With a vision for his business in mind, Intralink Wealth Management Owner & Director Paul Sharkey, has come up with a game plan. He’s playing on his strengths while taking into consideration the opposition and the playing field. He builds up his team, anticipates setbacks, draws up a plan B and C, and brings his company forward for a lot of wins.
Paul played AFL as a professional football athlete for about five to six years. He was able to bring to the business arena the principles and discipline of the sport. However, apart from his training in footy, Paul also grew up in a setting where the entrepreneurial spirit thrives.
Growing up on a farm in Bendigo, Paul once ran small ventures as a kid. He used to raise a few cattle when he was only about a 10-year-old boy. He also made a little bit of money on the side. Also, a lot of his family and friends are small business owners. “It’s an environment where you're always around entrepreneurs who have the flexibility to do what they want to do. But you get to understand that you have to work hard at different times. On the flip side, the harder you work, the more success can come your way,” Paul explained.
After AFL, Paul started seeking another purpose in his life. He went to London for two years to work, which made the transition from sports to business a bit easier for him. During those couple of years, he realised what he wanted to do and that he was good at running a business.
He started an enterprise of his own and ran it for about 18 months. He then met Paul King, who became his business partner when he joined under the Intralink business. As the name implied, they provided four key services – financial advice, investment management, portfolio administration, and self-managed superannuation fund tax returns – linking these offerings into one package. It was a bit unique in the industry at that time.
Although he had small ventures when he was young, it was not until he got into the business space that he found it tougher than he imagined. “I was scared of the unknown. It was a whole new world where I didn’t have much experience. I read a lot about businesses. But it is when you start doing it that you’ll find it quite daunting. There were bits and pieces here, but I had no idea of the entire picture. You suddenly learn on your feet,” he described.
Things took a different turn when the global financial crisis struck. It affected a lot of industries. “Revenue was dropping at 25% over a 12-month window. We had a lot of nervous clients. The GFC was absolutely the big one. That was our biggest challenge,” Paul remarked.
The industry in itself is challenging, and Paul had to wade through tumultuous waves. “It's a highly regulated industry, and so it should be. Unfortunately, at the moment, there's a huge diversity of rule commission on much of our industry and banking. It takes a fair bit of compliance and other things to run your business. But I understand where they're coming from as well. So, it's almost that if you run a professional business, a lot of that is best practice. Anyway, you’ll get good with it as you go along,” the athlete-turned-entrepreneur opined.
Rising from the challenges, Paul and the team committed themselves to their company’s thrust of assisting their clients. And they did so even through troubling financial times. Aside from that, Paul loves what he’s doing. It is evident with the awards and recognition they have received for doing their job well. But what makes him feel blessed with the kind of business he runs, which is wealth management, is that they get to help clients set their goals. He pointed out, “We get a lot of feedback from them. They thank us for helping them buy a house, retire, put their kids through private education, or whatever they needed. I always find that enjoyable.”
Taking what he has learned in sports into business, Paul has carried over some best practices that enabled Intralink to hit some goals. One key factor he cited was people. “When you’re playing a professional sport, there’s a team environment. That can be replicated by having good people around you. To have good teammates, you have to be good at recruiting the right people to the business, training them and developing them,” he explained.
Another factor he mentioned was goal-setting. For Paul, his goal is to provide the best service for his clients. As such, he builds a corporate culture focused on the client. They put their clients as their top priority and work towards achieving their goals.
Apart from his background in sports, Paul was also able to find his way around the entrepreneurial field with the help of EO Melbourne. “For me, it was the view that other people have done things before me. As other people before me had the same issues, it's like a parable where you follow the footsteps in the sand. I was looking for something like EO. I found it. I joined and loved it. The monthly catch-ups like the forums have amazing people that you’d be able to reach out at any stage. It's just a great environment.”
Paul also found great inspiration and support from his original business partner, Paul King, who was quite experienced in business. Paul King, who retired two years ago, has been and remains a good mentor to Paul. “He's been fantastic on a day-to-day basis. I learned a lot from him,” he stated. Another businessman he has admired, although from afar, was Gerry Ryan, who was also from Bendigo. He liked how Gerry looks after his staff and helps the community.
From the time he joined Intralink 16 years ago, it has come a long way. It began with having a small team doing everything for about two years. “Gradually, as you build the business, you try to delegate things that you normally do. For me, the hard part is delegating and trusting. You tend to think that it might not get done as you did it. But as long as they’re going to do it as efficiently as you are going to do it, the only way you live with your business is through people. It’s getting the right people, trusting them, and letting them flourish in their roles,” Paul shared.
As a person, the journey has shaped Paul to develop his growth, maturity, confidence, and different skills. The experiences, especially the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, were difficult but exhilarating. “Many people talk about the roller-coaster ride that happens in being an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, your family are the ones that see it up close and, quite often, suffer from lack of focus and time as well, which can be tough,” he revealed.
Given this reality in the life of entrepreneurs, Paul makes sure that he spends his weekends with his wife and supporting their kids as they play their sport. All of his three children are still in primary school, a stage where they still want to play with their mum and dad. He also takes them to the farm, where they still breed some racehorses. Sometimes, he also goes out with his friends to play golf whenever he can.
Looking ahead, he’s setting his eyes on his goals for Intralink. With a commitment to enhancing their clients’ quality of life through wealth strategies and investments that can support individual goals, Paul continues to grow the business with his other business partners. Aside from giving quality service, they are also building Intralink’s capacities of providing more offerings to other accountants and financial advisors in the future. That includes keeping abreast with technological advancements that can affect their industry. As of the present, artificial intelligence and machines are taking over the lower level roles or tasks. What it can do in the future remains unknown, which can both be scary and advantageous for Paul and their business.
Being an athlete and a business owner, Paul views the essence of his journey, which boils down to people – his teammates, business partners, staff, and clients. If he would be coaching a young team of entrepreneurs, here’s his gameplan. “It is about people, concentrating on good people, recruiting them, and looking after them. Your business is only going to grow as fast as your people. Just focus on simple things like looking after your clients, following up with them, speaking to them, communicating all the other things, and getting the basics right. More importantly, never be afraid to ask for help. If you need advice, make sure it’s from someone who’s had experience,” he quipped. These are essential pieces of advice that Paul wants to convey to future business owners.