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Podcast Transcript

Episode 04, Season 1

How to design a lifestyle business, with Dominique Bergel-Grant

 

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [00:01] Biggest lesson I learned in those first six months is my fear of leaving the bigger organization as I felt that clients bought the brand, when in reality clients buy you, and there’s no doubt in my mind about that. So if you’ve got a big brand behind you, and you feel that’s providing security to your clients, it’s providing no one a security blanket apart from yourself.

Fraser Jack: [00:27] Welcome to the Goals Based Advice podcast, where we have conversations with pioneers of the new world of financial advice. I’m your host, Fraser Jack, and I’d like to thank you for tuning in today. I’d also like to thank our supporting partner, Advice Intelligence, for powering this podcast.

Fraser Jack: [00:44] In this episode we chat to Dominique Bergel-Grant, whose name for some reason I can’t manage to say without some sort of French accent, although she’s not French. It’s a great chat, she actually delivers great ideas and insights by the bucketful. From how she is living the talk when it comes to lifestyle design, to topics like employing talent, not staff, how and why she chose her niche client, investing in her own personal development, and relationship-based advice. And [inaudible 00:01:14] for that matter, including drinking from the Ron Kaufman Kool-Aid. Let’s jump straight into it, right now.

Fraser Jack: [01:24] Welcome to the show, Dom.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 01:26 Thanks for having me.

Fraser Jack: [01:28] It’s fantastic to have you. Where are we talking to you from, right now?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 01:32 Oh, you know me, I love to travel, but I’m in my second home in Wanaka, New Zealand. For those of you who don’t know, that’s about 45 minutes drive north of Queenstown.

Fraser Jack: [01:42] Fantastic location, I love it there. Getting still a bit cold there, I would say?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 01:47 It is indeed. We’ve had a couple of recent snow dumps, so end of season snow dumps keeping me happy and my ski legs nice and fit, but having an absolute blast.

Fraser Jack: [01:57] Yeah, good, good. Now, tell us about where you’re at with your business at the moment.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [02:02] So, my business, where it is right now, I’m the only advisor in the practice. We’ve also got a mortgage broker in the business as well. I have an amazing financial planning assistant, and she is backed up by a VA who is based in the Philippines. And I also have a phenomenal paraplanner who is far more than just a paraplanner, she brings to the business over 20 years experience in running her own financial advice firm in the UK.

Fraser Jack: [02:31] Wow, and do you think she will also become an advisor with you?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [02:33] She has promised she never ever wants to. She had to walk away when her husband decided to relocate for work to Australia, she had to walk away from clients that she’d had such long term relationships with, and she couldn’t do that again, and I completely understand that. We build up such trust with our clients over time, and to have to say goodbye to them, it would be difficult for anybody.

Fraser Jack: [02:55] Yeah. Although, nowadays with your location-independent work-frame, it might be a little bit easier if that was the case.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [03:03] For me, the fact that I’m spending so much time traveling and in New Zealand, the technology is absolutely blissful for me, because it enables me to live the life I want while also still continuing to serve those clients that I value at the highest level.

Fraser Jack: [03:18] Yeah, absolutely. So, you’re running your business now but let’s go back in time, let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into this career, how did you start out, what was the journey like for you?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [03:30] Well, I think it’s quite typical when you say as a financial planner “I fell into this industry”, and I legitimately did. I was clearly meant to find it as a profession, a vocation. I worked at BT Funds Management in the call center back in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, and I was on the phone to these people called financial planners, and I had never heard of them before, I was just finishing up my Economics degree at Sydney Uni, and was really kind of intrigued as to what these people actually did. I didn’t jump straight into financial planning, I actually went into mortgage broking first. I was in my very early 20s and thought that I needed to learn the skill of dealing with lots of different clients and different situations, and gosh, mortgage broking definitely teaches you that, and it teaches you how to manage pressures of clients who have deadlines, absolute deadlines to meet.

