10 Questions For…

Ruth Sturkey of The Red House

Ruth Sturkey, Gareth Marr and Linda Whybrow co-founded The Red House in 2007. The Red House is a great boutique-sized planning firm with a superb client base, which I believe is a reflection of Ruth, Gareth and the team. Like all great businesses, their commitment to 100% client care influences everything they do and the work they deliver is of the highest quality. Gareth retired in late 2013, but Ruth and Linda are continuing to drive the business forward.

I’ve known Ruth for many years and throughout 2013 I had the pleasure of working more closely with her, Gareth and the team. She is, I believe, one of the nicest and most respected people in the profession. She’s open, giving, down to earth and she doesn’t shirk the tough issues when they arise; she’s a role model for all aspiring financial planners.

In an industry that has a reputation for being male-dominated, Ruth provides a fantastic example for women looking to join or move ahead in our amazing profession, along with personal encouragement and guidance.

I asked Ruth 10 questions about her business and here’s what she had to say.


10 Questions for Ruth

Q1. What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

If there’s a problem you normally have something to do with it.

Q2. Who is your business role model?

I’ve read some great books about people I admire, but it’s actually one of my clients. She’s a really inspiring woman, now in her mid 40s, who rose to the main board of a FTSE 100 company whilst remaining true to herself, refusing to become one of the old boy’s network and telling it how it is. She also played for the England Women’s Rugby team when they won the World Cup for the first time in 1994. She has a lot of drive, works hard and is very focused.

Q3. Have any other adviser/owners ever helped you with advice or support?

Jason Butler from Bloomsbury has always been very generous in sharing his ideas and enthusiasm in his unique way. Antony Williams from Evolve was also very helpful in sharing his experiences when we were setting The Red House up back in 2007. And of course, my recently retired business partner Gareth Marr who has been a great mentor and sounding board for me for many years.

Q4. Have you ever given up your time to help another adviser coming through?

I have been fortunate to present my backstory and the creation of The Red House with a number of audiences ranging from the IFP and PFS, to a number of Dutch advisers both in London and in Rotterdam. This has in turn lead to many cups of coffee with a number of advisers who either needed a career steer or wanted to pick my brains about setting up their own shop. It’s really rewarding to be able to do this and realise that people can take something from my story.

Q5. What was your most expensive or painful business mistake?

To be honest, we’ve generally been quite measured and cautious with business decisions and ensuring we keep adequate cash balances, so no major disasters so far. Here’s hoping I’m not hexing myself!

Q6. You’ve never been under severe financial pressure as you grew?

We have been very lucky since inception with positive cash flows from year one. We are however at an interesting stage now as we seek to restructure and grow, whilst facing ever increasing recruitment and salary costs along with increasing costs outside our control such as rents, FCA fees and levies, PI etc. This is when a business needs to have a very clear business plan and keep a very close watch on expenditure, cash flow and other leading business indicators, otherwise one could easily find themselves in trouble.

Q7. Which person or business do you most admire in the profession?

I have already mentioned Jason Butler, but the other people or businesses I have observed doing great things include Barry Horner and the team at Paradigm Norton and David Vaughan at Trusted Advisor. Two business models that are at different extremes, but each have their place. I also love the marketing and branding that I observe from Anna Sofat at Addidi. Completely original and focused.

Q8. What do you love about Financial Planning?

As Financial Planners we occupy a really privileged position with the information, fears and dreams our clients share with us. This is the stuff I really enjoy and indeed learn from personally. Turning this into a credible plan for them is very rewarding. The techie stuff can be fun too, but try to keep that to yourself.

Q9. If you could have your business career over again, what would you do differently?

I would have had more confidence in my own ability and been less deferential to those who were in more senior positions and realised when my bosses were keeping me in a place that was convenient to them, not necessarily me…and set up my own business sooner.

Q10. What’s the secret to happiness in life?

Making time for friends, family, sunshine, sand, fine wine and laughter.


by Brett Davidson

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