- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 13 September 2012 05:00, Updated 13 September 2012 10:51
Who would you most like to have dinner with?
I’d like to take the dill who said, “you have to have money to make money” to Centro Ristorante Italiano next to the South Melbourne Market.
I’d let him relax with a vino and a little of the finest antipasti available outside Italy before I would turn the conversation to the young Pietro Caluzzi, who came to this country to play soccer and when that didn’t work out so well, started working in a cafe in 1982 with next to nothing behind him. In 1989, he bought it.
Sadly Pietro passed away too young a couple of years ago but his business continues in the toughest of times, carried on by a dedicated, humble family led by his Australian-born wife Ruth.
This is the real story of wealth creation in Australia. The list of the penniless who made their fortunes here is endless and I am honoured to be one of them. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. And I know Ruth wouldn’t either.
A few years ago a publisher asked me to write a list of the most important things someone needs to cultivate if they want commercial success.
I called it A Tool Kit for Young Entrepreneurs and here is the update of the required equipment.
1. Be hungry to win in an industry you know and love and stick with the things you are good at. Hunger is not greed. People confuse the two.
Hunger is the natural motivator and successful people have a natural ease with what they are good at. The trick is to build on it.
Look at any great athlete or singer or actor. Sure they train and rehearse their guts out but there is a certain ease in their dazzling performances. Without it, they wouldn’t be believable.
Don’t try to force yourself against your natural grain. Hone and polish what you have. Be authentic.
2. Don’t be in too big a hurry. When you’re 25 or 30, it’s hard to imagine that you will still be going at 65 or 70.
I started my business with a five-year plan and a 10-year plan that I looked at every day and fine-tuned by the minute if necessary. And you have to take everyone with you.
They all need to believe that plan because a plan is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. Don’t get into battles you can’t win. I learned this lesson early on when I picked a fight with Kerry Packer’s brother Clyde.
The fact that I was right did not alter the fact that he was an aircraft carrier and I was a rubber duck. Guess who got blown out of the water?
Head-on battles rarely work anyway. There is always another way to win and by the way, I can now see how a rubber duck can do a lot of damage with the right plan and crew.
4. Don’t expose yourself financially. In the early ’80s I made the bad decision to get involved with companies I knew nothing about, including the Big Banana.
Interest rates hit 17 per cent and I hit the banana peel. I had too much debt to too many banks. Stay with one bank, build the relationship and don’t expose your private life to your business activity.
5. Work twice as hard as your competitors AND your staff. In the ’70s we had the advertising agency Campaign Palace as our client.
Everyone else was knocking on their door telling them, “sack Mitch and hire us”. CP boss Lionel Hunt told me about these approaches and said, “we would never do that. Your team works twice as hard as any of them”.
And it was true, because I was always first in and last to leave. Remember, everyone always notices commitment.
6. Create a difference and therefore an advantage. I learned early that there is no way you can be competitive by being equal to everyone else.
If anyone talks to me about ideas for an enterprise I always say, “so where’s the point of difference?” I know that in our industry three qualities have to be obvious – service, service, service.
Clients assume you are clever. They assume you have the technical ability, otherwise they wouldn’t even let you in the door.
They want the best service.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you need to look after people. Just like Ruth will look after that much quoted dill when I find him and give him a meal he will remember for the rest of his life.
Next week: Bell Partners founder Anthony Bell