How To Stop Working 9 To 5 And Find Business Success, with Amanda Cassar
Published DateAuthorDan Sullivan and Strategic Coach
Amanda Cassar never intended to be an entrepreneur. Growing up, she was told to “just do a 9 to 5.” Now, she’s a financial advisor with two businesses of her own. In this episode, Amanda shares how she discovered her entrepreneur motivation and found business success.
Here's some of what you'll learn in this episode:
How not being able to afford a drink was a turning point for Amanda.
Why putting herself last led to her burning out.
What led to Amanda buying out her former employer.
Amanda’s first lessons in business leadership.
One of the main reasons Amanda invests in The Strategic Coach® Program.
Taking time off means you can be really on when you want to be.
It’s a big deal to say yes to opportunities instead of making up excuses.
Goal setting is important, but so is taking advantage of what’s currently available.
Realizing that there’s nothing legitimately holding you back can result in a mindset shift.
Entrepreneurs have to stop and take stock sometimes.
Be present with whoever you’re with at the time.
People are an entrepreneur’s secret sauce.
Sometimes, the people who got you to where you are now aren’t the people who will take you where you want to be next.
Asking your team what’s important to them is the first way you can give value back to them.
If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
Dan Sullivan: Hi, this is Dan Sullivan. I'd like to welcome you to the Multiplier Mindset podcast.
I got a wonderful entrepreneurial story for you today. This is Multiplier Mindset, and boy, talk about somebody who's got a multiplier mindset. This is Amanda Cassar. She's an extraordinary example of what I consider to be the entrepreneurial spirit. She lives on the Gold Coast, right on the East Coast of Australia. What's so really great about it is I just keep meeting new entrepreneurs, and in Amanda's case, she's been in Strategic Coach for five years, and this is the first time I've encountered her. We could do a poster of her, I'll tell you. Because the story she tells about how she became an entrepreneur, she didn't grow up with a lot of support in how she grew up and everything. She was told to get a nine-to-five job and raise a family, get old, retire. And she said, "Get up. The world's got to change. But it's not the world that's got to change. I've got to change."
Amanda Cassar: My name is Amanda Cassar. I am based on the beautiful Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. I am a financial advisor and I run my two businesses, Wealth Planning Partners and Trusted Aged Care out of my offices in Robina. I've been an advisor for 22 years, and the Gold Coast is kind of like the Florida of America. A lot of older people, we call it the launching pad, come to retire here. There's beautiful weather, fabulous beaches, great lifestyle. So there was becoming a really great need for aged care financial advice. So I could have done that under my existing business, but as a branding exercise, started an entirely new business called Trusted Aged Care Services to help people understand the finances involved in going into long-term care.
I was first introduced to Coach, I was at an MDRT conference with some fellow colleagues back in Orlando, Florida, and I'm guessing that might have been 2017. And David Bachelor and David Braithwaite, both of whom are Strategic Coach coaches, happened to be there. We were picking brains and talking ideas and I'd asked them about their success and both of them said, "You've got to do Coach." So I never started out to be an entrepreneur. My parents were very much, "Keep your life simple. Do the nine-to-five, come home, just be happy. Enjoy your family." My dad had a small insurance business, like a fire and general for cars, and contents, and home, that sort of thing. And I'd had my two babies, we had our first mortgage, and I was sitting at a supermarket one day, we were living week-to- week, hand-to-mouth, and I'd saved a Subway voucher for my lunch that week because we didn't have enough for me to make my own lunch even. And I thought, "Fabulous. I'll use this Subway voucher for my lunch today." And when I got to the end of the line to pay and handed over the voucher, she said, "No, you have to buy a drink." And I actually didn't have the $2.50 or whatever it was to buy the drink, and she took the sub and took it off me and put it away. So it was one of those moments, I just sat in the food court thinking, "This is ridiculous." I was working part-time for a financial advisor. My husband was mowing lawns. We had two little kids, and I'm like, "Something's got to change."
