My firm mainly deals with pre-retirement business owners. This path started a long time ago, pre CFP, pre involvement with the IFP and simply with me passing the G60 exam. Because of this, I could advise on pension transfers and final salary schemes and as a result of that I was headhunted to work with a national accountancy practice.
The majority of the accountants’ clients were business owners which gave me my first insight working properly alongside accountants and working with business owners. Because of that, I had a whistle-stop tour of getting caught up to speed with some of the issues business owners faced, including how to assist business owners in improving the tax efficiencies of their businesses without hugely affecting the cashflow which was a big problem.
One of the easiest ways for me to add value was by helping business owners use Sipps and particularly SSASs rather than personal pensions, for their retirement planning and therefore unlocking some of the additional functionality on those schemes.
That gave me an insight to what business owners were interested in which obviously differed to the things individuals were interested in.
So I got a reputation of being SSAS Steve, so people saw me as the go-to for that kind of advice, particularly where commercial property was being purchased and it was from that starting point that I slowly managed to naturally evolve my relationship with business owners from that to being their financial planner.
At the time I felt that I had created a platform to talk to business owners about financial planning because I had fixed a previous problem for them, which meant I was in a position of trust and expertise so that allowed me to develop the services they trusted me with.
Nowadays when I deliver the financial planning conversation properly, business owning clients realise it’s that they need first and foremost, and whether they need a SSAS or Sipp or nothing at all is very much down the priority list.
Don't separate a client's personal planning journey from their business journey
Over the years I have seen many poor outcomes for clients where there has been a disconnect between the client’s personal financial planning journey and their business journey.
This is why I personally believe that advising business owning clients is more involved and more of a commitment than people may first believe. I think if you want to advise these business owners in their personal planning you have to be prepared to become a part of their business strategy also particularly if their personal strategy requires an exit from the business.
If you’re not comfortable dealing with how they’re going to exit their business, what that looks like, what needs to change in their business for that happen, how you value a business, how the market sells a business, etc then you are at risk of failing to help that client deliver on their personal financial plan.
You don’t have to personally deliver their exit strategy, you can surround yourself with experts who can do it for you and with you, but you have to be seen as having some oversight, even if it’s only introducing the client to the most appropriate business coach, corporate lawyer or tax accountant.
If you’re not comfortable with that space, there’s a danger that you could get people excited about the journey they could go on, but in the most important factor that will determine the success or failure of the plan that you’re building with them, you’re just leaving them hanging. My fear is that if you aren’t involved you will find yourself five years down the line with the client’s sat across the table from you going: ‘So, this was my exit day today…’ and you say ‘You haven’t done it have you?’ - I don’t want to be part of that conversation any more than if I had picked some “amazing” fund managers and in the end they stunk. It’s just not a place I would want to be.
In that situation I believe clients will consider you somewhat complicit for their failure to achieve his or her goals.
So with personal individual financial planning clients, we’ll take control of their investment strategy, tax planning, protection arrangements alongside some micro-managing or holding them to account for their expenditure. If you’re not doing the business equivalent of that as well, you leave space in that person’s planning life that someone else can swan into. Having done that, they may well seek to dominate the relationship, become the Trusted Advisor and squeeze you out of the picture.
We’ve embedded ourselves properly with our clients because of the broader reach we have in their lives and our clients believe we’re the people who will be with them before, during and after the process and we’re on their side. We’ve always got the big picture in mind and the advice we give them has full visibility across personal and business affairs towards achieving objectives we’ve agreed.
Reaping the rewards
If you can do this properly, the amount of money people are prepared to pay you because of the value you provide goes up a lot. If you’re trying to build a successful, profitable, high margin business then getting under the skin of business owners in a way where they really see your value is much more effective than with individual clients, so it is an excellent opportunity – but only if you’re willing to do it properly.