How to Build a Successful Advice Business, Without Prior Advice Experience! w/Jessica Brady [Ep62]

Welcome to episode 62 of The Innovating Advice Show. 

I’m joined by Jessica Brady, co-founder of Fox & Hare in Australia.

Whether you’re planning to start your own business or looking at ways to innovate an existing business, this episode is chock full of great advice.

Jess walks us through the two years of planning that she and her business partner, Glen, did before launching Fox & Hare. She discusses the focus groups they conducted, and continue to host annually, and why all advice businesses should do the same. She also shares how they gain media exposure, the many things you can do pre-launch, even if you’ve got non-competes, and why, if you’ve done your research, you should launch that business even if everyone is telling you you’re crazy.

Fox & Hare launched three short years ago and is on track to have a team of 13 by the end of 2020. What’s most fascinating about that is the neither Jess nor Glen had prior experience as advisors, proving that innovative thinking and solid planning are far more important than technical expertise.


Guest Bio

Jessica has been in financial services for over 13 years. She has worked for CBA, Macquarie Bank and Zurich. She realised people in her age group were more interested in planning their meals and holidays than their financial future…so in 2017, she co-founded Fox & Hare financial advice. They have a focus on creating more diversity for those giving and receiving financial advice. She has been in numerous publications including the AFR, Smart Property Investor and New Idea to name a few. In 2018 Jessica was a finalist for Financial Adviser of the Year in both the Young Leaders in Finance Awards and Women In Finance Awards and was recently awarded the 2019 Newcomer of the year at the prestigious IFA awards.


00:40 - Introducing Jess Brady

03:06 - Where the name Fox & Hare came from

04:25 - How Fox & Hare came about

06:00 - Planning the launch

07:04 - Having no previous experience as financial advisers

08:45 - Quitting your job

10:00 - What to focus on when starting your own business

14:38 - How much time went into planning and prep

15:14 - Going into a partnership

16:57 - The first day of business

17:45 - The importance of focus groups

22:00 - Having Members instead of Clients

22:40 - What could have been done differently

25:26 - Starting to hire

25:55 - Having a waitlist

27:34 - The fee structure

29:24 - How new members find the community

31:05 - The PR strategy

33:36 - Overcoming internal fears

36:00 - Getting clear on what you want

Full Transcript

Kate: Hi, Jess, welcome to the show.

Jess: Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Kate: It's great. I'm trying to soak up some of the coolness that you have, cause it's so hot and warm here.

Kate: So you're super far away in Australia, but I always love how easy it is to connect with people all over the world and learn about the great things they're doing in business and their amazing stories and how they got there.

Jess: Well, I'm so excited to tell you a little bit more about our journey and I have to say from the outset Australia's winter pales in comparison to winters  elsewhere in the world. So my version of cold is not necessarily everyone else's version of cold.

Kate: Right. But I, I love that. I love that. Nice, not super intense cold, like we get in the Midwest U.S here. That's that's too much, too much for me.

Kate: So you and Glenn started Fox and Hare. So let's start with where that name came from.

Jess: Sure. I'd love to tell you that I was creative enough to come up with it, but alas, I wasn't. Glen and I spent so long thinking about what do we want to name this business? And for us, we wanted to do something that was different and unique and memorable. And we've had people tell us, it sounds like a pub. And it sounds like a creative agency. And that is exciting to us because it doesn't sound like a financial advice business. But my business partner, his name is Glen Hare, like the animal. And I have red hair, like a Fox. And so my girlfriend said, why don't you name it Fox & Hare. And I thought, that's it. After, you know, doing all these workshops and really trying to find a name, that just stuck with me and it's, I guess it's a bit of a play on the financial advice businesses that put the two partners surnames together as well, but now it's become its own thing.

Jess: And yeah, it's taken on a life of its own. It's no longer just about Glen and I, which is fantastic and is resonating with the younger market.

Kate: And it's just super fun. I mean, the first time I heard it, I just, I felt this like warmth and you know, fun personality that was behind it. It didn't come off as, Hey, I'm, like you said, the super serious financial advice business.  It could be anything. And so it's very welcoming.

Jess: Thank you! That is exactly what we were hoping for.

Kate: Good! So how did you and Glen meet and how did Fox and Hare come about?

Jess: Sure. So Glen and I both worked at Macquarie bank, which is a pretty well known investment bank in Australia and actually our clients were financial advisors. So Glen and I spent a lot of time on the road together, seeing our financial advisor clients.

