Michael Back: [00:00:00] My advice to people out there is if you don’t have any content, you need content, you need to start building trust before someone walks into your door. Don’t feel that it has to be video or it has to be a podcast or it has to be a blog, think of what your natural strengths are that, if you’re really tired and you had half an hour to do something, what would be the easiest thing for you to do? Would it be to write something? Would it be to just talk? Whatever. Work out what that thing is because the chances of you showing up over and over and over again are a lot greater if it comes relatively naturally to you and you enjoy doing it. That’s the content strategy that’s going to work. So, the best content strategy is not about a tactic, it’s about consistency and repetition and just someone who’s going to turn up a thousand times to deliver content. So, that would be my advice.
Fraser Jack: [00:00:50] Hello and 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. I want to thank you for tuning in today. I’d also like to thank our supporting partner advice intelligence for powering this podcast. In this episode, I have a fantastic and extended chat with Michael Back. We covered a lot of topics in detail like content strategies, the three main issues financial advice businesses are facing at the moment and just how he tackles these issues with his human to human approach. I take my hat off to Michael J Back. This is a longer episode but the great tips and advice just kept coming. Let’s hear from Michael right now. Welcome to the show Michael.
Michael Back: [00:01:43] Thank you very much Fraser. It’s really nice to be here.
Fraser Jack: [00:01:45] So good to have you here. Now, tell me, when you say here, where are you at the moment?
Michael Back [00:01:50] I am in my office in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve just returned from a trip to Sydney and I had a pretty free day but I decided to put this one in at the end of the day, so that’s why I’m dressed like I’ve come from some tropical island, but Sydney’s far from a tropical island.
Fraser Jack: [00:02:08] It’s a fantastic tropical shirt. It really has summer written all over it and we’ll have to put a picture up so everyone can enjoy the shirt as much as I am.
Michael Back: [00:02:17] Yeah. It’s funny. I’ve kind of built my wardrobe from things that people around me want to throw out. So, this was actual in an op-shop bag from my brother in law. I’m like, what the hell are you doing? This stuff’s gold. But yeah. Maybe it’s going to the op-shop for a reason but I’m more than happy to salvage it.
Fraser Jack: [00:02:32] I love it. Now, tell us about your business at the moment and what you’re doing at the moment.
Michael Back: [00:02:40] Yeah. So, I am ... look, I suppose the elevator pitch that I use when I’m trying to describe what I do to businesses is I help financial advice businesses grow through happy clients and a high performing team. So, I’m a business coach and I’ve been doing this for just over two years for myself. Prior to that, I was working in a startup business called the social advisor which I moved to Brisbane to help set up and yeah, about two and a half years ago, I decided it was time to move on from the social advisor. I was kind of unclear at the time of what was going to be the next chapter for me, but I just knew that while I was immersed in the busyness of the social advisor, I wasn’t going to work out what was next. So, I gave myself a little bit of time off.
Michael Back: [00:03:27] To be quite honest, I had this kind of grand vision that I would sit on a rock and have some beautiful epiphany and work out exactly what the business I wanted to build was and the epiphany didn’t come and at the same time, I had a bunch of people I knew and businesses who were saying, look, if you ever wanted to start doing something, let us know and I kind of got to a point where I went, well, look, you’re an extrovert, you’re someone who gets your best ideas in the wild rather than in solitude, so, I decided I didn’t really need to have a business name and a value proposition and a website, I could easily help businesses without all of that stuff. But it also let me approach things a different way.
Michael Back: [00:04:13] So, I suppose rather than having a pre-defined idea of here’s what I want to be doing, it kind of allowed me to listen before I spoke so to speak and to really just get to know the financial advice businesses I wanted to work with and really understand their problems without any pre-conceived idea of what the solution was. So, I suppose in some ways, that meant my early business development efforts were sitting there stroking my chin going, can I help you? Can I not? I’m not too sure. It really just started from understanding exactly where they were at and whether I saw myself as being part of the solution to the problems that I saw.
Michael Back: [00:04:53] What that’s also meant is, as my business has grown and recently decided to get a little more serious about it with a proper name, and building a website and all those things, it’s meant that now, I can I suppose, piece together the business and package it up. I suppose starting at the point of going, well, what are the problems that financial advice businesses are experiencing that I want to solve? So, it’s been kind of, I suppose a strange way to start a business in many ways but it feels right. So, following my gut on this one.
Fraser Jack: [00:05:25] Yeah, it feels right to me too actually asking the people that you want to serve and helping the people that you want to serve with the problems that I guess are causing them the most pain make sense.
Michael Back: [00:05:35] Absolutely. Yeah. I think as well, I don’t take it for granted, but the businesses that I have worked with over the last couple of years have had a tremendous amount of trust in me. I think even if I look at myself, I would find it hard to go to someone, look, I’m just going to pay you with the knowledge that you can help me without understanding what that looks like and seeing it and touching it and feeling it and not much social proof of it in the public sphere at least. So, I feel very fortunate that people have taken a punt on me and maybe followed their gut in many ways to go, well, I’m not too sure what this guy’s offering, but I’ve got a feeling that he can help me and I’d like to think that I’ve repaid that trust through helping those businesses over the time I’ve been doing this, but yeah, I couldn’t be sitting here today doing what I’m doing without those people believing in me. So, I truly cherish that.
Fraser Jack: [00:06:24] Why do you think it is that people put trust in you?
Michael Back: [00:06:28] I think at the end of the day, it’s ... relationships are a function of two things I think, particularly trust. It firstly comes down to consistency, so someone over time knows that [inaudible 00:06:41] deliver something that they can see and touch and feel, that’s not the [inaudible 00:06:46] that gave me that trust straight away. It might have based on things I’d done in the past. A lot of the businesses were ones I’d spoken to and met throughout the industry over a long period of time. So, I suppose there’s somewhat of a ... that they’d seen what I’d done over time. But trust is also to a larger extent, just about personal resonance and a lot of it is intangible but it’s just that feeling where you go, actually, I can just sense that this person’s motivations are aligned with mine. To quote Simon [inaudible 00:07:16], a lot of it’s about starting with the why and when someone goes, well, I can see that this person’s in business for a similar reason to why I’m in business which in my case is very much around maximizing the potential of the people in a business and helping them to be the best that they can be. I suppose when you meet someone and you see eye to eye on something, as significant as that, it means that you kind of develop that trust quicker because you personally resonate quicker with me I suppose.
Fraser Jack: [00:07:43] Yeah, no, that was a tricky question, I’m sorry to throw that one at you but ... and I’ve known you for a long time. So, for me, I already knew the answer to that, if I asked it and to me, it was really around the fact that your authenticity and the fact that you generally care about ... you’ve asked the questions that actually mean to me that you generally care about me when I’m talking to you. So, to me, that’s what it’s about. So, sorry to ask that question, but thought I’d throw you a curly one in.
Michael Back: [00:08:09] No. There’s a good one. It definitely got me thinking as well. But, at the end of the day, I don’t think that anyone in business is the person for everyone. We don’t really need to ... I remember a guy by the name of Matt [inaudible 00:08:22] who I used to work with when I was at the social advisor, once said, if you’re one in a million, that means there’s 25 people exactly like you in Australia. I really like that idea and I think sometimes when people are trying to build a business, they think they’ve got to become this incredible global success story and they’ve got to have tens of thousands of clients and really, that’s not what ... to have a successful business that has an impact, you don’t necessarily need volume or scale necessarily, it’s more about the depth of the relationships as opposed to the width of them so to speak.
Michael Back: [00:08:54] So, I think it has meant that when you are clear on what your values are and you believe wholeheartedly in the way you do things, it means that if someone doesn’t quite gel with the way you see the world or there’s just not that great [inaudible 00:09:11] or you can just tell that that trust isn’t there, you don’t have to twist things and change the situation so it works for both of you. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t, there’s plenty of other businesses that you can share those values with and we’ll be more aligned to it. I think sometimes we say yes too frequently whereas the people I look up to the most in business are prepared to say no just as much if not more than they say yes.
