Welcome to episode 67 of The Innovating Advice Show.
I’m joined by Rohan Sivajoti in the UK who is a natural inventor and creator and puts that energy into continually improving the financial planning profession.
Rohan is a co-founder of NextGen Planners and we chat about a few of their upcoming initiatives that will be of interest to many of you. Plus, we chat about what it means to be a NextGen planner and how it’s about mindset over age.
Rohan is also the founder of Postcard Planning where he’s developed a really creative brand that has turned his clients into ambassadors for the business while they’re on holiday.
Finally, we chat about making it through the tough times in life and Rohan shares why it’s beneficial to talk with a loose acquaintance.
Rohan has worked in financial services for over a decade.
His area of expertise is retirement planning; helping people to flourish once they have clarity over their future.
At home, Rohan’s a father to his young son Harrison, as well as a fan of sport, red wine and cheese. You’ll often find him playing cricket in the summer months.
00:30 - Introducing Rohan Sivajoti
02:56 - NextGen Planners
06:52 - People over profit
08:45 - Who NextGen is for
11:20 - Speaker & Influencer Training
16:14 - Launching the Blast Off Course
20:50 - Figuring out what to say yes to
25:19 - The marketing behind Postcard Planning
29:54 - The idea behind docVinci
33:42 - Getting personal
36:47 - The benefits of talking to a stranger
40:11 - Some final advice
Kate: Hi, Rohan. Welcome to the show.
Rohan: Hi, Kate. How are you?
Kate: I am good. So you are the other half of the two grumpy northerners. We had the first half, the other half, the better half. I don't know. We can chat about that, Adam Carolan back on episode 15.
Rohan: Okay. If you're talking dress sense, he's definitely not better half. He dresses like my granddad, but, in terms of intelligence and the like, I will give him that, he is the better half.
Kate: That's awesome. So would you still say you're grumpy?
Rohan: No. So this is another thing, he's grumpy. We've met a few times, Kate. Have you ever known me to be grumpy?
Rohan: I'm not one of life's grumpy people, so I'm trying to shake that tag. I think it's something that he's tarnished me with. So it's one of the things that comes with NextGen . So I'm just gonna have to roll with it for now.
Kate: Yeah. Well, we'll be chatting a lot about the transition from grumpy to excited. I think you've always been excited. We've got a lot of great stuff to chat about and let's dive in and talk about NextGen Planners.
Kate: So episode 15 was a long time ago and if not everyone caught that episode, just tell us a little about NextGen Planners and how it got started.
Rohan: Cool. Yeah. so the starting thing was I was running a practice and I was going to various events and all the rest of it and being in the room with people who I didn't really recognize honestly. People that I couldn't see myself working with and hearing things. I remember standing in one specific example of standing in queue for a bacon sandwich, two guys in front of me and talking about how they just did a 450,000 pounds investment bond and taken seven and a half percent upfront fee and all this. And it was like bragging to each other about it. And I was just like, these are not the people that I want to hang out with. These are not, in my eyes, professionals.
Rohan: And basically I thought that I needed to create the place where these people hang out because I couldn't find where they hang out. So me and Adam had a little chat and we said, well, let's just start a little group.
Rohan: We had a napkin in a pub. We wrote down a few rules on the back of this napkin and we still have that napkin to this day. and we put pictures of it up at our conference and all that which is quite cool. And it's just basically grown arms and legs from there. We had no real plans for it. We just have this little collection of people who we thought were cool and we could bounce ideas off and that's yeah. Morphed into today. I guess over 350 now paid members, all over the UK and across the globe as well.
Kate: That's awesome. And what year was that conversation in that pub?
Rohan: That was in late 2016, I believe. Yeah. Early 2017, something like that. So a few years back.
Kate: Yeah. So what were those rules that you had on there?
