Ovation Finance chairman Chris Budd will be writing a monthly column, answering questions from the next generation of financial planners. To kick off, he has shared what advice he would have given to his younger self. Enjoy!
Chris Budd, 30: I’m thinking of starting my own business. Do you have any particular pieces of advice for me?
Chris Budd, 50: Yeah. Don’t do it.
Ha ha, very funny.
No, I’m serious. Your first few years are going to be way tougher than you ever thought they would be. There will be days when you will only be able to eat dry toast for lunch because you won’t be able to afford anything to put on it.
You will be so uptight you will, at times, be unpleasant to your friends, and you will be stressed and depressed in ways that will only manifest themselves 15 years later. Oh, and you won’t have a holiday for three years.
Has there been anything positive about the experience?
Of course! Loads! I’ve worked with some wonderful people. I have the respect of my peers as a business owner, which is important to me.
I’ve found an outlet for my creative side. And I created a business built around ethics and values, of which I am tremendously proud.
And all this came about because you set up your own business?
That’s arguable. I suspect most of it could have been achieved by finding a business that shared my core values.
I’ve tried that, and there aren’t any.
Rubbish. You just haven’t tried hard enough. There are companies out there that do what you want to do.
I know, because I met them a few years later. Only one or two, but I’m sure there are people who share your vision.
What were the things you did right, looking back?
Charging a small retainer fee, which filtered clients who would commit to a long-term relationship. Logging and charging time. Specialising in something (in my case self-invested pensions, Sipps and SSAS). Only taking on cost when absolutely necessary.
I guess the biggest thing, however, was having a vision that I stuck to. I was, quite literally, laughed at by certain colleagues. Being a slave to my vision may have turned out to be a mistake, of course – I certainly would have earned a lot more money if I’d abandoned or compromised it.
In the end, however, having something I really believed in did see me through the dark times.
And what would you have done differently? Apart from not doing it, obviously!
I should have taken more care of myself. There was one 18-month period where I only took one and a half days annual leave.
I wasn’t a very pleasant person, which I only realised when we finally took a two-week family holiday and I found myself again in the second week. I realised I didn’t want to spend my life only really being myself for one week in every 52.
Any business decisions I could learn from?
Stick to your principles. I vividly recall an accountant saying if I took commission and gave him a kickback, he would introduce clients to me.
I was desperate at the time, but knew dropping my fee-based principle was a line I couldn’t cross.
On the other hand, it’s important to let others into the business and allow them space to develop their own ideas.
Now, I have a question for you. In 20 years’ time, when you look back, what will have to have happened for you to consider that time to be a success?
Oh that’s a tough one. I haven’t really thought about that.
Then do not start your business until you have worked that one out. Because finding a like-minded employer might just give you all you want without the risk.
If you have a question for Chris to answer in his next column, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.