Can you introduce your start-up? What is it, and how did it come about?
I had originally set up ADL Estate Planning (ADLEP) and its sister company ADL Wealth (ADLW) to be able to offer complementary wealth management and estate planning solutions, on a fixed fee basis having been critical of the financial services industry.
I had a problem with percentage-based charging which would penalize wealthier clients for simply having more wealth despite the complexity of the work being similar to less wealthier clients. Similarly, such a model also meant less well-off clients found it difficult to access good quality advice simply because they didn’t have sufficient assets, although they may have afforded an adhoc advice fee. I didn’t think it was fair on the consumer and nor did I think it was fair to the business at times e.g. putting in hours of work without any payment should a client decide against implementing the adviser’s recommendations having thoroughly researched their circumstances.
Nonetheless. despite my position on percentage-based charges, I do know fantastic financial advisers who work on a percentage-based model with satisfied clients. My position is that a simple, transparent, fixed fee model is more equitable for both the client and the business.
Furthermore, I recognized a failure to put in place effective estate planning created unnecessary threats to people’s wealth during lifetime and then once again when passed onto their children. It was important both needs were addressed.
I wanted to build a firm that was known for its integrity and technical competency that would look after the wealth and business interests of multiple generations of a family.
I took the decision to put a pause on ADLW whilst I focused on building ADLEP as it was far too difficult to focus on both types of businesses though complementary have unique sets of challenges. But I intend to relaunch ADLW soon as ADLEP continues to grow in strength.
Where are you in your startup journey?
I’m now in my 5th year confident that the business model works, with an excellent understanding of the market and my competition and know how to position the business to scale and scale fast.
To date, what has been the biggest triumph for your business?
This is a tough one. Considering 60% of new businesses fail within the first 3 years, I know surviving to date must be among my biggest triumphs as there were a couple of occasions, I could’ve failed in the first 3 years. But if I had to say something – it would probably be the excellent rapport and trust built with our existing clients who’ve given us outstanding reviews on TrustPilot.
How have you found being a sole-founder? And what advice you would give to other sole-founders?
I absolutely love it and I would not want it any other way as I’m thrust into every single part of the business that forces me to become somewhat proficient or conversant in. However, I do look forward to having a strong management team soon who can take the burden of some key tasks, which will allow me to focus on ways to strategically grow the ADL brand.
For my fellow sole founders, I would say ‘have a thirst for knowledge of digital marketing, learn the basics of WordPress, don’t be afraid to be a mystery shopper for your competition, get a good quality accountant, meet absolutely everyone as you never know where that relationship could take you and your business one-day, be prepared to invest in quality service providers i.e. Robot Mascot – they will become your ambassadors, and finally if you’re not a people-person, become one.’
How do you manage to balance growing a start-up with having a personal life?
I don’t have a balance. I’m writing this sentence at 3.55am! I tend to average around 5hrs of sleep so I can ensure certain non-negotiable duties towards the family are met but even then, it’s definitely not anything like what it probably should be.
But I’m confident the efforts will pay dividends.
How do you cope with the pressures that come with building a business?
I do a lot of groundwork for the business which often means spending a lot of time researching, reflecting, and planning my next move. The fact that I’m doing something positive towards the success of the business takes the pressure off. It also doesn’t allow me to be fearful of failure as I’m satisfied, as my mind is always occupied. However, the thought of failure is always there, albeit at the back of my mind.
I’m also not comparing myself with other startups and entrepreneurs who’ve raised hundreds of thousands, even millions via crowdfunding and think that I’ve not progressed far enough to date. I’ll rest when I’m dead, no pressure then.
Did you pursue investment? If so what advice would you give on pitching? What was your secret weapon?
I am currently pursuing multiple channels for investment and it’s very early days. I’ve made a spreadsheet of potential investors, gatekeepers, respected intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs. I’ve also drafted a ‘Dear Investor’ letter that is more conversational in tone that I will send out alongside the fantastic pitch assets created by Robot Mascot.
If you could name one thing that you wish you knew when you started, what would it be?
The importance of doing a trademark search and registering a trademark prior to investing into brand development. In the early years I had another brand, the name of which was similar to another brand on the continent and had EU wide trademark protection. I had to rebrand completely but fortunately I was strategic about it and the loss wasn’t as much as it could’ve been – it was one of things that could’ve caused me to collapse and that was in the first year! But I wouldn’t change that experience, as it allowed me to develop.
To date, what has been your most important lesson?
– Meet everyone in your early years; customers, prospects, friends – you’ll probably gain weight!
– Be curious, have an open mind, be willing to be taught, be willing to learn. Ask the questions you think may make you look stupid. You are, accept it, it’s just the other person is more stupid.
– Genuinely see how you can add value to others without expectation of anything back. It will come back to you. I can’t explain it man. It just does.
– Be careful of those who will hold you back from your vision and be aware of how they may do so and learn to break rapport if necessary.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone thinking about starting up their own business, or who have just started their journey?
I think I’ve dropped quite a few tips already but to conclude entrepreneurship is not glamorous, ignore the Instagram posts of success stories as they don’t show you the graveyard of failure. It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and you must be prepared to fail. If naturally you don’t have a high work ethic, don’t do it. Oh yes, keep a notepad (not your phone) next to your bed for all those amazing ideas that’ll creep in before you snooze off.
What has been the most challenging part of your start-up journey so far?
Multi-tasking everything related to sales, business development, marketing, finances, operations, I.T that applies to every business even a small startup.
What’s next for your business?
Secure the investment and put in place all our plans to make us the UKs most ethical financial advisory firm.