Rohan: I won't swear, but there was a, there was a no beep on there. So none of those kinds of people that we don't like. Pay it forward was the main one. So we both have this thing where we feel like you want to leave the profession in a better state than when you came into it. And any conversation that you have with anybody, if you can pay something forward and add a tiny bit of value, then that snowballs and all adds up. So, pay it forward is the message that we still run with to this day and we will have our duty to our peers, to society, and if you're privileged enough to be in that position to do so then pay it forward.
Kate: Yeah. And we're going to be talking about some of the great initiatives that you guys have and just thinking on that first one. You and I were chatting before the show about not attracting the wrong people, but we also have this obligation to show people that there's this whole other side of the industry and profession. And I think so often and we even talk amongst ourselves, like we're in this one bucket of people that are super forward thinking and are all about doing right by the clients. And aren't just driven by profits. It's really people over profits, but not a lot of people know that that even exists. So everyone's in their own echo chamber. How do we get a bit more crossover with that?
Rohan: Totally, totally with you on that. So like if you look on your Twitter feed or your LinkedIn feed or whatever, there's all these great people doing great things and you think why doesn't everybody love financial advisors? Why don't you love financial Planners? I mean, look at all these great guys giving away free things, doing great stuff. And it's really difficult to remember that the majority of the people, I guess, even listening to this, we're in the minority. From my days of working in investment sales, that kind of thing, going and seeing loads of different firms, the vast majority are nothing like us. The vast majority are still in that product world and selling and like really hard sale has a product CLA thing. and I think the way that we break that down and the way we've done it with NextGen is trying to give bits away for free, first of all, within the profession.
Rohan: But also create products and solutions that are applicable to those people too. and it's almost like a bit of an infiltration way in, so we create a training contract, which we have firms that use to train people up, but some of those firms are, we would consider I guess, NextGen firms. but it's just a really good product for them to use in their business, for them to upscale and all the rest of it. Cause they still want to grow like everybody else. And that's our way, I guess, of infiltrating a bit and trying to make a little bit of difference through loads of events or that kind of thing. A long way to go, but we will get there.
Kate: It is. And we still always have to remember, we're very, very young profession and then very, very young side of this new, more forward thinking, more innovative approach to things. So time makes everything happen. It might take longer than you and I will be alive.
Rohan: We talked about this the other day, Kate. We had like a board strategy day. And what is it now? So Adam Owen won't mind me saying, he's in his forties, Adam Carolan's at the later end of the thirties, I've just turned 34. We're like, we're custodians of NextGen for now, but we can't be forever can we? We're going to have to hand the mantle to somebody else because yeah, I guess we're all getting on, sadly.
Kate: We are. And I actually was going to ask you that, how do we now define NextGen Cause I'm still getting requests to talk on topics of like working with millennials. And I was like, do most people realize that millennials are now like getting into their forties and millennials are not the young whippersnappers that are just entering university. It's like, we're all getting older. And I aged out of NextGen in the US I don't know, a couple of years ago, I just turned 37. I was thinking about that. I was like, all right, we're still talking about NextGen, does it move with us?
Rohan: So this is a really interesting thing. And a lot of people who have approached us have said "Oh, NextGen, it's not for me, it's for the young ones, isn't it." And we're always of the opinion of it's a mindset, not an age. Like it is exactly that if you're willing to learn, we have this always learning thing that goes out on a lot of our cons and because you should be always learning. And that's what we feel, I guess, in that, as soon as you stop doing that, I think that's when it's either time to retire or do something else.
Rohan: You should always be adding to your learnings. And if you've got that mindset, we like to say you're NextGen. If you're happy bobbing and floating and all that, remember the worst things in life bob and float don't they?
Rohan: It's just one of those things where it's definitely mindset over age. I mean, who are we to group people by the year that they popped out of their mother? That's just not a thing we feel so it's, everybody's completely different in that respect. So respect the mindset and not the age.