Fraser Jack: [04:21] The mortgage clients come to you a bit more than, say, financial advice clients, but they come to you and they want something and they want it now, and there’s a real need to get that done. I guess that’s the main motivation, why they come in.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [04:33] Absolutely. I think one of the best things about having in the past done both the mortgage broking and the financial planning is that I’m able to prove myself as a mortgage broker quite quickly. Proving yourself as a financial planner is about building long-term trust, and what you achieve isn’t necessarily shown to the client until we start to look back at the progress that’s been made over 5, 10, 15+ years.

Fraser Jack: [04:57] So, if someone is coming in, they’re a mortgage broker, they’re really there for the transaction aren’t they? They’re not really expecting the relationship?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [05:05] I think the world of mortgage broking’s actually changed a lot, I do genuinely believe that the best mortgage brokers out there are building long-term relationships with their clients, but I’m also a massive advocate for saying that I believe mortgage broking books are far more valuable to financial planning businesses than financial planning books. I know that every client that I would have written a mortgage for 10 years ago or seven years ago, every single one of those people has become a financial planning client, and I’ve been with them on that journey from buying their first home, to their second, to them getting married. A couple of them have been divorced since, we’ve been on that process with them.

Fraser Jack: [05:41] I find it interesting that you mention the point around the consumer doesn’t really know if it was good financial advice until after the fact, until sometime later. Is that, you find that?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [05:53] I do believe that clients stay with a financial planner, they have to have trust. They have to have belief in your ability to look out for them, not just in a legislative sense as far as best interest, but genuinely want to learn, know and understand what their values are and what makes them tick. Life is about a hell of a lot more than money, so the conversations and trust that we need to build is proving that we understand the life and the lifestyle that our clients want to live.

Fraser Jack: [06:21] Do you in your business put a lot of emphasis on thinking about how to create that trust? Or is that just a natural thing that’s happened?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [06:29] There’s two parts to it. It’s obviously relationship-based financial planning in its future form is going to all be about the relationships, it’s going to have nothing to do with transactions, but I also strongly believe that trust, the foundations of trust come from good systems, good processes, good automation in a business, so that the clients consistently know what to expect.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [06:50] Although, I’m a massive believer, if any of you went to the AFA conference with Ron Kaufman where he spoke about the customer experience and continuing to wow, so we always have “thank you” cards that my team have to write at least 10 every week out to clients randomly. It might be “Thank you for getting your documents to me on time” or it could just be “Wow, congratulations, something massive’s happened in your life”, in which case a bottle of Veuve gets sent out to the clients. It’s about “Well, what’s the wow?” So if we’ve done that once for a client they kind of expect it, so we’re always trying to keep that process going.

Fraser Jack: [07:25] Now I want to be one of your clients, I want this bottle of Veuve to turn up.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [07:30] We actually sent it recently to a referral of ours, so maybe start referring clients, I might consider it.

Fraser Jack: [07:37] Now, Ron Kaufman was amazing at that conference, I remember the big reveal of the Unbelievable at the end. It was a long session but gee, it was good, wasn’t it?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [07:48] It was unbelievable. I think it was a three-hour session at the AFA conference but I still refer back to the book, I still refer back to that session and all my session notes and it’s something that I instill in every person in the office.

Fraser Jack: [07:59] Yeah, I actually remember going back to the office after that session and going onto YouTube and finding some clips that he had there, and actually making all the staff watch and drink the Kool-Aid afterwards.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [08:12] Got to love that Kool-Aid.

Fraser Jack: [08:13] Yeah. So tell me, along your journey there’s got to be a few wins, a few great times, and then also a few times when you went “Why did we do that?”

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [08:23] Yeah. Look, I worked as an employee for nine years before starting my own practice back in May 2011, and for me at the time, I’d recently been divorced and I thought “If not now, when?” For me, being able to throw myself into a business, develop a business was wow, what a learning curve. I think far too many of us in this profession feel that if we’re a financial planner, then that natural progression is to become self-employed, and in reality the qualities of being a financial planner and being a brilliant business owner and entrepreneur, you’ve got a huge leadership journey to actually go on.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [09:00] I can hand-on-heart say that today I am an entrepreneur, I am a leader in my business and I’m a leader in the industry, but goodness, back in 2011 I still had a lot to learn. It’s also about being prepared to invest in personal development. I don’t think I realized that at the time, and in the last two to three years I’ve probably invested 70 to 80 thousand dollars on personal development, which might seem insane to some of the listeners but the reality is that we have to be our best selves to show up for our clients in the best possible way. We lead them, everyday, we don’t just lead our teams.