Jess: And we got talking about, you know, what, what are you doing in your career progression and what do you want to do? And what we both realized was that the level of management, which was the logical next step in corporate, didn't really appeal to either of us. And so we got talking about, well, what would we love to do? And what was very obvious from our road trips to see other financial advisors in Australia is financialadvice is largely targeted towards pre and post retiree clients. And we were in our mid twenties and we were like, what about us? We earn good money. We're really ambitious. We have all these grand plans, but we don't know how to get there. And so we went on quite the journey to starting Fox & Hare but we did a lot of work pre-launch. So we did about two years of work incognito while still working at our corporate role.

Jess: Yeah. So that when we launched, it was a pretty well structured and organized, you know, our business, our website was done. We had 10 members ready to work with us already. So quite a non traditional start to a financial advice business from what I understand from others who've gone out and done it as well.

Kate: That's great. So what were some of those key things that you knew you had to have in place I mean, taking two years, that's doing it nice and thoughtfully while you're still in your main businesses. So did you have a roadmap of, Hey, we have to have these 10 things ready to go before we can take the leap.

Jess: Yes, definitely. So Glen is an incredibly structured and organized human, which I'm ever eternally grateful for because I am not. and we, yeah, we ran a project management system.

Jess: We had very clear projects, actually different projects around, well, what's our value proposition and what's going to be our fee structure and who will we be license through and who are we targeting? What's our marketing plan. We basically looked at every facet of the business and tried as best we could to plan ahead of time. Now, of course, there's one thing around preparing it in isolation to it being real. And then when you launch you to realize, Oh, okay, this is how the real world works. Things are very different to how we expected. But alot of the work that we did upfront has completely  helped us and enabled us to grow at a very rapid rate since launch.

Kate: Yeah, definitely. And you said you both worked with advisors. So how much experience did you have AS advisors? 

Jess: Well, you know, starting a new advice business when you've never run a business before, youwould assume you would have at least been an advisor before, but Glenn and I had neither ran a business  nor been advisors.

Jess: So to say it was a learning curve is most definitely an understatement.

Kate: But how much of that do you think actually benefited you from coming from a completely fresh place where you didn't have anything that you had to unlearn and you could just look at everything with fresh eyes. Do you think that was an asset in going out on your own?

Jess: Oh, 100%. And I think if I had known the effort and energy required to get Fox and Hare to where it is now, I'm also not sure that we maybe would have done it. In all seriousness, it was a huge learning curve, but you're right. Tobe able to look at things and really stress test. Why, why are we doing things like that? Why does it need to be done like that? Is there a better way? is very invaluable. And obviously we had advisors as mentors in our very early days.

Jess: And we had all of our strategies checked and cross checks from a compliance perspective. So we were really able to pick up, our knowledge gap quite quickly. But yeah, we, we come at things from a very different angle and I think that that's because A)we're from a corporate background and B, because we don't have the shackles of these ingrained beliefs and ways to do things that perhaps some other people have who've been giving advice for a long time.

Kate: And do you think as you were going about setting up your business because you weren't advisors, was that possibly easier to do on the side? Cause I know a lot of times advisors have non-competes and they've got a lot of ties to organizations. And so they find themselves in a position where they almost have to leave before they can begin the process of starting a business.

Jess: Yeah. And I would agree with that. So it was a strange situation for us because obviously we couldn't run it as a side hustle and have it as just a small business and then hope that it would grow enough so that we could reduce our corporate role. We were under a contractual agreement where we were either working for the corporate or we weren't. And so that became quite big and scary to take a leap of faith to really the unknown. but we didn't have all those traditional non-competes about clients or members moving across. but whatwe tried to focus on was what are all of the other things that we can do that are within our control right now, to make sure that when we do launch, we have created enough momentum and created enough of a strategy so that we're not having to scramble and work with ANYONE to bring in revenue because we wanted to be really clear on who we help best and we wanted to  stay really true to that.

Kate: That's super important. So what would you say are those top things? You listed a few, but I just wanna make sure we repeat them. Cause I know there are people out there thinking, Hey, I think I want to do this, but it feels super far down the line. And so I don't know where to start now, but I think having some of that momentum and saying, Hey, these are the five things I can do now to just get the ball rolling. And that was so great. How you just put it, we wanted to be ready and confident knowing that we would be only working with our ideal clients and not taking on anyone. And that is as you know, one of the biggest challenges in starting your own business is, Hey, you have to say yes to everything because you need income coming in.

