Gerard Tiffen - Building a Nationally Recognised Service Business

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In this week's episode, we hear from the wonderful Gerard Tiffen, founder of successful Canberra mortgage brokerage company Tiffen & Co. Gerard discusses his passionate commitment to developing client loyalty, caring for his people and the power of hard work. This is a great Canberra business success story about a man who cares about his clients, his staff, his family and the wider community.
 

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0:00 - Intro

1:00 - What does Tiffen & Co do better then others?

2:50 The role of the government in barriers to entry

10:50 What drives Gerard?

17:32 What do you enjoy most about interacting with clients?

21:03 How do you deal with stress?

30:30 What do you look for in people?

33:12 How would you describe the culture of Tiffen & Co?

38:03 How do you keep track of the industry? - what methods do you use to keep learning?

39:15 What is the importance of mentors?

41:59 What is it that makes you not afraid to ask and risk rejection?

44:54 How much can you pursue mastery?

46:33 Making big decisions.

47:31 Why do you care so much about your clients?

54:18 How do you allocate your time?

58:35 Advice for young business owners?

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Jonathan Doyle: Hey everybody, Jonathan Doyle with you once again. Welcome to the Canberra Business Podcast. Great to have the pleasure of your company. We've got a good one for you today. This was a lot of fun to do. I learned a great deal. You're going to learn a great deal. In just a moment I'm going to introduce you to the fantastic Gerard Tiffen, founder of Tiffen & Co, one of the most fantastic, successful boutique mortgage brokers in the country. They've just got a whole swag of awards. They've been doing amazing work for many years. Many of you probably know of Tiffen & Co. If you don't, by the end of this you're going to want to go and check them out.

Jonathan Doyle: Look, housekeeping from me, just please subscribe to the podcast. Really what we're trying to do is just grow this from the ground up, so whether it's on Apple podcasts or Android, wherever you're seeing this, you can just subscribe, that would be awesome. Leave a review for us, that would be really helpful too, and also we've got an email sign up box there, which is just a way for each Monday when a new episode comes out we can just let you know by email who the new guest is, and it will be right there for you. That's it from me, I want to get straight into this episode, look you're going to get a lot out of it. 

Jonathan Doyle: Pay attention, listen to the wisdom that Gerard shares with us. He's a businessman, a husband, a father. He'd hate me saying this, but he's a pretty good athlete too. I found out the hard way a couple of times. You're just going to get a lot out of it, so enjoy this time with Gerard Tiffen, and I hope that what he shares with you is really going to take you further on your business journey. I'm Jonathan Doyle, I'm going to speak to you again at the very end.

Jonathan Doyle: Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to the Canberra Business Podcast. I'm your host Jonathan Doyle and I have a fantastic guest for you. Gerard Tiffen, welcome to the Canberra business podcast. 

Gerard Tiffen: Thanks JD.

Jonathan Doyle: We've had some fun, ladies and gentlemen, just getting these microphones right. He's had sufficient training now. Mate, so good to have you with us. There's a lot we're going to discuss in this interview. Another great local Canberra business that you're obviously really passionate about. I've known you for a while, and how you relate to your people and your clients and we're going to talk about all that. Mate tell us a little bit, just about the bread and butter for you guys. What does Tiffen & Co do? Then we're going to talk about your backstory, but just bring people up to speed with what Tiffen & Co's offering to the world is.

Gerard Tiffen: We're a mortgage broker. The short version of a long story is we provide clients with home loans through the major banks, so with State, Commonwealth, ANZ, you name it we deal with them. Down to the little guys like Pepper Home Loans and Liberty, we source the best finance for our clients in the marketplace.

Jonathan Doyle: Tons of people do this, it's a crowded market, you have had a great impact and good success, tell us straight up what's the point of difference? What do you think you guys already do better than other people?

Gerard Tiffen: I think systems, I think we have some very good systems in place that others don't, and I think we take it as a profession, we treat it as a profession, rather than just a part-time job, which a lot of brokers unfortunately do, so we've taken it to the next level. We went and got premises which I think are pretty good, and we have relationships with the banks as well as the people that are signing off on credit, so I think that's probably our point of difference. 

Jonathan Doyle: When you talk about, some people just treat it as a part-time job, is there low barriers to entry? Somebody can go and do, they can do finance at uni, do a couple of courses and call themselves a mortgage broker?

Gerard Tiffen: Spot on. Probably one of the issues that the lending institution, or the lending world has at the moment, and hey, it's interesting times because of the royal commission going on at the moment, but the biggest thing is the entry level, and the people that are doing it are just, to put it nicely, they shouldn't be putting, doing face to face with clients. They have no expertize, they rent themselves, they're bankrupts, the whole industry needs to clean themselves up.

Jonathan Doyle: Let's jump into that business and then we're going to do the back story and stuff in a minute, but this came up with Louise Curtis from Lollypotz a couple of interviews ago, where the royal commission is happening, obviously trust in public institutions is probably at an all time low. What I was interested in, I have this love of free enterprise, I love entrepreneurship, I love seeing businesses grow. Ever since the 2008 financial crisis there's been this big public conversation about the role of government in regulating markets. 

Jonathan Doyle: I'm fascinated by this, because Louise was talking about the franchising space, and she's, they were going to make franchise owners responsible for the behavior of all their franchise operators. At one level you go, okay that adds a layer of accountability, but it also means, it gets people, people don't want to own franchises, because they don't want that level of responsibility. What I want to ask you is, we want some barriers to entry, but if we have too many barriers to entry we'll end up with one or two big players who control the game.

Jonathan Doyle: I guess I'm asking you, where do you see the role of government in cleaning this stuff up?

Gerard Tiffen: Well first I'll mention that it is an inquiry into misconduct into the banking industry, so they're not going to out to the 50 great stories that people have been successful and created some amazing businesses from the banks helping them and lending them money. I'm always front foot on that. It is an inquiry into misconduct, and it think the royal commissioner himself is a smart dude, and he knows that he's not just going blindly, hey there is another side of the story. 

Gerard Tiffen: From the banks point of view I think the banks are genuinely concerned with the ... And this is what I'm hearing directly from the lenders themselves, they're concerned with the consumers not taking any onus on themselves. "Oh we want to start a business, it went broke, it's your fault." "Well hang on, it's not that easy. You're a smart person, you're an adult, you should have got advice on it when you bought it. We lent you the money, not your business, and you've dropped the ball."

Gerard Tiffen: There's two sides of the story. The franchising whole ... That's another conversation, and there are some issues around that, and I did hear Louise's interview, and it was a good one, and she's right, the whole franchising world is bit of a disaster I think at the moment. There needs to be some protections around there, and I think that might even start this week or next week, they're looking into that, some franchising issues that are coming up.

Jonathan Doyle: How do we do it? How do we stop lone rangers going, "Hey, I've got nothing to do next Tuesday, why don't I start a mortgage broker?" As opposed to making it so tough ...

Gerard Tiffen: It's starting now. The banks are starting it, they're having hurdles, criteria, they're not letting first year uni students come out and become a mortgage broker. They have to have mentors, they have to be working with someone, they have to be full-time. They can't be an Uber driver half the time and writing loans the other half. Which is, I've been picked up by a mortgage broker Uber driver once.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, I think that world is genuinely changing, and it's coming in hard now. These are the regulations that my governing body, the Mortgage Finance Association of Australia, the MFAA, are putting in place now.

Jonathan Doyle: We jumped in the deep end, I'm always fascinated by the back story, let's talk a little bit about how you grew up, was it spreadsheets before school every morning? Was it risk analysis with mum and dad before, as soon as you got home from school? How many in the family did you grow up with?

Gerard Tiffen: I've got two brothers and two older sisters, so there was five of us. 

Jonathan Doyle: Where did you fit in that order?

Gerard Tiffen: I was the baby.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow, that's right yeah.

