The client gardener

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Cynthia Grisbrook is rushed off her feet. But that certainly hasn’t slowed her down.

As principal loan writer and executive director of DLV Finance Solutions, Grisbrook manages the operations of the business. Grisbrook co-founded DLV Finance in 2000, and now works out of their St Kilda Road office four days a week, and from her home office in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges at the week’s end. On an average week, Grisbrook will see up to nine clients. Lately, she’s been seeing 12.

Grisbrook first cracked the finance industry as a graduate trainee with ANZ, and worked her way both up the ladder and through various areas of the branch including wholesale banking and treasury, the latter where she earned the title senior money market dealer.

“I have always been comfortable with and enjoyed banking and finance particularly the turbulence and frenetic pace of treasury,” says Grisbrook.

No stranger to turbulence, Grisbrook’s experience has ensured DLV Finance has maintained its competitive edge during the challenges of the GFC. The key to weathering the storm, Grisbrook asserts, is focus.

“Understand your business, know your products, do it right, do it once. With so many market variables in play, the last thing we want to do is change how we do things. That doesn’t mean we sit back as a passive observer, but these are turbulent times and people, more than ever, want to see consistency and confidence in their broker professional.”

There is, she laughs, never a dull moment.

“I enjoy the dynamics of the industry and the volatility of the market, there is always something new every day,” says Grisbrook. “It keeps you on your toes; you can’t get complacent in this industry if you want to be successful in the long term.”

The bigger picture is key for Grisbrook – planting the seed and cultivating these relationships.

“I enjoy watching my clients achieving their financial goals and reaching financial independence particularly when they initially thought it was out of their reach. When you see clients without financial stress, they’re happy campers and I know we’ve done our job.”

Working to strengths

Grisbrook says it’s important to concentrate on your strengths in business, rather than things that are out of your control.

“Our brand strategy is based on our client relationship because we can influence and control that. We cannot control the market – products, funders and credit policies – so we measure everything we do by how well we develop the depth of our client relationships. So for us, client referral is an insufficient outcome. Client endorsement, that is, advocacy, is our minimum benchmark.”

In a sense, their clients are the measure of the business’s success.

“Our clients market our business in two ways: by continuing to use our services (repeat business) and by being advocates to others of our business (recommended business). The maintenance of the client experience is essential for us to reach new customers, which means we are extremely motivated to continue to deliver a quality, professional broker service.”

Grisbrook says it’s important not to over complicate issues, as it will only distract you from your end goals.

“Keep things simple,” she advises. “It is so easy to unnecessarily complicate things with administration (but that doesn’t mean being sloppy) and getting sidetracked by wasting time on things you can’t change and not concentrating your effort on the things you can change.”

Grisbrook says there are three important things to do in order to run a successful finance business, the first of which is understanding. “Understand how your business works, manage your costs and income, and to know exactly what is spent and why and what is earned and from whom.”

The second, knowledge. “Know your products intimately,” says Grisbrook. “Use computer software to verify your knowledge not be the sole source of it.”

The third, consistency. “Do it right, do it once – maintain a standard that shows you are a professional broker to clients, to lenders and to your aggregator.”

Taking care of business

While Grisbrook loves the fast-pace of the finance world, when it comes to business, she advises others like her to proceed with caution.

“Take the time to stop and reflect [on] your business,” encourages Grisbrook. She says it’s important to ask yourself what your business is there to do, where you want it to go, and, most importantly, how you are going to get it there.

Grisbrook also advises that you can’t to this all on your own – you are too close to your business and its processes to be objective about them.

“It’s really important and valuable to challenge and reassess your business with someone trusted and not directly involved in the day-to-day operations. They see things from a different perspective.”

Networking is an important element to any business, but for Grisbrook, it provides an invaluable vantage. She networks through her aggregators’ personal development days, lender product meetings and at the industry annual conferences and briefings.

“I find this a great source of product knowledge and the opportunity to gain insight into other issues or business methods, opinions and viewpoints that I might not have considered.”

Growing aspirations

Between DLV Finance and her networking priorities, maintaining a work-life balance is something Grisbrook, characteristically, has planned.

“I made the decision early in the piece that I would not let work be the boss, or that I would be a ‘24/7 call me any time’ broker,” says Grisbrook. “I schedule ‘me time’ just like I schedule work appointments which means I can do things for myself without the interruptions of phone or email messages. For me, it means I can give 100 per cent to what I am doing at the time therefore I don’t feel guilty when I’m not working and I don’t wish I was somewhere else when I have work to get done.”

For Grisbrook, it’s important to stop and smell the roses. Or, more accurately, to tend to them. Grisbrook has a large collection of roses requiring regular attention – 110 at the time of publication – a skill she also applies to cultivating her client network.

But roses are not all Grisbrook is intent on growing. “Success,” answers Grisbrook when asked what the future of DLV Finance is, hinting at her plans for “exponential growth” over the next six to 12 months.

This is not to say she won’t find time to relax over the coming period. She is also a cricket and AFL devotee (“I’m Victorian, what did you expect?”), and is in the middle of doing home renovations. “I’m not sure if that counts as a hobby, but it does provide the opportunity to put something in your hands rather than just a pen!

“I also have two staffers who are always happy to see me, no matter what day I have had.”

And if it’s anywhere like the days just gone by, Grisbrook will be in need of a little R&R.

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