Fraser Jack: [09:36] Yep, I definitely agree. It is a journey though isn’t it, to come on? I think when you start, when you started back in May 2011, there had to be a moment when you pulled the trigger and went “Right, I’m going to resign from my corporate job of stability and I’m going to do this thing.” So, tell me about that moment. How was that for you?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [09:55] Well, it was really interesting where I was working at the time. I had basically been given the opportunity to head up one of their advice teams, and a very large advice team. At the time, they had an amazing sales manager who actually got me on a phone call with the career coach, effectively, and I was already talking about “Well, maybe I start my own business versus running this part of your business”, and I took a lot of trust from the fact that they were willing to hand over a part of their business for me to run and for me to operate, but at some point you’ve got to back yourself, you can’t rely on other people to do it.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [10:30] And that’s what it was all about, it was about me backing the type of advice that I provide to my clients, and also the lifestyle element as well. I was working 16 hour days and knew that it was going to be a hard slog building a business, and I was going to start from an absolute screeching halt. I didn’t take any clients with me, I was literally organically growing from day one, lots of workshops, lots of seminars, lots of social media. All of those things. We were doing 13 to 15 events every single year, and that’s how I built my business.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [11:04] It was a hard slog, but damn I’m proud that I made that decision, because from my point of view this is something that is mine, it’s something that I’ve created, and it’s something of value as well. I talk to a lot of small business owners and I talk to them about “Are you running the Kodak Processing Center of the future?” And so, we need to make sure if we’re running an advice practice, that we are not only able to just replace our salary, and I was able to replace my salary within two years. Not only just replace your salary but pay yourself a reward for the extra risk that you’re taking, and take that money and put it aside into investments. Financial advice is always changing, as every industry is, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if we don’t actually take and pay ourselves a risk reward on top of a salary we could get a bank or wherever else that would be happy to employ us - I don’t think anyone would be happy to employ me these days, I’m too stuck in my ways. But the bottom line is is that we’ve got that responsibility to lead by example.

Fraser Jack: [12:06] Yeah. So, you mentioned it took a couple of years before the salary did come up. I always tend to refer to this as the new apprenticeship type of thing, you’ve got to go backwards and take a hit in salary to become an advisor. How much effort and work did you put into planning that moment, that year, or that couple of years before you actually started your business?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [12:29] Oh, I wish I had put some planning into it. I think in the December, if you’d asked me if I was going to start my own business, I would have said absolutely not, but the business I was with went through significant cultural change, went through a significant merger, and the culture fundamentally shifted. It was no longer a business I was comfortable staying in, and that really meant that my decision was a six-week decision, not a six-month or two-year decision. So, did I have much business planning? No. Were there things I knew that I was good at? Yes. So, I literally basically had to hit the ground running, build a website, create social media presence, create new contacts and build a business from scratch.

Fraser Jack: [13:14] How did you do that with the first, say, half a dozen clients? How did you find them, get them on, work out what you were going to say and what advice you were going to provide?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [13:24] So, initially I reached out to the local Chambers of Commerce and worked with them to do some great events, and that got my foot in the door to be able to meet new people, meet people in the right area, my right target - at the time, my right target - and at the time I was coming out of an environment in working in corporate super for eight, nine years. So I went to the Australian Human Resources Institute Conference and made great connections in HR, a lot of those people became personal clients, not so much corporate super. As you can imagine, they very quickly realized that that wasn’t the track I went down.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [13:59] The biggest lesson I learned in those first six months is my fear of leaving the bigger organization as I felt that clients bought the brand, when in reality clients buy you, and there’s no doubt in my mind about that. So if you’ve got a big brand behind you, and you feel that’s providing security to your clients, it’s providing no one a security blanket apart from yourself.

