Paul Long is a quiet an achiever, having positioned himself as a leader within the business community through his hard work and commitment to his clients. He is a Director and Partner of Kelly’s Finance Group, a finance brokerage firm who look to crate long-term relationships with their clients by helping them navigate the world of lending. Paul understands the importance of customer service with a clear focus on making life easier for his clients.
• Tell us about your career path?
I came from a background where my mother was a dairy farmer, so I had a love of agriculture from a young age. My father was involved in the family news agency, so the whole small business culture, self-employed nature was drilled into us from a very young age. That probably pushed me to start off in the bank in Newcastle in about 1989. I traveled the state for the next fifteen years and learned as much as I could from different industries. I got a little bit disillusioned in banking at that time, went through a period where banks wanted to throw money into agriculture one year and get it back the next, and that wasn’t in my nature to treat people that way.
I saw an opportunity in 2004 to go out and be a broker on my own, which I did. I started finance and mortgage broking mortgage broking. It’s a tough gig working on your own, so I took on a couple of jobs within the transport industry helping clients with their day-to-day running of their business and that was the best thing I ever did. It really allowed me to now relate to a client when they say they have a problem with their business or they got a problem with their day-to-day operation. I thought finance was where I wanted to stay, so about seven years ago I committed 100% to finance. Then four years ago, David Ward and I bought into the business we’re in today and that’s about it.
• What do you believe has shaped your leadership style?
I think I’ve worked with a lot of good leaders over the years, but personally I’m probably more of a lead by example type of person. Roll the sleeves up and demonstrate the way it can be done, more than sit back and give direction.
• What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into a diary each week?
There’s probably two that I stick with. The first one is on Sunday night, which I believe is the most important night of the week. I take this time to plan for the week, get my diary ready early in the night so I can get straight into it Monday morning and stay on top of the week ahead. Secondly, we are early risers. I came from an agriculture background and a news agency background, so we’re 4:00 o’clock in the morning alarm people. We sometimes go for a walk, clear the head in the morning, have a swim and then hit the ground running straight up.
• What do you believe makes business unique in the Hunter?
I think we take a lot for granted in Newcastle and the Hunter. I think we’re in a unique situation where in our world I can meet with the client early in the morning in the upper Hunter on a beautiful agricultural property. I can then be meeting another client in a beautiful vineyard in Pokolbin. In the late afternoon you can then meet another client near the beach in Newcastle Harbour. We’ve got it all within an hour to an hour-and-a-half and I just wonder whether we fully accept and appreciate what we’ve got.
I think one of the unique things with Newcastle, and I learned this many years ago, is if you want to know what’s happening in Newcastle, you only make three phone calls and the third one is because the second person didn’t answer the phone.
• What local business person do you find inspiring?
There are probably two that come to mind. Firstly, a good mate, Ross Taggart, who runs a successful accounting business in Newcastle. I think Ross has got the whole lifestyle and work balance correct. He’s heavily involved in community groups with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, the surf club and recently the Newcastle Business Chamber, and he’s fully committed to those organisations as well as his clients and his business. So, the fact that he can balance those is something I look up to.
The other one, a little bit out of left field, is another mate of mine that I left school with, Kris Lees. Kris, in an unfortunate situation, had to take over the family business unexpectedly. And, to Kris’ credit, I think he’s really built up a strong structure of loyal, experienced and professional staff. He’s surrounded himself with strong business advisors. His father would be very proud that he’s taken that business to another level. He’s another one that I admire.