I have come to know Jackie through a networking group and have been able to do some work for her. As I built her case studies, I found myself wondering how she came to be an Independent Financial Adviser and own her own business. Here’s Jackie’s story.
At school, Jackie had no career plans. She describes herself as a bit of a nerd; she was very academic and quiet. She sat at the front of the class and did everything the teacher said. She started to come out of her shell in her teens, and we will shortly see that she is far from that meek girl now.
Jackie grew up in a single parent household with her mum and two sisters. She taught herself how to program a computer (code) at 11 and could solve a Rubik’s cube in two minutes. If she had had careers advice, she thinks she would have become an engineer or architect, but Jackie also has a joy and skill in craft. For example, again from the age of 11, she made all her own clothes, she also made every item for her wedding from buttonholes to confetti boxes. The only exceptions were the dresses, but she did make bridesmaid dresses for her friend.
My year out was the best year of my life up to that point. I got to experience a very different type of family life.
Her parents expected Jackie to go to university, as her dad did and her mum would have had she had the opportunity. Jackie duly complied, but in her own style. She applied to University to read maths and Polytechnic to study fashion design. And then she took a year out to live in New York and work as a nanny.
Early work history – During her school years Jackie worked in a shoe shop, and the retailer offered her a place on their management training scheme. She also worked in a pub during university and continued there when she dropped out. Once again she had the opportunity to train as a manager. This time she was interested, but the chain was clear that they would never give a single woman a pub to run alone – so she left. Her decision was made easier by her desire to return home to Yorkshire.
Jackie chose to study maths at London University. But it wasn’t for her. During her year out she forgot a lot of maths (and tutoring from a Harvard graduate turned out to be a bust as he couldn’t complete the first module of her A-Level revision guide). When she arrived in London as a mature 19-year-old, who was ready to leave home at the age of 14, she found she didn’t fit in and struggled with the course. She failed her second-year exams and didn’t want to resit the year. So she left.
At this point in the interview, she tells me that she ‘should’ have left school at 16 and taken a vocational career path. I ask if she regrets not doing so: “If I had left school at 16 or gone to Manchester Poly [to study fashion design], I would have a different career. But I don’t think my path would have mattered, I know I would have done well.”
Jackie has never stopped working. As soon as she got home from London, she took a temp job at the Inland Revenue; she entered council tax bandings into a computer. Each day was a routine of typing a letter followed by ‘return’ for hours on end. It was her first office job, and I asked her about her impressions: “I couldn’t believe how little work people did. Someone came and blew a whistle for the start and end of tea breaks. Coming from a pub where I worked a split shift from 9:00 am to midnight and my half days (Sundays) were six hours long, it felt like I didn’t have a job.”
Not surprisingly she soon moved on; now taking a job with a haulier. As Junior Administrator, she ran the office for a cleaning depot (they cleaned out the tankers). The job suited her logical organisational skills, and she excelled. She was soon promoted. In her new role, she worked in a small team and managed the repairs of trucks in third-party garages. She was given a great deal of freedom and trust “My boss was fantastic, he was offsite most of the time and let me get on with the job. If I hit a problem, he would ring up the person in question and say, “Do as Jackie says, I don’t want to have to ring you again”. We are still good friends now.”
And she was soon promoted again. As a taste of her progress, she tells me that she got her first management role within four years of starting with the company and doubled her salary in the same timeframe.
After a year I walked out – in the dramatic sense.
This next step took Jackie to an oil depot in Avonmouth, but it was a challenging role that did not suit her perfectionist nature, and the culture was militant and aggressive. I doubt her teachers would have recognised the confident young women who handed in her notice by throwing her car keys, phone and pager at her boss when he gave her two weeks notice to change jobs and relocate. HR tried to persaud her to stay, telling her that she had been earmarked as a future director. Her response was “Why would I want to be a director here? I would be dead before I was 40”.
Property magnate – When she first returned to Yorkshire Jackie bought and refurbished a house. When she moved to Avonmouth, she decided to let the house and buy a flat. In a single day, she sold her car and picked up her company car; viewed six flats and made an offer on one, found rented accommodation and drove from Weston Super-Mare to East London to attend a conference. When she left the haulage company she was halfway through the renovations of the flat. So she bought all the materials she needed on her credit card and used an overdraft for cash expenses. She finished the work in six weeks and then let out the flat. At this point in her life, Jackie didn’t realise that she would buy and let out two more properties.