Fraser Jack: [14:24] Really, really good point there. Your clients that came on obviously then bought you. You weren’t selling a brand all of a sudden, you were selling yourself.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [14:31] Absolutely. Learning to sell myself as opposed to selling a brand was challenging. I certainly fell into the trap of doing Statements of Advice or doing work for clients well under the price that I should have been charging. One of the lessons that I learned after about six to nine months was have a document, with your pricing documented in it, so if a client asks you what the fee is you turn it around and you show it to them. “This is what my fee is.” On my website today, I’ve got my fees, it’s very plain and simple. Most financial planners I don’t think disclose what their fees are until a client’s met with them, but why waste everybody’s time? It also means that I valued my time. That’s what the fee is, that’s where it sits.

Fraser Jack: [15:16] Do you think you were undervaluing yourself in those initial years?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [15:19] Absolutely. I think learning what your own self-worth actually is is incredibly important. I think any self-employed person has a habit of plucking a figure out of the air as to what their hourly rate actually is, but as a business owner you have to remember that your hourly rate isn’t the salary you want to take home, it’s the salary you want to take home plus the 35-40% profit margin you want to have in the business, plus all of those fixed costs in the business. That’s how you work out what your hourly rate is. It isn’t just about what you want to pay yourself, it’s about paying yourself, having a profitable business and covering the fixed costs. I’ve had lots of conversations around this, and we’ve recently gone through a process of putting up our client fees, and hand-on-heart I will quite openly say to clients that we have to and I have to run a profitable business, so that I can still be sure that I’m still going to be here in 10-15 years’ time to provide you the advice that you need. We have that responsibility to run profitable, efficient businesses.

Fraser Jack: [16:29] Yep, absolutely. So your business has been through a few changes over the past few years, not necessarily big changes, but you’ve maneuvered in a few little ways with regards to thinking about who you want to serve, and all those sorts of things. You want to run us through the last couple of years?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [16:47] It probably started with the traditional thought when I started my practice that you build a big practice, you get other advisors on board, you build a big team. And back in 2014 I was part of the No More Practice Sky Business TV show, and suddenly all the advice that I was getting from the judges and from the experts was build big-scale, and the reality is that if you do that, you essentially end up growing broke. I lost sense of my own mojo for my business, and I’m quite happy to put my hand on heart and say that.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [17:22] The reality is that for me, I had to step out of the business and work out what it is that I actually want, who is it that I actually want to deal with, and it’s not an easy process to go through. You’ve got to be really comfortable to go “This is who I deal with”, and now, I’ve got my amazing clients that I’ve had now for a number of years.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [17:45] But, going forward, the only clients that I’m going to be taking on unless it’s an exceptional circumstance are going to be women going through divorce and separation. That is where I know when I’ve had those clients I’ve had the biggest impact, it’s the clients that I enjoy working with the most, and I know there’s a lot of financial planners out there who would hate dealing with this particular group of clients, but it is very much about helping them redesign their life. Helping them as much from a financial planning point of view as it is from a life coaching point of view, and understanding that our role with that particular group is to teach them to not just look at today, but they do have permission to actually look forward.

Fraser Jack: [18:29] It feels to me, this was not a decision that was made... that your target market is not made on a financial or what products or what advice you can offer, but really your own self-fulfillment point of view of how you feel when you help those clients.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 18:47 Absolutely. I had a conversation with a financial planner, goodness, it would have been a week and a half ago when I was in Los Angeles, and they were talking about how their client target market is families. Well, okay, that doesn’t really get my juices rolling. Why is it families? What is your why? Maybe it’s in your family history, maybe you’ve recently immigrated from somewhere or you’ve seen your family go through that. Maybe something really personal’s happened, that you’ve got an experience that maybe 95% of other financial planners just don’t have. I think we’re too used to trying to serve everybody, when we’re actually the most useful when we try to serve a limited number of people.