Kate: I totally agree with that. And that's why I named my business and the podcast, Innovating Advice. Cause I was like, look, we should all be innovating. Always. If we didn't, the world would stand still. We'd all still be riding horse carriages and writing with fountain pens, which might give me much better handwriting than I currently have. But I'm glad that I can just type out all my messages and not have to write anything down.
Rohan: I heard the thing was that bad handwriting is a sign of intelligence.
Kate: Yes, I am super intelligent.
Rohan: So I stick to that as well. Cause my, it looks like I've just mashed a few spiders on a piece of paper, so yeah. Yeah. It was awful.
Kate: Good. Well, I did take notes when you and I chatted last week and then I was looking over them this morning and I was like, wow, I have no idea what that says.
Kate: All right. So let's dive into some of the great stuff happening at NextGen. And I want to start with something that is applicable to people all over the world. And I know as you mentioned, NextGen works with people all over the world, but you've got this great speaker training coming up that is open to people specifically in the UK, South Africa, Australia, and the US kicking off in January.
Rohan: Yeah. So the first thing to say is it's free. That's the first thing to say. Cause like before a talk about it and people go, how much is it? It is free.
Rohan: So this is born out of our conference. Last year, we sat down as a board and decided that a lot of the events we go to the speakers are the same, same faces. And I'm guessing it could be the same in the States as well. And if we're going to truly change the profession and like we said, infiltrate into other areas of financial services so that people are talking at different events that we would usually talk, et cetera. Then we need to create those speakers. We need to create those, and give them the platform to be able to do that. So we took 30 people from our membership, and we put them through a speaker and influencer program for six months.
Rohan: So this was completely free. and it's run by Adam Owen on our board who's super, and a guy called Dominic Colenso who played Virgil in the Thunderbirds movie. He's just awesome speaker coach. I'll declare massive conflict of interest here. That he's one of my clients. Okay guys, that is my conflict of interest there, but he is awesome. And Dom and Adam took these people from our membership and basically they delivered our conference. So instead of us going out and paying external speakers or bringing people in or that thing, we said, look, it's time for the members to deliver the conference. It's content that people won't have seen before. We invited loads of events managers to come along and said, look for the next five, 10 years.
Rohan: We think these are the guys who are going to be delivering content within financial services. So come and see them and start booking them. And there were 30 people doing the 10 minutes each. So like the TED format. And I have this real preference for shorter talks anyway, because people get their message across. There's no waffle in the middle or stretching out the time or that thing, just getting to the point, getting that message across. And it works so well. I mean, some of the people in there, from all sorts of backgrounds as young as 20, delivering stuff, never publicly spoken before, some of them just absolutely smashed. It was so cool.
Rohan: Now for 2020, because it went so well. What we've decided is 30's not enough.
Rohan: One country is not enough. So we're going to three more, another 30 in each with, and I should say as well, gender balance, 50/50 as well.
Rohan: So we're going to be delivering a global financial conference across 30 from the USA, 30 from the UK, 30 from Australia and 30 from South Africa. There will be virtual conferences from three of those places and there'll be a live one the UK as well. So actually get people together in the UK. COVID permitting.
Rohan: So, we're bringing the program for free. That speaker influence program is going to be available to everybody in all those territories. So we would ask you to get in touch with us. and if you want to go through that awesome program, deliver 10 minutes of content, potentially get yourself booked on international speaking gigs, all that thing. go for it. It's awesome.
Kate: Rohan, I love that. And that's something, I'm with you. And that's actually what got me into public speaking. I mean, I did a lot as a kid. I was a drama kid, but it was going to these conferences and exactly what you said, seeing the same people over and over, and also seeing a lot of speakers that were not energetic, that were completely monotone, that just read verbatim bullet points from their slides. And I was like, I just paid how much and took multiple days off work and flew here. And this is the content we're getting? It was just maddening. So what a way to also help pass that torch to the NextGeneration. Again, the NextGen mindset. Who wants to try something new, to upskill in an area that will also help them in those client engagements. The fact you guys are doing that for free across four countries that just speaks so highly of what NextGen is building and how you're helping the NextGeneration.