Fraser Jack: [00:09:38] You mentioned before that you were helping a lot of your clients and you started with the idea of what are our pain points. Now, without obviously mentioning your clients but what are some of the things that you’re seeing around when it comes to businesses? Where are they hurting? Where’s the pain? What are the things that they really need to work on first or get solved?
Michael Back: [00:09:58] Actually, in the middle of the key person of influence program, for those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s run by a company called Dent Global and the whole idea is how do you capture your intellectual property for want of a better phrase and scale what you do. So, how do you become in many ways, a thought leader in your industry? Brilliant program, but one of the key principals of the program is that if you’re going to have a valuable business or a valuable service offering, you need to be solving the real problems that people are facing and one of the tasks they get you to do is to brainstorm a hundred problems that your ideal clients are experiencing and you get to 30 and they go, no, you better go to 100 and you go, there’s only 30 and make you push really, really hard and dig inside your brain.
Michael Back: [00:10:51] So, I’ve actually just been through that exercise over the last six months where I had to get to that list of 100 and then get it down to 20 and then get it down to 10 and then get it down to 5 and then boil it down to 3. Every time I speak to a business in any industry, these are the three that do tend to prop up the most. The three problems are that there’s not enough new clients. So, a lot of the time, a business will identify that as we need more leads, we need more leads, but the problem I see is that often, the internal processes of a team at a point in the funnel where, for example, they’ve met the client and had say a first meeting or a discovery meeting and then eventually they sign up to receive advice, the implementation gap, so to speak, of how long it takes to implement the advice means that clients have agreed to do business with a financial advice practice, but they aren’t actually coming on board as new clients because there are bottle necks and delays in that process.
Michael Back: [00:11:49] So, I suppose, not enough new clients can be a lead problem, but it can be a problem further down the funnel as well. The second one is that the client experience tends to be inconsistent. So, classic symptom of that would be if times are busy, we just do the bare minimum to keep our clients happy but if things are a little bit more quiet, we can give our clients a bit more love, but no two clients are receiving the same experience, it often just depends on when they came onboard and what’s happening at the time. Another classic symptom of that problem would be that if someone in the business goes away, it’s very hard to deliver that same client experience and that’s a pain point a lot of businesses experience where they can’t really have a guilt free holiday or they go on holiday but they’ve got one hand on a cocktail glass and one hand on a laptop the whole time because really without them in the business, the thing doesn’t keep running.
Michael Back: [00:12:42] The third one and one that I absolutely love being able to help businesses with, directly and indirectly is that they spend too much time in the business and not enough time on it. Sometimes that’s just a time issue, but a lot of the time it’s also that they’ve got a team sitting there who are doing what they believe to be their job which is, I suppose the different aspects of their job description but they may either have capacity or they might not, but even just having some type of expectation that the people in the team are responsible for working on the business as well. A lot of the time it can alleviate the pressure on the business owner or the management team to go we’re the only one’s that can work on the business. So, it can be a very practical thing to spread the load and have everyone working on improving a system or a process or working on some project that’s going to push the business forward.
Michael Back: [00:13:33] So, it can be very practical, but it also can be a far more effective way of doing things because it takes the pressure off people to go, well, we’ve got to know all the answers, you’re actually tapping into the brains of the people in your team to solve the problems that you’re experiencing and it can be a very unifying process as well. So, yeah. It was a long winded answer, but yeah, they’re the three main problems that I’ve experienced financial advice businesses facing.
Fraser Jack: [00:13:58] Yeah okay. So, we might come back to the first two shortly, but the last one I just wanted to focus on, you mentioned obviously you’re doing your own business coaching course, you’re a business coach, you’re doing your own business coaching with [inaudible 00:14:10] and Dent. So, you’re very similar. Your business is very similar to a financial advice [inaudible 00:14:16] isn’t it? Where you need to look after your clients, you need to find clients, look after them and provide a advice to them ongoing and consistent advice, in your business is very similar to the practices you’re helping.
Michael Back: [00:14:29] Absolutely. I think the challenge I’ve faced though is that I am the product and while I think most advisors know that the relationship and the service they deliver is more important than the product, you still do need products that can stretch what you do and deliver things that you couldn’t physically deliver yourself and compliment what you do. So, yeah, I think a big part of my year has been trying to productize what I do so I can help more people and help people more effectively as well. But yeah, absolutely. I suppose what a financial advisor does and what I do and what a personal trainer does isn’t that different in that someone comes with an idea that they want a better future. Sometimes they have a lot of clarity around what that future is and at other times, they don’t have that clarity, they just have an inkling and really what it is about is coming up with a meaningful vision of the future that speaks to them and then working out what you need to do to help them get closer to it on an ongoing basis. So, from that point of view, what I do is exactly like what a financial advisor would do.
Fraser Jack: [00:15:34] Yeah. Now, tell me, if you’re talking to me, I’m an advisor, what percentage of time should I be spending on my business as opposed to [inaudible 00:15:41]?
Michael Back: [00:15:40] It’s a bit of a how long’s a piece of string. So, I’d say more than you currently are. So, for some businesses ... look, I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were saying that if you’re spending hardly any time on your business, you should just be aiming to do half a day a week as a starting point, just block out half a day and do that. But, one of my clients recently, they had a cordially meeting, they do this, they come together, they review what’s happened over the last quarter, they talk about their wins, they talk about some of the challenges and the lessons that they learnt and they also talk about the problems and I suppose gives them a renewed focus for the next three months as to what we’re going to be focusing on to overcome those challenges and solve those problems and one of the commitments I made at the end was why don’t we do this every month?
Michael Back: [00:16:33] As the business owner said to me, there’s very little downside to us doing this every month if we can find a way to do it. So, if you look at it from that point of view, they’re taking their whole team out of the business for one day every single month to work on the business, not to mention what happened in between that monthly meeting where people are working on the business. So, I suppose that was a commitment for them to go, well, we’re just going to find the time and we’re going to make this work and that would be my challenge to everyone is that, whatever you’re doing now, if you can find a way to do more of that on the business stuff that ... a lot of people have that people pleasing aspect where, I’ll just get all my emails done and then I’ll work on the business or once I’m happy with where things are at with clients then I’ll work on the business. Well, that rarely comes. You could literally sit at your desk all day, every day and respond to emails and answer phone calls and have meetings and do all those things.
Michael Back: [00:17:25] So, you do need to ... it’s like that [inaudible 00:17:29] quote where she says, “There’s a reason why the airline tells you to put your oxygen mask on before you help other passengers.” I think working on the business is one of those things where you do need to plant a flag in the ground and go, I know this is never going to be easy, there’s never going to be a perfect time but this is too important to the future of my business not to do. So, yeah, I think a lot of it’s about shifting the importance and going, we are all there to do a job but we are also there to make sure that the business is looked after in the future and is in a stronger position in six months time than it is today and even stronger position in 12 months time, etc, etc. without focusing on the business and what you can improve and work with other people to improve it, it’s very hard to increase the strength of what you’re doing.
Fraser Jack: [00:18:12] So, scheduling time in is pretty important? Making those appointments and booking in.
Michael Back: [00:18:18] Yeah. I think too, playing to your strengths. I recently had a client who, we would be talking about the importance of a social media strategy [inaudible 00:18:26] and I was doing my own poking and prodding of how are you going with this and we really need to do this and let’s just try and do two a week, let’s try and do three a week and just wasn’t really gelling. He just, in the words of Tony Robbins, took massive action and said, do you know what? This isn’t going to happen in the office. I’m going to book a trip to Sydney for a week and I’m going to record 100 videos over the course of a week and then when I come back to the office, that’s going to be an asset that someone else can edit and upload [inaudible 00:18:56] basically we’ve got our social media nailed for six months.
