Is that when the garden shed came in handy?
I had a computer, a desk and a garden shed. I would just buy and sell, I never carried any stock. I would talk to clients and get stock when I needed it. It was slow, steady progress. Without the cashflow, you can’t grow.
Didn’t the shed put off clients?
I was in the industry for five years and they all knew me. I had a good, trusted name in the industry, which is more valuable than any profits.
I made sure I delivered on time and to expectation and, in return, I gave them 30 days to pay me. Some said “no, we won’t support you”, but they are now knocking on my door asking to work with me.
To start with, I got the Yellow Pages out and start calling, asking for clients to give me a chance. Out of 100 calls, you’d get about a 2% return through cold calling. Then, if you provide excellent service, you get the next order.
How long were you in the shed for?
Two years. I was turning over $1 million and making a lot of money for myself, but I was scared of growth. I had to move to a $35,000 office space in Stanmore and I was shitting bricks.
I was in the mentality of keeping overheads down and running a tight ship. I thought the extra cost could sink the business and I had the fear factor of the next step.
Those first steps are the hardest. People worry too much about having a $50 million business, but what is the profit in that? Do you have the profit to drive growth to the next level, or is it turnover?
If you’re not making a profit, it doesn’t mean anything. I think we were successful because we invested during the GFC. We were proactive.
The business has been a bit of a family affair isn’t it?
I have two brothers and one sister, who are all working on businesses. My older brother, Danny, worked with me and my cousin and we were always fighting and bickering.
I said “I’ve had enough, I’m going to go and do it myself.” Then he started DK Blue, which was in a different market to my business. We ran the businesses for six years before two years ago we decided to merge. We’re now joint CEOs.
My brother is great at sales, while I run operations. I suppose I wanted to outdo him when we were young. We drove each other forward.
Didn’t you have a run-in with your other brother when he worked with you?
While I was working in my back yard shed, David was asking for a chance to join me. So I said yes, but he’d turn up to work in his pyjamas.
We didn’t have many clients at that time but I’d still sit in my office while he’s go inside the house for a nap or to watch TV.
I told him that if you don’t respect the business then it won’t respect you. You have to have that drive and respect for the job you’re doing. So I fired him.
It was a great lesson. Business is business and family is family and I didn’t want to blur those lines at that time.
How is the business faring now?
We’ve had organic growth, which has been fuelled by word-of-mouth and getting the fundamentals of the business right. We’ve diversified the business, which gives great scope and options for clients.
Rather than advertise, we distribute magazines that will cost us $20,000, but we will sell ad space in it. We can get $150,000 in sales on the magazines a year.
We’ve got 18 people now, but we still run a tight ship. I don’t really value one-dimensional people. If you’re going to grow, you need people with a diverse range of skills, but they are hard to find.
I’m very hands on with the business. I want to build experience rather than hire it. Raw people cost less to hire and then I can train them my way. If you hire expensive people, they are often set in their ways.
We’re looking at growing to $20 million turnover in the next two to three years. But it’s a tough industry. It’ll take a lot of work.