Out of comfort and into the zone
Lead Adviser catches up with Garry Symonds three years into building his Lead Adviser business to learn about the trials, tribulations and the wins.
Lead Adviser: As a leading practice principal with 30+ years of experience in finance, you have seen it all, but even a veteran like you can get surprises, how did your professional trajectory change recently?
Garry Symonds: Going back to 2017, we did the Lead Adviser course on the recommendation of some industry colleagues. We really liked the concept, but we couldn’t implement it within the institutional licensee scenario. Then in 2019, our business went through a transition, which saw the retirement of my former business partner. While we had a death plan in place, we hadn’t planned for an early retirement scenario. But we turned the challenge into an opportunity and reached out to the Fitzpatricks Group because we aligned with the Lead Adviser approach and we knew there were various partnership coaching options. From there, a plethora of positive transformations took place in our business, like providing the younger cohort of our team an opportunity to buy into the business and it really did turn out to be a blessing, a steep learning curve as well. We then began rolling out the Lead Adviser frameworks and three years on we are still in that process, learning every day so we are keeping busy.
Lead Adviser: Tell us more about the hardcore reality of such a transition.
Garry Symonds: It’s a completely different mindset and, therefore, skillset. Traditionally as a financial planner, you fill in a fact find, talk to the client about the financial goals, you talk to them about their investable assets and what they want to do with them. It’s a transactional role and one that is ingrained. Stepping out of that required a lot of work on my confidence levels, to understand the wider scope of value that I bring to my clients and to build my relating skills so I could have deeper conversations. So, while I am taking my clients through and introducing all these contemporary frameworks, new language, new fee structures etc., I’m simultaneously working on myself right there and then, in front of the client – it’s not like being in the classroom, it is a live scenario with a bottom line impact. It can be confronting to develop like that. To top it off, there’s all the business operations and staff re-training. That’s why a true Lead Adviser transformation journey isn’t an overnight thing, but I’m looking at the longevity of my business and investing now. Which is why emotional intelligence training is such a big part of coaching, you couldn’t make these changes without that foundation.
Lead Adviser: What is the impact on the client through this transition?
Garry Symonds: The outcome is a much more rewarding one, because you’re project managing a client’s personal and financial affairs and that is where they see the value so it positions you as their expert. The engagement process is different and the 10-3-Now opens up a deeper conversation than “what are your financial goals?” because it takes clients on a journey envisioning their ideal life and that gets them focused. If you think about it from the client’s view, the arrow of interest is pointing in the direction they want it pointing in, instead of me as the adviser doing things the way I have always done them, pointing products at them, to borrow a concept I heard on Scott’s podcast with Vince Fitzsimons. Regarding our processes, the Lead Adviser engagement frameworks have completely changed how and when we charge. Clients are paying for a project management service, that’s a Lead Adviser. Sure, it has a personal advice element but then you’re working with their accountant on their tax planning, or working with the estate planning lawyer to get their estate plan in place as part of their risk management strategy, you are their go-to for clarity and peace of mind; you have their future best interests at heart. Despite still being new and learning the ropes, our clients have transitioned well.
Lead Adviser: Why would you transition when one could argue that your previous model wasn’t broken?
Garry Symonds: One of the things we all know is that there is a lot of change in professional services and I’ve been asking myself, “how do we continue to grow and expand the value of the business when there is a move towards commoditisation?”. There’s nothing wrong with that but what motivates me is moving up the value chain. I’m driven by the desire to make a bigger impact by working with clients where we can make a big impact on their lives. That was one of the driving forces behind the thinking once the opportunity to evolve our business presented itself.
Lead Adviser: You’ve been working with the Lead Adviser coaches on your business infrastructure and your professional development, what is that like?
Garry Symonds: I actually had breakfast with one of the coaches this morning and that was a very different conversation from when I first started working with them. It’s safe to say I didn’t understand what I was doing early on. In a sporting context, having played sport, you’d have a coach, but in a business context, I hadn’t experienced it. So, initially when the frameworks were discussed, their importance didn’t resonate. Even at the initial planning days it was all lost on me I’ll admit, coming from an institutional mindset and learning to become a business leader it was all so new. So, we spent a lot of time with the coaches understanding what frameworks provide for a business, how they function to systematise processes and create a consistent approach to client situations.
Coaches take you out of your comfort zone and push you to continually improve, so I couldn’t be where I am today without their experience guiding me, professionally and personally. Taking it back to the sporting analogy, it’s what you pay a coach for. In this case the ROI is twofold, you grow and then you use the same tools with your own clients, using your own experience and providing them with greater value. They then can use these skills in their own business, so it’s a win-win. Its also had a positive impact on our team as well, as they also have a better understanding of how these models can be used.
Lead Adviser: What about having a community of peers around you?
Garry Symonds: The value that support from like-minded peers provides can’t be overestimated. Running a business can be a lonely undertaking so having professionals around you that are happy to help, share learnings and information is priceless. Within Lead Adviser there really are multiple groups of experts, colleagues and peers to reach out to, it’s a group that wants to help and see you flourish. They believe in advice and that is different to environments we’ve previously had exposure to so it’s refreshing when your growth mindset is supported in that way.
Lead Adviser: Managing a best-of-breed team is a core part of being a Lead Adviser and the frameworks. Who is in your best-of-breed team, how does it work and how do you successfully engage?
Garry Symonds: The best-of-breed team was new vernacular to me, but I have long-term relationships in place with other professionals and we assist each other with clients. What has changed is the clear point of difference that I offer over and above your traditional financial adviser under the Lead Adviser badge. So, my referral partners are clear on who I serve and what value I can bring to their clients, that part has benefited my business. Over time, the journey in building out my Lead Adviser business is getting more comfortable in a best-of-breed team structure, being the orchestra conductor – as I said before, that is a huge mindset shift and it takes time to evolve. An important aspect of that is the emotional intelligence skills, they’re not just for clients but importantly for creating equal status with your COI’s and helping your ability to manage that team and the relationships.
Lead Adviser: You have been structured and successful in transitioning to a Lead Adviser model. What are some changes financial advisors need to make to set their business up for success in the future in your opinion?
Garry Symonds: Be clear on what their target market is, who they do their best work for and consider the changes happening to the industry. You could say – change or be changed. If people are thinking about transitioning their business into a Lead Adviser type framework, they’re talking about moving up the value chain and getting away from a commoditised, transactional, product style of advice. That is a perfectly acceptable and respectable place to do business, there are multiple opportunities there but you have to be aware of how you are positioning yourself for the next decade, do a 10-3-Now on your business and personal life if you’re unsure. When you know, set yourself up to succeed on your chosen path. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and importantly know how to help you get there, invest in upskilling yourself and get a coach.
Our business has a long way to go but we have learned a lot and are really enjoying the journey and there is a lot to be said in that too.
Lead Adviser would like to say thank you to Garry Symonds for giving up some of his time to do this interview and we’re looking forward to his journey as it unfolds.
If you want to know more about the multiple Lead Adviser coaching opportunities, contact us today.
Garry Symonds is an Authorised Representative of Fitzpatricks Private Wealth Pty Ltd.
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