Michael Back: [00:19:00] So, [inaudible 00:19:01], he obviously was playing to his strengths and when I know that when I want to do something, I’ve just got to take massive action. So, he’s probably not the guy who can consistently eat healthy and exercise healthily, it probably would work better for him to give up alcohol and cut out all sugar, have some sort of rapid fire plan to kick start his momentum. But, other people, they are more like, almost like a rice farmer, it’s that constant small application of effort that leads to something bigger in the future. So, we all want consistency and it is hard to, particularly for on the business stuff to go, right, I’m just going to do one full week every six months and then it’s done. It is something that lends itself more to consistent effort, but I think if you do need to do drastic things like not coming into the office for an extended period of time or booking a hotel room in another city or town with your team to get them out and to focus on it, you should do those things. Now, a lot of it’s just about knowing how you tend to change your habits and behavior in other areas of your life and reverse engineering.
Fraser Jack: [00:20:08] Yep. Now, you mentioned the second point, that the pain businesses are going through is that client experience or inconsistency around that, especially like you mentioned, with staff away or ... what do you do there? How do you work on that? Where do you start?
Michael Back: [00:20:24] Well, the first place to start is to have a client experience and to have an ideal client experience. It’s like a lot of things in life. We might have our ideal week where, okay, I’m going to go to the gym four times and I’m going to only drink green smoothies most days, then on a Friday ... Friday night’s date night when me and my partner go do this, etc, etc. that doesn’t mean that you hit it every week and it doesn’t mean that if you don’t hit 100% it’s been a failed exercise, but having the idea of just this is what the ideal experience looks like, means that you can start getting a lot closer to it and so, when I said before that you’ve seen a lot of businesses and no two clients will have the same experience, well, that’s an alarm bell. Whether you’ll get to a point where 100% of your clients have the same experience, I’d be very surprised, I certainly have never seen that happen, but if you can just get a little bit closer, it’s obviously going to be better particularly when you’re in the driver’s seat of that experience as opposed to just the client experience being a default experience.
Michael Back: [00:21:24] So, I think the starting point is to work out what do you want to happen at each stage of a funnel. The way that I would take a team on working out what that is, is to ask two main questions at each stage of your journey. The first is, what do I need to deliver to someone at this stage? And the second bit is, how do I want them to feel at this stage? A lot of that is about being empathetic to where they’re at and what they’re struggling with and what they need from you, less so tangibly and more so emotionally to feel comfortable enough to go to the next stage and to be happy ultimately. So, having clarity over what your ideal client experience is, is it’s very, very important and just mapping that out, but there’s two aspects to that. So, before you sit around and go, what’s our ideal client experience? I think it’s really, really important to have a bunch of different voices in that conversation. A lot of the time, people at the top of a business feel that they should have all the answers and they should know everything.
Michael Back: [00:22:29] There’s a lot of phrases that I hear bandied around like Henry Ford said, if I would’ve asked people what they would’ve wanted, they would’ve just said a faster horse. It’s almost this phrase that’s used as a reason to not ask people’s opinions and just [inaudible 00:22:43]. Look, Henry Ford was without doubt a genius. Steve Jobs didn’t do market research and decide to invent the iPod, but I think let’s be realistic, most of us aren’t at that level of genius of Henry Ford or Steve Jobs and we shouldn’t put the pressure on ourselves to be. There is nothing wrong, in fact I think there’s a beautiful humility and an admirable quality to go, I hope the only true knowledge is knowing that you know nothing at all and to ask your team and ask your clients and get someone in your business who doesn’t have the same blind spots and [inaudible 00:23:19] that you have and to see what you’re doing [inaudible 00:23:21] fresh perspective and give you their opinion.
Michael Back: [00:23:23] So, I think you’ve got to make sure all those voices are in the conversation before you decide what that client experience is and to keep it as consistent as possible, don’t place too much pressure on humans to have to deliver it as well. So, there’s elements that can and should be outsourced but then there’s elements that should and can be automated and smart technology can help supplement a lot of what you do and make sure that it happens a lot more consistently than a human could deliver it.
Fraser Jack: [00:23:54] Yeah, I’m a massive advocate of having your clients actually part of the process of working out what the client experience should be. It’s the things that you want them to remember and want them to go away and talk about. [inaudible 00:24:05], correct me on this, not just what they remember, but the way that they will feel but they’ll remember and you’re absolutely right in your comment there on how you make them feel. I think that’s a really, really good ... to bring into every part of your process and really around ... and [inaudible 00:24:26] clients back in and saying, how would that thing make you feel? Should we do it or not? If it added this much money to the cost of providing advice, is it worth it? Is it value to you or not?
Michael Back: [00:24:41] Absolutely. Yeah. I was just running a workshop with a team. I’m actually going to write a blog post about this very soon. We were talking very specifically about that they have a client satisfaction metric that they have in their business, they want 100% of their clients to say they would refer them to family and friends and we were as a team working out, well, where are we at now and what are the easy wins that we can be doing to maximize the chance of us hitting that goal. The owner of the business got up, it was his time to ... or it was his turn to get up on the whiteboard and write down his ideas and one of them was, we’ve got to stop SMSing and emailing clients, we’ve just got to bloody pick up the phone and call them.
Michael Back: [00:25:20] It was this fascinating moment because half the room were like, yes, I completely agree and you could psychically feel the other half of the room probably through their silence but also just their emotions [inaudible 00:25:33] oh my gosh, I just think that’s a terrible idea and there was this moment where I’m like, gee, there’s not going to be an easy solution here, I’m going to struggle to find the middle ground that everyone goes, that’s the best communication tool, but of course, that’s not what I had to do. What I had to do is go, well, at the end of the day, you like being called on the phone, so you’re probably more likely to want to phone people, whereas this side of the room hate making phone calls and the chances are, there are clients that also hate receiving phone calls.
Michael Back: [00:26:02] So, there’s two ways that I think you can listen to your clients. The first is, to survey them and to ask them. So, the answer to the question of what’s the best way to communicate with clients is it’s not up to you, it’s up to your clients and if you haven’t asked them, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build a relationship that they value and that ticks the boxes they want it to tick. The second thing about listening to your clients is not ... it’s more about observing how they act and if you’ve SMSed a client three times and they haven’t replied, well, maybe they ... this sounds silly, but my dad never replies to SMS. He’s one of the greatest relationship managers I’ve met in my entire life. It’s because he can’t read his phone properly, so he has to have his glasses and he’s a bit forgetful.
Michael Back: [00:26:47] So, often when he pulls out his phone, he’s like, oh, I don’t have my bloody glasses, I’ll do that later and later never comes. For my dad, picking up the phone would be the best thing to do because you’ve got the best chance of talking to them. So, observing that behavior and I suppose listening to the behavior of your clients as well as directly asking them the bloody questions you want them to answer, can in many ways just improve the quality of our client experience, but very few people do that and sometimes it’s a fear thing. They’re a bit scared to hear what clients have to say. Other times it’s more just a focus thing that they’ve got enough on their plate and they don’t ... they just wouldn’t know where to start in putting a survey together, but I think going through that process and having a consistent survey process across your business is one of if not the most valuable things that you can do.
Fraser Jack: [00:27:34] Yeah, there’s two things [inaudible 00:27:36] for me, one is, is it a possibility that it’s a demographic, you could overlay it with a demographic on that, people that maybe don’t want to read texts [inaudible 00:27:45] text messages don’t want to receive texts, but then those that are [inaudible 00:27:50], they could be something. I don’t know.