And it had to be me. It was rock foundation, ready to start building. So working in a financial planner's office was the perfect place to start. I thought, "Well, why don't I do this?" I looked at what he did when he wasn't there. I often did that for him. So it was, "Well, why don't I do my studies? Why don't I become a planner?" I became the succession plan for that business. I entirely bought out my former employer in 2014, his business, started the aged care business in 2016. In the meantime, I've started two podcasts, one's about to be launched, I've invented apps, I've written a book. I've just sort of gone, "Right, if someone's got to change, it's going to be me." And just went off like a rocket on a tangent in the last 20 years with, "Okay, now what are all the things I can do?" So it was an absolute mindset shift that had to happen for me to get in that space.
I'm actually a massive believer in saying yes when opportunities arise. I know goal setting is really important for a lot of people and striving to get where you want to be. But for me, when opportunities appear, saying yes instead of making so many excuses is a really big deal as well. And as much as goal setting is important, taking advantage of what's available. I mean, I could have thrown everything in and gone back to university, but it was a case of, "Well, I can still work and study and raise my family at the time." So being able to take advantage of that opportunity was a great idea. A girlfriend over here who runs Australia's largest networking group for women, Business Chicks it's called, said to me one day, "Why don't you come on this leadership program we've got? We're off to Ethiopia." And I'm like, "Well, I've seen the ladies who do that. They're incredible. That's not me. They're amazing, but cool, good for them." And she sort of looked at me like, "But you are ready. Not everybody's ready. You need to do this."
And I'm like, "Look, my version of charity lady is donating my old clothes to the shop, handing money over to the surf lifesavers when they knock on my car door window at the light." So again, it was that mindset shift where I realized all the reasons I couldn't do it were excuses. I had never done fundraising for $10,000 before, like I said. So that was a massive mindset shift and a start on a leadership journey. And we actually didn't get to Ethiopia. It was too dangerous at the time, but ended up in Uganda in 2015 on the most incredible leadership program anywhere. And again, it was taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself. It wasn't my goal to ever be there, but it actually became my goal to go back the following year and went to Malawi in 2016 and then India in 2019. Because the lessons on leadership from some of the humblest people on Earth and the poorest.
And talk about mindset shift. When these people are given the opportunity to change their lives, what we can learn for that. It was a brick to the side of the head and a perspective shift for me. It was, "Well, if these people can do it, what's stopping me?"
We now have a family business. So both my adult children work with me. My son has become an advisor, and just last weekend I became a grandma for the first time. So that was very exciting, I've got the next generation in preparation in my business. So my son's an advisor, my daughter works with me. I have two offshore staff in the Philippines who help run the business. Because we've been on the Gold Coast a very long time we have a great name in this area, so people do call us for work. And in the meantime, I'm creative. And yeah, like I said, I've invented an app, I'm invested in another, we're looking now, I'm getting into the venture capital space. How do I raise money to take these things to market?
So a whole new world. Obviously I don't sit still for very long. I've always got something new and exciting, bright shiny thing like a lot of entrepreneurs. "What's next? What's next?" And then, yeah, another planner has asked me to be part of a podcast that the two of us are going to do together as well. So yeah, very exciting times. And I did actually have a year of now it's time to say no, I need to consolidate. So if it wasn't a hell yes from me, it was hell no. Because you do have to also take stock. You can't just be on the go all the time. And I'm someone who is on when I'm on, but I actually need some quiet time and downtime to give back to me. And I live on a small property in the Gold Coast hinterland, and we actually are an Australian family who does have kangaroos and koalas in the backyard.
So it's lovely to just play with my chickens, and feed the kookaburras, and watch the wallabies in the backyard. So yeah, it's very much getting back to nature for me that gives back so that I can be on when I want to be on. And it was probably Strategic Coach that I guess gave me that brick to the side of the head myself for the perspective change. I'd been the workaholic when the kids were little, building the business, running to every networking event, meeting new people, going to the opening of an envelope, signing up everybody who could breathe, as you do when you start out. And I ended up with exhaustion and overwhelm, and it was learning more about free time. And I think Arianna Huffington's book Thrive, where she'd done the same thing with this 24 hour news cycle until she actually collapsed in her office, and realizing that's not what life's about.
