Claire Mackay is nationally recognised as one of Australia’s pre-eminent financial planners and is passionate about improving financial literacy for all Australians. Claire consults to ASIC, the ATO, and her professional associations; and is an adjunct lecturer at Macquarie University. She’s the principal advisor at her family business at Quantum Financial.
Like many small family businesses, ours started on the dining room table. My father started Quantum Financial from our home and all through my childhood I was helping out with typing, filing, and everything in between. Naturally I was drawn to follow in his footsteps.
My father fully believed that you have to have a trade. It didn’t matter what it was, but you had to have one. I chose accounting and in anticipation of joining the business I knew I needed to know about planning family finances. So I studied financial planning as well.
But I didn’t join the family business straight out of university. My dad likes to say he didn’t trust me near his clients and he wanted me to learn my mistakes on someone else’s watch. But really, he knew it was important for me to see what was out there before I joined the family business, so that when I came back, I truly wanted to be there.
Taking on the world
I went on to work some pretty amazing transactions at big companies. But most of my clients were large corporations and I found that it was less about the people and more about the numbers on a screen. It was hard to get engaged when it had no emotional resonance for me, and I yearned to know the stories behind the numbers I was working with.
After developing professionally and personally, and working with some really fabulous people in the corporate world, I decided to go back to my own family business in the hope of helping other small businesses and families.
There’s no business like a family business
The transition back to small business was challenging. I had to do my job and learn how to be a business owner as well. That was tough. I had to make sure that we got paid, had the right supplies, insurance and licensing arrangements. All the little things that a small business has to think about, but not what they’re actually in business to do. That’s been a journey in itself. It was a huge change, but the work was so much more satisfying.
Because I work with my family, another big thing that we had to go through was managing our relationship as a family alongside our relationship as business partners. We had to navigate that so that we have a positive successful business partnership, as well as an excellent relationship outside. That was really critical for me.
Through the good times and bad
Joining the business meant I saw the immediate impact when I worked with clients. Some got to retire earlier or go on the amazing holiday they’d been dreaming about. Clients send me photos of awesome milestones and getting to share those moments with them is priceless.
But we also see some pretty horrible things. We help clients go through some of the worst times. It could be saying goodbye to loved ones, helping them go through IVF without success multiple times, or getting made redundant and helping them navigate a massive career change.
These are pretty tough situations, but knowing that you can help your clients through the stressful periods, by making sure their finances are in order, is very satisfying.
The beauty of business
When a client joins us the first thing I ask is, “What does success look like? Each client has a different answer. For most of them, it’s not necessarily a numerical number, it’s more of a feeling. It comes as a result of understanding where their finances are at. They can make decisions about the rest of their retirement, or help out their kids knowing that they’re going to be okay. I think that’s the same when it comes to our business.
Beautiful business to me is knowing the names of all my clients, knowing the names of their children, and even their pets. And knowing that if something is happening in their life that they’re worried about, that I’m one of the people they’ll call. For me, it’s about coming to work each day and being excited about it. Because when you’re working in small business, it’s more than just a paycheck. It’s a passion.
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