Michael Back: [00:27:54] I completely agree. Yeah. The room that I was describing to you there about workshop, it was divided across ages. It was literally everyone under the age of 30 cringed, everyone over the age of 30 kind of pounded their fist [inaudible 00:28:08], yes, we’ve got to call clients more. But then, I personally ... so, I’m over the age of 30 and I’m not saying 30 is the line but I far prefer emailing professionals in my life solely because I don’t get around to doing my life admin until 11 o’clock at night most of the time. For me, a phone call during the day is rarely going to be a good idea even though I love talking on the phone and I probably prefer to [inaudible 00:28:33] relationship with the professionals that help me. I do emails better because I can do it on my own time.
Michael Back: [00:28:39] There’s a different story around the communication that every single one of your clients would prefer. We can guess what it is or we can just ask them one by one and find out. The resolution that we came up with this team was our [inaudible 00:28:53] process needs to have that question. So, what’s your email address? What’s your address? What is the best way for us to get in touch with you if we need to ask you a quick question? SMS, email, phone, carrier pigeon, whatever you’re prepared to deliver on and it probably is a subset of that, if it’s something quite urgent we need to get you quickly, is this still the best way?
Michael Back: [00:29:16] So, having that richness of data in your CRM or whatever way you manage your clients, so when you need to get in touch with them, you’re talking to them in the way they want to be spoken with, that’s going to make everyone’s life better.
Fraser Jack: [00:29:28] Yeah. Now, still on the client experience when it comes to your staff are away and creating that consistency and teams and working in teams, what do you see as some of the main things that people are doing and winning in that space?
Michael Back: [00:29:42] So, I was slightly skeptical, I wouldn’t say a naysayer but I thought it was very faddish the concept of having outsourced team members in other countries in the world. That is one assumption that I had made that has been completely challenged and I’ve done a complete 180 on. I think, obviously the cost of labor in Australia is getting higher and higher and the businesses of the future in order to operate domestically and not be ... to have human interaction in any type of client relationship in the future, you’re going to have to be delivering something that is so hyper personal and so connected that people would never even consider technology because of the extra value you’re adding on top. So, I think if you got people in your team who are doing things like drawing up the same agreements over and over again, and things that are able to be documented as a process and are repeatable, if you’ve got expensive resources doing that, you’re going to find it very hard to stay competitive over the long term.
Michael Back: [00:30:46] So, the businesses I’ve worked with who’ve started on the outsourcing path, the first three to six months are rarely that fruitful. You might get a few quick wins but it is tough. It’s that classic thing where people in the team say, I’m spending so much time training them up, I may as well do it myself, but then after six months, if they’ve persevered and treated that person not just like they’re part of the team, but have actually made that person part of the team, the results have been absolutely phenomenal and it’s meant that you can have more people in your team to deliver on the client experience for the same cost or you can reduce your costs having a set team size and it’s meant that things happen as they should happen because you’re not relying on people wearing multiple hats.
Michael Back: [00:31:33] So, I think outsourcing is a huge win that I have seen in a lot of businesses and if you are somewhat skeptical about outsourcing, I encourage you to question your beliefs around that. I think too, and this is probably an area that not many businesses have embarked on because there’s a lot of complexity and it’s not something that is like a native skillset in a lot of advice businesses, but the businesses I’ve worked with who automated a lot of their ongoing ... sorry, their upfront journey. So, right, they’ve had that first meeting, now here’s the two or three emails I need them to receive between that meeting and the next meeting. So, you can get a bit too [inaudible 00:32:14] with this and I wouldn’t encourage go from zero to 100 here.
Michael Back: [00:32:19] The businesses who have managed to automate a lot of that communication and trust building and making sure the right emails are sent to clients at the right time to help them, like I said before, feel the way that they need to be feeling or be delivered something they need to be delivered, those businesses are freed up to focus on really high value activities because they’ve got technology automating a lot of that. So, they’re two huge wins that I’ve seen for businesses that are absolutely ... I have no doubt in the future every business who are delivering a service to clients will be outsourcing part of what they do and they’ll be automating part of what they do, it’s just whether businesses go on that learning curve and start doing those things now or whether they wait a few years, but no, if you haven’t experimented or played around with either of those things, I’d highly encourage you to start as soon as possible.
Fraser Jack: [00:33:15] Yeah, I’m really interested in what you mentioned there around outsourcing and how it takes some time. You put a lot of effort in and it takes time. Kind of reminds me of the compound interest curve. Like at the beginning, it’s sort of, you get small wins, small wins and all of a sudden, it starts really coming on I guess it sort of seems to me like it’s outsourcing is you’re compounding your impact in your business.
Michael Back: [00:33:40] Absolutely. Yeah. Look, there’s some natural fears and reservations because I think a lot of the time, people haven’t ... they haven’t done anything like this before, so when they hire someone from overseas and it doesn’t work straightaway, they give up on the whole concept as opposed to going, well, if I was to hire someone here, there’s no guarantees it’s going to work. If anything, it’s just a cheaper experiment to get it wrong with someone overseas as opposed to here, particularly if you’re paying expensive recruitment fees and expensive salaries and whatever the case may be. But yeah, I think there are a few ways that you can set yourself up for failure with outsourcing. The ways that you would set yourself up for success are very much around ... we were talking before about documenting your ideal client experience, documenting your systems and processes and not expecting that they’re just going to come in and know to do everything but to go, okay, well, let’s just start you off doing this one task and we’re going to have really clear processes and training materials for you to do this task. That’s the way to start that relationship with complete clarity.
Michael Back: [00:34:39] I talk about [inaudible 00:34:42] model my father taught me as a kid called the success triangle, that to be successful at anything in life, you’ve got to be clear, you’ve got to be capable and you’ve got to be motivated. In other words, you’ve got to know what you’re doing, you’ve got to be able to do it and you’ve got to want to do it. My experience with outsourcing overseas, particularly in the Philippines which is where most of my experience has been, is that the motivation levels are off the charts. Those people want to work hard and they want to do a great job. Where it comes undone is clarity and capability. So, if you’re very clear about what their role is and what you need them to do, and then you give them the capability to do it by training them and having it really well documented, you’re really maximizing the chance that it’s going to be a great relationship.
Michael Back: 00:35:24 It’s like anyone in your team. You start them on a small task, they prove themselves on that and then you add on it and you add on it and you add on top and then after a while, you go, I don’t know how we lived without this person. It’s the exact same thing when you’re outsourcing overseas.
Fraser Jack: 00:35:38 Now, you mentioned team there and I know that you spend a lot of your time working with business teams not just with the business owner [inaudible 00:35:44] little bit different from you and from a lot of coaches where you spend probably a lot ... I don’t know how much, you tell me, how much of your time do you spend with the team as opposed to just the business owner.
Michael Back: [00:35:54] It depends on the business, but yeah, I would say that probably something that makes me different from a lot of other business coaches is that I spend more time with the team than a lot of them and I think a lot of it is just probably born from a bit of a personal passion. I used to work in a financial advice practice eight to ten years ago. I was a paraplanner and to be honest, I was probably using 10 to 15 percent of my talents. I think I was a good paraplanner. Probably wasn’t the fastest paraplanner but the work I did was of a high quality and people in the business would have said, he is a good paraplanner, but I have this feeling inside me that I just had so much more to give and I just wasn’t giving it.
Michael Back: [00:36:41] I took myself on a very deliberate process to get connected to ... I felt like I had this music in me that wasn’t seeing the light of day, so I went in a process to get really clear on what that was and what it looked like and to start finding ways to give more of that to the business. What it ended up meaning was that they created a role for me. I sunk my teeth into the marketing for this business that until then hadn’t really had any dedicated marketing. We’re also talking a business that had 30,000 clients, so it wasn’t a small testing ground either and I made a lot of mistakes, I learned a lot of things, but I would definitely say the day that I left that business, the months leading up to that, they would’ve got so much value out of me compared to if I’d just stayed paraplanning.
