Dr Toni Surace, Managing Director of Momentum Management, Talks Wealth Creation

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On this week’s episode, Dr Toni Surace takes time to share her story on overcoming adversity, transitioning into a new career and how she has managed to reach financial success.

What I love about this interview is that Toni unpacks and talks about

  • the value of money growing up;
  • becoming a business owner;
  • strategies to building wealth; and
  • tips for business owners.

Show Notes:
00:00:00 – Intro

00:01:14 – Toni’s Value on Money Growing up

00:02:43 – Healthy Vs Unhealthy Money Habits

00:04:16 – Transitioning into a Business Owner

00:05:17 – Toni’s Philosophies on Building Wealth

00:07:18 – Toni’s Career Shift

00:10:03 – Are Building Wealth and Earning Money That Different?

00:11:30 –  Strategies to Building Wealth

00:12:57 – Making Bold Business Mistakes

00:14:43 – Toni on Financial Success

00:15:38 – Toni’s Pearl of Wisdom for Business Owners

00:17:31 – Outro

Q: What did money mean in your house when you were growing up? What were the lessons that you learned, and what did it mean to you?

  • I learned some extremely important lessons as a child growing up in a family of migrants.
  • My father is Italian, and my mother is English, and they came over in a boat from Italy, called Marconi, and settled in Melbourne.
  • It was definitely a struggle for them. They were always working – my father had three jobs most of my childhood to help us become what they felt would be well-adjusted humans with an excellent education.
  • I put absolutely everything into myself and my two brothers.
  • I guess the thing they taught us about money was the old saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees”, and that you need to work hard to earn money and actually get somewhere.
  • I’m going to say that that mentality sometimes serves, and sometimes it doesn’t.


Q: What would be some of the positives that come from that kind of upbringing, and what are some of the unhealthy habits that you think may have formed as a result?

  • I think some of the positives were that I could and should get out there and just go for it – whatever I wanted, I could achieve if I worked hard.
  • That carried me through moving from growing up on a farm to living in the city for University. I hated it, to be honest. I hated being away from home, and it was just tough for me to become a “city person.”
  • Getting through that was hard work for me. So, the way that I was brought up helped me get through that.
  • Where it hasn’t served me is where I maybe could have made some more smart decisions and perhaps invested my money or trusted in processes a little bit more so that I wouldn’t have to slog my guts out all the time because I’ve really worked hard most of my life.
  • I still think that it’s a bit of a limiting belief that money doesn’t come easy, and I’d love to help myself change that mindset.
  • I’ve done a lot of work on it, it still keeps creeping back, so it’s something that I still need to work on.


Q: How did your upbringing end up influencing your decision to become a business owner?

  • It was my upbringing that influenced my decision to do dentistry.
  • I did a science degree before I did dentistry.
  • I ended up loving university and getting over hating the city, so I became a professional student. But my parents wanted me to go into a professional career so that I could be a strong, independent woman so that I would never have to rely on a man – those were the exact words they used.
  • Now, I actually possibly can be a little too independent and maybe don’t let people help me as much as I could, and perhaps I would have benefited more if I’d let people help me a bit more.


Q: What have your philosophies been around running business and building wealth in general?

  • As a healthcare professional, I think there’s a lot of stigma around running a business and being a healthcare professional at the same time.
  • So that is something that definitely played a significant role in how I was running the business.
  • I focused on supporting my team, paying my bills and hopefully having a little bit of money left over for me. If I could do that, that’s all I needed.
  • So that was where I started with my mindset towards wealth.
  • Since then, though, I’ve done a lot of work to help myself understand that I deserve to be wealthy as well.
  • And here’s the other thing, I don’t always believe that wealth is financial wealth. I genuinely think that there’s a lot more wealth than just a bank account balance.
  • So, I’ve focused my energy on having wealth in my family and my work-life balance. I’ve focused on having a meaning in life and striving towards my goal and purpose for being put on this Earth.
  • In saying that, though, money does help us do those things.
  • I did a lot of work around understanding that it was okay to make money and be wealthy with money.
  • And if I didn’t need it for myself, I would donate it.
  • If I didn’t want to have the money just sitting in my bank account, there were other things that I could do with it – and that’s certainly the philosophy I have now.


Q: You’ve made a pretty significant shift in your career over the last ten years or so. Can you talk about that and how that fits into your definition of success and wealth?