It isn't, my epitaph has to be, "She spent so many hours in the office, wasn't she great?" That's not the mother or grandmother or friend that I want to be. So yeah, it was free time’s become very precious and very guarded for me and more of it as I possibly can. I actually did get to the point, I did burn out. I just decided I'd dropped everything in my life except work. I was the Stepford wife, I was the perfect mother. I had to have dinner on the table at six o'clock, and the clothes all washed, and the school lunches made, and my clients. And then I had the mummy guilt, whereas with I was my clients, I should have been with my family, and with my family, I should have been with my business. And it all just came to a head and I ended up thinking, "My mental health is suffering." And I got some counseling and I had this belief system that I was being selfish if I gave back to me.
And I think that's an inherited belief that I watched my mother and grandmother give, and serve, and always put themselves last as many women and mothers do. And it was interesting when they were telling me these stories about how can you give to people if you're not filling your own cup up first? Because there's nothing left to give. So those kind of stories really resonated that I wasn't a bad person if I took time out for my own mental health or for my own break or to give back to my family, and throw away the guilt. I mean, learning about being present. If I'm with my clients, then I'm with my clients, if I'm with my family, then be present with my family. So those sort of stories really helped me and I've never gotten that place again. I just protect that space so much now.
And if you're struggling and overworking, I think just taking back, if it has to be four hours to start with, if you're like, "I can't put my laptop down, I can't not take it home at night." Or maybe just start with, "Well, Sundays are mine," and then maybe that'll become, "Maybe Saturdays as well," and then maybe a Friday afternoon or once a month, you'll take a day off to do something for yourself. So it's baby steps. Absolutely, because again, it's a mindset shift and they take time. You talk to anybody who runs a business and people are the hardest. We've all got our weird ways. We find our own brand of weird and we stick with that. And it is tricky to bring those dynamics. I had a beautiful assistant for 10 years, I believe that people are our secret sauce. So investing in your people.
She used to be my nail artist and the cleaner in my house, and I ended up paying for her education. She sort of started out doing a little bit of filing and I encouraged her to eventually become an advisor as well. She still works in another advisor's practice now, and encouraged her daughter as well. So she was part of the business for a while. So investing in your people pays massive dividends. I mean a long-term staff member, you don't get a lot of staff now who stick around for 10 years. So a great investment in my business. One of the first lessons that Coach taught us was sometimes the people who get you to where you are now aren't the people who take you to where you want to be next. So willing to also let go and move on and think, "Well, there's a silver lining ahead. There's going to be somebody else who works."
And look, we've had people who don't as well. And as crushing as that is, it's that policy of hire quickly, fire faster, till you find that fit that works for your business. But people will always be the hardest part because we're human, and weird, and strange and have all our own little foibles and quirks. So yeah, it will always be the trickiest part of running a business. I think finding out from your team what's important to them is the very first way you can add value back to them. I mean, giving a person a cash bonus may do it for some, others, they want time off. Others, they want to feel like they're an important part of the team and you invest in their education or they want to know there's a career path with you. They might want skin in the game and shares in the business for longevity.
So everybody's motivated by something very different. So I think having a blanket, "Look, everybody gets a bonus of a grand or two," or whatever it is, "At the end of the year," just doesn't cut it for everybody. Someone might like an extra week off paid, that may be all they need. Or I know another firm who give everybody on their birthday, they have the day off, fully paid, "Off you go, do what you like." Millennials often now they want to feel they're part of something bigger and give back. So do you do a couple of paid days a year where they can volunteer at their favorite charity without losing wages? So I think understanding what drives and motivates your team is really important in you being able to give back as an employer to make them feel valued.