Michael Back: [00:37:27] So, I think having been through that process myself and realize that by me getting connected to my strengths and finding more avenues for them in the business, it made my life better because I grew. It just felt like the ultimate win win win. So, I think that’s a huge part of what I try and do now for businesses is to create that win win win and get to know the teams really deeply so I can see how they fit into the puzzle and find out the things they love to do in their personal life that they’re not really getting to do at work and finding more opportunities for them to bring that natural curiosity and passion into the work place, but aligning all of that activity around the client experience because at the end of the day, whatever you’re doing in a team, particularly in a small business, you have some impact or potential to have some impact on the client experience. So, the more you can do that and make lives better for the clients, the business grows, you personally grow and yeah, it becomes this beautiful upwards cycles of growth.
Fraser Jack: [00:38:27] So, you created the business that you wished it was around when you were a paraplanner?
Michael Back: [00:38:32] Yeah, in some ways, absolutely. Look, I think too, we were talking before about surveying clients and how they have so many of the answers and it takes the pressure off you as a business owner to think that you know it all. Obviously you don’t ... I said to someone the other day, the customer isn’t always right but they are always worth listening to. So, I wouldn’t say now, ask your clients exactly what they want and just deliver it straight away, you’ve got to put it through somewhat of a filter and make sure you’re practical and whatnot along the way. But, I’d almost say that there ... before you ask your clients, you should also be asking your team. This workshop that I just delivered, it was astounding to ask the people in the team and I made them break away and go off on their own and come up with a bunch of ideas to improve the client experience and without any pre-discussion, without any leading of the witness, without them having had any meetings around this, 70% of what everyone in the team said was exactly the same.
Michael Back: [00:39:33] So, with that knowledge, I can work with the owners of the business and go, well, look, there was so much consistency, how can we make this happen? How can we triage these great ideas and go, okay, actually, these three are going to make most of the difference, but yeah, I think people don’t give clients or teams enough credit for the wonderful ideas they have and having a regular mechanism where you tap into them and then turn them into somewhat of a project where you can not just hold the business owner accountable, but hold everyone in the team accountable for delivering on something. That’s when some pretty significant magic starts to happen in the business.
Fraser Jack: [00:40:09] Yeah and as you said, they have the music in them, so let it out.
Michael Back: [00:40:13] Yeah. Look, I think most of the people listening to your podcast would be business owners. So, I don’t want this to come across the wrong way, but I think there’s so much personal development and growth and learning available to the owners of a business, but a lot of team members I’m encouraged to go on that same growth journey and there isn’t that many avenues for them to get better unless they actively seek it out. So, I get an enormous fist pump moment out of helping a business achieve it’s goals, but when I’ve worked with someone on their own in seen that they had this greatness inside them but perhaps haven’t been empowered to release it into the business. That to me gives me such a thrill. I wouldn’t say more of a thrill, but it’d be pushing into the territory of more of a thrill because you see someone who ... it’s just a radical turnaround. We’re not talking 10% to 15% growth here, we’re sometimes talking about 80% to 90% difference and you go, I can’t believe you’re the same person that I met when I first walked into the business six months ago. That really, really makes me proud of the work I do with businesses.
Fraser Jack: [00:41:21] Nice, lovely to hear. Now, you sort of answered most [inaudible 00:41:25] come back and talk about the new client experience and getting new clients into the business. We asked a lot of those questions already, but what are some of the other things that we’ve already talked about when it comes to the process of getting new advisors in and what’s causing pain for advisors in that space and how will you fix it?
Michael Back: [00:41:43] Yeah. So, look, I think that there is so much upside. If you can not just intimately get to know your clients but intimately get to know your prospects and start being able to solve their problems before they’ve even come in for a meeting, what we’re really talking about here is building marketing funnels that people ... you’re helping people at scale and it just so happens that as they build trust, they eventually just become clients in the business, which is the holy grail as far as a marketing funnel is concerned. There is so much upside when you can crack that code and there’s so many advisors in the industry who are doing different bits well. There’s some who are crushing ... they do small events that then leads to phone calls, that lead to meetings, that lead to client relationships. There’s some who are doing video on social media incredibly well, some have found that referral partners are their ticket to new clients. There’s so many different ways.
Michael Back: [00:42:41] You look at someone like Lee [inaudible 00:42:42], she’s found the yoga community is where she can find clients. There is no one way that every single business should be doing. A lot of it’s about understanding where your strengths lie and playing your natural game. I think what I see though is that ... and then part of the beautiful entrepreneurial mind of a lot of business owners too is that they get a bit distracted by shiny objects and they’re constantly wanting something new. My experience would be that a lot of businesses haven’t quite delivered an incredible client experience ... they’ve got a good client experience but it could be a lot better and there is so much upside to [inaudible 00:43:13] just from word of mouth from delivering something that legitimately solves people’s problems and is so personal and feels so good that people can’t help but talk about it.
Michael Back: [00:43:29] So, a lot of people are looking to ... where can I get my next 50 prospects from when I think a lot of the time, there’s a lot of low hanging fruit in their client base that they’re not getting the most out of because they’re kind of just giving ... they’re just pausing at that point where their client experiences 70% of the [inaudible 00:43:47], I’m not saying we get it to 100, there’s got to be an element of progress over perfection but just those extra 10% or 15% gains that you can get from your client experience can have a huge impact.
Michael Back: [00:43:58] So, yeah, I think there’s a lot to be said through investing in what you’ve got there rather than looking for Facebook advertising and all these other ways which work, but yeah, get the client experience right first, that would be my advice.
Fraser Jack: [00:44:13] Yeah, fantastic. We will get into social, but I do like what you just said, feels so good that people can’t stop talking about it.
Michael Back: [00:44:20] Yeah. It’s that word, a remarkable client experience. If you just break down the word remarkable, it is so great that people remark about it. The true definition of remarkable, I can give you the textbook definition but if what you’re doing is remarkable, people will talk about it.
Fraser Jack: [00:44:40] We mentioned social, let’s talk about content and using social and using technology that’s available to us now in that content space. What are your thoughts around what people should be doing around content and how it should work for them?
Michael Back: [00:44:56] Yeah. Look, I think there’s some really interesting avenues for this. I think a few years ago everyone was on the video train and I think ... it’s interesting because back then, there was people who were just incredibly [inaudible 00:45:09] on video and then there was people who were just like, I’m not a bloody newsreader, I’m a financial advisor, I’m never going to be stuck in front of a camera and I’ve seen a lot of those people now doing videos to their client’s regularly and I think the default position for businesses now is that they’re a lot more comfortable with being on camera and they get it, they see the impact it has made and I think a lot of the work that we did at the social advisor really made the industry a lot more aware of the power of video and help them implement it.
Michael Back: [00:45:42] But I also think that since then, I think the average business is using more video, but I think a lot of the growth I’ve seen in content is around audio, particularly podcasting. I know I’m preaching to the choir here with you Fraser, but just the idea with video that you’ve got to be sitting there with someone’s undivided attention to deliver value to them, that would be fantastic, but as we know, it’s very rare that anyone, unfortunately our partners struggle to get our undivided attention. So, what hope do you have if you’re a financial advisor? So, I think the ... if you look at something like podcasting, just the multi-tasking benefit where I can be driving somewhere and listening to a podcast, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, picking up my dog’s poo, whatever I’m doing, I’m going to be listening to a podcast,
Michael Back: [00:46:33] I think it’s a really interesting avenue for a lot of financial advisors and you’ve done a tremendous job [inaudible 00:46:39] xy advisor have a really thriving podcast and even financial advice businesses like [inaudible 00:46:44] in Sydney have just done a great job with the podcast. So, I think that’s a really interesting area of growth. I was interviewed on another podcast recently and part of what I said and you’re probably picking up a common theme here Fraser, is I’m really against the idea that there is just one golden ticket that everyone should be going for. So, I know people who, you put a camera in front of them and they just ... they’re such brilliant talkers, they’re just so charismatic and articulate, but they’ve been spending years struggling to write an article for their client newsletter and they procrastinate and they put it off and the newsletter gets delayed and it’s really a function of like you’re not playing to their strengths.
