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My business week

Rebecca Aldridge is Chartered Financial Planner and Managing Director of Balance: Wealth Planning. She talks to Adviser Business Review about a typical week in the office

A typical working week starts at 8.30am on a Monday morning, when I arrive at the office. I spend the first hour looking at what’s ahead for the next five days and making sure I’m completely prepared. I send reminders to everyone I have meetings scheduled with and if it’s a ‘vision and goals meeting’, where we discuss what clients want and value in their lives, I email three key questions for them to think about in advance too.

At 9.30am, the team comes together for a short, sharp 30-minute ‘week ahead’ meeting over Skype as we’re spread across Derby and Nottingham. It’s important we all touch base and have five minutes each to review what’s going well, highlight any issues and discuss what we’ve got planned that week.

One of the questions I always ask is ‘are we prepared for the unexpected?’ We aim to have an environment where we can easily accommodate whatever comes our way, be it a short notice client meeting, or a piece of work taking much longer than we planned.

We also hold a monthly strategy meeting, where we look at the management information for the past month and year, from existing and prospective client numbers and value to referrals in and out, profit and budget. We also review our financial forecasts for the next twelve months and adjust our strategy as needed. It’s a time to look at the big picture, the opportunities for us and potential problems too.

Prospective clients

Once the morning meeting is out of the way, my day, and indeed the rest of my week, will be taken up with a variety of tasks. On average, I see two prospective clients a week. These come from a variety of sources, including recommendations and professional referrals, and around 50% come from finding us online.

The first meeting is all about discovery – I want to understand exactly what it is they’re looking for, what’s prompted them to get in touch and see if we can help. I don’t place a time limit on these meetings.

In my view, the person I’m meeting is looking for a long-term professional relationship. They must decide whether they like and trust me and I don’t believe you can always make that judgment and be clear about what you’re looking for if you are only given a short time slot.

A good three quarters of initial meetings result in a new client, so for me it’s a worthwhile use of my time.

Existing client meetings

In addition, I normally see one existing client a week.

I had a very interesting and warming client experience recently. A lady, who had a successful but modest career, bought shares in her firm many years ago and received £2.5 million when they were sold. It was a huge and overwhelming sum of money for her and she was very nervous about what to do with it.

We spent a lot of time talking through her vision – what would she like her life to be like? What would she like to achieve for her and her family? Like many people security and family were top on her priority list. We discussed buying properties for her children, building a house for herself and her partner and even setting up her own lifestyle business which had always been a secret pipedream.

I built a cashflow forecast to demonstrate that she could do all of that, as well as spend more money on a car, a nice holiday etc. and still have a very decent income. Through our meetings she came to realise she could enjoy her money and watch her family benefit too.

As well as offering her financial advice, I put her in touch with a lawyer to help with her will and a contact at her bank, who discreetly set up the right accounts for her with no hassle. It was lovely to be able to help her on all fronts and to see her be able to do things she never thought were possible.

The paperwork!

Of course, with clients comes admin and at the moment writing client reports takes up a significant chunk of my time. We are in the process of looking for a paraplanner, whom I hope to hire in the first quarter of 2016.

Although they take time to do, I have actually found writing reports to be very valuable – as a business owner, it’s important I understand every aspect of the business and create processes that are robust and repeatable. Writing the reports myself has given me that insight. That said, it will be nice to have the extra help next year!

Business development

Outside of the office, I like to attend at least one networking event per week. I am part of a businesswoman’s networking group. We meet over lunch once a month, and I also attend a regular business networking group in the evening once a month.

There are often other things I sign up to if they sound interesting, like a recent series of seminars at Nottingham University or a TED talk in Leicester a few months ago. I don’t like pressured, leads-driven networking events, I much prefer a more relaxed, sociable environment. I enjoy meeting new and interesting people and having a chat over a glass of wine.

I also aim to meet up with a professional connection once a week too, and over a cup of coffee we put the world to rights! It’s lovely to be able to have that catch up and nurture that relationship to see what we can do for each other.

Personal time

I always ensure that I take some time out in the week to meditate, and I encourage my staff to do the same. We all have access to the Headspace meditation app, and I really find it helps if I’m concerned about something or need to avoid the distractions and focus.

I finish for the day around 5pm. All of my team have flexible working hours, as I really believe people prefer to work that way. I encourage people to use their time how it suits them, so they have a good work/life balance and work when they are at their best.

I work with people I trust; we are all professionals, and I know they will get the job done. On a Friday, I end the day a little earlier, so that I can take my children to their gymnastics class, have dinner out together and unwind for the weekend!

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