What lessons can you learn from the rich?

Rohan Brown

In the Financial Review 2017 Rich List there was an article relating to lessons from some of those people behind a number of our local house hold name businesses including Gerry Ryan of Jayco caravans, Frank Costa of Costa Fruit and Vegetable and Geoff Harris of Flight Centre to name a few.

One of the first messages that came through was that you always need to surround yourself with the best talent. A comment from Frank Costa was that if you were to take all the equipment, infrastructure, tools and money away from a business and only be left with the best team available in the industry, that in no time you would be able to rebuild and get back all you had lost. In all facets of life, if you are surrounded by mediocracy you will battle to achieve anything outstanding. By surrounding yourself with the best talent, particularly in key areas of your business you stand a far greater chance of achieving great things. I believe this to be not just your team but also your advisers, suppliers and other stakeholders involved with you.

Those interviewed tended to be have made wealth operating their own ‘family’ businesses and were critical of moving outside those areas that you really understand. An example put forward was the recent example of Woolworths foray into hardware with the Masters stores. Comment was made that having your own money involved means you tend to be more vigilant about what you are investing in and how you many expand your business. When you have non-owners at the helm of your business they often don’t have that degree of conservatism as it is not their personal funds at risk. This can affect every business, make sure you are always involved in your business and don’t just leave it to others to run your business for you. You may provide others with an amount of freedom to operate, but this must be in line with a culture and structure that you put in place, but also with ongoing regular feedback to the owners as to decision making or recommendations.

Wisdom from the ‘older’ members of the Rich List was that many of the younger rich have not suffered through hard times. They are operating in what for many has been a long period of growth and success for business in Australia, particularly with periods of low interest rates and inflation which Australia has been experiencing for nearly 10 years and beforehand there were years of growth within our economy. Always ensure your business ventures are able to adapt of change and handle times of down turn. This was also evident in the number of wealthy people who were not initially successful in their early endeavours. The difference to many ‘want to be entrepreneurs’ is that they learnt from their mistakes and failures but tried again.

A final note was that when starting your business, you always need to consider how you’re going to exit. This is often a message we discuss whenever clients are looking to starting their own businesses, particularly if they are going to be starting with other partners in business. “Always start with the end in mind” is often what we say. Most find this a strange comment, since they are just about to start a great adventure and all of a sudden we are talking about how it is going to end. The reason for this may vary but have to be considered for reasons such as, failure of the business, breakdown of relationship with others in the business or simply when your time in the business has reached its end and you are wanting to exit a successful business. Each may have their own challenges and particular areas of focus required. For example, business failure requires consideration of how you protect you own financial security and assets and those close to you, whereas relationship break down, particularly between business owners has its own challenges for the business partners and the overall future viability of the business.

There is a lot of lessons to be learnt from successful and wealthy people. Many in Australia have a tall poppy syndrome, but rather than be glass half empty in regards to others success, consider what you can learn from them. If you are genuine about learning from others even consider those around you that have been successful in their own endeavours and what you may be able to learn from them. Even consider seeking out such people as business mentors for yourself.