Gerard Tiffen: I grew up on the tough streets of Lyons. I once saw a man throw a bit of rubbish on the ground, and didn't pick it up.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow that's serious. Go to sleep with the sound of gunfire.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, Canberra born and bred.

Jonathan Doyle: Bernie Quartz used to be there.

Gerard Tiffen: Bernie Quartz was there, yeah, a tough place, my friend, a tough place. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, so you grew up on the mean streets.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, the means streets of Lyons. Dad was a navy man and mum was a housewife, the best.

Jonathan Doyle: Bon Jovi was the soundtrack to your childhood. 

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, living on a prayer baby.

Jonathan Doyle: Did you ever own a pair of rollers?

Gerard Tiffen: Rollers?

Jonathan Doyle: Desert boots.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, of course, I used to get picked on too.

Jonathan Doyle: Really.

Gerard Tiffen: The same pair, yeah. You can't have desert boots can you?

Jonathan Doyle: There's a bunch of younger listeners going, "What are you talking about?" Young people wouldn't understand. Where did you go to school?

Gerard Tiffen: I was a St. Eddie's boy. Yeah, a proud St Edward's boy. 

Jonathan Doyle: How was your maths at St. Eddie's?

Gerard Tiffen: No good.

Jonathan Doyle: Right, we're trying to talk about ...

Gerard Tiffen: Sorry Mr. Drury.

Jonathan Doyle: That's right, well we now have the software to help with the calculations, but what was your best memory from that time at Eddie's?

Gerard Tiffen: Look, my whole childhood was pretty good, I've been blessed the whole way through, there's no hard luck story where this has happened and this changed my life. No, I had a great childhood, I had a fantastic schooling, got great friends, played sport, I still have great friends from sport. I've been pretty blessed growing up in this town mate, so.

Jonathan Doyle: Would you say you're competitive? I'm going to ask you, rather than tell you what I think?

Gerard Tiffen: You know me ...

Jonathan Doyle: We've ridden bikes together, we've done a few things, so do you think you're competitive?

Gerard Tiffen: Oh, I think I'm competitive to an extent, yeah, to answer your question.

Jonathan Doyle: I'm always fascinated by that question, because I think there's two kinds of competitiveness, there's one where you're driven to just crush your opposition because there's an insecurity, as opposed to "I want to get the best out of myself, and I compete because I find out what I'm capable of." I always ask people this, from your parents, what have you brought forward into your business life? What characteristics of your parents do you think have played out in your business journey?   

Gerard Tiffen: Mum and dad were always hard workers. I think probably work ethic has been at the top of the list that I'd say I've brought through. I mean I've brought a lot of things through, but ... Because it's the only influence as you're growing up, isn't it? A big influence. I'd say my work ethic. Yeah, I'd put it down to that.

Jonathan Doyle: What does that mean for you? Would you, on a scale of one to 10, 10 being incredibly, compulsive, zero being Netflix reruns 10 hours day, where do you see yourself on that work ethic scale?

Gerard Tiffen: It's one of my big bug-bears in the world I live in at the moment. I mentor a few mortgage brokers, and people ring me up and say, "Gerard, I've been doing this for two years, and I can't work out why I'm not successful." I'll say, "Oh, run me through your day." "I got in the office at 9:30, and did this and did that, and then I was home at 5:30 at night, you wouldn't believe it." I mean you're not working, and people's, unfortunately people's work ethic doesn't match their goals in life, and that's a big thing that I see so often.

Gerard Tiffen: I mean when I started my business I was working 15 hours a day, stupid numbers, and giving up things like, I've got friends that said, "You left, you left for five years Gerard." Then I came back. When I left, I didn't really leave, I just worked.

Jonathan Doyle: There's a lot in that mate, that can be a lonely road. I'm just such a fan of entrepreneurship in business, talk us through that part, when you leave. When you've got friends, because I mean every business person I've spoken to traveled that road to some extent. How did you, were you conscious of that at the time? Did you go and choose this over this, or was it just organic in terms of how you allocated your time, or ...?

Gerard Tiffen: It was funny, it was what drove me. I was hanging around people that were very successful, drove nice cars, and like anything, you lie with dogs you get fleas, and I didn't want to be that. I was hanging around these guys driving these fantastic cars and living this life, and they had cash in their bank accounts ...

Jonathan Doyle: No desert boots.

Gerard Tiffen: No desert boots on them. Beautiful suits, and I wanted to be like that. Although I missed my friends, and I missed playing sport after school as much as I would like, I got a heck of a buzz from working, that was my thrill. I would embrace the grind, I loved it, I was getting up early, going to bed late, doing things that I don't think I probably should have been doing, but just working my guts out to get to the point where I am now.

Gerard Tiffen: They were going down the cost, they were saying, "Come out, we're going for a beer. We're on a trip away this weekend." I was going, "No I'm gone."

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, I had that this week, I've got a friend who's, "Oh we've got to catch up, and go and do this." I really want to, but I'm like, whatever bandwidth I have left, I've got three kids under 10, you've got to make that choice, right. I can go out for dinner tonight or I can ... So in all of that there's the question of drive. You talk about when you're first around these people who wear nice suits and driving nice cars, there's something fundamental in human nature, that we aspire to achieve more, experience more, have more.

Jonathan Doyle: It's one of the absolute fundamental flaws in communism, was that it denies that basic human truth, that we want to experience more, have more. To pretend that we're all exactly the same and have the same desire doesn't explain why people build their businesses. The drive that you've experienced, yeah, you grew up on the means streets of Lyons, but there was always food on the table, what drives you? What over this journey so far has pushed you forward? How do you explain that to yourself? What has pushed you forward and kept you going? 

Gerard Tiffen: I think I just wanted to succeed. I was never scared of failing, that didn't bother my, but I was scared not to be successful. I truly thought that, "Hey, I want that car, and I want that lifestyle and I want to be able to take my kids on this trip, and I want to be with my wife at this time of my life." I mean, when I started, and this all hoo-ha, this is when I was 22-23 years of age, a young dumb kid from, now like you said, the tough streets of Lyons. I just wanted to have money in my pocket. 

Gerard Tiffen: Mum and dad had five kids, and one income, we weren't flush, but I wanted to be like these other guys I was meeting and hanging around and surrounding myself with, that were earning these ridiculous amounts of money. They weren't in my industry even, they were relationship estate agents, a lot of them. I was working on Saturday and Sunday and opening up homes for them just so I could meet potential clients that wanted to get a home loan. 

Gerard Tiffen: These real estate agents were letting me bring them lunch and letting me take them a drink of water and buy them a burger, and I was like their Boy Friday for the first four or five years of my mortgage broking career. I just did it, I had to do it, and I'd see them pulling up in Porches and building houses and talking. I was just, wow, that's cool, that's ...

Jonathan Doyle: What was attractive. What was it?

Gerard Tiffen: In life you have a few influences, that you meet and the people that you meet, just have a shine, they wear nice suits, that was ... I can't put it down to something, oh they just inspired me to be it, but that's what it really is. They just inspired me to ... I want a nice suit, I want ...

Jonathan Doyle: Ladies and gentleman, he does have nice suits, he rocked up today looking casual, but he does have ... So let me ask you this, you've been able to achieve a great deal of this and you're an inspiration to many people in the Canberra business community, you have worked amazingly hard and you've been able to achieve, I'd say much of what you've wanted, what drives you now? Is it a defensive play now? Is it, I'm going to hold all this together? You've got staff, you've got a young family still, what keeps moving you forward?  

Jonathan Doyle: You've been able to have fair bit of that success that you aspired to, what keeps you going now? 

Gerard Tiffen: Well, I'm proud to say that I've built the number one mortgage broking business in Australia that is independently owned. Saying that, behind Yerobe Home Loans and those guys obviously, but independently owned mortgage broking business, no-one comes close. I'm the number one boutique broker in Australia. We have a book size of $2-billion, and a lot of clients, over 6,000 Canberrans that our clients, and I just want to take care of them. I don't want ... My accountant still says to me to this day, and one of the things that I took on board as a young fellow, size is for vanity, profit is for sanity.