Jess: Yes. And, Ifind it beautifully ironic that in a lot of situations financial advisors haven't financially planned for starting their own business and the revenue that, the, capital that they need to start the business and also what they need to live off. And so that was also part of the lead time. So that when we launched, we knew we didn't have to take an income for at least 12 months so that we had the space to be able to build what we wanted to build. And yeah, I think, I think it's important. I think it's important that we practice what we preach in that respect as well. But some of the things that we did focus on, so, licensing, we spend a lot of time doing due diligence on who was the right licensing structure for us in Australia. It was very interesting timing because we were in the middle of a Royal commission into financial advice and there was a huge sort of antiestablishment  wave coming through for younger people.

Jess: And so we held a focus group and one of the main topics we talked about was "what do you want to see from an ownership perspective of our business?" And what came through really loud and clear from these people was we want you to be unaligned to any larger organization. So that was a really interesting finding that I don't think we would have given as much focus and attention to had we not heard from our ideal clients, what they wanted in terms of that, because there was a perceived conflict of interest.

Kate: So putting it simply  it sounds like it's kind of really going a truly independent route as much as possible.

Kate: Yeah. In Australia we have some really interesting terms. We must be called unaligned as opposed to independent  because we take commission on insurance and so you're right. We, as a license have no ownership by any of the big players.

Jess: In fact, there's just three of us who we run a sort of co-op style. and that gives us full autonomy. And it means that members know that there isn't a tie to a larger institution. And for them specifically, that was a concern that they had and a barrier that they had getting financial advice from us. So I think that that was a really interesting piece of research that we did before launch. And it did very much affect how we decided on our licensing options.

Jess: We did all of the marketing and PR strategies prelaunch. We came up with the coaching programs that we have and the pricing models for those coaching programs, pre launch and the member journey. So we really mapped out when someone reaches out to us, what is the experience that they're going to get all the way from initial reach out to strategy and recommendation being delivered to them and what technology will we use to support that.

Jess: So they were sort of the key pillars that we focused on initially, and of course they've ever evolved and changed and been added to.But that really meant that when we did launch, we had a really great understanding of our ideal member because we had focus groups to ask them, we had a brand strategy, we had a website, we had a logo, we had programs to show people, and we had a really rough, rough idea of how the member would engage with us along the way.

Kate: And then it sounds like that also means that you had those expense outlays while you still had an income so that it wasn't this sudden outflow of cash when you started the business, starting everything from scratch. 

Jess: You are correct. And one of our mentors, I will never forget this, had breakfast with us and we said to him 'we think we're just going to get an off-the-shelf website to save on costs and it will cost us next to nothing. And he said, you know, you're really targeting high quality professional young people. They are going to look at that and know straight away that that's, you know, exactly what it is, an off the shelf website. I think you need a custom  designed one for the target market that you are working with. And he was very right. And that was a huge investment that we paid for while we were still in corporate. And it was a big, big investment, but it is still almost three years later paying really big dividends for us.

Kate: That's great. So how much time would you say you spent in an average, I don't know, week or month during those two years on getting all of this stuff ready?

Jess: Yes. So we had, one evening a week where we would come together because we used to be able to do that and have a face to faces, but then throughout the week, because we were running a project management system, we obviously were interacting through that.

Jess: And then I think it was about every second weekend for almost a whole day. So there was a huge investment of time.

Kate: Yeah. Wow. But it paid off.

Jess: Yes, it did.

Kate: Yes. So big question. What due diligence did you do - I know you worked together and you traveled together, but going into actual partnership is a big deal. So what were those conversations to decide if you were right for each other in that?

Jess: I'd love to tell you that we sort of had all of these very clear questions that we interviewed each other on, but that would be a lie. We didn't do that. however, when we had our weekly sessions, it just became so apparent that there was so much value alignment. We are exceptionally aligned in what we were trying to build and deliver. And I think that that is in any partnership, such an important piece.

Jess: And we also have extremely different skillsets. So whilst we both want a common goal or common outcome, we come at things from really different angles. And that also became really obvious as we were going through almost like that two year professional dating process, where we had the time to learn about what do you want to see here And what's your idea and what's your vision. And so we had the luxury of time to make sure that there was a really good alignment and that has worked extremely well for us because it is a really big risk when you go into business with someone.