Fraser Jack: [19:30] I’m also thinking this is an extension of your business and the culture of your business, and the staff in your business. I know you’re not looking to have lots of advisors, but if you were bringing other advisors on it would be the same thing. They would need to understand or be interested in that same demographic, as opposed to just because they’re talented at giving advice.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [19:54] The biggest thing for any business owner, the biggest lesson I’ve learned and trust me, I’ve been through a lot of stuff. I’m happy to say right now I have talent, I have an absolutely talented team, and every single one of them is on purpose with what our mission is and absolutely on mark with what our business purpose is and why we exist to do what we do.

Fraser Jack: [20:17] Do you talk to your clients around this as well, saying “We only help this specific person” or “We help women going through divorce or who’ve recently been through divorce”, and you talk to them about that?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [20:31] With our existing clients, a lot of them haven’t been in that situation, but I have been very honest in saying going forward, because I’m very close to capacity. Yes, I could choose to get another advisor on board, but it’s not what I want from a lifestyle point of view, it doesn’t make sense for me, and I will happily put my lifestyle first to make sure that balance exists. Otherwise, as business owners, we just burn out if we don’t look after ourselves. I’ve had conversations with clients saying “This is what I’m focusing on currently. If you know anyone in this space, if you have someone who needs a financial planner I will have a chat with them, and then I’ll refer them on to somebody else that I know, like and trust.”

Fraser Jack: [21:14] Great. You do mention the word lifestyle a lot when you talk, and you do refer to yourself as a lifestyle planner. Let’s unpack that. How does that differ from, say, a normal planner? To you, what’s your core around lifestyle planning?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [21:32] The reason I focus on lifestyle so much, and I actually rebranded my business from Leapfrog Financial to Leapfrog Life to represent this, is that life is about a hell of a lot more than just money. It was actually part of an exercise, I had a Women and Money group, and I realized that people initially engaged but didn’t stay engaged. As financial planners we’re really “Woo”, excited about money and what’s happening and all the opportunities that exist, but the average consumer isn’t, and it’s more what are they going to get from it? What’s the lifestyle that they can create?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [22:05] I also think the focus on lifestyle means that we stop talking about goals such as “I want a comfortable retirement”, and we start to talk to them about, well, what’s the legacy that they want to leave behind for their children? What difference do they want to make in the community around them? What are the values that are most important to them? And then we can have really honest conversations with clients around “You’ve said your highest value is family and time with family, but you’re telling me that you want to go and spend another million dollars on a house in Sydney. How do those two things marry up? What would you rather, not being under financial pressure or being under financial pressure and not being able to spend time with your family?” It’s being able to unpack what our goals that we’re traditionally given as financial planners, and relating that to lifestyle.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [22:57] If a client can see that their lifestyle goals are going to be met, not just their balance of their super’s going up, then they’re far more likely to interact with that and believe in it, and stay more accountable to it. Personally, I believe 90% of what my job is as a financial planner is keeping my clients accountable to the future that they’ve told me they want.

Fraser Jack: [23:21] I really love this idea, and I’m fascinated by it with the scenario of the goal itself, or the financial goal has no emotion around it. But being able to connect it to the story, connect it to the outcome or connect it to the client’s lifestyle, as you do, makes a massive difference to them actually embracing it and owning and believing in those goals as part of what they have to do to get to where they want to be.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [23:49] And you really have to help your clients visualize it. Most clients, and I’m sure my financial planners would understand this, if a couple walks in a room, they very rarely have actually sat down and had such an in-depth conversation about what they want from their future. You can imagine a woman who has just gone through divorce or separation, their plans have just been thrown out the window. They’re dealing with huge amounts of emotional baggage, their emotional pendulum is swinging from side to side. And that feeling of not being in control and not feeling safe naturally means that they’re putting a focus on today, getting a roof over their head today. But I call my Statements of Advice the Driver’s Seat Package, and the reason that I do that is my job isn’t to sit in the driver’s seat and take my clients to where they want to be. My role is my clients to sit in the driver’s seat and I’m like the learning instructor on the side, teaching them to turn left, turn right, stop at a red traffic light, where do they go on the roundabout.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [24:48] But the biggest thing particularly with dealing with these women going through divorce and separation is teaching them to focus on what is through the front windscreen. If they’re got an ex and particularly if they’ve got kids, occasionally they’ll need to look in the rear vision mirror and check out what’s going on in the backseat. But if that’s where they look and they don’t look through the front windscreen, they’re going to have an accident. So it’s about putting things in context.

