My BUSINESS CROSSROADS, Part 1 (And an apology for scaring a few people)

So a few days ago, I reposted this article:


How I Stopped Being Obsessed with Financial Correctness


...as well as my good bye message to close the blog down, which was from back in September last year.


I got one call, 2 messages on Instagram and some private messages on Facebook/Whatsapp from my newer clients.


Big, big whoops.

Just to clear up a misunderstanding - Money Maverick is not leaving the industry or blogging, especially for those of you who are new.


I am really sorry. I just wanted to re-post some of the articles that were missed during the transition.


I miss both the old logo and the old Money Maverick team, from time to time.

I wrote the article back in September 2019, because I was in a part of my life where I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go.

There would be so many decisions to make from that point. I want to share some of them now, and hope it will be useful to you.


This is Part 1, where I will go through more of my current business challenges - and I will follow it up with Part 2 which is more relatable to people who are very much starting out their business in their 1st year.


Maybe some of you who are Financial Consultants may curse me for my First-World problems for Part 1, but a) This is the result of literal years of hard work. Yes. I actually get to say that now. It's scary and I feel old. b) You can see the challenge of growing your business. If you look at Covid, greater and larger businesses than myself have crashed overnight. I am fortunate to get away with a significant 'pay cut' and time to learn how to adapt.


It only takes one mistake and this opportunity to reflect will hopefully lower the probability of that on my end. When I used to do business consultancy for start up companies (not like Seedly-size start ups, but much smaller start ups), studies showed that many of them would fail not because they were bad but because they were good.


I will attempt to illustrate this later, and it will also serve as a lesson to entrepreneurs.



CHALLENGE 1: How should you handle a sudden and malicious threat to your business?


A big part of this started when someone reported (specifically, TRIED) to report me to MAS. The person had tracked down 2 years of my work (2018, 2019) and taken every part they could find, largely out of context and tried to match them to MAS social media guidelines.


Wow.


Now obviously a lot of this was taken out of context, which left me in quite a comfortable position to defend myself easily. But it took a lot of time, quite a few very uncomfortable meetings and I found myself constantly angry and frustrated. It's like getting sued and while you're not particularly worried, it takes up a lot of time and opportunity cost.


Did I love blogging enough to continue it, in the face of the adversity and upcoming adversity?


Even without this person trying to kill me off - until today, most other financial bloggers hold views in wild opposition to me. At best, they tolerate me or respect me a little. At worst, they don't believe I'm as good as they are and would go through a surprising amount not to let me get my voice out.

You always see a non-stop barrage of people saying


"Instead of paying for your Financial Advisor's new car'

"Whose pockets are ILPs really lining?"


[Yours, if you had better asset allocation sense and didn't choose a high sum assured]

It's so incredibly dehumanizing and it's one thing to live with people talking like that around you every week, yet its another thing to know that someone has singled you out entirely.


And I make no money from blogging anyway. I just wanted to correct financial misconceptions, of which there are a lot, and I actually did a halfway decent job.


[Though it was probably finalized by Loo Cheng Chuan, its not like my time in 2017 where people would non stop invest in the STI ETF blindly.] I could 'settle', and continue the other aspects of my business by closing down the blog.


Sometimes your business or life will come to a point where you may have to cut out something that you loved that turned negative very quickly.


Whether its a partner turned bad [both personally and professionally], or a part of the business that doesn't make sense anymore if it can be done more efficiently.


CHALLENGE 2: Should you change your model of business?

Part of why I was seriously contemplating quitting was because I had accumulated 3 years of experience in this line already. The attrition rate for people in financial sales is pretty high in the first two years.


Since I had a 'base' which is what people in this industry basically screamed at since I first joined - I could do referral campaigns and live off those for the rest of my life instead, like most experienced agents.


I considered this quite a bit, because it seemed like a much safer approach than looking at rapid expansion.

CHALLENGE 3: When is the best time to scale your business, and what ways are there to do it?

...Or should I move to management?


The people who do MDRT in their first year and become managers aren't usually successful later. This is important, for people who have been aggressively sold on that kind of lifestyle.


To be fair, the probability of being an MDRT member already makes you a statistical minority in your field. [top 6%]


So for you reading this, agent or otherwise - if you think you can be even MORE of an outlier in your field, you may want to transition towards scaling your business very quickly by training understudies and hiring people with the full confidence that you're even more of an exceptional leader than an exceptional worker in your field.

And this is important because it really applies to everyone.


I've written on this, about the Peter Principle - where people who are good at what they do may not be good leaders because its a completely different skill set. I've known amazing on the ground engineers who lamented promotions because they became mediocre project leaders.

Leadership is a different animal from consultancy on the ground, but this was why I joined...right?


SEE ALSO: The Peter Principle – How It’s Been Hurting YOUR Career! (and your money by extension)



CHALLENGE 4) No, seriously, when?

I was also facing problems because I had lost my Money Maverick team at the end of 2018. Both moved on to bigger and better things, and rightfully so. My PA basically ran my business and my web guy did a lot of work I couldn't or wasn't willing to do. Losing them was a tremendous loss, and a problem was that they were both hired pretty organically.


Hiring people has...not gone super well for me.


You know that saying about an entitled generation of youngsters? You probably don't start believing it until you actually try it with a bunch of people. Trust me. It's fairly terrifying how some of these kids behave.


