Life doesn’t always go to plan

Life doesn’t always go to plan

Life doesn’t always go to plan 150 150 David Ross

The best lesson I ever learnt from my dad was that anyone can take a punch, but it’s how you get back up afterwards that’s important. After all, nothing in life goes to plan.

Take the last two years for my brother, for example. He runs a large property in northern NSW and built up to 1,200 head of beef cattle. Then the drought happened and he’s now down to 400 cattle, luckily he kept his breeders because he’s got 300 calves that had to be weaned early. That means he’ll get a lower sale price at the yards because they won’t be bulked up like they should be. He’s also had a fire on his property or surrounds since September. I caught up with him over Christmas and he told me that he’s spent over $300,000 on feed alone in the last six months, it’s not ideal but he’s got to do what he has to do to get through it all.

A lot of the clients I work with live on the south coast of NSW and they’re going through tough times at the moment. When talking to those clients I often use that phrase ‘RUOK?’.  I’ll just ask them how they’re going and then see if they want to talk about it. Often there’s a bit of a pause because they’re thinking to themselves ‘am I okay?’.  I might ask them what’s going on or where are they living rather than focusing in on specifics. I’m not there to give them financial advice, I just want to send the message that we’re thinking about them and always here for a conversation.

If they’re struggling, I then ask about their support network and who’s around them and let them know that they can give me a call anytime. That isn’t limited to the financial side of things. Whenever a client is feeling stressed, there may be something that we can do from the financial side to help. To be able to pick yourself up after a punch you do need a good support network around you, people you can go to for advice or just a cuddle.

I’ve done this for many clients and they’ll come in and have a cup of coffee with me. Some clients even cry, they may just need that release. It’s a pretty humbling experience for me, but if I can be there for a client when they need me then that’s what it’s all about.

I often also give clients a little advice at that time. I tell them to take their time, don’t make any rash decisions. Often when something has happened in your life there are a lot people offering suggestions or giving you information because they don’t know what else to say, but it’s not always good advice. Silence is underrated because sometimes things just don’t need to be said, they just need to be processed. There’s no rush to do anything.

Even if they’ve lost their home in the fires, there’s no rush. Rebuilding can be such a long drawn-out process, so there’s no immediate deadline other than making sure they have somewhere to stay. If someone is insured then their insurer will probably already have put them up somewhere. The insurer can also influence how quickly their house is going to be restored or rebuilt, so that’s out of the client’s control. They can’t really influence that. All they can do is ring up and ask where it’s at.

Then I often suggest that we meet again in three weeks time. A month feels like such a long time away, but three weeks is coming up soon. We may then just have another conversation, that’s it. There may be no outcome, it’s just a conversation with a client so that they know we’re here to help them if they need.

It’s really about resilience and how you deal with things when times are bad. When I talk to my brother I can see his resilience. The fires have been burning in and around his property for the last four months now but he keeps looking at it with a positive light. He focuses on the positives of running his property and what can he do to make it better now rather than dwelling on the negatives and there are some pretty serious negatives when you’re running a property of that size. While there’s not much I can do for him directly, he knows he can always pick up the phone and have a chat with me and I know that in some way that does help. It’s the same with my clients, I’m always there to have a chat with them or just listen if that’s what they need.

David Ross is an Executive Advisor at Viridian Advisory

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