Fraser Jack: [25:14] Yeah, really good analogy there, I’m imagining this vehicle, if you were going through that in that scenario there’d be a lot of noise in that vehicle as well, with everything else going on around. Just to be able to focus on one thing would be very difficult I imagine, because there’d be a lot of stress and anxiety and fear and emotion going on.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [25:35] I can’t, it’s not possible, and it’s amazing the language that people take on, to the point that they start to believe in what other people believe in them, which just leads to a cycle of self-sabotage. I’m really proud to work with these group of women, it’s incredible. It’s such a privilege to witness them sharing their stories and seeing how my expertise can help them focus and feel safe and feel more in control. For me, there’s nothing more rewarding, that’s what gives me goosebumps, but every financial planer needs to figure out what’s the thing that gives them goosebumps.

Fraser Jack: [26:10] You just actually gave me goosebumps. As you mentioned that, I can tell that’s exactly why you’re doing it. It’s incredible, thank you.

Fraser Jack: [26:18] Tell me, though, in the business, looking after a lot of people in Australia, and you’re mostly not in Australia, how does that go?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [26:29] Pretty well, actually. The technology means we don’t have to be pinned down at a desk. I remember being at an event recently, and this advisor had been encouraged by their dealer group to go and get bigger offices because they’re going to need 10 more staff to handle the level of growth that they’ve got. And I was sitting there going “Virtual staff? What are you doing? Co-working spaces?” Anything other than committing yourself as a financial planner to these huge rents and huge overheads. Most of my clients are still Sydney-based and the reality is Sydney traffic is horrendous, as it is in Melbourne, as it is in Brisbane, most capitals. For a lot of rural advisors, they are traveling huge distances to go and see their clients.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [27:15] Technology enables us to sit in front of a computer screen, share our faces, share our emotions and have that connection with people. You don’t need to be physically in the same room as them. For me, all my meetings, there’s probably four or five meetings every quarter that aren’t remote and aren’t done online, and that’s because of my choice as a financial planner. I happen to like those clients’ houses and tend to have a bottle of wine and nice dinner, and they’re great chefs, and they’ve got beautiful architectural homes that I thoroughly enjoy. But for the rest of the clients, they’re online meetings, and the efficiency gained by making that change.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [28:00] So, when we do a progress meeting, yes, I will set aside an hour for it, but typically it will be 20 minutes in the progress meeting and then we’ll realize there’s a roadblock. The client needs to go away and do some homework, or I need to go away and do some homework. So we pause it, and we reschedule the remaining half hour or remaining 20 minutes another time, and it means we can close loops a lot quicker with clients and actually make further progress, rather than the client coming in, you’re feeling obliged to talk to them for an hour, and you’re left with this huge to-do list at the end which is just being resolved by emails going backwards and forwards which isn’t efficient.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 28:39 With my team, we just have Skype open all the time. We’ve got different chat groups, and I can just press one button and I can call my entire team in a heartbeat. We’ve got really regular planning, so we have quarterly planning, we look at our plan every month, we do weekly team meetings looking at “What are our roadblocks? What were our wins from last week?” It’s important to celebrate your wins, not just your roadblocks. And look at any client challenges and things that I need to get involved with. But also, we have quick daily huddles. It only takes four to six minutes, just for a quick check-in. “What are you going to focus on today?” And move forward.

Fraser Jack: [29:15] So, two things I just want to unpack with that. One is, from your clients’ point of view, do they prefer online meetings?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [29:24] Yes, massively. Every client that I’ve switched to online meetings over the last two years, I struggle to get them back in the office, I legitimately struggle to get them back in the office. Whether the client’s in their mid-to-late 70s or in their early 20s, once they move to online meetings they appreciate the efficiency of it. I’ve actually moved from doing progress meetings every six months to three times a year, because I’m still spending the same total time with the clients but it’s more efficient, and to me, six months feels like a really long time to go between drinks.