One of the most difficult things to deal with is always things that are outside your control. You can have contingency plans for losing a team member and that sort of thing. But when stuff happens that you can't control, it might be anything from a natural disaster. And for us, it was a legislative change in Australia. We had a royal commission into misconduct in banking and financial services, and we had a lawyer at the head of it, months’ worth of testimonies, of fees being charged to dead clients and advisors ripping people off. So in the media for months and months, financial advisors were pilloried and became the bad guys and the punching bags. And the findings in the Royal Commission that were handed down, they had to change the Corporations Act and then they could turn off commissions and income that advisors had built up over many, many years. So suddenly having tens of thousands of dollars of income that you'd built up just switched off because of a legislative change. That's something you can't ever imagine would happen in your business.
And look, other businesses were much worse off than me, but when things from left field happen like that, it's very much in your mindset how you move forward. I mean, for some that was crushing. Thousands of advisors in Australia have left financial planning, we've gone less than half. So from 26,000 we now have around 12,000 left, and there may still be another 3,000 to go. The education standards changed. You had to have a degree, whether you were 65 or 25, you were no longer allowed to receive built-in commissions on investment products. Thankfully from the very start, I had never chosen to do that. So that didn't impact me. Commissions on group insurance products changed. So these things that came completely left field, it doesn't matter what field you're in. I know in the States overnight health commissions changed and thousands of people who previously sold health insurance were out of work.
Stuff you just don't see coming, and it can crush you and be an overbearing weight. But that's when you need to get help to go, "Right, is there a silver lining? What can I do? If everyone else is going to leave, maybe this is where my business can position itself that if I'm still here at the end of the day, one of those remaining 12,000 advisors, how much more work is there going to be? Can I see more value in what I do? I've done my Master's Degree, I knew that was coming. I'm qualified. I don't have to do that. Where can I take my business next? Even though I've lost that, I still have earning potential, money in my forties. What can I do for the next 20 years to turn things around or to specialize in a certain area like aged care?" So it's about finding sometimes an opportunity when everything seems that it's against you.
Maybe you had a side hustle and now you've been blindsided and it's time, right? "I'm going to turn that side hustle into my main enterprise," or something you've always longed to do that now you've been belted around, it's like, "I'm going to run with that." So it's again, back to mindset. I keep coming back to this, don't I? So how do we turn these tragic events into something that can be very cool for us going forward? If you are the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. So learning from other people at Coach is one of the main reasons I invest. Also, there's a plethora, I love that word, of tools that you can bring back and use not only in your business but in your life to work out if something should or shouldn't be done. So the tools are great, the contacts that you make are priceless.
The friendships and the networking, but also the learning. I mean, that's a Strategic Coach thing. You don't get to do an appointment with me on the weekend. That is my time. And if you can't find time sometime else, then you'll need another advisor. So setting those boundaries, I was dreadful, dreadful with boundaries, but now it makes it so much easier for me. And I suppose constantly hearing from other entrepreneurs how that happens and also learning that they fall off the wagon as well. I met an advisor recently who again, isn't having free time. She lives in the Isle of Wight and she travels to Spain and she's still taking a laptop everywhere she goes and working her ass off the whole time, instead of enjoying these beautiful surroundings that she's in. So encouraging each other to stay true and go back to ways that work for us and give back to us, that's important as well. So you might not be the smartest person in the room at Coach, but that's exactly why you should be there.
Dan Sullivan: Next year will be 50 years that I've been coaching. I started on August 15th, 1974, and next year on August 15th, 2024, it'll be 50 years. And I'm starting to get a feel for what this is all about. I remember the first 10 years, and I remember one day, matches Amanda's experience, I had to borrow money to pay for lunch one day. And people say, "Well, you're a writer, you're an artist." I was with a big ad agency and they said, "Why don't you just go get a job?" And I said, "No, no, that's in the past. I'm just not smart enough yet." So I got to keep going. I'm going to get smart one day, but I'll go through anything. And the biggest opportunity of my life came the day I met Babs Smith, who's my partner in business and partner in life. So, I so connect with what Amanda's saying here. And Amanda shared her time with us and shared her story with us. It is perfect for entrepreneurs in Strategic Coach.