Rohan: Exactly. Yeah.
Rohan: So you've also got Blast Off Course. Love the name of that. I'd like to blast off. So first of all, what inspired the course?
Rohan: So this is cool. Cause we're actually recording this on the day that we just pressed live with all the details. That's good isn't it?
Rohan: Blast Off was inspired initially by my own story, which was, I'd set up a regulated firm at 28 and basically just went and did it. I've done a bit of working for companies like Vanguard and people like that, like in investment sales and knocking on advisor's doors and saying, Hey, being the relationship guy, all that stuff. And, noticed that a lot of the people that I knocked on or spoke to, I wouldn't give my money to, there was a handful of them. as we said before, the echo chamber people were the good ones. The majority were not so great. And, something that my dad said to me is probably the best piece of advice he ever gave to me.
Rohan: And it's always stuck with me, because in school basically I was always trying to invent stuff. I wanted to be in an inventor. I want to just come up with stupid ideas. Right. And the best piece of advice he ever gave me, it still sticks with me is "youdon't need to reinvent the wheel, just do something better than someone else." And it was absolutely that. I was like, I'm 28. I don't really know what I'm doing, but I think I can do it better than a lot of these people that I've spoken to, so went and set my own firm. I basically had a really good compliance consultant and I'll shout out Karen, she's amazing. cause she's still my compliance consultant now. And with just her and me and went for it and I had nowhere to go.
Rohan: I had nobody to turn to. I had no community, there were no real decent communities then. There was no help with this stuff, nothing. And just through creating a NextGen going through that experience, everything else and talking to people day to day from the membership. It's something that's still a problem now. people, I don't think, I don't believe have that confidence to just jump and do it alone. I'm quite big risk taker. That's why I did it. And I think it holds some people back and we wanted to create this course Blast Off to basically allow people to do that. So to give them all the tools and everything, they need to go out and launch a firm. but also massive, massive focus when we looked at the market and we looked at the consultancy offerings, with huge focus on the entrepreneur themselves.
Rohan: Cause a lot of what we looked at that was just on the business, it was just on, here's how to do it. Marketing strategy, et cetera, which it all does, but there was no how to come over imposter syndrome, how to kill your nerves, how to do a health pitch, anything like that. So we're going to teach people those skills as well. So, but throughout the top of the program, they'll hopefully see an awesome business launch and be in a massively better place with their own firm, but also just become better people throughout the 12 month thing. have more confidence and basically create better firms, better entrepreneurs. So that's the idea.
Kate: That's awesome. So 12 months, and this is the first one. So there are only what 15 people allowed in this course.
Rohan: Yeah. Maximum. We might max out at 12 actually. because, it's to be decided, I've got some issues in terms of my own time, I guess, and commitment to it. but so I think it might actually end up being 12 that it's capped out as a proof of concept thing to start with then we may run through it, but we're keeping them intentionally low because you want to do it justice. If I'm taking 25 30 people through that, it's, I don't think that they get in as good a quality as they would do otherwise.
Kate: Yeah. But I can definitely see that being something that does ramp up because that's a conversation I have with a lot of advisors and Planners is , Hey, I think in the next year or two and being planners trying to plan ahead and thinking, Hey, I'm going to make sure I've got my own savings set aside and I'm doing this properly, but there isn't that blueprint. There are organizations and membership associations around the world that will provide that community and other ones that will provide a tech stack, but what you're building. And I love that focus on the entrepreneur on that person, because I've started a couple of businesses and I know imposter syndrome well, and you know, it's so hard to know what do you say yes to, what do you say no to, how do you figure out where you need to focus your time and energy so that you don't just burn out.