Gerard Tiffen: I just want to stay nimble, tight, I've got a great group of people that I work with, 20 mouths to feed, plus their families, and I just want to keep it going. That's what drives me, plus the client outcomes, I'm seeing some great situations where clients are coming back to me, that bought houses fives, six, seven years ago, and they've made $250,000, $300,000, that wow, that's cool, that is cool. That's not because of me, but I helped part of that journey that they went on, and their success is partly due to me.

Gerard Tiffen: I love it when they ring me up and they say, "Gerard we're coming back, we want to do this now." I like being involved in that.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, and I want to talk about that, because that comes up a lot for you in that, I have this image of your staff coming into the various parts of your office here in Kingston with a crowbar, trying to get you out of client meetings. Because often what happens when someone builds a business that's grown like yours has, and everything's about, let's get Gerard off the tools, let's get Gerard away from client interaction, let's get Gerard meeting with venture capitalists and growing a brand.

Jonathan Doyle: From what I understand talking to you and watching you, is that you really still love sitting down with real humans, who have desires and dreams and plans, and helping them get the best outcome, right.

Gerard Tiffen: Mate, if there was one thing that I could pass on to your listeners, it would be, stick to what you're good at. There's one message that I try and tell anyone that starts a business, it's stick to what you're good at. Firstly find out what you're good at, but then stick to what you're good at, and then don't do anything else. Delegate everything else. If I like seeing clients and I like meeting people and I like helping people, and hey sometimes it goes off the line, but nine times out of 10, people are very, very happy with the outcome. 

Gerard Tiffen: They love the process, they love dealing with a mortgage broker. Our service is free. It's awesome. I don't have to ever send a bill to anybody. On the flip side of the coin, I hate doing ...

Jonathan Doyle: Admin.

Gerard Tiffen: Admin, yeah, I hate it. I can't stand it. I hire someone that does it, and I can concentrate on doing what I love to do.

Jonathan Doyle: What is that admin for you? It's everything from HR to payroll, to ...

Gerard Tiffen: Payroll, HR, GST, VAS, talking to my accountant even kills me. FBT, what the heck, FBT, anyway, so everything and anything to do with the day to day running a business, I still enjoy chatting with my staff, but I don't particularly love doing the one on one meetings where you go through and say, "So how do you think you've performed this quarter?"

Jonathan Doyle: Performance reviews, yeah, yeah.

Gerard Tiffen: What the heck, it's more of just a chat with me about how is life going, what are you up to? Where do you think you're going, what can I help you with?" Then I'll say good. When I think it's going bad I tell them along the way. I mainly just like, so even getting me to do those performance reviews that I have to do, is a struggle for the guys.

Jonathan Doyle: If you could one thing all day in your business, if the magic unicorn walked in with a magic wand and waved it, what would you be doing from 9:00 to 5:00?

Gerard Tiffen: I'd do what I do.

Jonathan Doyle: Just talk to clients?

Gerard Tiffen: I'd just, I'd back to back, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, I'd have appointments from 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 at night, seeing people. Every hour on the hour there's a new one coming in. They might be existing clients, they might be new business, but I'd do what I love to do right now. I'd have people bringing me coffee, I'd have water at my disposal, I can order lunch, it's what I love to do.

Jonathan Doyle: When you sit down with somebody, so the reason why I'm asking you this is when we had Tim Kirk on he just talked about product, and just the absolute passion for the product that they have at Clonakilla, which was a great episode. What is it that you are really doing there? I'm asking you because I want the people who are listening to go, "Okay, what's my approach to clients? What am I experiencing?" When you it down with them, what do you enjoy about it specifically? What is it that lights you up? 

Gerard Tiffen: I don't have a product as such. My product is a commodity, like it's petrol and someone's put a new, Westpac is badging it, or Commonwealth Bank is badging the petrol, it's just money. I'm more so seeing what outcome they want in life, where are they going with this, what do they want to get? Nine time out of 10, unless it's a refinance or something like that, they want their brand new house. It's a pretty cool journey and you're just, you're saying, "This is the road of least resistance. This is the best possible deal that the market is currently offering." 

Gerard Tiffen: That might be with who knows, but that's what we're doing, we're just working through and saying, "Hey, you're a square peg, you don't fit in that round hole, they won't suit you, but these guys will suit you and these guys will suit you and these guys will suit you." Everyone's different, and banks have criteria that changes from day to day or week to week, especially at the moment. The world is, like I've said previously, the world is changing, it's crazy, so it's just about knowing what your client wants to achieve at the end of the day, and giving it to them.

Jonathan Doyle: The nature of your business, some of us who don't know the industry that well would assume that there's many unscrupulous operators, what stops you screwing the client? What ...

Gerard Tiffen: It's pretty hard to be unscrupulous. There's dummies, but you can't be dodgy. I see somebody, I take an application form, we pick the lender together, but the rest of it is still back to the bank to say, "Hey you are a deal, or you are not a deal." There's still credit involved, so there's still a hierarchy. I'm just ... Rather than walking into the branch at Westpac, are the branch at St. George, and them saying, "I don't know what anyone else has. I know what we have, but I don't know what everyone else has." 

Gerard Tiffen: You walk into my office and I say, "This is what everyone has, and this is your best deal." We go through the process, get a fact find, find out all about them, everything we can. Do a budget with them, work out where they can go and what they can do. Then from that point on, we're just submitting it and going through the process that anybody would do. The unscrupulous thing is a myth, it doesn't happen. You can't be unscrupulous. What you can be ... What's the word?

Jonathan Doyle: Inimical to the client's interests.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, he's dealing with the third tier end, as I would call them, so someone like ... I won't mention names, but a lesser known lender that maybe pays a high commission. There are plenty of those guys out there.

Jonathan Doyle: That's what I was getting at. I mean what stops brokers being incentivized to offer a product that isn't in the client's best interest?

Gerard Tiffen: It's changing, again this is part of the regulations, it's changing. I'll meet people that walk in, I'll say, "Well what the ... How did you get a loan with these guys? Who are they? I've never heard of XXX Home Loans."

Jonathan Doyle: Shunky Brothers.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, Shunky Brothers Home Loans, and they go, "Oh, our last broker put it on to us." That doesn't happen in Canberra, to be honest, we're a transient town, so you do get to meet a lot of people that are moved from Queensland or moved from Liverpool or the Western Sydney area, and their broker has put them on this product that you just go, what the heck are you doing there? Canberra's pretty good, we've got some great operators in town, and I'm proud to say that everyone that is a broker in Canberra is pretty straight up and down.   

Jonathan Doyle: A couple of years ago, maybe longer, I was on a ride, you may not remember this, but we were riding on the end of the Saturday bunch, and just in passing I asked you about stress, I asked you about, I think very similar to what Pat Quaid said, it was like, it sounded, whether it's common for you back then, the 2:00 am wake-ups, staring at the ceiling. When you're feeding the families of 20 people, when you've got all your own stuff in play, let's talk about stress, how much does it show up for you these days?

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, it always shows up. I don't think people truly understand what it's ... It's not easy running a business. 

Jonathan Doyle: 100%.

Gerard Tiffen: It's the hardest frikking thing you can ever do. If someone said, Gerard, go back and start again." I'd go "Get ..." I wouldn't do it.

Jonathan Doyle: You wouldn't?

Gerard Tiffen: I seriously wouldn't do it. Mate, no chance. 

Jonathan Doyle: Really. What would you do differently? What would do instead?

Gerard Tiffen: I'd work for someone else. I'd do what I do, but I'd just do it for somebody else. 

Jonathan Doyle: Really.

Gerard Tiffen: 100%. Mate, it's not as easy as people make out, and ....

Jonathan Doyle: Totally true.

