Starting a business – Ian Richards OKS 2000

We were delighted to hear that Ian Richards, OKS 2000 started his new financial planning business ‘Work to Live’ in August 2019. Setting up any new business is challenging, but particularly so during the recent uncertain times, however Ian has managed to make light of what has clearly been a difficult experience and reflects honestly and  positively on his journey so far!

We hope you enjoy reading about it and thank you Ian for sharing your story.



“I attended King’s School from junior school right up until the end of senior school leaving in 2000.  Most of my best memories involved sport and enjoying the facilities which I remember to be excellent. Academically, I was alright, but I wasn’t going to set any records, I did well enough in exams and left with decent A-Levels enabling me to further my studies at the University of Bath. 

After University, I floated around for a while, trying to figure out what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be based. I took a role in computer sales and even moved to London for a short while, but neither were for me. After several moves, including living in Leeds for a couple of years, I came home to the North West and enjoyed working in Manchester where I met my future wife.


I started working for a financial services company called Friends Provident, working as an account manager where I looked after a number of financial advisers. Joining just before the crash in 2008 made for interesting times. The main benefit to me was that the company paid for my exams allowing me gain the necessary qualification to become a financial adviser. This was my spark to think about this as my career path. 


No grand plan

 It be safe to say that I never had any plan to become a financial advisor whilst at school. It was only when I started working that I realised that I would relish a role which involved meeting and talking to people – a financial adviser seemed a good fit.


I took a role as a financial adviser for a firm located just outside of Chester, they helped to train me as I took my first steps.  I remember being a bit ‘rabbits in headlight’ for first few meetings! 


I continued to gain qualifications including my chartership and eventually became a fellow of the highest professional qualification from the professional body.  This went a big way to make up for the lack of effort at University, where I achieved my drinking degree and unfortunately the physique to match.


I was now married, and we’d started a family. It was at this time I decided to leave the firm and join a bigger corporate.  This is where the journey gets messy. 


I bounced between three firms over the course of a couple of years, handing in my notice at the corporate to join an almost ‘too good to be true’ opportunity.  It turned out it was.  I was the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I eventually let go in October 2018, which was more of a relief than a disappointment.


Why did I set up my own firm?


When I was an employee, I always thought about running my own business.  The seeds were really sown after I left the corporate role as my heart wasn’t in it working for someone else.  I wanted to have control over my destiny and work in a way that was aligned with my values and beliefs in how financial planning should be delivered. 


For anyone familiar with this profession, it has been heavily product led in the past with a focus on selling products and investment performance. I wanted a holistic approach focussing on helping people get the life they want rather than forcing products on them. I still help people manage their pensions, investments and protection but this comes second to having the right financial plan in place.


Going it alone

After a brief time working with another firm which ending in redundancy (thanks universe?) I decided it was time to make the leap and set up on my own. 


The firm ‘Work to Live Financial Planning’ started to become a reality. It was August 2019 and I had zero clients. But, the name itself reflected my values and what I wanted for my (future) clients.


I knew that I was going to focus on a type of client previously neglected by other firms.  I want to attract younger clients in their 30s and 40s who are in process of building their assets and need help getting the right plan in place.  It also allowed me to move away from the traditional charging strategy of a % of assets to a predominately fixed fee model with a focus on financial planning. 


What’s it actually like setting up a business a from scratch?

Of course, setting up a business is an exciting albeit stressful time. You have to learn a lot of new skills and do things that are outside of your comfort zone.  You also know that’s it is going to be hard, you’ve heard it from other people, but you sort of kid yourself that it won’t be quite as hard for you.  This is either naivety or arrogance, whichever it is, you not truly prepared as it is bloody hard work just like other people said it was.


I have a regular dose of fear appearing regularly, and I vividly remember a few days after deciding to set up (once the excitement faded) of feeling almost physically sick as the enormity of the decision weighing on me.  Being married with two young kids at this point certainly adding to the pressure.    


The truth is that you have a lot of highs and lows; times when it is good and other times where you wonder where the next client is coming from.  I have hit a wall on a couple of instances but have managed to pull myself out of it, although I needed a good arse kicking from my beloved and no- nonsense wife on one occasion.


A spanner in the works

So, for the first 6 months it had been going well: website launched, networking, building contacts, speaking engagements, articles, getting comfortable on video for social media, finding some clients and building a pipeline.  Then in March of this year the curveball of Covid-19 hit. I had been geared up to work virtually with clients, so thankfully this aspect wasn’t too challenging, but as for everything else …

Home schooling a 6 year old and a 3 year old, who decided to drop her nap pre-lockdown, added to the chaos.  With my wife also working, we balanced out our time the best we could, me looking after the kids on a Monday which more accurately was me trying and failing to maintain my cool while teaching my eldest maths before succumbing to the lure of giving him YouTube and having break.  All the time trying to build the business and bring on clients. 

We somehow managed to survive lockdown. Then it was summer holidays, thankfully we no longer had to pretend that we were teaching them. 

So, yeah, the last few months have brought its own challenges, issues and stresses beyond that of a typical first year in business.  What it has allowed me to do is spend time ON the business rather than IN it. I’ve been able to review processes, set up my support team and relaunch my brand and website (this is happening imminently). With the kids now back at school and the youngest starting pre school (free hours woohoo) it feels like I am able to finally focus again on the business and happily client enquiries are starting to flow through.


Would I recommend it?

 For the right person, yes. I think the expectation from people who have set up their own business that this is everyone dream.  I know this to not be the case, some people want the security of an employed role or to join an existing business that they are passionate about. There is definitely less stress this way.

If you are giving up a well-paid job which would allow you to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, there has to be something beyond money driving you.  Either a passion to do things in a different way or to be challenged by the entrepreneurial element by embracing building something from scratch.

Whatever it is, be clear on your vision, truly know why you want to do it and what ultimately you are wanting to achieve.  There is never a right time, and no one knows what the future holds or what will happen, financially or personally – it’s a big leap.  Be clear on your motives, if in your gut it feels right go for it and enjoy the ride. 


What have a learnt?

 No 1 – Focus on the areas where you can really add value and get comfortable getting help in areas you are not so good at.

No 2 – Work on your mindset, it’s a key part of any success and a good coach can really help.  Success isn’t just about working hard

No 3 – Refine and adapt.  My original niche was to work with business owners, self employed and corporate employees before I realised that this was effectively every working person. I have refined my marketing and focus over time, along with the other elements of my business.

No 4 – Be honest with yourself, identify what your strengths and weaknesses are, recognise where you need to improve and how you can do this. 

No 5 – Get in expert help.  We live in a world where we can outsource easily and bring in expertise as and when needed such as marketing or social media.

No 6 – ideally don’t set up a business before a global pandemic!”