Alumni Spotlight - Leap of Faith: Making That Big Idea Real


Timing is everything. This could not be truer for Alice Saveneh-Murray and her business partner Rachel Waldren. The banking Royal Commission was in full swing and the Commonwealth Bank had just agreed to pay the biggest fine in Australian corporate history for breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

Alice and her business partner Rachel had a great idea for a business, she wanted to set up a regulatory compliance practice, specialising in Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) support so when she was offered a redundancy package by her employer it gave her the push needed to finally put their ideas in to action, and the timing couldn't be better.

Although the business plans were almost fully developed Alice had lots of decisions yet to make but wasn't sure where to go for help. So when the opportunity of coaching with Directioneering, as part of her voluntary redundancy package, was offered Alice jumped at it.

We asked Alice what she had learned about making the transition from corporate employee to business owner.

How did you identify the opportunity for a new business?

We knew we could bring our experience, working within large corporations, to support businesses with more limited resources who were trying to manage their risk and regulatory compliance.

We felt (and still feel) there is a great opportunity right now to disrupt the traditional consulting market with an alternative offering. Our model provides ongoing advice from experienced professionals in a practical and collaborative manner and we do this for a fixed fee so companies don't have to make a large investment.

We also deliver training for a range of formal qualifications in AML/CTF through a partnership with the International Compliance Association, from beginner to advanced levels to encourage more people to take up compliance in AML/CTF as a profession and to develop people already in the industry.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

Confidence – despite our technical backgrounds and experience, both Rachel and I have been on an incredible growth journey when it comes to entrepreneurship but we have and continue to stay connected with our networks to test and refine our ideas and approaches.

Personally, I have also been juggling two small children which has presented some challenges. The first ‘official' meeting I had for the business was when my youngest was about 3 weeks old and I remember having to ask my mum to come into the city with me so she could push the pram around the lobby of the building while I ducked upstairs to pitch the concept in between feeds. It's been a whirlwind of late nights, child care bugs and coffee but both my husband and business partner have been incredibly supportive and our clients are usually able to relate to all the madness that goes on behind the scenes!

How has your coach helped you?

Too many ways to mention! Scott has provided a sense of consistency through what has been an unsettling period in my career. He gave me a sense of purpose to my transition period and opened the door to a range of resources to clarify and progress our business ideas.

Having meetings with Scott has helped me to set and stick to goals and I have found the nature of how we work together has developed over time.

I often ‘practice' our ideas or approaches with Scott before we launch them into the business to test them and hear an independent perspective.

We originally planned to take the idea to an established firm. This would have been a ‘safer' option but Scott helped us to evaluate the downsides too. In the end the freedoms and flexibility that creating our own practice offered became a much better option for us.

Scott has definitely pushed me but perhaps more importantly, he has helped me to identify when we need to go a little easier on ourselves. Being able to check in has allowed me to recognise and celebrate successes that might have gone unnoticed in the hectic pace of a start-up.

And on a practical note, through Scott I have been able to connect with other alumni who are interested in the financial crime field and offer our training courses to facilitate a path towards their next role as well.

What advice would you give others considering their own business based on the lessons you have learned?

Don't be put off by your big ideas. It isn't necessarily as ‘hard' as everyone tells you to break out of the mould. When it's your own business the ‘work' element disappears and you find the time and the answers you need because you're invested so wholly in it.

Listen to all the advice. You don't always have to take it on board right away but different views and angles are really useful.

If you can, find a business partner. Having someone you trust provides energy, balance, challenge and company. Co-working at WorkClub has also been great for us and was a concept Scott helped us to explore. It has provided us with a sense of belonging and purpose that is critical in the early days when your sense of identity is shifting so rapidly but most importantly we really enjoy coming in to work in the environment. There are so many other great spaces popping up and they are worth checking out.

Say things out loud. Practicing our pitch on trusted colleagues/friends helped shape our offering and confidence. Talking to each other about goals, ambitions and ideas sometimes seemed ridiculous but they became more realistic. It made it easier to share those ideas with third parties once we had sounded them out.

By going out on our own we have flexibility in our work practices which in turn has kept us agile and innovative. Working in an established firm or company would not have provided that and I don't think we truly appreciated the value of our own creative streaks until now!