Summing up her time in the organisation she says “it was a s**t company to work for but a very good life experience”. She gives me several examples, and I am sure I would have left much earlier. Here’s one I can share: Jackie managed a team of 30 drivers and was fully accountable for safety. That meant if there was any type of accident she had to attend the scene. One day she got a call to say a company tanker in her region, with a cargo of chlorine gas, had collided head-on with a coach carrying 52 school children. She drove out in trepidation, fearing the worst. Thankfully there were no significant injuries or chlorine gas escape. The driver was shaken, and Jackie drove him from the Bristol area up to Yorkshire. That day she had started work at five and dropped off the driver at midnight.
She resigned on the day she was breaking up for a two-week holiday (remember she was given two weeks notice to move). She had no job, two mortgages and a half-refurbished flat, but, as she says, there was no point in worrying, so she took and enjoyed her holiday. After finishing the flat she planned to return to Yorkshire, but her dad was ill. Jackie’s dad is an alcoholic and puts a burden of care on his daughters. At this time his second wife had left him with their teenage daughter, and he had suffered a breakdown for which his doctor had prescribed a cocktail of drugs. Jackie and one of her sisters took turns staying in Shrewsbury to provide some stability for their half-sister. Jackie’s ex-stepmother was still employed as an administrator by her father, which did not ease the situation. So Jackie moved in with her dad and half-sister and took over the paperwork.
But the curse of the best-laid plans of mice and men struck and three weeks grew into three years. During that time she often had to chase around local pubs to find her dad, but she also self-studied for and passed her financial adviser exams and saw her half-sister safely off to university. That gave Jackie the space to leave. She tidied up her dad’s business, leaving him with five loyal customers and started to apply for jobs. She sent off her CV before lunch one day and had five interviews by close of play. This led to three job offers; reflecting Jackie’s unusual blend of administrative skills, commercial knowledge and qualifications.
Not really wanting to go back into the corporate environment, Jackie took a role with a sole trader. It turned out to be another ‘life experience’. By the time she had to leave, she had worked out that she was more interested in forming relationships and retaining customers than perpetually selling to bring in new business.
A year after starting the role, Jackie received a phone call. Her dad operated as part of a network of advisers, and the network was unhappy with the effect of his drinking on their reputation. They gave Jackie 24 hours to take over the business. If she didn’t, they were going to break it up, and her dad would be left with nothing.
Rather than see her dad ‘in the gutter’, she left her role, scarfing between jobs and working 7 days a week for a few months. Of course, she also had bought another house by then which she let out (she also decided to buy her father’s home from him). She lived in Shropshire for 8 more years. Over time creating her own by brand by first buying out her dad and then leaving the network.
In that time she met and married her Manchester-based husband. They decided to set up home close enough to Shrewsbury for Jackie to visit clients and near enough to industry for her husband to take a ‘blue chip’ job. And that is how Jackie ended up in the East Midlands. Her business grew, and she took on an assistant.
She now has two employees. One is also qualified and used to work in a bank. She hated the ‘sell at all cost‘ culture she experienced and found a mentor in Jackie. Their bond blossomed, and she joined the firm soon after. This employee helped Jackie through some tough times, even reducing her hours to cut costs. Now business is going strong and a second assistant joined the company two years ago. A fourth member of the team, albeit not an employee, is the marketing consultant Jackie hired in the early days of her business, she has been instrumental in the growth of the company.
Jackie says she is never going to be a ‘high earning’ Financial Adviser. One reason is that she employs staff in a town centre office; the other is that she charges a fixed fee for work, unlike many advisers who charge a percentage of their clients’ wealth. But she has a great team and good clients, “when its like that it isn’t stressful”.
What is next for Jackie? Well as a Financial Adviser she is always learning and has to create new business opportunities as times change. A few years ago she helped companies set up Auto-Enrolment (at that time a new pension requirement), now she is moving further into pensions and is starting to talk to solicitors so she can help people work out their pension situation during divorce.