Michael Back: [00:47:22] So, my advice to people out there is, if you don’t have any content, you need content, you need to start building trust before someone walks into your door, but don’t feel that it has to be video or it has to be a podcast or it has to be a blog, think of what your natural strengths are that, if you were really tired and you had half an hour to do something, what would be the easiest thing for you to do? Would it be to write something? Would it be to just talk? Whatever. Work out what that thing is because the chances of you showing up over and over and over again are a lot greater if it comes relatively naturally to you and you enjoy doing it. That’s the content strategy that’s going to work.
Michael Back: [00:48:01] So, the best content strategy is not about a tactic, it’s about consistency and repetition and just someone who’s going to turn up 1000 times to deliver content. So, that would be my advice, is find the platform that, yes, your clients, your ideal clients need to be on it. If you are looking to engage uni students, I wouldn’t say the LinkedIn is where you should be. So, you’ve got to play ... you’ve got to be where your clients are but then do it in a way that, yes, it resonates with them, but also it’s something that you’re going to be able to do over and over again, whether that’s blogging or video or podcasting or events, whatever.
Fraser Jack: [00:48:38] Yep. I like the idea of playing to strength. I really enjoy podcasting. I like the audio medium. I really do hope like you said, somebody’s going to let me know when they’re listening to my podcast and picking up their dog’s poo, I look forward to that comment. But yeah, certainly, but when we’re starting out, we’re doing content and we’re thinking we’ve got to write something. I sort of try to think about what’s a problem that you can solve for the person that might be listening, but where do you go with that? Where do you start?
Michael Back: [00:49:06] Yeah, it’s a really great question. I think a lot of it is about awareness. So, when you are in the habit of blogging and transparently, I used to be quite a regular blogger and it’s something I haven’t been doing that much recently, but when I was in the habit of blogging, you see more opportunities to write blogs over and over because you’re more tuned into it. But yeah, you’re right. When you’re not in the habit of seeing things and going, that would make good content, it’s really hard to come up with content. So, the question then is like how do you break the duck> how do you kind of get that initial momentum happening so you’re at greater chance of doin git more and more in the future.
Michael Back: [00:49:48] I think a really good place to start is frequently asked questions. So, think of the things that your ... a lot of this too is around automating to some extent. You get asked the same things over and over and that’s kind of inefficient to keep answering those. So, if you instead get your team together, have a brainstorm and go, what are the questions we get asked all the time? You’ll get ten high quality ideas that then become ten pieces of content.
Michael Back: [00:50:16] I think too, if we ... really, all a marketing funnel is is solving people’s problems in a logical manner. So, a blog might solve a very small problem and it might not necessarily be a physical problem, it might be just a problem in the way they’re thinking and you’re changing how they [inaudible 00:50:30], right, you’ve helped me understand this small thing and then people can choose to deepen that over time or not, but even things like ... so, KPI are big proponents of this. Every business should have a blog post or an ebook along the lines of the five biggest mistakes that insert our target market here make when choosing a here’s the business that we’re in.
Michael Back: [00:50:56] So, for the financial advisors out there it’d be the five biggest mistakes that our target market make when choosing a financial advisor. For a BDM who’s listening out there, it would be the five biggest mistakes financial advisors make when choosing an insurance policy for their clients. So, whatever business you’re in, you should understand your clients so deeply that you know the mistakes they’re making way better than they do and that’s a really great place to start when you are coming up with content because if you can help people avoid mistakes before they make them, that’s a pretty powerful relationship you’ve formed instantly. It also so happens that presumably, your service is built around them avoiding those mistakes so you can also be part of the solution to their problem, but it’s a really good education piece. [inaudible 00:51:46], they talk about not just the thinking mistakes, but the action mistakes. So, the things they’re doing wrong but also the things they’re thinking that are misguided, that are possibly holding them back.
Fraser Jack: [00:51:56] It also feels to me like you’re saying start with your own clients in your database, find the mistakes that in your ideal client, the ones that you already have, work out what you’re telling them and how you’re helping them. Write the content around that and then ...
Michael Back: [00:52:08] Yeah, that’s exactly right because if you are writing content that would’ve helped your clients had it existed before they became clients, and you love your clients, the chances are, there’s people out there who are pretty much the same as your current clients but are in a more primitive stage and you can start helping them. So, start with your clients and then the chances are, you’re going to find more people like that if you can help them solve their problems. But also, when that content hits the mark for them and they go, damn, that’s really good, they’ll be more likely to pass it on to their family and friends and go, hey, there’s this thing about things to think about when you’re going through a divorce. My sister in law’s going through a divorce, I’m going to send this one to her.
Michael Back: [00:52:46] So, yeah, there’s ... don’t know if sister-in-law is the right analogy there because that would assume you’ve sided with your non-family member in that situation. That would be a pretty complicated divorce scenario but you get the picture is that if you’re providing good content that really is on point, the chances of it getting passed around are a lot greater. I had a really interesting moment a few weeks ago where I was talking to a friend of mine who’s an expat and she had read an article by a guy [inaudible 00:53:16] in the industry, Brett Evans from Atlas. [inaudible 00:53:19] written, the five biggest mistakes expats make with their finances. She just told me, I read this really good blog post, blah blah blah, and it just so happened I talked to Brett the next day and I said, I was speaking to this person and they loved your post. He didn’t even remember writing it, which is just so amazing isn’t it to think that ... because he did it three or four years ago. It’s not like he wrote it after a big night.
Michael Back: [00:53:42] But if you can write content and you can write so much of it that you don’t necessarily remember the individual pieces but they’re still out there helping people, that’s pretty phenomenal and that’s the level I’d love to see everyone get to.
Fraser Jack: [00:53:57] Yeah, absolutely agree. Fantastic. Thank you. Now, I might move on from content. I wanted to chat to you about goals based advice and what your thoughts are around it where you see it being slightly different to traditional advice and how you see it going forward.
Michael Back: [00:54:13] Yeah. It’s an interesting one. I was talking to an advisor about this the other day and they said, they really resent the phrase goals based advice because they don’t believe you can actually give advice unless it’s goals based and if the advice isn’t based on understanding the client and where they want to go, is it actually good advice? I tend to side with that, but to me, goals based is your ticket to the game. If advice you’re giving to anyone in any discipline isn’t based around where that person wants to be in the future, you’d have to question whether you’re doing it for the right reasons and in the right way. On the whole, I think there was a time that I remember in the industry when goals based advice was kind of an interesting concept, particularly for a lot of people who had been very product and strategic focused as opposed to human centric, that’s very much changed.
Michael Back: [00:55:05] So, I think the fact that goals based advice sounds obvious to a lot of advisors, particularly younger advisors now, the fact it sounds obvious is great because it means that we’re a bit more involved as an industry and that we realize that it has to start with goals. I think I was saying this to you the other day Fraser, that I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of financial advice. I think we are in a tough period now, but like I said at the start of this conversation, the best businesses in the world solve very real problems and there’s no one in the world who can convince me that money problems aren’t some of the biggest problems people deal with in their life. But, we’re in a new era. Everything is going to be a lot more transparent in the future. The relationship is going to be more important than it’s ever been. You can’t rest on your laurels. If someone’s sticking their hand in their pocket every month and paying you a fee, they need to feel the ongoing value of your relationship and they need to know that you’re there all the time.