Rohan: Totally, totally. And it's, it's all learned experience and it isn't just my experience. It's the rest of the board delivering it too. but I think we give it real credence in that we've been there, seen it and done it like this is, this is what we've done. And it's almost like a memoir, isn't it Like, this is what we've done. And here's what we've learned from it. Like I like learn that stuff. So, look, we, we never, we always have a thing. We'd never tell people how they should do things. I think everybody's adult enough, grown up enough to decide their own way of not going to tell people how they should do things, but we can help to give people the available skills, knowledge, empathy, they need to make their own decisions. And so it's very much coaching. It's very much letting people go their own way. because who are we to tell people to run their businesses quite simply, we're not.
Kate: You definitely tell them some of those lessons learned. So I know in the beginning of your business, you did say yes to everything.
Rohan: Everything. Yeah. So we had a bit of a chat about this didn't we offline, which was so there's this really common thing out there that I have complete disagree with, which is this whole thing of, say no to loads of stuff. You have to say no to loads of stuff to be successful, whichever else. And I get it to an extent, but when you first started out, as I did it 28 with no clients, no money, no recurring income, not a thing. no leads, nothing. I said yes to everything. Right. And when I say that this is great book called yes-men. I don't know if you've ever read. It's amazing by a guy called Danny Wallace. It's so cool. And it's been turned into a film and stuff, right. With Jim Carrey, I think.
Rohan: And it wasn't so much that. I only discovered that book afterwards actually, and I was like, Oh, I realized that that's what I've been doing. but I thought, okay, if I've got nothing, then I need to create communities, networks, whatever I do. And I just need to say yes to loads of stuff. So I was a bit of a stranger to the other half at the time. And, just disappeared off the face of the earth. Went to every networking event I could, if there was a friend who said, do you want to come for a pint in the pub And you're a bit tired and you didn't really fancy it you'd go. Cause you don't know where that conversation would end and saying yes to loads of stuff. It's activity and activity does bring some results.
Rohan: The saying no to stuff comes later. I think once you've had an element of success and can put food on the table, but my advice to tons of people who are starting out with nothing, they say yes, like say yes to all the stuff. I tend to find that that wisdom of saying no, wisdom in big inverted comments there, of saying no, that people tend to talk about tends to come from people who are currently very successful and very comfortable in their lives. So I just think it's important, especially at the start and to say yes.
Kate: Yeah. And I said yes to everything as well. And then it was probably the first I did that for about two years. And then I started to identify the things that were actually detracting from my business and the things that I really didn't enjoy. And then after that I spent an entire year, I call it my year of learning the art of saying no, and it's not that I was wildly successful at the time, but it was that I was identifying the things that were actually holding me back from becoming successful, which became really interesting just projects that I, they just drained me. You know, I was like, I don't get fulfillment out of this. I don't feel good after it. I'm like, even if it's a client that's paying you on a consulting thing or whatever, just those things that drain you, it's like having a, it is like having a bad client, right. The clients that you see, the phone ring, you see the email come in and you're like, I don't want to, I don't want to deal with this. Then you start to pair back. So it's, it's an interesting lesson, but you're not going to figure those things out unless you spend that time saying yes to everything.
Rohan: Totally. It's all a big lesson, isn't it.
Kate: So speaking of, you started that business at 28, that's Postcard Planning, correct?
Rohan: It is. Yeah. So postcards. Basically I couldn't think of anything else to call it, is probably the honest reason. But I like to think obviously postcards are something that you send to share a nice moment with loved ones. and we really like that concept in that you're essentially reaching out to people that matter most and telling them about something that you're enjoying. so we have a pretty big thing with clients where we talk about last conversations with family members before the're passing away and whatever else, and wishing that they'd had those conversations or said those things. And we encourage clients basically to reach out more to their own family and spend more time with family. so yeah, I think this, I think this goes onto talking about some of the other, so obviously like we have postcards really cool for marketing as well. Right. So we can do tons with a postcard. so our brand's really cool and we have had people think we're a holiday company, that does happen.
Kate: Yeah. I can see that.
