Creating a new model for financial planning

Barry O ‘Mahony (Supplied)
Barry O ‘Mahony (Supplied)
Historically, financial planning in South Africa has been dominated by large-scale institutions, but entrepreneur Barry O'Mahony saw things differently.

In 2005, he staked his livelihood on a new financial planning model, and created Veritas Wealth.

O'Mahony believed the way people do business was changing, becoming more personal and holistic.
It is a way of doing business that ultimately empowers clients with a sense of understanding and control over their finances, says this Irish-born entrepreneur, who was named 2013 Financial Planner of the Year by the Financial Planning Institute.
Fin24 asked O'Mahony about his journey as an entrepreneur:

What is it that your company does differently, when it comes to financial planning?
We listen. American financial author and adviser Tim Maurer says that "personal finance is more personal than it is finance". I wholeheartedly agree.

Much of your career was spent helping other people run their businesses. Has this helped you to avoid any pitfalls in the establishment of your own business?
When I worked in practice development, I saw how different personality types try to deal with different circumstances.

What I took away from it was that you truly have to understand yourself, in order to help others.

Do you think most entrepreneurs are good at managing their own finances and planning for the future?

In general, no. We all get caught up in the business and sometimes let our ego get ahead of ourselves.

There is no doubt that the return entrepreneurs receive on their businesses is far bigger than any financial planner or product can get for them.

However, businesses are cyclical and so, in the good times, business owners need to take chips off the table.

Generally, entrepreneurs keep the business risk too high for too long, saving and investing inadequately and exposing their families to potentially devastating financial loss.

Where did you grow up, and did your early years shape your thinking about financial planning?

I grew up in Ireland. Money was a rude subject: There wasn't much of it and you never discussed it.

My father set up a short term insurance brokerage when he had three kids under the age of three.

My mother was handed three months' house-keeping money and she reckons that lasted them five months.

I saw that starting up a business could be done in an extremely frugal way, but it comes down to how much pain you and your spouse are prepared to take.

What appeals to you about the business environment in South Africa?

There is still a can-do attitude in South Africa, which is the heartbeat of capitalism.

You were a rugby player and are still involved in the sport. Are there any analogies between rugby and your business ethic, or the approach you take as an entrepreneur?

Rugby played a huge part in forming me. It taught me about winning, staying on the front foot rather than reacting, going in with a positive attitude, setting goals, and understanding your strengths and weaknesses.

Talent is often an overrated commodity in sport and in business. It is energy and enthusiasm that will carry you through tough times.

I am involved through UCT RFC in a project called Vuka, which means awakening.

We are trying to restart rugby on the community level. We have also developed an excellent coaching course which uses rugby as an analogy for life, called CoolPlay or the Vukaway.
What are your entrepreneurial qualities and how do they contribute to the success of your business?

I wanted to control my own destiny rather than having to cope with someone else deciding where the company was going.

Having a leadership coach helped me know what I am good at and "less good" at.

I spend a lot of time understanding the general environment, and I keep connecting with people I can learn from, who inspire me or just make me laugh.

What are the most important things you’ve learnt as an entrepreneur?

Listen and be vigilant. Look for the next thing and go for it, if your clients will benefit from it.
Culture is built, it is never an accident. Choose staff carefully. Run the business as if you were about to sell it.

What are your future plans?

We are going to grow our business organically. We want to continue to offer an ever improving standard of advice and service to established and new clients.

How do you keep a positive mind in a difficult situation?

At work I fall back on our process, as it will see us through the good times and the bad.

What advice would you give to young and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Go for it. The pain at the start is worth it, so hold your head high and believe in yourself early on.

Once you are successful, diversify the risk away from your family balance sheet by diversifying your investments.

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