Michael Back: [00:56:06] So, yeah, you’ve just got to double down on the human side of what you’re doing. The bits I’m really interested in seeing how they play out is, I’ve met a lot of people recently who have no financial advice background but have been helping people in different ways with money without being authorized wraps and coming at it from a different way where they go, no, it’s only a six month program and then at the end of six months they’ve be fine. Now, a lot of these people will be able to have the impact that they believe they will have is there to be seen. But there’s new ways of thinking that are entering the industry and I think that’s going to have an interesting affect on how the industry evolves. But yeah, I just think that the people are getting more naturally ... they’re more open to outsourcing in all areas of their life. I think we probably have more people with cleaners in their home than ever before and more people mowing their lawns than ever before because we’re so time poor.
Michael Back: [00:56:59] So, it just makes sense that over time, people, with these big problems around money, are going to be a lot more likely to pay someone to help them with it. So, the industry is bright and there’s so many insanely great people who are in the industry now who are committed to it. So, the culture of the industry I think is changing and it has changed and I think it’s only going to get better and that excites me. The bits I’m really interested in seeing how they play out from goals based advice [inaudible 00:57:29] point of view is, very much around the measurement of the goal and how people can track their progress towards it. So, I thin ka lot of businesses have cracked the code of helping articulate and define really clear goals upfront for finances, but then the relationship enters this zone where it’s like, well, some of those goals are going to take 12 years for us to get to and as we all know, if you’ve got a goal that’s two months away, it can be pretty easy to stay energized towards it, but after 12 ... if you’ve got something 12 years in the future, it can be really hard to stay motivated.
Michael Back: [00:58:06] So, how you keep people incentivized on an ongoing basis and give them little micro wins and micro-high fives and keep that energy up, I think technology is going to play a really big part there and I think there’s some people playing in that space, but I think for the most part, that’s going to be the next frontier for advisors to be experimenting with and seeing what works and becoming very much the coach in their financial life. I know you guys [inaudible 00:58:36] intelligence are playing around with some of that stuff which is really, really cool and yeah, I’m just looking forward to seeing a lot more of that hit the industry as well.
Fraser Jack: [00:58:43] Yeah, that’s a focus to make sure that you can track goals and reward clients as they’re coming through. The motivation towards their goal and keeping that motivation up and then sometimes that motivation has to be away from motivation. You’re not actually [inaudible 00:58:59] towards your goal, you’re going to have to give this goal up or miss out or do something or make some changes to actually force some change habits. So, yeah, we’re really looking forward to ... that’s based on how that develops as well. Tell me, your business, you’ve recently renamed it, are there any other things that you’re working on in your business at the moment as you’re going through this sort of rebranding of your business, if you like?
Michael Back: [00:59:22] Yeah. So, I’ve talked about KPI, [inaudible 00:59:24] more than I expected but they talk about the idea of a product ecosystem. So, just having different levels where you can give value to people. Almost like building that funnel really before your, what they call the core product, so the core service you offer. I’ve got a core product that I’m really proud of and I love being able to help businesses with it, but for me, the focus is now very much around how can I help people scale in ways that don’t require me to fly to their office and hang out in their boiler room for a couple of days with their team.
Michael Back: [00:59:54] So, yeah, I think that’s really exciting and also just ... I’ve niched very [inaudible 01:00:01] financial advice. I do work with businesses in other industries [inaudible 01:00:04] market. So, I niched really well there but I think, I don’t want to just be someone who’s like, oh, I’m a business coach, I can help you with everything in your financial advice practice. I really respect businesses that just say I do this specific thing for this type of business and if what you need is outside of that, I’ve got someone who I will absolutely send you to who’s going to do a great job of that, by just kind of owning what you do and who you do it for I think is really valuable.
Michael Back: [01:00:33] So, I’m still working on the specific clarity around that but yeah, I have such strong conviction around the impact nailing your client experience can have on your clients obviously, but also on your business and as I said before, on your team. I believe this to my very core. So, the more that I can simplify that message and make it more digestible for financial advice businesses, I think it’s going to ... yeah. I believe that this can make a huge difference to the industry. I’m having a lot of fun piecing it all together.
Fraser Jack: [01:01:04] Yeah and to me, because your business is called Human To Human, and to me, it really does sum up what you want to do with your business in helping humans really impact other humans.
Michael Back: [01:01:17] Yeah, and that’s it. B2B, B2C at the end of the day, it’s human to human and that’s all that matters. Yeah, that’s I suppose the rationale behind that. We all have moments in our life where we forget that where we could be presenting to some influential group of people and we get intimidated and yeah, I think it’s a reminder to me just as much as I want it to be a reminder to everyone that at the end of the day, you’re one human trying to make a huge impact on another human being and if you can break down everything you do to that level, I think your business is going to be in a lot better shape.
Fraser Jack: [01:01:49] Yeah and I like to challenge the idea of the comments around disengaged clients or disengaged members in that ... it’s too easy to say I disengage clients, I disengage members, they’re actually human beings, they’re engaged in something just not necessarily us at the time.
Michael Back: [01:02:06] That’s exactly right, yes, spot on. Spot on. Yeah. In working out what they’re engaged in, a lot of the time it’s not about your talking, it’s about your listening and I think that’s one of the rarest skills in business is people who don’t just ... or businesses who look at people and go, I’ve got this square hole, how do I convince you that’s the right shape for you? But to actually go, no, I want to get to know what shape your peg is and then we’ll decide whether this is the right hole for you or not.
Fraser Jack: [01:02:34] So, what are your thoughts on the long term future of the industry, the profession, where it’s going? How it’s moving? With advisors in business obviously, with business evaluations going down and standards coming up and all these sorts of things. How do you see it all, that playing out?
Michael Back: [01:02:51] Yeah, it’s probably not my area of expertise the valuation side of things, although, if you do have a business where people are paying you fees but they don’t even notice and it doesn’t make a difference to their day to day life, they’re obviously going to stick around longer than if they’re putting their hand in their pocket. So, it’s keeping the industry honest but the businesses that have really strong long term relationships are going to have to work a lot harder for them, but the average valuation or the average multiple you would expect would be lower in the future as businesses become a lot more fee for service and goals based. But I think it’s an interesting point because I’ve spoken to a lot of advisors lately who, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the concept of [inaudible 01:03:31] hierarchy, but there’s a pyramid of human needs and at the bottom we’ve got food, water, shelter and then social needs and then right up the top, it’s all about fulfilling your potential and self actualization and all those bigger picture things that you can live without if you want to, but most people want to move past the bottom level so they can get to the really big picture, exciting stuff at the top. So, most people [inaudible 01:03:57] probably not true, but some people want to get to that point.
Michael Back: [01:04:00] I think with all the uncertainty in the industry and the royal commission and a lot of noise and a lot of challenges out there, I’ve found a lot of financial advice businesses, if we were using the analogy of [inaudible 01:04:12] hierarchy, are probably more at the bottom than they are at the top. They’re not thinking of bigger picture stuff, they’re just more concerned about protecting what they have and that’s a really natural reaction. I think and I believe, I might be wrong, but it’s a Kyle Richards graphic where the things you should focus on are the things you can control and the things that matter, when I look at the client experience, I think that it is something that no business in the world can tell me doesn’t matter, but it is also probably the part of your business that you have the most control over.
Michael Back: [01:04:41] So, I think if anything, with all this noise out there, there’s never been a better time to make sure that your client experience is keeping the right clients attached to your business but yeah, there you go, you put it in the background. I can see it right there. What does it say at the bottom? So, it’s things that matter, things that you can control and then [crosstalk 01:05:01]. That’s it. It’s just as relevant to clients investing money when the market goes down as it is to you and your business when the royal commission comes and starts making you fearful for the future. So, I think yeah, I don’t think there’s anything that you can control more than your client experience and anything that matters more in your business than that.
Fraser Jack: [01:05:23] Fantastic. Now, if you were chatting to a consumer, a friend of yours, maybe at a barbecue, and they ask you about what are the tips that you have around them going to see an advisor, what do you say to them?
