10 Questions for… Gary Neild

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Gary Neild of Blue Sky Financial Planning

Gary Neild is one of the nicest guys in Financial Planning and runs Blue Sky Financial Planning, a fabulous business based in Bournemouth. I had the pleasure of working with Gary over a number of years and what he has achieved is truly stunning. I’d rate the whole team at Blue Sky as one of the best in the profession; nice, knowledgeable, passionate about planning, and totally client focused. They function like a true team as well; no silos and really support each other. I love the lot of them.

Not only does he run a brilliant high-end Financial Planning business, but Gary also founded the Local Epicentre coffee shop in Wimborne. The cafe provides a ton of free advice to the public via seminars, workshops and some one-to-one advice if they want it. He felt a coffee shop environment would be less intimidating for the general public. This is all part of Gary’s mantra, “making a difference”.

The effort, focus and financial commitment that has gone into all of Gary’s ventures is amazing.

This is a guy who put his money behind his deeply held beliefs.

Over to you Gary.


10 Questions For Gary

1. What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

It’s okay to be different. Business is not about following the herd, not about worrying what others are doing, but more about standing for something in which you believe. Then build your business accordingly.

2. Who is your business role model?

I find this a tad difficult to answer because I feel as though I should have one, but I don’t. I have always been the same when it comes to music, sport etc. I don’t tend to place anyone on a pedestal, although on saying this, there are a number of people who have influenced me over the years. People who I respect and as a result, have shaped and influenced how I work.

When I first started along the planning route, to me, it was a revelation. I had been looking for something like this for years, but hadn’t realised it existed.

In fact I remember early in my adult life, when I was working in another profession, I met  with an adviser who I thought was going to set me on a course to riches (I was the client in that instance). And all he wanted to do was sell me something. What a disappointment.

Paul Etheridge first opened my eyes to what was possible, although our styles were different. He reinforced that planning was the direction for me.

The next person may be slightly embarrassed as he is asking me these questions. Yes Brett, it’s you! We ‘hooked up’ at the right time. I was ready to progress. You gave me the confidence to follow my passion and challenged my thinking. A few years on, I still think “What would Brett say?”

Of late it is Andy Bounds, who has been a keynote speaker at the last two IFP/CISI Conferences. My resultant work with Andy has just ‘sharpened my tools’ and has helped myself and my team further believe in our proposition. He probably doesn’t know how much he has helped. Perhaps I should tell him!

3. Have any other adviser/owners ever helped you with advice or support? (Who? What did they help you with?)

My first thought is that there have been many advisers/ business owners who have helped me by showing me how not to run a business, but such stories are for another time!

I find it useful to share thoughts and ideas with like-minded people. Michael Smith of Chamberlyn’s is one such example. He helped me shape my current charging structure. Another recent example being Pete Matthew of Jackson’s who, through one pearl of wisdom, allowed us to enhance our communication to clients after presenting their life-planning scenarios.

4. Have you ever given up your time to help another adviser coming through?

I spend a lot of time mentoring nowadays. I suppose this is because in the early days I had very little meaningful guidance. I got lots of opinions from people telling me what I should do, but all too often this was reinforcing the stereotype of how financial advice was delivered at the time.

I have mentored a number of business owners with their proposition. Bizarrely, I get asked more and more to help outside of financial services.

5. What was your most expensive or painful business mistake?

Nothing specific because I have made lots of mistakes. (Haven’t we all?) The key has been learning from them.

Probably the one thing I wish I had done much earlier was had the courage of my convictions to ‘plough my own furrow’ and strike out on my planning journey much earlier.

6. Which person or business do you most admire in the profession?

I am always willing to learn from those who are successful. My business, I suppose, is an amalgam of other people’s ideas intertwined with my own particular take on things.

7. What do you love about Financial Planning?

Making a difference to people’s lives. I can honestly say that this is far more important to me than any fees we earn from our work. Sure, we need to keep a close eye on the numbers, but I’m a great believer in creating great behaviours and seeing the figures build from there. It is the culture which defines any organisation.

8. If you could have your business career over again, what would you do differently?

I used to be a Teacher, and when I discovered the financial services sector I virtually fell into it, as most people seemed to do in those days. I became self-employed after 18 months. I wish I’d had a mentor; someone who could have guided me and steered me in those early days. Another thing I would have done is invested more heavily in myself,  upskilling much earlier across a whole facet of disciplines, many of them non-financial.

9. Have you ever been under severe financial pressure as you grew? 

The financial pressure was very evident on day one at Blue Sky. A partially finished office (tradesmen overpromising and under delivering), a pile of rubble in the middle of the floor, no clients and two other members of the team thinking like me…what happens now!

10. What’s the secret to happiness in life?

I’ll let you know when I’ve found it.

Seriously? Being fulfilled. It’s no good letting life dictate to you and then you reacting to what comes along. I’m realising more and more that it’s important to be pulling the ‘levers of life’ in your direction wherever possible.

We owe it to those around us to be the best we can.

Find out more about Gary Neild


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