How Sarah Riegelhuth co-founded a financial firm for Gen Y

Sarah Riegelhuth is the perfect role model for any young woman. Intelligent, humble and self-motivated, Riegelhuth founded the financial planning firm Wealth Enhancers in early 2010 alongside her now fiancé Finn Kelly.

Riegelhuth had been working for her late father's company Synchron when she noticed a gap in the market. In 2009, she says, there weren't many financial planning firms targeting the younger generations.

While attending a business services conference, Riegelhuth met her fiancé-to-be Kelly. Quickly they discovered they shared the same vision and went into business together – with Riegelhuth focusing more on the financial strategy side and Kelly on the investment side.

Wealth Enhancers is built around the idea that the earlier you start planning financially, the better off you'll be later. Riegelhuth being young herself recognised members of Generation Y tend to act now and think later, and are very much accustomed to instant gratification. Knowing this, Riegelhuth constructed the business to offer "very much goal-based advice" targeted at Gen Ys to help them achieve their dreams.

Wealth Enhancers now has offices in Melbourne and Sydney, and specialises in providing financial services to young professionals, entertainers, sportspeople and those with a high net worth across Melbourne, Sydney, Tasmania and Brisbane. When starting out, Riegelhuth says the financial services community didn't understand their business and like most new firms cashflow was a constant challenge, but the general public took to the idea and last year it recorded a turnover of $1.2 million.

Women's Agenda sister publication SmartCompany spoke to Riegelhuth (who is also a regular contributor to Women's Agenda) about life as an entrepreneur, instilling a positive company-wide culture conducive to good health and fast growth, and finding love with your business partner.

Starting her day with a spring in her step, Riegelhuth wakes early and goes for a run before work.

"I wake up every day at 5:30am at the latest and work out. I run every day and usually I meet my friends at the Tan [the track around the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne] for a run or do yoga."

Riegelhuth has endeavoured to instil her passion for fitness with Wealth Enhancers' company culture by hosting weekly cycling and running sessions.

Following her morning exercise regime, it's off to work for Riegelhuth.

"I usually go straight to the office from there and shower and have my breakfast.

"We have an 8:45am dial in meeting and every one across the country dials in and we go through the challenges we're facing and the critical numbers and this takes five to 10 minutes and then everyone is on with their day," she says.

Daily life
Following her morning routine, Riegelhuth says her day is more open.

Having just inherited her father's company and also running the League of Extraordinary Women, Riegelhuth is kept on her toes, but her main role within Wealth Enhancers currently is managing its operations.

"I would say at the moment, it does change, managing staff and the operations side of the business takes up the majority of my time. The last few years we've had a practice manager, but she's now running WE Private.

"We've been having a lot of technology changes this year, so managing the staff and the operations have been priorities. But it does change and we change our roles a lot to keep it fresh and keep it moving quickly," she says.

Aside from these roles, Riegelhuth also regularly meets with business partners and is in charge of the financial side of the business.

In terms of metrics, she measures the staff's "critical numbers" every morning. She explains these are numbers attached to the "most important part" of each person's role.

"For the financial advisors, it's the number of people helped (new clients), for the admin team it will be the turnaround time. For the technical specialists it will be the number of cases they're working on. We really know our financial position too – it's tracked to the utmost. We're all about real-time data as much as possible and I want to know how we're going all the time," she says.

Many financial services firms take a long time to increase their staff numbers, but Riegelhuth says Wealth Enhancers wanted to "do it properly".

"We got an office and made the decision to bring my assistant with us from my previous company. While many financial services companies take a long time to build up, we hired our first staff member as soon as we opened the doors and we've just grown.

"It's always been about growth and being able to reach as many people as possible," she says.

When the business started, Riegelhuth said her young age turned into a double-edged sword, being her biggest challenge as well as what made her successful.

"The positive about our age is we're going to be around for a long time, but because we do have some older more wealthy clients, we split the business in two and created WE Private which deals with higher worth, typically older clients.

"Another challenge we're having now is that we have become a really desirable place to work and we're inundated with applicants, but the reason why we've grown so quickly is because we work really hard. It looks fun and exciting, but it's hard work too and we've had high staff turnover."

On top of co-founding Wealth Enhancers, Riegelhuth is one of the founders of the League of Extraordinary Women, which launched in late 2011. Since launching, its contact base has grown to nearly 5000 and its paid memberships section, which began in mid-2012, has 500 members.

"It's growing and we've launched our student memberships now too. We're also looking at starting some regional programs, with Townsville being the first one. It's not as much about numbers as it is bringing young women together and saying they can follow their passions.

"It has grown of its own accord and was totally different to Wealth Enhancers where we really had to give it a push," she says.

Leisure time
Running a business is not an easy job and doing it with a loved one can be both challenging and rewarding.

For Riegelhuth and Kelly it's been "pretty smooth sailing", but Riegelhuth says there have been some challenges.

"We're very fortunate that we do work well together, but that being said there will always be challenges and there will be times when it will be difficult. We don't have any rules about what times we can talk about the business," she says.

Having a natural love for their business and their work, Riegelhuth says her fiancé and her can be "cooking dinner and solving a problem" or "having a board meeting while on a run", but she says it hasn't all been easy.

"In 2011 a young staff member passed away and this was very stressful for both of us. Acquiring a business was also very stressful and there'll be times when we get testy and we opt not to talk about the business when we get home.

"You need to make sure you also have time for your relationship, but if you love what you do, work is a part of your life and we really love what we do."

When it's been a "crazy period" Riegelhuth and Kelly aim to leave work between 5-6pm, but generally there is no set routine.

"At the end of the day it's pretty fluid, but we do take regular holidays and go overseas three times a year, usually only for two or three weeks at a time, but that's our break from the business," she says.

They love skiing, hiking and the outdoors, and they frequently travel to the United States and last year also took trips to Hong Kong, Korea and Hawaii.

In the future, Riegelhuth says her biggest goal is to have Wealth Enhancers represented in all major cities.

"We want to be recognised as the first choice for young people seeking advice.

"I don't think these businesses will be my only ones. Everything just morphs from one thing to the next," she says.

Yolanda Redrup

Yolanda Redrup is a business journalist with Women's Agenda sister site SmartCompany.

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