4 tips to starting a business

With Entrepreneur in Residence and Verve Super CEO, Christina Hobbs

Money /
6 steps to sorting your super for the self-employed

Christina Hobbs is our current Entrepreneur in Residence, providing online business support to our members.

She is the CEO of Verve Super, Australia’s first ethical superannuation fund that is tailored for women, by women. Christina is an experienced Board Director in the superannuation industry and has worked as a humanitarian and financial inclusion expert for the United Nations for over a decade. She was a founding Board Director of the Global Women’s Project and is a published author on gender equality. Christina was the 2020 Women’s Agenda Emerging Corporate Leader of the year.

In this blog, the Queen of Superannuation, Christina has answered your burning business questions from July with her six tips to starting a business.

Where do you think superannuation companies fall short in catering for women and other minorities?  

The problem about the superannuation industry, as well as most big banks and financial service companies, is that historically they were built and designed by men to support men.

In recent decades, women have been increasingly growing wealth and taking back charge of their finances, but the industry has been slow to catch up. There’s now a huge gap between the number of women who want some form of financial guidance or professional support and the number of women who actually feel comfortable accessing a financial professional.

That impacts women whether it’s in relation to superannuation, or other aspects of financial management like learning to invest, understanding how to find good insurance, setting a will etc.

At Verve we reimagined super and our service to offer women a whole bunch of financial services and support outside of super to help them to build wealth. This includes our 1:1 coaches, our events and other learning opportunities for women to build their financial skills and knowledge. 

What sort of difference can women make when they take control of their super?

There’s a lot that women can do to take control of their super. The first is to find a well performing fund and consider consolidating accounts if you have multiple. The difference between having you super invested in a poorly performing fund and a good performing fund can literally be over $100,000 by the time someone retires.

Also, understanding the difference between risk level and return objectives of different options within a fund is really important.

When you are younger there may be greater benefit of being invested in higher risk investments with the likelihood of a higher long term return. However, as you approach retirement age it’s important to consider reducing the riskiness of the investment as there are less years to make money back if there is some form of share market downturn.

I also suggest that women take time to find out what they are invested in and see if the investments align to their values. Many women would be shocked to know that their money may be invested in fossil fuels, tobacco, gambling, weapons and other nasties.

1. What was the biggest struggle in growing your business?

Starting a business is a huge amount of work no matter what your business is. It’s something that you’re likely to spend a huge amount of every waking hour thinking about whether it is a weekday or the weekend. I have a good work life balance but wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer level of constant mental attention that having a start-up demands.

I wouldn’t change it for anything, but I certainly have a great respect for anyone who operates their own business or tries to start one.

The growth of our business has always relied on the word of mouth of our members who tell their friends and family about us. Thankfully we have some incredible members that really believe in what we are doing and proudly spread the word for us. That’s been hugely satisfying.

2. What are some tips you have for staying motivated towards such a big goal (financial power of women and providing an opportunity to invest our money for good)?

Celebrating small wins along the way when starting a business is really important.

Our team works largely remotely, but one of our weekly catch ups is called weekly-wins, we listen to music and get up and dance and each take the opportunity to state one win for the week. Sometimes a team member will read a really thankful email from a member, or play a phone recording from a telephone conversation with a member.

It’s these moments that keep us all inspired and on track.

3. You’ve accomplished so much in your career, like becoming a CEO and working for the UN. Do you ever suffer from imposter syndrome and self-doubt? If so, how do you overcome this?

The reality is that if you’re always pushing yourself to do new things and to go bigger and bolder you’ll spend much of your life feeling like you’re learning rather than being an expert. That tension is exciting for some people but too much to bear for others. You have to know yourself well to understand the rate of change you want for your career and life. For me, I’ve found it really useful to re-frame the feeling of being an imposter to that of being a beginner.

When I started Verve and became the CEO of a super fund, I really did consider myself a beginner CEO. Because I knew I was at the beginning I surrounded myself with a wise Board of Directors and I set my mind frame to learning the skill and not trying to compare myself to experts.

I think it’s a really helpful mental shift. You would never call a novice piano player or a basketball player in their first season an ‘imposter’ you’d just call them beginning their journey and learning. That’s how I always look at myself when I take on new challenges and it takes off the pressure.

4. What would you say to women wanting to start their own business? Is there anything you would have wished to know before starting out?

I wish I’d really thought through how hard starting a business would be and the sacrifice required. I’m sure I would have gone ahead anyway, but I may have been better prepared.

Often when someone tells me they are starting a business, I try really hard to see if I can convince them not to. I know that if I can’t waiver someone to change their mind, then they probably have the level of conviction and dedication to the idea that they will need to manage the hard slog ahead.

Having a business can be associated with a terrifying lack of financial security, huge working hours, self-doubt etc. Getting through the hard times really requires a strong conviction in the business model and for many women the positive impact they hope to generate.

Understanding the potential risks when starting a business can also really help people not to fall into well-trodden traps. I often ask people what will happen if it takes twice the cost to launch than they think it will, or three times as long to build a customer base as they anticipate. Having good answers to those kind of questions can really ensure that founders won’t be under immense pressure later on.

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