at the answers because that is cheating. Well, you are allowed to cheat. You are allowed to actually spend some time visualizing what your life could be in 10, 15, 25, 35 years. What it will be like if you keep going the way you are going. What it would be like if you did a couple of things differently. What would you like it to be like? That is not cheating. You are actually allowed to think ahead and visualize what it would look like.

You are allowed to use your experience and your common sense to say, yeah that is reasonable. I’m not being pie in the sky about this. That is a reasonable assessment of where I’m going to be. Armed with that ability, it shocks me how few people, clients as well as financial planners, and accountants actually use that super ability we all have to just like visualize what it is going to be like in 25 and 30 years time and plan accordingly. That time horizon … Remember I was describing big calls? Those big calls all happen out of looking ahead.

Scott Charlton:
Wow.

Phil Little: 
They are the ones that all happen out of looking ahead. It is only from that perspective can you see I should have gone left on that road, not right. My advice to people in sort of being prepared to make bold decisions is really spend some time daydreaming and visualizing the future. Try and get a future that you think looks really good for you. Work out what are going to be the forks in the road between now and then to get there. Work out to the best of your ability which is the right fork now, the right one to take. Then that is the big decision. Then you workshop the sort of scenarios off that.

Scott Charlton: 
Wow. That is a really good and compelling case for doing some planning, which a lot of people on the podcast will be thinking, gosh, I spend so much time looking after other people’s affairs, the clients, perhaps there is not enough time being spent on my own planning, and my own scenario. Planning it, as you correctly point out, the implications of doing the planning or not doing the planning can be quite significant.

Phil Little:      
Absolutely. I’m shocked by how few principals, financial planners and accountants, do what they ask their clients to do.

Scott Charlton:
Wow. Now Phil, before we close, I have a supplementary question for you. We are off bold, and we are on to lifestyle. Whilst you have been doing all this activity, and leading businesses, and sort of doubtless you’ve had your share of challenges. It seems that you’ve favoured a quality of outcomes approach, as opposed to a quantity of hours in the office approach. You’ve raised a family. I know you play a regular sport. You go fishing. Lots and lots of holidays. I can attest to kind of seeing that up close. What are the conscious decisions you’ve made about this, and how have you largely been able to stick by them?

Phil Little:
I suppose you don’t even think about this until you do an exercise like this. I was lucky working in human resources.  A lot of people in small business have never been exposed to that sort of human resources background. I was very lucky with that. It strikes me that as the owner of the business, as the leader of the business, if the business is relying on me to shuffle that bit of paper, or do that thing, then we really do have a problem. Then we are really not running a proper business here. I always would use this in my own mind. I think about the Prime Minister of Australia. The Prime Minister of Australia, he still needs eight hours of sleep a night. Still needs to eat three meals. There is only so much work that you can do in a given day.

You need to be prepared to delegate, and you need to be prepared to say, my window of time for work is five days a week, eight until four or whatever it is, and I’m going to have ten weeks holidays a year. I’m going to employ enough people so that we can run that business with me working those hours, and we’ll get our job descriptions right, and we’ll go accordingly.

It’s like to me, my hours, if you are like in the business, are like any other finite input into the business, like any other one. You’ve got to work around a certain amount of space that you can rent.  You’ve got to work around a whole bunch of things, and people sort of plug those assumptions into the beginning of their profit loss sheet or their cash flow. At the beginning of every process I just plug in my hours and what I want to do, and then that is an assumed and work from there.

Scott Charlton:
Phil, that is a great note to leave it on. It just makes so much sense as you’ve explained it. I thank you very much for contributing so freely from your experiences and your ideas. Now, I’m very confident in saying this, that if people need to get hold of you, they can reach you by LinkedIn. I know that will get a laugh from you, but for the listeners I’ll put Phil’s contact details into the show notes from the podcast. Phil, on behalf of everyone listening, thanks very much for your time, and I’m sure you’ve made a lot of difference to those who have been listening, so thanks. Thanks indeed.

Phil Little:
Thanks Scott. Lovely.

Scott Charlton:
So there you have it. A great set of tips from someone who has been on different sides of the fence both as a practitioner in his own right, and also someone who has coached financial services firms. I love where Phil is coming from when he is advising practitioners, that he has actually been there himself.

If you’d like to get hold of Phil, his contact details are in the show notes that accompany this podcast. If you’ve liked what you heard, I’d love it if you told your colleagues or gave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you’ve accessed this podcast. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes. They won’t all have the bold theme, but you can expect it to pop up from time to time. Until next time, I wish you every success.