A profile on Greg Perks, financial adviser and mountaineer

Smart practice

Monday 01 April 2013

What do financial planning and mountaineering have in common? If you're Greg Perks, director and authorised representative of Adelaide-based Perks Wealth Management, the answer is people.

"I love working with clients, helping them and guiding them with their financial affairs," he said.

"But there's got to be life outside of business and I've always been really motivated to challenge myself and experience amazing things – we want our people to experience amazing things."

After completing the climb to Mount Everest Advanced Base Camp in 2001, Perks developed a taste for challenging himself on both a physical and mental level, and has incorporated this passion into his business.

In 2003, Perks partnered with mountain climber and adventurer Duncan Chessell to plan an adventure expedition for his clients.

"I came back from Everest Base Camp and I wanted the experience of actually summiting a mountain – because I didn't do that at Everest," Perks said.

"So Duncan Chessell, the real adventure guy, and me – the businessman who is interested in adventure – took a big group of clients and business associates to do the Kokoda Trail."

The Kokoda Trail trip was so successful that the following year Perks and Chessell took more clients and their children, including Perks’ own two sons, to summit a mountain in Nepal.

Since then Perks has climbed Mount Lobuche and Mount Mera in Nepal, Bolivia’s Mount Sajama and Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro with his clients.

"Clients have come on these trips with us and for some of them, it has changed them. It's opened doors to a new way of thinking, beyond work, enabled them to meet new people who think similarly and expand their friendships and business networks."

Perks typically prepares for treks with months of physical training, which includes hiking the Adelaide Hills laden with a backpack or sweating it out cross-training in the gym. However, he believes the key to a successful summit lies in a positive mental attitude and psychological strength; these can determine success or failure, even for people who appear to be physically fit.

"Everyone handles challenges differently. When people leave their comfort zone and take on new challenges they're often surprised with what they're able to achieve. It's the physical/mental play – never just physical."

Perks says instilling this mental determination into other aspects of life helps to put things into perspective.

"You come back into your normal day-today life and any issues that you face don't seem to be so hard to overcome. You can draw on those experiences to lead your people and your business."

Perks has been leading people in business for more than 30 years, dating back to when he co-founded the company, originally known as Perks Chartered Accountants, in 1981. Initially an accounting firm, the business now specialises in providing wealth creation and investment advice to owners of small to medium enterprises, as well as professionals and executives, and has grown to employ 150 people as one of the largest business services practices in South Australia.

"Because I'm a qualified Chartered Accountant and a financial adviser, it puts me in a key position to be able to really help people," said Perks.

Perks also understands the importance of work-life balance and his firm prides itself on making this a part of the culture, to make room for other important things in life such as family and travel.

"I'm going back to Nepal later this year and that will be my seventh trip to Nepal,because it's just one of those countries that once you go there you want to go back."

It was this spirit of adventure and keen business sense that drove Perks to join with Chessell in establishing the Himalayan Children's Education Foundation last year, which aims to help improve the education of the Nepalese Sherpa children.

"Duncan and I now have this shared goal that we want to help educate the children of the Sherpa people in Nepal," said Perks.

"The Sherpas are the local Nepalese men who help guests climb the mountains. Because they're so poor, they leave their families and go on climbing expeditions."

Perks and Chessell have attracted the support of a number of South Australian businesses to sponsor the foundation and, in October, will be leading a group to the Sherpa villages where they hope to create education opportunities.

As an advocate for work-life balance, it's little wonder that Perks has managed to come up with other fundraising solutions for the foundation that mix business with pleasure. One such fundraiser includes a series of business leadership forums.

"The business leadership forums aim to get lots of young business leaders together to attend workshops and learn what makes a business successful, network and develop their leadership skills."

So what new challenges lie ahead?

"In June this year I'm running the Stockholm marathon with my two sons – I've climbed mountains with my sons and now I'm going to run a marathon with them as well," said the man who ran the New York marathon in 2011 "just for something different."

And Perks' advice to those looking for a new adventure?

"Definitely get out of your comfort zone and do things that will challenge you physically. Too many people live in their comfort zone. And when you do you don’t learn anything about yourself."


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