Michael Back: [01:05:36] Probably won’t surprise you, but yeah, I think ... look, we live in a world where most products are really good. I could buy one of 20 tooth brushes and most of them are going to brush my teeth pretty well. When it comes to advice, there are businesses with different specialties, there are some that are phenomenal and some that are pretty average, but on the whole, I’d say most financial advisors do a really, really good job, certainly most real financial advisors as Kyle Richards would say.
Michael Back: [01:06:07] The difference then becomes well, who do I trust and who do I see myself having a longterm relationship because we have similar values and I can see that no matter how tough times are, I’m going to trust having you in my corner. So, I think rather than worry about fees and features and all the kind of rational stuff, trust your gut and focus on someone who you feel really strongly connected to because chances are, they’re going to have your best interests at heart and that you’re going to be able to see through the tough times and play the long game, because with financial advice, you can’t get it sorted in one or two years, it is a long term game. So, yeah, to a consumer, I’d say make sure you focus on the quality of that relationship and yeah, perhaps find someone who’s reassuringly expensive because usually the cheapest option in town is rarely the best.
Fraser Jack: [01:06:59] Good advice. If you’re having a chat to a young advisor or someone looking to get into starting their own practice, what advice would you give to them?
Michael Back: [01:07:08] I think, I’m going to say two things and they sound like they are contradictory but I think it’s all about that balance. The first is, the classic Zig Ziglar quote that you become the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. Now, I’m not saying to go find the financial advisors you like and sit in their office, but what I’m saying is that we have these fantastic online communities of financial advisors who are pushing the envelope and showing you new ways to do things and have solved a lot of the challenges you need to solve. So, immerse yourself in those worlds. I think Tony Robbins says proximity is power and I completely agree with that.
Michael Back: [01:07:44] So, find the people you want to be like and find out where they hang out and just spend as much time with them as you can. The contradictory but complimentary piece of advice is, make sure you also get out of the industry. Some of the ... what we’re talking about here is behavior change and helping people achieve goals and that doesn’t just happen with money, it happens in all areas of the world. I think we get a bit narrow minded and closed in our own kind of circles and networks and licenses and whatever and sometimes the best ideas come from the weirdest places. So, I think don’t be afraid to and look at it with a bit of critical thinking. Actually, this isn’t about money but I can see a lot of parallels.
Michael Back: [01:08:24] An example I’d give there is, I just have a little bit of an interest in the radio industry and I was listening to an interview with Andy Lee from Hamish and Andy and he talked about that he and Hamish sit down once a year and they know the date that they’re going to sit down, so they can both be ready for the chat and they decide if they’re going to go do the radio show for another year or not. They’re no longer doing radio, they’re doing a podcast but so, this is when they were on radio and I now have a Hamish and Andy chat with all of my clients where we know the day that we’re going to talk about our relationship and whether we’re going to continue and it means that we’re both prepared.
Michael Back: [01:09:00] So, yeah, weird place to get that idea but the same concept of we’re in a relationship and we don’t want to make it a difficult conversation if one of us is not ready to continue it. So, that’s a kind of weird little example but I think sometimes the best ideas come from the weirdest of places.
Fraser Jack: [01:09:15] Yeah, certainly, it sounds like a good idea. Sounds a bit like opt-in though too doesn’t it?
Michael Back: [01:09:21] Yeah, absolutely.
Fraser Jack: [01:09:23] If you’re talking to an advisor that’s maybe running a [inaudible 01:09:26] practice and wants to make some changes or think about making some changes, what do you say to them?
Michael Back: [01:09:32] Probably the similar advice that I give the young one is just immerse yourself and change the stimulus, change the people who are around you and what you’re listening to. Yeah, I think it’s probably never been easier to pivot your business solely because we have the tools and the know-how to do it now, it’s so easy to get. I’d also say if you are ... some people get so distracted by technology and all the tools and stuff like that, but they feel this pressure that they’ve got to build this completely automated just tech driven solution that doesn’t involve people. I think get the human to human, yes I know I’ve said that phrase, aspects of your new business right first and then let’s plug in the ways that we can use technology to scale it, but yeah, I think don’t get too distracted by the tool, just get the value proposition right so you know that you’re consistently solving these problems in a new way that people value and that makes a real difference and then let’s layer the technology over the top, but think too many times when people pivot, they get really excited by the tech without actually focusing on solving a problem in a new and a better way.
Fraser Jack: [01:10:49] Very good. Now, speaking of pivoting, if you could go back in time in your life and give yourself some advice or tips of doing things a little bit differently, or a pep talk, where would you go and what would you say to yourself?
Michael Back: [01:11:01] I think one of the greatest ... when I talked about being a paraplanner, I felt like my strengths are like muscles, if you don’t use them, you lose them. That journey I went on of kind of reconnecting to who I was and what made me me and finding ways to use that to give value to others was the most incredible fulfilling journey I’ve been on, but I set myself a goal at the start of 2012 which was, I wanted to be able to wear a hat to work. It sounds absolutely ridiculous. I do love wearing hats. Hats are like one of my favorite things in the world, but it was really about knowing that I could make a difference by just being me and not needing to subscribe to doing things a certain way. It was really less of a goal around the hat and more of a goal around being able to have a job where I could just be 100% myself at work.
Michael Back: [01:11:56] All the best things that have happened in my working life have been when I’ve been true to who I am and not being afraid to be myself and just going well, look, this is who I am and if that’s not the type of person you want to work with, at least we’ve got to that level earlier rather than me putting on a façade and then we work this out later when things don’t feel right. So, sounds so simple and I don’t know if you can ever say I’m 100% authentic to who I am and acting accordingly, but the best advice I would say to my younger self is just be yourself and just don’t be afraid. It might not mean that you’re the most popular dude in the class, it might not mean that you’re winning all the awards, but they’re the short term issues, but over the long term, things will play out the way they should. So, yeah. Just find your game and play it.
Fraser Jack: [01:12:49] Be yourself, find your game. Long term. That is a remarkable hat that you’re wearing today too by the way. Do you want to quickly describe that hat?
Michael Back: [01:12:56] Yeah. I’ve got this thing. I was actually thinking of launching it but maybe through the podcast I could accidentally launch it. I love the idea of wearing business’s merch, so when people ask about them, there’s a bit of a story. It was something I was thinking of putting out on LinkedIn, is I give you ... find some merch that you want me to wear, I was thinking of doing like a whole year of wearing other business’s merch every single day to work, but this is a little brewery that I found in Armadale called the Welder’s Dog and I met the owner of the brewery and I just loved their story and they’ve kind of disrupted the pub industry in country towns by saying, well, actually, people do like craft beer and they like the story and they like the farm connection and the natural connection to what they’re doing. So, these guys have a really strong sense of line. I loved what they were doing, so I bought the hat and yeah, I’ve been telling everyone about them.
Fraser Jack: [01:13:45] And wearing it to work.
Michael Back: [01:13:47] That’s exactly right. Yes.
Fraser Jack: [01:13:48] Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today Michael. I really, really appreciate all your insights and your candid chats and all the good stuff that advisors can take away. I really appreciate your time and your generosity.
Michael Back: [01:14:02] Absolutely. Look, I think if there was ever a situation where someone could ask me a question and I could help them by just answering that one question, that’s awesome. So, if you wanted to ever bounce anything off me or after this interview have a question, find me on LinkedIn, if you can’t find me under Michael Back, I think my LinkedIn handle is MichaelJBack. I’d absolutely love to help you out in any way I can.
Fraser Jack: [01:14:26] Yeah and Michael’s certainly genuine on that offer. We’ll put all his links in the show notes and you can find him in the show notes and you’ll be able to connect with him and continue the conversation. Thank you Michael.
Michael Back: [01:14:38] Thank you Fraser. Cheers mate.
Fraser Jack: [01:14:41] 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.