Kate: Yeah. So did you have any kind of a business agreement in place prior to launching?

Jess: Yes. So, again, back to practicing what we preach, obviously we had a terms of engagement agreement. We had a shareholders agreement, we were very clear on, you know, that this was something that we needed to set up properly from day one.

Jess: And we wanted to make sure that it wasn't an egg that we had to try to unscramble later. So yeah, we put all of those provisions in place.

Kate: Yeah. Fantastic. Okay. So you spent these two years, super thoughtful, got all of your PR, your client journey, got all of your licensing in place. Everything's ready to go. You hit the ground running day one. And then what does it look like?

Jess: Oh my gosh, it was wild. So I used to do a lot of speaking at financial advisor conferences actually globally, which was an amazing role. and so I landed from a conference that I'd been speaking at, in New Zealand on Friday night, Saturday morning, I got up and we did a photo shoot for all of the, the photos for our website and, all our videos for the website. Monday morning at  9:30, I had my first client meeting.

Kate: Wow!

Jess: Yeah. So when I say it was like a really intense period, it was a really intense period. But yet we had, because, what was interesting was these people who came to our focus groups cause we held a number of them over that period. The intention really was not to have them come on as members. We didn't want to sell to them. That wasn't really what it was about, but what ended up happening was people were really interested in what we were doing and learning more and understanding, Oh, I think I could benefit from advice that looks like this. And of course, because they gave us their insights and input, which we took on board. We were the first people that they called when they were ready to get advice. And so, because we had 10 members ready to go when we opened the doors, what we explained to them was, you know, you need to understand  that you are helping us build the Fox and Hare journey.

Jess: And so our first 10 members really helped understand for us where were our gaps and what do we need to improve on So I would say the first three months we brought on those 10 members. And even that time we got an inordinate amount of PR and then it just sort of exploded from there.

Kate: So how did you put together those focus groups? Where do those people come from?

Jess: Great question. So firstly, we had them externally facilitated. I think that that's extremely important. Yes. Because otherwise you just sell them your dream. Cause you're so passionate about what you want to do. And we wanted to make sure that actually we weren't spending any time doing that. We were just sitting at the back and we were writing lots of notes and we were listening very intently. so we had them facilitated by someone who worked in market research and he was fantastic at facilitation and he is one of our members.

Jess: He was one of our first members. and then we actually asked our friends and connections to introduce us to their friends and connections who were in our ideal age demographic, but were not close contacts of Glen and I, because when they're your friends, they think everything that you're doing is great. And they want to tell you how good you are and pump up your tires. But we wanted honest feedback about where things were wrong. We wanted people to tell us, you know, give us really Sage advice on where we think we can think and do differently. And so, practically they were held in a pub in Australia. This is where very important meetings are held. It was at nighttime. And all we did in terms of cost, it cost us almost nothing. we hired a private room in the pub. We put on some wine and some cheese and we paid the facilitator.

Jess: We gave them all a small gift. and people were really open to spending an hour or two hours with us. In fact, some of them, we couldn't get them to stop. and we've continued that. So since launching, we do annual focus groups for existing members about what do you want to see differently from the Fox and Hare experience. and we also do non-member focus groups to see how we can continue to appeal to people who aren't yet on the Fox and Hare advice journey.

Kate: I love all of that. So you found the people, friends of friends and you said, Hey, invite them. And there was no pressure. You were like this isn't a sales pitch. It truly is just a focus group. And then you found this person to facilitate, but you said it wasn't expensive. So that surprising, I would think...

Jess: Well, depending on how much wine people drank, but, no, it wasn't.

Jess: I mean, people think that these, these things need to be big and onerous and complicated, like trying to pop and say, do you have a small room What's your minimum spend We paid for the market research. So we paid for some small gifts for people who attended. And that is it. But whatwe got was so much valuable insight and you know, two hours of our time just meant I can remember Glen and I just looking at each other often, one of the sessions going, Oh my gosh, we have so much to dissect here. We have so much to think about how do we bring these fantastic insights into our business because to be really Frank, like I'm in my early thirties. So is Glen. We thought that we knew our demographic because we are in it. But so much of what came out of those sessions was like gold.

Jess: We were like, of course that's how we should do it. Of course that's how we should approach it. But we just, hadn't been thinking like potential members. We did have that finance layer, to us. And it's important to recognize that I think we all would based on our experience.