Gerard Tiffen: All of the, this world we live in at the moment, "I'll be a millionaire in a month." Do you know how few, little business turn over $1-million? How few little businesses turn over $10-million. It's ridiculous, and to be in this position where the buck stops with you, is tough. Every day there's another problem, and 20 staff ... And I love my 20 staff. If you're listening guys, I love you, but sometimes, it's like a child care center there's issues, and there's things, and this has upset somebody, and they've said that, and then people have their own problems too, and I buy into that.

Gerard Tiffen: I worry about my staff, that maybe they've got a sick child, or can't come to work and can't sell their house because ... I take that on board, because they're, my staff have become my friends. Some of them, I've got ... I've been doing it for 20-something years now, and I've got staff that have been with me over 15, so you become best friends with these people that you've seeing for eight, nine hours a day every day.

Jonathan Doyle: Let's talk mindset. I reckon what you've said about people have no idea, so all the business owners listening, we're singing your song, because I think there is this idea, and if you look at a lot of political and social discourse at the moment around some aspects of unionism and wages and all sorts of stuff, this idea of these ... It's the classic class war stuff, it's like, well you have a business and it's just sunshine and rainbows every single day, and you basically sit around your office counting your money.

Jonathan Doyle: What the general public are probably not across, and what I'm so proud to do in this podcast, was just tell them how hard and intense this journey is, and what you guys are building and creating, not just at Tiffen & Co, but everybody we've had on. Louise came in the other day, and she's like, before you even come up the stairs to the office she's like, "Yeah, yeah, we're in the magistrate's court tomorrow, and I've got this happening." She's so up front, and I'm just like, yeah, her days, like you said, is just putting out fires. Just problem after problem.

Jonathan Doyle: Let's talk mindset, I want to talk about that stress thing, I can't confirm or deny that I get stressed. Tell me, you ride and do exercise, but psychologically what insights do you have about how you manage that experience of stress, anxiety, burden, what's your architecture psychologically to manage it?

Gerard Tiffen: I walk home, I open the front door and I see my beautiful four kids and my lovely wife, and I go, "Whatever."

Jonathan Doyle: Really.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, I don't take stuff home. I do wake up and stare at the ceiling, like you said at 2:00 in the morning, a lot. Normally I'll get up and do I'll do a Zwift ride, as you and I have done together a few times. For those that don't know about Zwift, I'll let JD explain it to you. Look, I just, I'm grateful for what I have, I realize what I have. I work hard, but when I go home I shut the door and I try not to take, I do my best anyway, not to take home my work.

Gerard Tiffen: Now, my way of dealing with it is I've got people in the office that I discuss, if there's a problem I talk about it. I think that's the biggest secret. People that bottle it up inside if they've got a problem, that can screw you over, I think you need to discuss work issues with work people. Talk to them about it and say, "This is the problem I've had, what do you reckon?" Don't take it home, separate it. It's hard to do but I separate it.

Jonathan Doyle: I need you to write a book about that, because I'm still working that part out, the whole .. I'm getting better at it, but it's funny how much routine plays in, I think if people have a routine, when you come home have some kind of set routine. I've found lately, I have three kids under 10, so I have these ideas of strolling in the door to gentle harp music playing, the labrador brings me my slippers. No, we don't have that, we have a brand new cavoodle and we have rampant chaos.

Jonathan Doyle: I remember I shared this recently, I think I did it on Michelle's podcast, that one of my daughters is into piano a lot, and when kids are learning piano they learn the same part over and over again, so it's been an interesting journey. You manage stress by a strong family life, by talking to people on your team. I wanted to ask you about crisis, in the notes you shared that you had a partner that you ended that partner relationship, Louise went through something very similar.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you remember of that time, what do you have for us in terms of having business partners, but also managing crisis?

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, I had a great business partner, and still like ... If I saw him in the street, it didn't end badly, it just ended. I realized that that wasn't against me, and think a lot of business people think that, you don't love me any more, or you're leaving me. Initially that's how I thought.

Jonathan Doyle: You're not married.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, well I thought we were. I thought we were married in a business sense and we were business partners, we started a great business together. People change, people's situations change, people's home life changes, and he just wanted to go on a different journey to what I did, and wanted to do different things. That was cool, I had no issue with that. I cut him a check and walked away. I still see him around now, but it was tough at the time, because I went through that stage, you don't love me any more. Why don't you want to be in business with me? What am I doing wrong?

Gerard Tiffen: I just started realizing it's not about me, it's not about me, it's your stuff. I'm happy to stay, and all the guys in the office, they stayed with me, I didn't lose any staff. I think I took care of everybody the right way. Not that he wasn't, he was doing the right thing too, but it just ... Yeah, it just ended, but at the time it was, "Where the heck am I going to get the money for this? How the heck am I going to make this work?" I did, and got through it.   

Jonathan Doyle: What wisdom do you have for us about partner relationships, because it's come up a few times. You don't often hear a lot of 40-year success stories, they're pretty rare. What do you think people need to be thinking about if they're looking to take a partner on, or going down that road?

Gerard Tiffen: I think having a clear cut concept about, this is what I do, this is what you do. Now I've got four business partners, shareholders that work in my business and every day they know what I do and I know what I expect them to do. We talked about it and we have monthly board meetings together and we discuss, we just talk it through, we just talk it through. Everyone knows what they have to do. Now where it gets complicated is if you don't have a business partner that wants to be on the same page as you and they're doing this and you don't think that they're contributing equally. 

Gerard Tiffen: It's like a marriage, if they're not contributing, if you're coming home and after working all day and nothing's done, you go well this isn't fair, and that's what a business partnership can be like too. As long as you're discussing it and talking about ... Communication is key in this, you talk with people and make sure they know where you're going and you know where they're going. If it stops, hey, move on. 

Jonathan Doyle: I think resentment is a huge one in marriage and business, whatever is not discussed, resentment is a killer. Anger and stuff can be toxic in the moment and can do damage, but it's that seething resentment. Also, well added to that I guess is the idea of should, they should know what I'm thinking, the should know ... I remember years ago, there was a great quote that said, "The greatest misconception of communication is that it actually took place."

Jonathan Doyle: Many time we think we may have ... "Why haven't they read my mind? Why don't they have Jedi skills to read my mind?" On some of these discussion how do you deal with what I call in marriage for example, robust discussions? When you're, either with your staff or shareholders or ... Do you do avoidance? Can you be too hard too early? How do you deal with difficult conversations and difficult moment with people?

Gerard Tiffen: We just talk it out. I just get their opinion. Again, in my business I'm lucky that ... Again it is like, "Hey this is what I want, and this is what I think we should do." They go, "Yeah, cool." There are sometimes difficult discussions, and I've changed my mind heaps of times on different strategies that I think, actually that wasn't my idea but it's damn good, let's do that. I think you have to be willing to bend and kneel and say, "Yeah, you were right, I was wrong." Just like a marriage JD, sometimes saying I'm wrong. There has to be a hero in the fight, and the person who that says I'm sorry first can be that hero. 

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, I'm willing to listen to people's conflict with me, and you do get a bit of conflict now and then, but again once you get on the right path and I'm repeating myself I know, but I've just got a great group of people that I work with and we're all on the same page.

Jonathan Doyle: Let's riff on that for a minute, your churn rates obviously are low with your people, this is always a great part of each of the podcasts, we talk about staff, we talk about teams. How do you pick and choose? Michelle last week talked about blue-footed boobies, which is a great analogy, as she looks for the outliers, the weird ones. What do you look for? Do you look for teachability, do you look for compliance? What sort of things have you looked for over time in you're people? 

Jonathan Doyle: We want to talk about why they stay, but what do you look for in people?

Gerard Tiffen: I started at looking at, I've made the wrong decision, and admit it, I was looking for people with skills. I wanted skills and I was paying people for skills that I thought were there. Then they weren't the skills that I needed. Then I've changed, and I just want people that I like, have interests, I'll ask them, "What's your favorite movie?" That's the sort of thing, I want people to be passionate about something, anything, something. Then I can train them. 