  • So, I moved from being a clinical dentist and owning a single practice to helping dental practices build their business and build their own wealth.
  • When I started my own practice, I was pretty naive. I felt that I just had to keep working and working to make money. I ended up working so hard that I had a mental breakdown, leading to major depression and anxiety.
  • I was hospitalised and told that I needed to make a change if I would continue to have these episodes of mental health issues.
  • From there, I decided that I’ll work hard and just work out a way to get through this because I don’t want to have these mental health issues throw me off.
  • So I spent time researching different ways to run businesses better and developed systems to help me do that.
  • After about two or three years, I actually had a great business that was pretty much running itself – so much so that I could focus on the other wealthy side of my life, spending more time with my family and being present in social situations without the need to worry about my business and where my money was coming from.
  • I knew other dentists struggling with similar issues and that mental health was a major, general issue among all healthcare professionals.
  • I decided to start helping people – and I didn’t get paid for it. I just wanted to help them because I could.
  • I realised there was a real need for the services I was offering and that people were willing to pay.
  • I thought, well, I’ve worked hard, I’ve experienced many things – let me share that. And there’s also a level of reward from doing that kind of work too.
  • So, I was focused on using what I had been through and how others could benefit from my knowledge.


Q: Would you agree that building wealth and making money are two separate disciplines? Are they the same thing to you, or do they mean different things?

  • They are different things.
  • Earning money is a means to an end – it’s paying bills and getting that done.
  • Creating wealth is all about setting yourself up financially and having a purpose for your life too.
  • So, I think creating wealth becomes more important to you as you get older and you start to think about what you want to do with your life.
  • When I was younger, I certainly felt quite invincible and because of the ethos that my parents gave me, working hard was easy for me.
  • Now, I’m getting a little older, and I don’t want to work so hard anymore, but I do want to earn the fruits of my labour.
  • So, I need to be more clever about building wealth rather than just creating a wage for myself.


Q: What are some of the strategies that have worked for you over the years in terms of building wealth?

  • The strategies that I’ve certainly worked on are setting myself up for retirement years ago, and that has always been what I wanted to focus on.
  • Now that I feel very secure with what I have in my superannuation, it gives me a chance to play.
  • I don’t necessarily play it safe; I’m more than happy to take calculated risks. Sometimes they don’t work, and I’ve failed big time, but I’ve always got myself back and got back to where I needed to be.
  • When you are trying to create wealth, you need to step out of your comfort zone sometimes.
  • Whenever you’re talking about growing something, you’ve got to stand in your growth zone, not just sit in your comfort zone – and that’s applicable in any area of your life.


Q: Tell us about some of the bold decisions that you’ve made that maybe haven’t worked out.

  • I made a huge decision to work with somebody and share my knowledge with that person, and it really didn’t work out.
  • As much as I ended up having to put a company into administration, I ended up getting sued, and I lost my house.
  • So, I’ve been down there when it comes to making poor decisions about working with certain people and not doing my due diligence.
  • I’ve definitely hit rock bottom, and those poor decisions caused a lot of chaos in my life. But I’m so glad I made those decisions because I’ve learnt so much from what happened to me.
  • I learnt a lot about business and what can happen in a business when it’s liquidated. It also taught me about partnership agreements.
  • I know now about what I don’t want and how to steer away from it.
  • It actually maybe stopped some of my risky behaviour with investing, and that’s probably a good thing as well.
  • I believe you need to take risks, but now I take much more calculated risks than I have in the past.


Q: What does financial success mean to you?

  • Financial success for me is not that much, to be honest with you.
  • I don’t need a lot of money to make me happy.
  • I’ve got my beautiful house, I’ve got my wonderful family, and I’m in a position to help people – that’s all I need, and I’m comfortable.
  • If there’s enough for me to live the life that I want to live as well as provide for my kids but also be able to give – that’s financial success to me.


Q: What advice would you give to younger people, young business owners and young people who are really at the start of their journey? What advice would you have, or what pearls of wisdom can you share?

  • Firstly, you need to have a great group of people around you who have been there and done that.
  • I always like to look at people who are a couple of years ahead of me at whatever stage I’m at with my financial wealth or even my career. I like to talk to people and see what has happened to them to have a little bit of a barometer of where I could go.
  • I also suggest not playing it safe. Even though I failed in as many words, I don’t think I did fail. I was resilient – I picked myself back up, and I’ve bounced back three times as high as I was when I actually failed.
  • So, I think being resilient, being smart, making calculated decisions, and talking to people is really, really important.
  • Find the tribe that’s going to help lift you. I think a tribe is really important to help you move forwards and help you see things that maybe you’re not looking at.
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