Fraser Jack: [30:00] So that perception of “There’s nothing like being in front of the client”, you can say that clients actually prefer, or you get even better results from online meetings.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 30:11 Well, you get better results from online meetings, they typically are shorter which means you can afford to deliver more frequent reviews with your clients, which I think is a win-win and win.

Fraser Jack: [30:22] I agree with that. The second thing I wanted to unpack was with your staff, because there’s also a perception around that if the staff aren’t in the same room to you it’s a lot harder. Do you find it’s harder, or you absolutely think that that’s even more of an advantage?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [30:36] Every single one of the people in my team know that I’m not in the office when they started working with me. I actually think it’s a massive advantage. Throwing people in the deep end is how people learn, keeping them accountable. So, they’re not just expected to do their 9-5 job, they’re expected to own how the business moves forward, and some of the strategy in how the business moves forward. But that is only genuinely possible because I have talent, and most importantly talent that is aligned with my purpose and business mission.

Fraser Jack: [31:09] Yep, great, okay. Very good. So they’re completely onboard and they’ve bought into every part of the culture, including the technology.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 31:17 Absolutely. Technology is the way that financial advice practice can be efficient, can be profitable. If we don’t embrace it we’re going to be in a bit of strife.

Fraser Jack: [31:29] Yeah, it sounds to me like it’s not just the efficiency gains for you, it’s the effectiveness as well. You make sure that every moment you’re with or in front of the client, even if it’s virtual or online, you’re being effective and you’re able to be way more effective this way.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [31:43] Yep. The other thing is having a library. We have a library of common questions and I’ve got a whole series that’s well over a hundred videos that my team, if a client asks a question, my team can find that video and send it to the client. We also now have a client portal where clients can log in and actually go to that whole FAQ themselves. There’s as much self-help as there is about being efficient. If I have to say something more than three to four times a month I record it, it gets added to the library.

Fraser Jack: [32:12] Yeah, great. Now, we’re going to run out of time so I’m going to move on a little bit here. Tell me about what you’re working on at the moment, for the near future, over the next maybe 12 months, two years? What are you working on?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [32:24] My current focus is really developing a culture where women going through divorce and separation have a strong community. I actually launched the Facebook group, the more public Facebook group for that two days ago, and we’ve got 150 women in that group, and I’m just completely blown away by the way they’re sharing their stories and those that have been through divorce five years are still joining the group to share their expertise and their experiences. The more women are able to be given platforms to talk about this, the more stable that women going through it next year or the year after are going to feel. For me, then, it’s about overlaying that group with my expertise and my experience, and that is my focus over the next couple of years.

Fraser Jack: [33:07] Sounds like an amazing support network to start with, and then you’re obviously going to be there as the voice of advice and reason out of the back a bit.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [33:15] Absolutely. I’ve got an online program that women can move into, we’ll be doing regular live videos at least once a week with the group, teaching them about anything from money to better understanding that emotional pendulum to how to create clarity and de-clutter in their lives.

Fraser Jack: [33:33] And communications to them, you’ve mentioned videos, is there anything else that you’re doing with them?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [33:37] Videos, blogs. One of my goals in the next three months is to get my own podcast up and running and start to interview some of these amazing women and share their stories.

Fraser Jack: [33:47] Yeah, I think people going through that will be able to find a massive comfort from listening to the stories of people that have just been through it.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [33:54] Yeah, without any doubt.

Fraser Jack: [33:57] So that’s the next couple of years. Tell me, what are your thoughts and ideas, there’s obviously a lot of change going on at the moment with the advice industry. What are your thoughts on how this will pan out and what it will look like in the future, and how will advice be delivered in the next three, four, five, 10 years?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [34:13] I love change, and I love what’s actually going on at the moment. It’s something which has needed to happen for a very, very long time. I see the industry dividing into two. I see the industry, a lot of traditional advice, “How do I invest my money? What’s my insurance product?” Anything product-based, I personally believe we’re going to see how great and phenomenal robo-advice solutions in that space. As a financial planner, what I want to be able to do is give the strategic advice, help my clients understand their goals, keep them accountable to their spending plans and keep them focused forward, and where we need a product, utilization of robo-advice to fulfill our needs in that space. The less I can focus on the product and the more I can focus on strategy, goals and keeping my clients focused on their future lifestyle, that’s where I want to see it. That’s really the division that I see.

