Keep asking yourself, ‘What do my customers want and how can I serve them better?’
Rod Thomas is an investment professional with more than 30 years of both experience and expertise in financial and property investments. He is the founder and chairman of Avantis Wealth, a firm that specializes in high-return alternative investments that help clients achieve financial security, prepare for prosperous retirements, and enjoy a better quality of life. Rod is also the author of several books about finance, and he frequently speaks at conferences and trade shows to discuss finance and investment as well.
Following his graduation from the University of Leicester with a degree in geology, Rod Thomas spent three years as a chartered accountant for Deloitte Touche. Rod bought a retail shop—his first commercial property—and he continued investing in residential and commercial properties in the UK and abroad from that point on. These experiences gave Rod a strong background in finance, investment, and property.
As Rod himself explains, an “entrepreneurial spark” inspired him to go into business for himself, and that’s exactly what he did in 2012 upon founding Avantis Wealth. He became angry with the mainstream financial establishment and the failure of traditional asset classes after the financial collapse of 2008, and he wanted to offer individuals an investment opportunity based in security and the potential to generate impressive returns. This led Rod Thomas to create Avantis Wealth and to develop the strategy that would underlie its success: the F.R.E.S.H. Investment System.
The F.R.E.S.H. Investment Strategy uses five criteria—fixed income, rewarding returns, exit strategy defined, security in place, and hands-off management—to deliver annual average returns of 7-15% to Rod Thomas’ clients at Avantis Wealth. Unsurprisingly, Rod’s F.R.E.S.H. investments are sought after by investors hoping to earn more income now, prepare for their retirements, or achieve other financial goals.
Another of Rod Thomas’ areas of expertise is pensions. He helps clients to take control of their pensions and make their own investment decisions through options such as SSAS (Small self-administered scheme), SIPP (Self-invested personal pension), and ROPS (Regulated overseas pension scheme). He also operated a website, Prosperous Retirement, to help offer advice on pensions and retirement planning.
Rod Thomas is a national speaker and frequently delivers remarks at exhibitions including the Property Investor Show, Master Investor Show, London Investor Show, and others, and he also runs his own seminars and workshops. A published author, Rod has written The Property Investment Profit System, The Pensions Disaster and How to Plan for a Secure Retirement, Property as Your Pension, and The F.R.E.S.H. Investment Special Report. He is based in Hove, UK.
Where did the idea for Avantis Wealth come from?
I have been involved in helping clients make strong property investments for many years and used to train people to get very wealth from property investment. Starting about five years ago, we realised that a lot of enquiries were coming from investors who wanted to do better with their pensions—and you can’t put a traditional investment in property into a pension. So, we looked for investments that were permissible in selected pension schemes, such as a SIPP (self invested personal pension) or a SSAS (small self administered scheme). This led to the formation of Avantis Wealth.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I try to plan my day and divide it into these activities: phone, email, meetings, and thinking time. Then, I divide actions into urgent and important, and then everything else.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am extremely creative. I couldn’t tell you where ideas come from, but they just appear in my brain. However, they need nurturing and time. I have always found that running fast with something right after you have thought of it is a recipe—at least for me—for disaster. Good ideas need creative thought and maturity. To bring them to life, I start talking internally about it and also writing about it. I might make a presentation to the senior management team and get feedback. Sometimes I am shot down in flames, but more often, there is a germ of an idea to be developed further. My ideas are often not fully formed to start with, but the more work an idea gets, usually the better it gets.
One thing is critical: exposure to a range of opinions. It’s easy to be too closed to anything except your idea, and you can miss the flaws. The more you don’t like the opinion, usually the more valuable it is.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’d say that in the investment world, it is the concept that big business (like banks, insurance companies, pension companies) often offer the worst deal, and that by taking individual responsibility and stepping outside the “traditional investment boundaries,” then investors can do better.
This is a niche view of a wider trend I see which is that trust and faith in large and supposedly good companies now has to be earned by what they do and not applied to them just because they exist.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Being willing to go the extra mile when it is needed. Don’t walk away from something half done, but finish it NOW no matter what. Instead of dragging activities out, try to compress or even “hot house” them and the intensity of activity develops its own creative energy.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Go where the money is. If you are in business, you are more likely to make big money if you are around the big money people. Sell houses at £1 million, not £100,000. Serve food in restaurants with £100 menus, not £10, and so on.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Within the world that Avantis Wealth inhabits, mainstream financial services advisors primarily offer shares and bonds as the prime investment choice. I can demonstrate considerably higher returns with lower risk through the investment products offered by Avantis. However, the traditional investment market chooses to ignore ways to do better with their clients and continues to promote the idea that a share portfolio makes good investment sense. Lunacy!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep asking yourself, “What do my customers want and how can I serve them better?”
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Developing trust in the Avantis Wealth brand. We do that through providing free educational materials about investment success, newsletters, free magazines, and ensuring high production values for all marketing materials—generally providing what a business 100x larger than us would struggle to deliver. As a result, Avantis Wealth is viewed with trust and thought to be much larger than we are.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Years ago, my company introduced American properties as an investment concept. It started well, but it went off track when the USA managing agent stopped doing their job and investors didn’t have refurbishment work completed or tenants sourced. It was a major problem, and despite investors completing their own due diligence, they blamed my company. I learnt very fast that negative comments on social media can kill your business.
I overcame it by starting again. But, as a result, we created list of “no-no’s” that we do not touch and that is very restrictive. Also, we now run far more sophisticated due diligence, and we provide greater clarity to potential clients about where lines of responsibility lie. Ultimately, the business is tighter, more niche-focused, and has reduced investment risk for clients as much as is feasible.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My company, Avantis Wealth, helps people transform their future by doing better financially—improving their investment performance. The best business idea I have would be to work with us as an introducer, particularly if you are well connected with wealthy people. Our introducers help clients do better and help themselves in the process.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 was paying for a client’s lunch. He has now invested more than £1 million in investments offered by Avantis Wealth. Cheap at 10 times the price!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We use a CRM system that is sophisticated enough to deal with the end to end client relationship from lead sourcing, sales, administration, and processing through to client retention and long-term relationship building. Almost everyone in the company uses it, and now we are planning to take it to the next level through process automation. Clients who want to make an investment go through various kyc (know your customer) checks and the system assists with that.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The F.R.E.S.H Investment Strategy, developed and written by me. Why read it? Because it will transform your understanding of how to make profitable investments, typically returning up to 15% annually, and give you clarity over how to benefit from tax efficient structures like Pensions and ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts). It’s available free of charge at www.avantiswealth.com for people who join our Astute Investor Club.
What is your favorite quote?
“If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
- One thing is critical: exposure to a range of opinions. It’s easy to be too closed to anything except your idea, and you can miss the flaws.
- Instead of dragging activities out, try to compress or even “hot house” them and the intensity of activity develops its own creative energy.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.