Rohan: That's all right. I'm not a travel agent. but we do play up to it a bit. So we have things like travel consultants with clients that they can use and that stuff. but we spoke about the beach towels, right?
Kate: Yes. That's the thing that the marketing and branding around that. And I love, I love what you've done with the beach towels.
Rohan: Yeah. So I'm sure it's in a marketing book somewhere. Right. But it's my own little epiphany until I read it somewhere else, which is that people like brand stuff up all the time, whichever else put their, put their financial planning brand on it. So it's like a tee shirt. I bet a client gets it like 'That's great. Thanks.' That's just going to be pajamas at best. You're not going to get your brand out there with that. Right. So I just was looking around my desk one day and thinking if I have my brand on any of these things, do I care? So like I was looking at my stapler and I was like, do I care if my stapler is a stapler or whatever, like a premium brand, I don't care at all. So that could be branded.
Rohan: Right. And it got me thinking of things that people don't really care if they've got a Versace one or a Gucci one or whatever it is. And one of them was beach towels. So I don't think people really care about their beach towels. So we basically emblazoned our massive logo, postcard planning on these beach towels with the stamp bit on the outside. So it looks, kinda looks like a big giant stamp. and obviously we meet with clients and they say to us, Hey, I'm going on this holiday, I'm going on this holiday, whatever we take the note. And we don't tell them, we post it out to them just before they're due to go on holiday a few days before saying here's a towel for your travels, enjoy your trip. take a photo with your towel. Now, at first, when we sent them something saying take a photo with the towel, I thought that could be misinterpreted in the wrong way.
Rohan: We are very, very lucky that we haven't had any dodgy photos. So that's good, but what's been cool. Is clients have been awesome with it So they've taken the towel away and we've got these awesome pictures of them, like holding up their towel in front of like Wonders of the World, whatever it is. And we put them into this collection as well for clients. So they can see like, what other clients have done with the help of us and that kind of thing. It's been a really cool marketing piece for us. so before you go on holiday, next time, Kate, at some point you'll have to just casually drop me an email that, Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention I'm going on holiday to this place. So my address is this. So see you later. And you might get a towel.
Kate: I would love that. I can't wait until I can go on holiday again. They have all officially been canceled. So I'll be looking forward to that day But I love that. And that's just such a cool way of, I want to say like subliminal messaging almost all those social media posts and people are like, Oh, what's postcard planning and drives more traffic to you. That's fantastic.
Rohan: Exactly. So we we've actually picked up clients from it. So cause generally when people are on holiday as well, you get talking to somebody or whatever else like there might be a couple you see every day by the pool or whatever. and we have picked up clients off the back of it. So yeah, it's been cool.
Kate: Fantastic. And since you are an inventor and you can't stop inventing new things, you've also got a business adorably called docVinci.
Rohan: Oh, right. Yeah. I thought you're going to talk about something else we spoke about. You're not allowed to mention that. Okay. Right. Yeah. Okay. Yes.
Kate: Which is another way of helping those in professional services in a way that has needed some innovation.
Rohan: Yeah. This was something we agreed on as well. So again, a lot of stuff that I do is down to something that's been personal experience and done badly. And then just like thinking back to that mantra from my dad, just do it better. Yeah. And one of my frustrations is with, agencies in terms of design and marketing and that kind of thing. you generally give them a piece of work. It comes back weeks late, over budget. And the whole experience is just not great. And you're wondering, like where did my money go for that? So we just launched a really, really simple business. me and the guy who works with works me actually. So he's been my right hand man since pretty much the start he's somebody who I took fresh out of uni and developed.
Rohan: And he works with me and NextGen and postcard and everything. but basically he's now 25, but he hasn't run a business before. So I want to utilize his skills, but also give him the chance to run a business. And like with my hand on his shoulder or whichever, and guiding him. So he's got that experience if he wants to go on to do bigger and better things.
Kate: Talk about paying it forward.