What I've seen in SMEs that eventually collapse is as such:


1) SME starts out promising. Great product, great service. Skeleton crew, maybe 3 people at most, or even just one person solo.


2) Demand starts to outweigh supply.


3) SME is not prepared for expansion. They...


a) Burn themselves out heavily before conceding that more manpower is required

b) Significant damage is done to their business quality before they realize this conclusion

c) The search for talent to expand is rushed

d) As a result, additional staff does not help very much. This adds to costs (reduced profits) but quality is further lowered

e) Demand hits a breaking point where there is dissatisfaction due to poor customer service (e.g. orders are late or wrong) f) Demand starts to drop drastically and the business never recovers


There's a thousand case studies of this and millions more unsung examples, especially because entrepreneurs don't seem very equipped to deal with how successful they could become and the consequences for those success.


It becomes even harder for an entrepreneur to adapt once they realize they simply aren't doing as well as before - having to lay off staff, take a personal paycut and look towards recovery.


On my end, I decided not to take that chance at this juncture. It might not have been the right move, but it was my move.


I eventually went back to basics and the basic hiring process:

1) Contract Work: For testing over a period of time.

2) Part Time: Hiring a regular person for semi-regular work.

3) Full Time: (eventually)?


CHALLENGE 5) Or should you try your business under different leadership? [or selling your business]

This one might be equally, or more relevant to those of you who are employed or in a master franchise like myself.


Should I leave my firm?: I’d heard a tremendous amount of horror stories from nasty leaders or nasty companies and I’d never really thought about leaving. But trying to take Money Maverick to the next level on my own seemed like such a daunting task. I met all sorts of leaders before I achieved my MDRT, and I absolutely refused to have a serious career conversation with them until I achieved my MDRT first. The results surprised me. While of course, I was swamped (and continue till today to be swamped) with idiots who had REALLY NO BUSINESS BEING IN LEADERSHIP IN THE SLIGHTEST (and anyway they had either no value to add or made less than me, for good reason)…

…some people thoroughly impressed me to the point that if there was enough to make up for the opportunity cost of transition [time, money, ensuring my clients stay with me, etc] with an added bonus, I likely would have left. The Four Values I look out for are Business Ability:


The greater understanding on how to expand both his/her business as a team/organization as well as how to expand MY business and brand, how to avoid the conflicts of interests involved.

Some other basics also involve PR, Marketing, Recruitment, Expansion [3rd Party Hiring].



Technical Ability:


I.e: How good someone is at their job. Fundamentals involving knowledge, application of that knowledge, consistent improvement of client servicing, adaptation to new business opportunities.


Compensation:


Relative Income has always been much more important to me than Absolute Income - in other words, how much I make an hour is much more important than how much I make a month.


I would be looking at


a) Higher per hour Compensation - Or basically being able to make more money for the EXACT same amount or type of work. The equivalent would be for people who are getting a higher pay at another company.


A Sizeable Cross-Over package - Signing a package to move over would essentially be agreeing to sell my business (to some degree), much like some of you who are looking at that.


You may not always agree with your valuation and the conditions of that buy-over, but it may be more beneficial to you to be bought over, especially if (for example, in my case) you may be able to do the work you want for more money per hour.



Freedom of Movement:


The ability to do what I want for the business, whenever I want it. This has always been important to me because my working style is structured-disorganized.


I actually work better when I have a messy desk (knowing I have work that needs to be done), large space and ways to make myself comfortable: bright lights, snacks, etc. One look at my desk would tell you this.


Disclaimer: Not an alcoholic.

What I did Eventually


Ultimately, I will be at my firm for another year. There are some tips I would leave if you are facing some challenges similar to me: a) Factor in Your Happiness:


Aside from the logically quantitative aspects, you have to consider things like your emotional tempo and your morale.

For example, you could be a particularly productive worker because your boss (or investors, in some of your cases) is not a micromanager. That may no longer apply after making a change in your business.


b) Communicate With Your 'Boss':


Whether its your parents, wife, investors, partners, or just anyone in your life who you are accountable to - tell them how you're feeling and what you're thinking in relation to your business.


Some people may caution against this because there are potential negative consequences, but it's the only way to really move forward without regrets. You'd be surprised what a little honest conversation can do.


c) Set a Yearly Goal for Yourself:


If you decide to stay, go or whatever - you have to set the goal. What will that decision accomplish?


There's a lot of people who quit this or that or try this or that due to feelings. Or a saturation of very negative feelings for what could be a potentially short period of time only, or a misunderstanding. Then its too late - you've created bad blood, or you're in a worse position. Realize and aim for what you want changed and then try to make it happen with a deadline in mind.



Closing Thoughts


I hope that you will be able to make a more informed decision about some of the challenges that you may face in relation to your business.


If you can relate to any of these problems, the good news is that you have some value and you have some good fortune with you. I'll be talking about the much harder problems in My Business Crossroads - Part II. If you'd just like someone to talk to about these things, my door is always open. I am not a professional career counselor or psychologist, but hopefully someone who has these struggles can relate, and we can help each other.



Money Maverick

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The views, opinion and information in all articles are those of the author. These materials do not represent or reflect the views of Manulife Financial Advisors nor is endorsed by them. Manulife Financial Advisors shall not be liable or responsible for the materials of the author. 

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