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The History of The Financial Fence®
Nearly every good idea is born in an instant from a rich history of experience, and takes many months and years to be brought to reality. Some people have asked how long it took to develop The Financial Fence® which is a really good question. The answer is found in the career which Andee had before setting up The Financial Fence Pty Ltd (formerly Five Springs International) in October 2000.

He started working for a multinational conglomerate called BTR Nylex Limited in 1986. He was seconded to Australia from a subsidiary in New Zealand and started working in the corporate Head Office. The organisation was highly acquisitive and grew from $A500 million of sales to $A5 billion of sales in about a five year period. Although it was unfashionable at the time from a stock market point of view to have a conglomerate, as long as the organisation kept getting outstanding results, life went on as normal.

Being a conglomerate, it was impossible to keep up with all the industries which they were involved in. BTR had a very well constructed reporting package and detailed financial planning package. Using these packages Andee was able to learn about all the different companies in vastly different industries and countries because the only common element to all of them was their financial numbers. The company developed a way of understanding the business by the numbers simply because there was no other way.

It always used to intrigue him how the senior managers could spot different things in the numbers and ask intelligent business questions to find out how the business was really going. So over a period of about 12 years as he moved up through the business as a finance executive and finally a group CEO he learned the art of painting a picture of the business with numbers.

After leaving corporate life and setting up The Financial Fence Andee started as a business advisor to various companies. One question which was often asked of business owners was “How is the business really going?” There were various different responses to the questions but often it was a version of this: “It’s going really well but I don’t know where the money’s gone.”

This led him to writing his first book called ‘Where’s the Money Gone.’ As he was writing the book he started to think about an analogy which would help people get a picture of their finances in a simple way they could understand. As an accountant he had witnessed many management meetings where most of the management team were bored out of their brains and unable to grasp what he, as an accountant, was saying. So he knew that in order to get people to grasp accounting concepts he needed to put them in a simple way that they could understand. Even better would be to use an analogy so that all the visual people could get a picture they could relate to.

The first analogy that he tried was the four wheels of a motor car to show how money moved through a business but this did not capture the imagination of a group of readers who were helping get the book together. So the book sat around for about six months while he got on with business advisory.

Then one Saturday morning he was working away in his home office and had a sudden thought. Why not use a fence? It had all the elements that were needed. Milestones and activity all in the same picture! Balance Sheets, Profit and Loss Accounts and potentially a cash flow as well. He was really excited and drew the first fence, but if it had not been for the help of about 50 non accounting people he could have missed it completely.

Remember he was in accounting mode and had been trained that Balance Sheets and Profit and Loss Accounts MUST be prepared vertically. So the first fence created had vertical rails! All he did was draw some posts and rails and put the financial numbers inside them. You can imagine his surprise when he got a whole lot of blank stares from people when he told them that a vertical statement was a rail. One kind business person said, “If you want us to believe that it is a rail then it must be prepared on a horizontal basis. The posts must be vertical and the rails must be horizontal.”

Every accounting bone in his body went into a major spasm. Decades of doing things in a certain way were about to be changed so that OTHER people could understand. We are grateful to those people who taught him that not every one in the world thinks like an accountant. The journey of turning financial numbers into a simple and effective picture had begun.

But as we said at the beginning nearly every good idea is born in an instant from a rich history of experience and takes many months and years to be brought to reality. We finished the book and all the charts and pictures and many copies were bought to help people. However, although we had a training business teaching people about The Financial Fence® we started to realize that if we wanted people to really ‘get it’ they needed to use it on a daily basis.

So we trained many executives and it was the work we did with a major public company in Melbourne that allowed us to find another secret. The best way we found to introduce a non financial person to a balance sheet was to start with the purchase of a family home. By relating to that, executives could quickly grasp the concept and apply it to the business numbers.

This gave us the idea to develop a personal version of The Financial Fence® because we had discovered that if a person got something in their personal life they would bring it into the business but not vice versa! So a new version of The Financial Fence® was born which could be applied to every person in the world. The next step was to make it available to people in various different forms so that they could learn and get value.

So the next step was to invent a board game called 'Where’s the Money Gone' which would allow parents and children to play together and learn the principles of sound financial management. The board game went through various different versions as we tried to find a way to simulate a close to life experience within a game.

The initial version was written in a weekend but took a further six months through development of graphics and upgrade of the rules and method of playing. What did emerge was the thoughts for the brand that you see today and also better graphical way of representing the fence.

Because the game had to be simple for youngsters to be able to play we standardized the colours to make it easier to understand. This learning was then applied to all personal and business fences that we had developed with amazing results. Everybody found it much easier to understand The Financial Fence® when it was colour coded and so we changed the whole look and feel across the business.

If The Financial Fence® was to become a useful language then it needed to be easily accessible for people to use. We wanted to develop an online tool which was easy to use and could be available for people wherever they were. Accordingly we had no option but to develop the tool on the web but in a secure environment. Over a period of time we have developed both a personal and business version and in the latest releases of both products we have standardized on the software platform to make it easier for users to feel at home using either of the tools.

Having developed the online tools we thought that people would flock to them and start using them to their advantage. However we were in for a surprise. While people understood the concept, they were not able to move from the concept to practical development of their own financial fences without some practical help.

The latest development has been to produce offline training for personal and business which coaches users through a programme of developing their own fences for each application and then providing them with sound education which enhances the value that they can derive from their fences.

Users who graduate from Personal Financial Mastery and Business Financial Mastery are well on their way to being empowered to make far better financial decisions. They have learnt a systematic framework to understand, plan and monitor their financial world so that they feel empowered, have peace of mind and achieve far better financial performance.

The journey continues...