Gerard Tiffen: You can train anybody, but I want someone that is a nice person, a good person, doesn't have to be the smartest tool in the shed, like me. I'm saying I'm not the smartest tool in the shed. They just have to be a good person, that's all I want, and then the rest of if I can teach them.

Jonathan Doyle: How do you identify that? Is it a gut feel?

Gerard Tiffen: I think it's just a conversation, you're sitting down with people and having a chat to them and, yeah, I like you, you're my people, you're my people. You meet, I'm sure you meet lots of people where you walk in and you go ...

Jonathan Doyle: Oh oh.

Gerard Tiffen: Oh oh, this isn't going the way I like it. They may be the most skilled person, I've let people walk out my door that, "You can't let her go Gerard, she would be the best office manager ever." I just didn't like her. 

Jonathan Doyle: Oh really.

Gerard Tiffen: They'll be very successful at whatever they do too. Again, no resentment, but just not my people. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, so the obvious next question I want to ask you is why do they stay?

Gerard Tiffen: Because I treat them good.

Jonathan Doyle: You do?

Gerard Tiffen: JD.

Jonathan Doyle: What does that look like? What does that look like day to day? What happens? What's the culture?

Gerard Tiffen: Oh look it's a double-edged sword, that we live in this beautiful town of Canberra is we're competing against public service, so you have to match it. You have to pay staff well, you can't dodge it, you've got to pay well. Market rate is not good enough any more, you have to pay well, so that's the first thing I do. I think we do other stuff, we'll do, we do a lot of team building events. I've taken my staff, every year we do something together, we've done Crackenback, we've done trips overseas. Not that we party hard, because that's not the culture that I've got in there, but we do stuff together.

Gerard Tiffen: Even once a month we'll go have a beer and burger out at Capital Building and yeah, we try to just stick together and have a ... Not a forced culture, but a culture where people want to help each other and do the right thing by each other.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you think are a couple of the key aspects of your culture? If you had to pick one or two things that you think define a little bit of the vibe that you've built in there with you're people, what do you think a couple of things would be?

Gerard Tiffen: We're definitely not a dictatorship, pretty much, I don't go around saying, "Hey this is our culture, this is our culture.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, a culture test as 12:30 today.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, it's not like that, it's just everyone does their own thing and helps each other and gets along. I don't know, I can't put ... I thought about this the other day and, well Pete sent that questionnaire through, thinking, what's one of the things of my culture that I like? It just is, I think me working in the business, David Friend, Steph and Patrick, who I all work with, they own the business and they work in the business and they're there and they ... And actually I think it creates a good work culture, they can see, oh Gerard's just not sitting at home every, and not coming into work, and I see plenty of business that are like that, the owner doesn't show up. What the ...

Gerard Tiffen: I think the working part is paramount, and we buy uniforms for them, I think that's really helped. I have uniforms for all the staff, and they look good. I still wear a suit and tie every day, and the rest of the guys wear suits and ties every day, I think that's part of it as well. When people walk into get a home loan thy don't want to be walking into a guy with a Polo shirt and ...

Jonathan Doyle: Skivvies and a bond singlet.

Gerard Tiffen: Skivvies and a bond singlet, they want to be dealing with a professional I think, yeah, at least that's part of it mate.

Jonathan Doyle: I hadn't thought to give you this previously as something to think about, but what do you think your staff would say about you? If I asked your staff, I said, "What does Gerard do really well? What do you think he does really well?" What would they say?

Gerard Tiffen: Grumpy probably.

Jonathan Doyle: No. 

Gerard Tiffen: He grumps a lot.

Jonathan Doyle: You do not grump.

Gerard Tiffen: No. Look, I think they'd probably say, I've got a good work ethic. I'd hope they would, I'd hope they'd say I've got a good work ethic. I don't know. That's a good point, it's not like I'm going to ask them either "Hey, what do you think of me?"

Jonathan Doyle: Next week we'll have Gerard's entire staff on the program for an hour of questions. Just, where do you think is the area for growth for you? What would you like to be better at than what you're doing at the moment

Gerard Tiffen: I think there's opportunities coming up in the marketplace around products. I think the banks will definitely ... There's a credit crunch coming people. There's a credit crunch coming.

Jonathan Doyle: You heard it first here. Oh and in other places, but it's the first time I've heard ... 

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, and probably 20 other places, but it's real and this royal commission is going to have some effects, I think in the business place and the mortgage market and the real estate agent market, that will probably go on for the next four to five years. It's cyclical, it will come back, but for the next four or five years I will be guided by a lot of compliance and the banks telling you what you can do rather than you saying, "This is what I can afford." Those days are gone, and the banks are going to say, "Hey, you want protection, we'll protect you from yourself."

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Gerard Tiffen: "No, you can't have this money." 

Jonathan Doyle: Now do you think that's related to global conditions or to the royal commission?

Gerard Tiffen: I think it's a play that the authorities are putting on to the banks to be more responsible and to guide the economy the way it should be guided. A lot of it was done when their first call was slow down, slow down investors, so they've done that by increasing interest rates and making it harder for investors to buy into the market. Now it's going to be around protecting consumers from themselves, is where they think it's going to go. They still need to make money and the way they make money is they lend money.

Gerard Tiffen: There will still be people that they will want to lend to, and I'm bullish about the market still, especially here in Canberra. I think we've still got a couple of good two to three years of strong growth to happen in the Canberra market, so don't get me wrong there, but I think the rest of the country will be slowed down considerably. From my perspective, from a business perspective, opportunities will arise from that. There will be different products that will come out into the market, white labeling will occur, where you'll be able to get a home loan through someone you've never heard of, that will be deeper into the market, that will want to get into the market. 

Gerard Tiffen: Aussie Home Loans grew from this, not that I want to be Aussie Home Loans, but Macquarie were offering white label products, which is basically like, hey Aussie, you can call your home loan whatever you want, and they called it Aussie Home Loans. I think that will come back in the market, rather than now, at the moment I think it's about 85% of all mortgages that are written are written by the major four. Because they're cheap, they're competitive.

Jonathan Doyle: Let me ask you, just on that, on these new products coming in and this goes to something significant for all listeners, which is expertize in your space. When you're running a business, there's so much across your plate, plus a family, plus keeping your own health and wellbeing together, how do you keep abreast of what's happening in your space? I mean do you lock aside time for reading, how do you keep your finger on the pulse of your own industry? What practices, disciplines do you have to keep learning?

Gerard Tiffen: I'm a big fan of podcasts.

Jonathan Doyle: Really, well you've come to the right place.

Gerard Tiffen: Exactly.

Jonathan Doyle: You do, you listen to some?

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, I listen to, I'm a big fan of Switzer, I'm a big fan of Ross Greenwood, and that takes care of the Australian marketplace. I'll read industry magazines, which there's a stack of, and our governing body which is the MFAA do provide a stack of information as well, daily updating with policies and stuff. Then internally underneath that, and we've got a person that this is their job, compliance and finding out all this stuff, the banks have policies which change daily, or offers that change daily, so she's just collating them all and giving them out to them and saying, "Guys, this is what's changing this week, this is what's changed today." We get that every single day from her. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow. The last few things I want to ask you is, you mentioned the importance of mentors, that hasn't really come up, well it's sort of come up in conversations with other people, but the concept of mentors in your own business journey. Tell us about that, did you seek people out, did people cross your path? What's that been like for you?

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, again it goes back to hanging out with the right people I think. Mixing with people that are like minded and getting them ... Look, one of the best bits of advice I was given is get a mentor. Get someone that you can aspire to be and you want to be like, and I did that. Then that mentor became my peer, and you get a new mentor, and that mentor becomes your peer and then you get new mentor and that mentor becomes your peer, so you keep moving up the rung, and you keep learning, you can't stop learning.

Gerard Tiffen: I've been lucky to be around some really cool people in my life, and have some great ... Even when I started and I don't tell this story often, but when I started the business I had no money, and I wasn't, there was no way the bank was going to give me any money. I approached Peter Blackshaw and Andrea Blackshaw and they helped me out. They lent me money, they helped set me up, Andrea knew everything about everything when it came to business.

