Years ago, when financial planning veteran Phillip Alexander started out in business, he spent his first couple of years metaphorically crying himself to sleep.

Phil, the 120th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, had the same challenge faced by most entrepreneurs – building a network, establishing credibility and making sales.

It was bloody tough. But Phil persevered – and won.

Phil began his career at the age of 18 and opened that first business (a financial planning firm) when he was 26. Since then, he’s enjoyed a very successful career.

Today, Phil is general manager of Finchley & Kent, a dealer group for financial advisers. He’s also a director of the Association of Independently Owned Financial Professionals, which has 6,000 members.

While Phil loves financial planning, he thinks the industry has been complacent about technology; planners need to get better at collecting data so they can better serve their clients, he says.

At the same time, Phil says there’s no substitute to meeting people and building relationships – especially when you’re trying to grow a new business.