Mentor with a wealth of vision

ROB STOCK
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2014
Laura Humphreys
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
CAREER PATH: Laura Humphreys found her calling through motivator Robert Kiyosaki.

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Laura Humphreys may not say it in as many words, but she's aiming to become the Robert Kiyosaki of small business.

The Aucklander has just published her first two books under her Liber8me brand, and they are very Kiyosakiesque.

Liber8 Your Business (plus workbook) is designed as a course to get owners of small businesses to take a more planned approach to building their wealth through enterprise, and release their businesses' potential.

That's just what the Hawaiian Kiyosaki made millions doing for people on a personal finance front through his Rich Dad, Poor Dad books, which may have had their detractors, but sold in their millions around the world, including in New Zealand.

The similarity is unsurprising - Humphreys is something of a Kiyosaki acolyte. She credits a 16-day course she did with Kiyosaki in Hawaii as being the turning point in her life.

At that time, now more than 15 years ago, Humphreys was a well-paid, but miserable, copywriter in Auckland advertising company Ogilvy & Mather. In fact, she says she was drinking heavily and on a bit of a self-destructive bent, she reveals in Liber8 Your Business.

But the course got her to lift her head up and to get herself a vision.

"I was so taken with him. It really did change my perspective. I really loved his perspective on life and wealth creation. I came out of there quite different," Humphreys recalls.

The vision was to found, build and sell her own advertising agency. She succeeded, selling it nine years later to Singleton, Ogilvy & Mather, which left her financially independent.

However Humphreys decided to do it again and built a pet care business - Pet Angels - which she sold six years later to a competitor.

She began public speaking, motivating business owners to do better, and found a new calling. Humphreys collects natty sayings, and she quotes one of Kiyosaki's. "You will find what you love by looking at what you hate."

She says what she hated was poorly performing small businesses. What she enjoyed was passing on her lessons to help their owners do better.

"I hate seeing them struggle, working long hours, not taking holidays, and really not understanding how a business works in the first place," she said.

"If you are doing all of that and you have got no plans for how you are going to change that, when will the business ever pay you back for all that work?"

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She said a business was not meant to be a job or a life sentence, and people needed to have a vision for what they wanted to build, then plan their way to it. Inevitably there would be long hours early in a business' growth trajectory, but it should not be allowed to become a pattern that lasted a lifetime, especially if the aim was to build an asset that can one day be sold.

Humphreys says New Zealand's roughly 470,000 small business owners don't have many supporters. The Government, with its big drive to lift exports, was focused firmly on helping larger businesses.

It's a particularly important time for many, as the demographic bulge of baby boomers means there are a great many who need to start thinking quite seriously about whether their business will be ready to sell when they want to retire.

But there's a lack of mentors, and Humphreys hopes she can play a part in that, though she bristles when she speaks of some of the rivals for the title.

"There is such a thing as business coaches who have never built a business. I don't know how that works."

Liber8 My Business is Humphreys' first step down this road, and she hopes to sell her books through online booksellers like Amazon and The Book Depository as well as through those who sell services to business owners, the likes of accountants and tax advisers.

The book is based on a simple premise, she says: "If I can build successful businesses using the formula, then anyone can."

The system she espouses in it is based on the PERT (Programme Evaluate and Review Technique) which she learnt from Kiyosaki, but the take is her own.

The books are deliberately not particularly local in feel either.

Kiyosaki built an empire of books, courses, games, mentoring and conferences.

Humphreys would be happy to follow down that line. But for once, she hasn't planned that far ahead, and it might seem a bit presumptuous to hope to emulate his global success.

"It's possible," she said. "But at the moment I'm more interested in the writing and getting the message out."

- Sunday Star Times

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