Gerard Tiffen: I was this 22 year old kid that was going to Lubner. I've got to what? I've got to have stationery. What's stationery Andrea?

Jonathan Doyle: A logo.

Gerard Tiffen: A logo, yeah, so she held my hand, helped me, and that's a mentor, that's exactly what I wanted. 

Jonathan Doyle: Why? What did they see ...

Gerard Tiffen: Because he's a cool person.

Jonathan Doyle: That 30 people could have asked her the same question?

Gerard Tiffen: I don't know whether they did, and I say this to people, "I bet you they didn't." A lot ... So many people don't ask.

Jonathan Doyle: Because?

Gerard Tiffen: Scared, rejection, who knows? I asked though.

Jonathan Doyle: Why don't you have that, why, why why?

Gerard Tiffen: I don't know why I don't have it, but I just do, and Peter even said to me, "I found that..." One of the things he told me once was, "I found the best real estate agent in Sydney and I went and sat with him and said, 'Can I buy you a coffee?'" I really took that on board, and I did that with John Simons. "Who the hell are you, some bloke in Kenton ..." Now he's a friend, now I can ring him and say, "Hey John what are you up to?" 

Gerard Tiffen: Mark Boris, I speak to him daily at the moment, through this combined industry forum that's happening at the moment A good guy. You'd think, Mark Boris, there's no way he's going to talk to you. No, he wants to talk to you. Again, I say this to everyone I meet, get a mentor. Don't be scared to ask, find the best person in your industry and go meet them, and go talk to them.  

Jonathan Doyle: People find it really hard to answer this question, but I'm always interested in the psychological architecture that allows you to do is. If we have 50 people in a room and you, X number of people just can't do that, they don't know how to ask, the fear of rejection is too strong. What is it that you believe that allows you to ask and risk rejection?

Gerard Tiffen: I think I've very handsome. 

Jonathan Doyle: I'm going to start videoing these podcasts. He's leaving his business to join the Chippendales now.

Gerard Tiffen: I think I'd make a very good balaclava model.

Jonathan Doyle: What is it? What's ...

Gerard Tiffen: I've got a head for podcasting. I don't know mate, I don't know. I just ... Look I'm a shy guy, don't get me wrong, I'm not out there. I think I'm an extrovert but a weird sort of extrovert, where I get my energy from being alone and ... But I like talking to people about my industry, about what I'm passionate about, and I'll talk to anybody about what I want to be good at. If I see someone that's out there that knows their stuff, I'll want to talk to them, I'll want to ask them questions.        

Jonathan Doyle: What do you want to be better at? What is it at the moment that you could improve in your own personal business journey? Where's the gap for you at the moment?

Gerard Tiffen: I'd like to be more rounded, I think I'd like to ... Not that I want to do more of the administration side, like I said, I like doing what I'm doing, but I'd like to be more rounded and have a better handle on that side of it. Again, my mentors tell me, "Don't do it, stick to what you're good at."  

Jonathan Doyle: Do you believe them?

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, I think they stick to what they're good at. I think the successful people in the world have found a niche and they've stuck to it. I see so many businesses that even in my world, that they were at a great level and then they started stepping out of their zones, so mortgage brokers started offering insurance to people.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, diversify too much.

Gerard Tiffen: Then they started trying to sell a property to them. That's when you can start becoming ... Well that's not, you're not giving impartial advice, you're doing ... That's where it can get dodgy. That's where you can go, "Hey man, that's not really cool, you're selling them a house, you're giving them the finance, you're selling them some insurance. Is that, okay maybe they need the insurance, I'm not a big believer in that, but maybe there's somebody that you can refer them to." 

Jonathan Doyle: I think we've been going at this idea of mastery, which is fascinating. You mentioned saying, as I've said to Karen for years, that if you look at really phenomenally successful people they do tend to execute in one space. There's exceptions, I could think of someone like Greg Norman, who everyone goes, Greg Norman's a golfer. Greg Norman's real money is boat design, golf course design, merchandise, but it's all leveraged off that initial brand.

Jonathan Doyle: Mastery is interesting, because I think the cultures we inhabit now in business, especially with the disruptive nature of social media and a bunch of other stuff, mastery is a risk almost. I think I find it, my bread and butter as being as speaker. 400,000  people plus speak keynotes, but you can't do this every day, so I'll do this and I'll do this and I'll do this. I think you make an interesting point, it will be interesting to see what people think listening, how much can you pursue mastery ... I guess because your meta-narrative would be, drill down to doing your best, do heaps of that.

Jonathan Doyle: Build a cohesive team of people around you to fill up the other parts, which I think probably is pretty damn close to where I am. I'm just curious on that mastery aspect. Because for you mastery would be what? Becoming the greatest client communicator who's ever been in the mortgage game, right, that's where your strongest skill set is, yeah.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, that's right. Delivering the right outcome as per client. Then just not there, having systems in place that every 12, 24 anniversary of loans you're following up with them. It's crazy, people will go and see their accountant every year, but they won't look their home loan, they won't look at their mortgage. To educate them to, and getting back to the mastery, to educate them to look at their own loan and know what they're looking at, is the biggest role that we have.

Gerard Tiffen: Product change so often, and being able to ... I wouldn't have enough time in the day to anything else, because there's so much information out there in the mortgage world, there's so much. You've got to remember there's 120 lenders in this country. There's new banks opening up at the moment, there's one that, a new bank started yesterday, Volt. There'll be a new bank and tomorrow it will start wanting to lend. It's pretty hard to keep your hand on it. I just wouldn't have enough time in the day to know anything else but what I know.

Jonathan Doyle: What you know, and it's working.

Gerard Tiffen: It is.

Jonathan Doyle: Those kind of things my friend, you talk about never being the smartest guy in the room, so I guess that's back to what we discussed, is just making sure there's a bunch of people around you who ... So you have obviously got your accountant, but when it comes to big decision-making, how do you address that? Who's in your thinking?

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, I've got, like I said, I've got my four partners in the business today that I'll run things by them. I've got a great accountant who will always give me the right advice I think, and not mislead me, to help make a decision. Yeah, I've got a great financial planner, who we both know. A smart guy that has the right intentions and thinks about outcome rather than short-term gain, long-term stuff. I love that, and I like mixing with people that don't have any ulterior motives, they just want you to do well.

Gerard Tiffen: I'm like that with everyone, I think if you take care of your client the rest will just come. Forget about the money, forget about everything else, just take care of your client and it'll come. They've taught me that, so just surrounding yourself with good people I think is gold.

Jonathan Doyle: Just looping back a little bit to where we started, I'm just interested, how do you explain this to yourself you genuinely care about the people across the table. It comes across in this interview and what I've known about you. What is that, right? Is it you learned it as a child? You genuinely want the win for people, you're interested, you want to help them. You could be much more mercenary, and I think you could too, the question  could be, "How can I extract maximum value from this interaction?" 

Jonathan Doyle: You seem to be more ... "This is an exciting time in this person's life, how can I bring them the most value, how am I going to get the ..." What is that in you?

Gerard Tiffen: I don't know. I think I'm at this stage in my life that, I don't know, it's tough one to explain. I think I'm just at the stage in my life that I want that to happen. It's not like I need anything from these people, and they don't need anything from me. They're nice enough, they've wasted their time to come in and sit down in front of me, so I want to do the right thing at least by them, and give them a good 45 minutes, 50 minutes of my mind that hopefully that they take away and they say, "Yeah, we got the right advice from that guy."

Gerard Tiffen: A lot of the time when I met someone and I'll say, "Stick where you are." I had one client this morning, that I said, "There's no point, you should stay where you are. Call ANZ this afternoon and tell them that you want to just switch it to this, do this and do this." They said, "Thanks Gerard, I appreciate it." Yeah, I could have done it myself and refinanced them away, but it wasn't the best thing for them. 