Kate: Sure. So you call the members instead of clients or customers.

Jess: This is new. And I, I we've been doing this since the beginning of this year and sometimes I flip out, but I'm really trying to stay consistent with my language. Yes. Because what we are trying to build is a community. And then it becomes not just about the financial advice that you receive in the form of a strategy, but everything else that we can deliver to you as part of being a member of Fox & Hare, and this is something that we've got really grand plans for.

Jess: I would say the membership in itself is very much in its infancy.

Kate: Oh, I'm excited to see how that develops and speaking of development. So what were some of those things that you started in the initial 12 months and looking back now that you wish you knew earlier because you've evolved or changed it over the last couple of years?

Jess: Yeah. So Glen and I were talking about this and we thought, you know, what would we have done differently It's interesting too, to reflect on your journey and think about where there were areas that you would definitely go back and change. And a lot of it, we wouldn't, some of the things we thought about was would we have borrowed money because we started with no clients and no experience delivering advice, arguably the hardest  route to go down. and it really meant that we bootstrapped everything and we have worked so exceptionally hard, to get us where we are today.

Jess: But I think about, you know, we were offered capital, in the early days and we didn't take it. and I just think about what that could have meant in the early days in terms of being able to bring on staff early or make, you know, bigger decisions that were really limited, for us because of capital. I think we probably would have borrowed money earlier. We haven't borrowed money at all in the journey. but I think we probably would have, if we could do it again.

Jess: We did not embrace our financial advice technology when we started the business. Yes. Because it's ugly. And we were using all this nonfinancial tech because we love tech. And so we got really used to this beautiful, industry agnostic tech, and then we got it into our financial advice tech and we were like, you know, this is ugly and it doesn't work properly and things aren't great.

Jess: And that just led to honestly, almost just complete breakdown, Glen and I were just getting so stressed because we had to then go back and obviously, with our tail between our legs and say to our license  okay, we're ready. We're ready now to embrace this technology that you've been telling us to use. And that was a big remediation process of getting all of the data in there as well, so that we could do all of the modeling. but Ithink when you're young and tech savvy, you just expect that financial services tech will do all the things that you want it to do. And here in Australia, that is definitely not how it works. And so we've ended up with a bit of a patchwork or ecosystem of tech. And in the beginning, we were really keen on just keeping tech to an absolute minimum, but of course we've realized that that's just not going to work.

Jess: So that's something that we would definitely have done differently. we would have hired ahead of time. So we hired when we absolutely needed to, again, because we didn't have any capital we would have hired with definitely a runway so that they didn't need to come in and start doing things immediately. So that's definitely a good learning. And we're trying to embrace that now.

Kate: So how many people are at Fox and Hare now? It started with just the two of you and then how long until you hired your first person?

Jess: So you're right. It started with the two of us. And then I think it took about nine months to hire our first person. And then it has been a steady, steady stream since then. We now have 10 people in the Fox & Hare family. Wow. And I'm like, yeah, I'm currently hiring.

Jess: Well, three more. So we will get to 13 hopefully before the end of 2020.

Kate: That's incredible. And that's also because you have a wait list, which is a huge testament to all of the work you've done and what you and Glen have built.

Jess: Thank you. Yeah. It was scary to come up with this concept of a  waitlist. And actually when we turned two, we took the team to an offsite and we had a high performance coach and she talked about whatare the current business challenges And we said, you know, we're in this really interesting position because we have lots of people reaching out to us, but we just don't think we can handle the amount of people and do the work at the quality that we want to. And she just flippantly said, why don't you have a  waitlist And we were like, Oh, because will people wait?

Jess: And she said, of course, people will wait. In fact, exclusivity creates more interest in what you do. And we talked about on that day, how we position our wait list, which is really important. And it is saying to them, we only bring on a certain amount of new members per month because we want to make sure that we give you the full attention and, experience that you deserve so that we can make sure that the strategy is absolutely right for you. And people are so onboard with the waitlist. It makes me sort of embarrassed to think that we were scared to have one.

Kate: But that's great and bring on a high performance coach and not, not ever being in a place where you think, Hey, I've got it all figured out. I don't need to keep learning or evolving.

Jess: That is definitely not us, not us at all.

Jess: And we have still so early in our business journey, you know, we turned three in October and I know that we have so much more to learn.

Kate: Yes. So you've got the three coaching programs. Yes. And then what is your fee structure?