#0020 Riana Pretorius of Exponential Financial Services (EFS)

The Civitas Team

25 ideas on building a family business from scratch, effective budgeting, choosing client base, effective customer service, and self-improvement.

The business ideas and financial support weren’t presented to Riana Pretorius, the founder of EFS on a golden plate. When she started in the business in 2001, she worked for Liberty Franchise, but she realized that she wanted to become an independent financial advisor.

She started from scratch while her children were in university. The fact that her children showed interest in her business made her realize how she could turn EFS into a family business.

Not being a very good marketer, Riana had to take a more analytical approach, which goes against the old ideas.

A Civitas team member interviewed Riana on starting her family business, managing a team, working with clients effectively, and having a safety budget.

Summary of the best ideas from the discussion:

  • It might take 2-3 years to build before you generate a stable income, so always have backup money to sustain your business.
  • Referrals are crucial to your growth and success.
  • Be picky with your clients. Learn to let go of them if the relationship is not working out.
  • Separate family from business when working with family members.
  • Invest in your knowledge and skill set in the industry.
  • Don’t shy away from making mistakes. Be willing to admit if you failed a customer.
  • Follow-up with your team on a weekly basis if possible

Starting a new business

  1. “Starting a new business is a hard road and needs a lot of tenacity. It requires you to stay in there and keep doing things over and over.”

The Importance of Referrals

  1. “As an independent business, referrals are like currency, they speak volumes of the services you are offering.”
  2. “Build a strong and loyal customer base for future referrals.”

Funding a new business

  1. “Take note that it might take a good two years before your business generates continuous income.” 
  2. “Make sure you can sustain yourself financially for at least two years. Otherwise, you might not make it. It is especially more difficult nowadays, in the financial services industry, due to strict legislation around licensing and experience.”
  3. “Always have some backup funds to cover up in times of disasters and illnesses. Don’t think it can never happen to you."

Selecting clients to work with

  1. “Choose a client base that you speak the same language with, even if it means slower growth.” 
  2. “Determine your client database in the beginning and pick your clients only from that database”
  3. “If you feel the business relationship is not going to work, have the courage to communicate that with the client"

Running a family business

  1. “Running a family business does have its flare-ups, but every family member can learn from one another and complement each other’s skills.”
  2. “Listen to the younger voices in your business because they can be more clued up about certain things like marketing.”
  3. “Family is family, and business and business. Learn to keep the two separate.”

Team management

  1. “It’s always best to have a task division amongst the team instead of trying to do all the admin on your own”
  2. “Formal or informal, have weekly meetings with your team to see where the business is headed.”
  3. “Divide your goals into short, medium, and long-term future plans so you can be more organized.”
  4. “If you want to expand your client base, you can bring another person into your business, BUT you have to make sure your clients will work well with the person.”
  5. “When bringing an outsider into your family business, you need to make sure their time schedule and priorities comply with yours."


  1. “Having qualifications is a huge asset. If you walk into a lawyer’s office and you’ve got the same level of qualifications that he/she has, then that makes a difference.”
  2. “Always follow what’s happening in the markets and be one step ahead of your competitors. You should especially follow the impact of COVID-19 providers-wise.”
  3. “Invest in your business-related knowledge. Read at least 2-3 hours a day, listen to podcasts, attend workshops, and register at the professional bodies.”

Customer service

  1. “It is definitely OK to make mistakes. It’s important to build trust with your clients, so don’t shy away from your slip-up. Talk to your client about it.”
  2. “If you are not knowledgeable of what the client asks, be willing to admit that.”
  3. “If you demonstrate professionalism and good customer service, people are more likely to become loyal even when you make mistakes.”

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