Gerard Tiffen: I don't know why, I just ... I think I'm at that stage in my life that I'm not ... I mean I see people that are desperate and would do something like that. I think that's wrong, and I think desperation can cause issues. If you just want the right thing and you're not that fussed, and yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: It's so true, what you're saying, and I want people to hear this, there's what I would call a meta-cognition here, there's a meta theory which is, your approach to the people that you serve is, how do I bring the most value to them? I just want people to understand that if you can really internalize that message, there's just this week I was out at Better Music in  Phillip. I spend a fair bit of time there just with all the gear used for podcasts. 

Jonathan Doyle: There's a guy there Jimmy, a shout to Jimmy, if you hear this my friend, they run a great business, their churn rates, their staff turnover at Better Music is negligible there are people who will die in that building, and there's one guy Simo, I swear, I used to go down when I was at Laste, when I was about 16, the dude's still there. He hasn't changed throughout the years. Anyway, why am I telling you this, because I go in there and the gear we use for this podcast is expensive, and this guy Jimmy said, "Come in Monday, and we'll go through all your settings."

Jonathan Doyle: I go in on Monday and I was going to buy a $500 pre-amp thing for these microphones. He un-packages it and we plug everything in and he goes, "No, it not going to work." He wouldn't sell it to me, but he spent an hour tweaking the settings on my existing Reed, and I just think it's the greatest business out. I'm like, "You didn't try and sell me something I didn't want. I'm going to come back to you, you've built a relationship." Businesses that do that, I just think, what you were saying, an unscrupulous operator could have gone, "Hey don't call ANZ, we've got a new wonder brothers product here for you, and you just have to give us a kidney and you can have it today."

Jonathan Doyle: I think there's a message for us in that, that if you just really try and put clients and people first, then the other stuff works out.

Gerard Tiffen: You'll never go wrong, you'll never ever go wrong.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, I've come to that late, I just think many of us in business just need to hear that again and again, put the people first. What are you most proud of so far? In this journey.

Gerard Tiffen: Life journey?

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, well let's do the spread, in who you've become, the life journey from dodging AK47 rounds in Lyons as a child, to where you are, on a personal level what are you most proud of so far?

Gerard Tiffen: Personal, Jerry Maguire line, I love my life, I love my wife, and I wish you my kind of success type of stuff. I've got a good life, I've got four beautiful kids and a wonderful wife and a fantastic family, sisters, brothers, parents, that all live in Canberra. Look, I'm proud of that and I've got some great friends that I love deeply. Work-wise I'm proud of what I've done, I'm proud of the business I've built and I'm proud of the outcome. Hey, this is the start of the journey, we're still young.

Jonathan Doyle: Well that's the question, what are you building? From here where do you go ... I'm a big believer these days in 24-hour blocks, I think there's this, our culture is a little bit fixated at the moment on the dream and the vision and drinking champagne on a private jet kind of thing. I'm a bit more interested at the moment in 24-hour blocks. I think paralysis by analysis, we get stressed out by trying to know exactly where we're heading all the time, so there's a tension between vision and execution, I'm a big fan of 24-hour blocks. What are you building, where do you want to go from here?

Gerard Tiffen: I thought about this as well, and I'm really into reverse engineering too. I think I have to see where I'm going. You're probably not into it like I just heard, but I'm a reverse engineer business, I want to see what does this looks like in fie years? What does this look like in two years? What does this look like at the end of the week? I envisage that and I'll work towards it. At the moment I think with the amount of change that's going on in my industry, I think our next part of the journey will be to do some white labeling.

Gerard Tiffen: I think there will be products out there that will come down from Macquarie and ANZ Wholesale, so it's basically saying, "Here's the money, and you lend it out to your clients as you see fit." I think that's probably the next part of the journey that we're walking to. Apart from that it's going to be business as usual. It's not broke, it's not broke. I'm happy I've got not a lot of stress at the moment. I've done those hard yards, I've been through that crap. I'm not going to go, "I need a new challenge, I need a challenge, now what else."

Jonathan Doyle: I need to break it and tinker with it.

Gerard Tiffen: No, I don't, I don't, it's good, life's good at the moment, things are good, business is good. We've got a good reputation in the market. At Tiffen & Co we're ... I'm passionate about the Canberra market as you know, and I sponsor the community and I try to give back into the community, and that's probably one thing I would like to do more. Not yelling out to all the ... For the people who want sponsorship out there, but that's something that we're going to get into a little bit harder over the next, probably 12 to 24 months is ... We've got some sponsorship plans and some ideas, that we can help the community a little bit more, so yeah little things like that. 

Jonathan Doyle: I'm just interested, and I ask this most times, I'm interested in how you decision-make each day, how you allocate your time. When you walk in the office you've obviously got stuff booked in, but Michelle was talking, from Intelledox, she goes in there it's chaos everywhere and she loves that. There's all these decisions to be made and hey we always had time and she talks about landing 747's. She see herself as an aircraft controller where all these things are in the air and she's got to allocate which one comes down.

Jonathan Doyle: When you walk in, how do you leverage your time? How do you allocate your time? Do you have anything for the listeners around how you get the best leverage out of yourself in a day, on a business level? When you walk in, I get it that you're a little bit different, because you have clients booked in, but how do you decision-make about how to be most effective in your business?

Gerard Tiffen: I definitely have systems. I have the most wonderful PA in the world, and Alison will have my day teed up for me. I will have the files behind me that I'm seeing all day. We will allocate maybe an hour, or 45 minute worth of troubleshooting, but I'm not going to go around putting flames out all day.

Jonathan Doyle: All day.

Gerard Tiffen: On the time slot between X and X, this is when we're going to fix the problems that have arisen from the day before or in the last 10 minutes. After that it's got to wait until tomorrow. Things will ... And that's not saying that we don't get on them, but she'll just get on them, she won't have me to say, "Hey what are we doing? Why are we doing this?" Look, I am in to systems, I do like having a pattern that, hey this is the way it's going to work today, this is what I've booked. Then around that, yeah, every one is slightly different, and there's no wrong or right way, I'll say that as well. 

Gerard Tiffen: I'm not sitting here saying I've got it all nailed and frikking don't do anything that I wouldn't do, but yeah, that's how I like doing it, and it's seemed to have worked so far.

Jonathan Doyle: It takes discipline that, because sometimes it's the shiny object, it's like "Oh that looks interesting," but you've got to go. "Oh, don't touch that."

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, yeah, it does. Emails, emails are a killer, or it's the biggest drain that I have in my office. Replying to emails on the spot, and ...

Jonathan Doyle: Do you guys use Slack?

Gerard Tiffen: Slack?

Jonathan Doyle: Oh Slack's good. You've got to check out Slack. Listeners, check out Slack, Slack's huge, it's become very big globally. It's really hard to describe what it is. It's a ... Look up Slack, it's just a communication system, like a chat pad that you're using it internally. I use it with remote people all over the world now, but Slack's great. It just tends to ... It takes email out of play. Check out Slack. I'll put that in the show notes for everybody. 

Jonathan Doyle: That's how you manage your decision-making in a business sense, now how do you run yourself personally. Are you a night person, a morning person, health and fitness. What do you do to keep yourself ticking over?

Gerard Tiffen: A health and fitness person.

Jonathan Doyle: You are.

Gerard Tiffen: Well, you know, we like to ride together.

Jonathan Doyle: He rides a bike a little bit ladies and gentlemen.

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, not, hey I'm a good bike rider, but I enjoy it and I like, I think it's, for an old man, I mean it's one of the best sports.

Jonathan Doyle: It's great isn't it?

Gerard Tiffen: It's easy on the body and you still get that heart rate up. I'm in to, I go to the gym a few times a week, I've got a great trainer, I head out to Romero Athletics at Fyshwick and Al, Al's a good guy. I don't know, I'm just ... I've had some good trainers along the way, and journeys, and I think fitness for me is the thing that keeps me sane. I think I'd be a depressive crazy person if I didn't go to the gym every day, and that for me keeps me focused. 