Fraser Jack: [35:05] Yeah, I 100% agree. The idea of keeping your clients focused on what they can control and what they can do and what their habits are is certainly a lot better than keeping them focused on what the returns of the market’s been, that’s for sure.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [35:17] Absolutely.

Fraser Jack: [35:17] All right, we’re going to have to nearly finish up there. I want to ask you a couple more questions before we go, our lightning round if you like, of top tips. So, shoot from the hip, let us know what your thoughts are. If you were speaking to a consumer, someone that you’ve just met that was actually contemplating getting advice. Let’s say it wasn’t in your area of expertise or something that you would look after, so you’re going to give them some tips on going forth and getting advice, what would you say to them?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [35:40] Understand your first priority is to understand your spending and your spending habits. You’ve got to start with the basics first.

Fraser Jack: [35:47] The foundation, isn’t it? Spending habits, and quite often that can be the hardest part to get under control.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 35:54 Learning their triggers.

Fraser Jack: [35:56] Very good. Now, if you were talking to, and I know you do talk to a lot of advisors or people thinking about getting into advice. They might be not starting their business, or they may have just started. What advice would you give to them?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [36:06] Don’t be afraid to niche, and don’t believe the hype of the bigger is better. Know what you do, and do it incredibly well. It’s taken me a long time to build to this journey, I wish I got here sooner because I would have been able to provide even more value, but be prepared to be yourself.

Fraser Jack: [36:25] Fantastic. So, now, if you’re talking to an advisor that runs a traditional advice business, maybe their own premises, they’ve got lots of staff and they’re a very traditional advice business. Thinking about the future, thinking about what they can do to transition that to a more of a future-focused business, what would your advice to them be?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [36:43] I would go through the same process that I did two and a half years ago. I would lean up, as soon as that office lease can be gotten out of I would be looking at co-working spaces where you can literally rent by the desk or move offices depending on the size of your team, plus it gets rid of all the nightmare of the technology, and if the internet goes down it’s someone else’s problem. I would also be scrutinizing your team. Are they talent or are they staff? If they’re staff, get rid of them if they can’t make that transition. And lastly, but probably the most important, know what your purpose is and know what your niche is. Without a niche, in five years time you won’t have a practice.

Fraser Jack: [37:24] Great, thank you. There are probably some people thinking about that right now going “It might be a bit difficult”, but that’s good. Tell me, the last question, if you could go back in time, with the benefit of hindsight obviously, and give yourself some advice, where would you go? What would you say to yourself?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [37:43] The advice I would give to myself is that you’re right to back yourself, and growing big doesn’t mean a team of hundreds, it means scalability using automation.

Fraser Jack: [37:57] So you’d go back and say that to yourself. Would you believe it?

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 38:00 Absolutely, I said that with confidence, didn’t I?

Fraser Jack: [38:02] You’re going to go back and give yourself a shake and say “Don’t do what everyone’s told you to do.”

Dominique Bergel-Grant: 38:07 Exactly. Be the rebel.

Fraser Jack: [38:10] Fantastic, love it. Thank you very much, I know we’re just out of time now, but thank you so much for coming on the show today. I really appreciate you being able to join us today.

Dominique Bergel-Grant: [38:18] It’s been fun.

Fraser Jack: [38:19] Thank you.

Fraser Jack: [38:20] If you haven’t already, I’d love you to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast platform of choice. To continue the conversation, head over to our social media channels. We’ll catch you next time.

 

Disclaimer: This document is a transcription obtained through a third party. There is no claim to accuracy on the content provided in this document, and divergence from the audio file are to be expected. As a transcription, this is not a legal document in itself, and should not be considered binding to advice intelligence, but merely a convenience for reference.