Career change is a leap of faith for Telford businesswoman
After running her own global freight forwarding business for more than two decades, Nicole Gunter was ready for a new challenge.
Following her own experience of receiving financial advice and support, she wanted to use her own business knowledge to help others.
So the 47-year-old, who was managing director of Telford-based Global Freight Services Limited, retrained as an adviser and set up her own business specialising in wealth management.
Nicole, who lives in Telford, works with individuals and business owners to understand their current financial position and help them achieve their goals and aspirations for the future.
“Not many advisers I know have the same corporate background and I think this gives me a point of difference. I understand that so often the last people business owners take care of is themselves – I can recognise this and can help them to make a change. This gives me a purpose," she explains.
Nicole started her freight forwarding business at the age of 21, with the assistance of a relative.
"I wasn’t great at school. I just wanted to get out into the world of work. My parents were business owners, so it seemed natural that I would be encouraged to go on to work for myself. I was driven in that way.
“The business grew, and I grew with it. I had support from a couple of business coaches and then learned as I went along. I was committed and built up a credible and reputable business."
The business was a core part of Nicole’s life for the best part of 20 years. In the latter stages, Nicole’s husband, Anton, joined the firm looking after sales to give Nicole the chance to focus on the path forward.
Always keen to keep developing and improving, Nicole went on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses course to help her better analyse the financial success of the business and consider plans for the future. Alongside this, Nicole was taking advice from a St. James’s Place Financial Adviser on her situation.
“What I recognise now that I couldn’t see at the time is that I was planning my exit, my retirement from the firm if you like. The process made me question my financial position, my own investments.
“Being a business owner, I was naturally suspicious of taking the advice of others. I thought I knew best. But I had so much to learn.
“I had seen first-hand people go through the process of retirement. I knew very well how to run a business, and I knew about property, and managing people, but the process revealed what I didn’t know about financial planning. I needed and wanted to understand it better.
“Ultimately, I handed the reins of the freight forwarding business to my husband. It was challenging working together so closely in the business and I wanted a new challenge,” she explains.
The experience of the advice she had been given, piqued Nicole’s interest in becoming a financial adviser. In 2018 while in her early 40s, Nicole decided to retrain and enrolled with the St. James’s Place Financial Adviser Academy for a six-month course.
“Honestly, I had to work hard to convince those around me that joining the Academy was a good move. As a successful businesswoman, why would I want to do this? I was lucky enough to be financially stable. Why would I take a risk and retrain in a new career? But I was convinced I could do it. And that it would be the right move for me.”
By June 2019, Nicole had set herself up as a self-employed financial adviser as part of the St. James’s Place Partnership. Nicole Gunter Wealth Management, based in Shropshire, now offers clients a host of wealth management and financial planning advice.
Nicole had to build a client base from scratch but was in a fortunate position of having an extensive network of business associates from the freight forwarding business along with networking skills.
“My clients are people like me”, says Nicole. “I do a lot of online networking, but I also had a good profile from the positive PR that was generated during the time I was running my freight forward business, so I am fairly well-known locally. There were some raised eyebrows when people heard I’d made the change, but my network has helped me build up my business."
She believes changing her career has brought many lifestyle benefits.
“It’s no less hard work, but there is flexibility. I know that the freight forwarding business is now in the capable hands of my husband and is thriving. This means I can spend more time with me 11-year-old daughter, do the school run and be available during the holidays – much of which we missed out on before.”
“I want to make this business work for me and my circumstances. I feel confident I can do a good job. I’ve run a business before, and I have a growing book of clients. For me it’s about having a new purpose, really helping people to make decisions which can impact every area of their lives.”
Nicole says there are several skills that she honed while running the freight forwarding business which has been invaluable for a career in financial advice.
“Problem-solving is so important. I think it’s the main skill for any adviser. It’s about helping clients work through their challenges and reach the best possible outcome. You could say it’s like solving a puzzle or an equation. Customer service skills are also essential. Knowing how to deal with people, how to talk to them and above all how to listen.
“I think my own life experience has been a huge advantage in helping me understand other people’s situations. Once you have lived it, you can talk from your own experience, and this resonates.”
To those considering setting up their own financial advice business, Nicole says: “It’s hard graft for sure. The first few years aren’t for the faint-hearted, you need to have a good deal of resilience and the ability to get over setbacks. But if you have the right attitude and can make it work for you the rewards are there for the taking.”