Gerard Tiffen: I've got a good wife that allows, I talk about relationships a lot, with my staff and I was just lucky my wife came from a father that had an executive job and traveled lot and ...

Jonathan Doyle: Understood it.

Gerard Tiffen: Understood, and she gets it, because she says, "That's what my dad did." I've got other friends that, hey, their dad was at home at 4:30 every afternoon making dinner, boy you have to work at that also, and that's a relationship thing, but I've got a good wife that knows that, hey that's what it takes, and that's what it takes.

Jonathan Doyle: Also the last thing, I like to create the hypothetical that you're speaking at an event and you've got several hundred young ...

Gerard Tiffen: Real hypothetical JD.

Jonathan Doyle: You don't like speaking?

Gerard Tiffen: No, God.

Jonathan Doyle: Really? Do you get nervous?

Gerard Tiffen: I'm out of my comfort zone here my friend.

Jonathan Doyle: You're killing it. Do you get nervous when you speak? 

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Do you? See I did one for 10,000 people last year in ...

Gerard Tiffen: My hands are sweating just just talking about it.

Jonathan Doyle: Karen said, just before I walked on stage she goes, "Are you nervous?" I said, "No, I'm not." She said, "Well I am." I said to her, "Why?" She goes, "I'm terrified for you." I said, "Why?" And she goes, "Well if you choke up here ..." I just went, "That's so helpful, thank you so much." No there's a few tricks, a few hacks that people should know, get in touch with me if you want to know the hacks that I use. Just to learn that.

Jonathan Doyle: My friend, imagine that you're reluctantly speaking to several hundred young  business owners starting their journey. Give us three things you'd tell them. Three things you'd tell them that are integral for their business development and business journey. What are three things they need to know?

Gerard Tiffen: Three, oh sheesh, look I could say, get a mentor. Find what you're good at and stick to it. The third one's a tough one, I'd say get a hobby. Become interesting, get into the community. If it was anyone starting out in a business like mine I'd say, get in the community, get a hobby, get ... Thank God I went to a school like I went to, and it could have been the same with any school around town, it doesn't have to be just because I went to St. Eddie's, it's no big deal, but the community and the support that I've had from my friends growing up and writing their loans and helping them helped me.

Gerard Tiffen: I owe them heaps, and that's what got me started, and thank God for them. Being part of the community I was deeply involved  with Warden Valley Lands, and again the same deal, the guys there and still to this day I'm friends with them and they help me and I help them in return by giving them the right advice I hope. I think just become engulfed in the community, and that's the best thing about Canberra, it's still a little community.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, what do you, and I asked Michelle that too, what do you love about this place, what don't you go somewhere else?

Gerard Tiffen: Oh look, I think family and friends keeps anybody grounded a little bit, especially family. I mean it would be hard to walk away from your folks and in my situation. Again, part of this reverse engineering stuff, I've talked to people I don't know how many times, I've got a mate that sees his dad once a year, and his dad's maybe 74. The average age of a life is 76. He's going to see his dad four more times. That's unacceptable boots. 

Gerard Tiffen: I just couldn't see myself moving away and not seeing my mum and dad and the kids seeing their ... I don't know, that's obviously the number one. The rest of it, I just love the frikking cold.

Jonathan Doyle: You do? 

Gerard Tiffen: The best. No.

Jonathan Doyle: No, sorry that was very genuine, we've got to start videoing these, because you looked very genuine there. You don't like it? Why? Because you do spend a bit of time further north don't you?

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, yeah, so look, the cold hurts. I'm born and bred here, it still hurts getting up in the morning and ... But look the town's the best, it's just good people. Sport-wise, living-wise, road-wise, in fact I think we got named the number one city in the world a couple of years ago.

Jonathan Doyle: It's pretty livable. As long as you ... And the budget was last night, as long as you don't want to drive a car, park a car ...

Gerard Tiffen: Pay rates.

Jonathan Doyle: Pay rates.

Gerard Tiffen: Buy a house.

Jonathan Doyle: It's like the chief minister was like, "Who likes surprises? Do you like surprises? We've got a surprise for you." Your three pieces of advice were to get a mentor, to work to your strengths and to find a hobby and or to stay connected with your wider community, which means to have something outside of work.   

Gerard Tiffen: Yeah, definitely.

Jonathan Doyle: Just because, I took that advice recently, I used to pay a lot of guitar, and I hadn't played for a while, so a mentor of mine said "You've got to get back into music, you've got too much going on." I did, and I went back to my old teacher who's pretty strict, very, very good, but pretty ... So he was giving me all this stuff, and then it was weekly lessons, and I was just trying to get it done, and I just suddenly realized, I'd managed to turn this hobby into another source of competitive stress.

Jonathan Doyle: I said to Karen, I said, "I'm supposed to enjoy this and I'm scared of going every week." We've all got to find something beautiful outside of what we do. My friend, I'm going to point everybody in the direction of Tiffen & Co. I'm going to put all the links to all your stuff in the show notes. Everybody listening, wherever you are with your own personal finance, go get a check out with Gerard and the team there. You can hear it in his voice in this conversation, it's a great local business that's doing so well nationally, but let's support his business. 

Jonathan Doyle: He's a guy I trust and I really believe you can trust him too. Put that on your to-do list this week, send him an email, ring their office in Kingston and go and get your finances checked out, because having that strong financial base, you might not know what you're missing, it might be time to change a product, so let's do that and support Gerard's business. I wanted to say something else, but I can't remember what it was, but no I've had a ball.

Gerard Tiffen: Thank you JD, thanks for having me.

Jonathan Doyle: Anything else on your list that we missed that you wanted to add?

Gerard Tiffen: No, I don't think so. I want to thank you, I reckon this whole podcast, the Canberra community thing, you're doing a good thing for the town and more people should support you too.

Jonathan Doyle: Thanks pal, yeah, I just ... I want to see this tag of a government town get shifted a little it, we need to celebrate some of these great businesses doing really good stuff. My friend thank you for coming on, so I'd see you on the road tomorrow, on the bike, but it's a bit cold isn't it for you?

Gerard Tiffen: It's a bit cold for me.

Jonathan Doyle: Really chilly. Last year I rode and, or two years ago, and the water in my bottle froze. It was a real chiller, it was minus seven or something silly. Friends thank very much to Gerard Tiffen and thanks for the pleasure of your time, and we're going to have another great episode for you next week. Gerard Tiffen from Tiffen & Co, the most fantastic mortgage broker in this country, thanks for making time for us tonight.

Gerard Tiffen: Thanks JD.

Jonathan Doyle: Hey everybody, Jonathan with you again. How good was that? There as so much in there, Gerard just shared with us some great insights about mindset, about his team, about systems, and I just think he really is one of the best examples of what the Canberra business community is all about. He's built a successful business, he's built a great team. He's bringing a product, a service that he really cares about, to the market, that's a really positive thing for so many people.

Jonathan Doyle: Lease do me a favor, go to the show notes, I want you to go to Tiffen & Co, I want you to check their website. Make an appointment to go and see Gerard, just sit down with him personally, find out what he's doing, find out what he can bring, what value he can bring to your financial situation. I just know that he cares about people, and I really hope that from listening to him, you picked that up. Go and check out Tiffen & Co, let's support another great Canberra business.

Jonathan Doyle: Look that's about it for me, please make sure you subscribe, wherever you've heard this. Come and check out the Canberra Executive Coaching website. If you want to do some work with me personally on your business goals, please come and check out the site, it would be great to meet up and see how I can help you move your business forward. 

Jonathan Doyle: That's it from me this week, from Gerard Tiffen from Tiffen & Co. Share this with people, I'd love more people to hear his story. I really hope you got some value. Please tune in again on Monday, we're going to have another fantastic episode for you but for now I'm Jonathan Doyle, enjoy your week, enjoy your weekend, whenever you're hearing this. I'll speak to you again next week.