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Making a killing

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AA08-Feb-Mar-2005-killingAre you ready to rumble? These six young entrepreneurs have a net worth exceeding $100 million… and their average age is only 32!

There is a little known resource available to Australia’s young corporate elite. It is called the YEO (Young Entrepreneurs’ Organisation). The peer-to-peer network is made up of young, confident and successful business people who know what they want and how to get it. So how is it different from every other young persons’ network in Australia?

To begin with, it accepts members by invitation only. But the real divider is its policy on success. New members must be under 40 and must have founded, own or control a business with gross annual revenues exceeding (AU) $1.4 million.

Paul D. Ryan sat down with six of its local all-stars to find out what makes them tick. He asked them about their chosen fields, whether youth is an advantage in business and whether people are born entrepreneurs. Their answers reveal why they are leaving the rest for dead.

David Hummerston – Director, ETM Travel
age 32

I seriously think that entrepreneurial drive is something you are born with. I just can’t sit still. I would hate to be working for someone else, 9 to 5, day in, day out. There’s something exciting about taking a risk. Something exciting about watching things grow. I never thought I was entrepreneurial until someone told me. It’s just something inside you. Not everyone wakes up and says, “I’m going to take that risk today and strive for successâ€?.

I made my mark when I founded ETM Travel, with Leon Burman & Jan Upton, which opened up a world of possibilities for the three of us. Success breeds success. ETM has clients who want to be involved with a successful company rather than a one-man show. The real advantage of youth is that there is still so much to learn. With a great advisory board we are able to achieve our goals and meet our targets, hopefully moving us ahead of our competitors.

The existence of the internet means we don’t actually need to be based in another country. We have conferences all over the world – running events, doing launches in Singapore and America or study tours around Europe. We deal globally, but we don’t need to have offices all over the world. I didn’t plan to target a specific company because they take everyone overseas. It just evolved that way. Our launches and study tours, etc. are 70 percent offshore. Our travel is 65 percent international. I don’t have any choice but to think globally.

Melissa Sangster – Van & 4WD Extras
age 34

I started out by buying a business eight years ago. The following year I bought out a competitor. And then 18 months later bought out another competitor. But you ask how I made my killing… I don’t think I have yet. Nothing’s ever enough. I’m just constantly looking at what else I can do. Normal people look at you and just shake their head. Entrepreneurs are like-minded people. In America, if you have an idea people say “Great, go with itâ€?. In Australia, they say, “Too hardâ€?.

I don’t know whether you are about born entrepreneurial. Sometimes I look at my brothers and sisters and wonder whether we really came out of the same womb. It’s just something in you. It’s hard to explain.

I certainly use youth to my advantage. My industry is dominated by men over 45, and they underestimate me every time. Being young, my energies are higher. I take risks because I don’t really have anything to lose. I’m not inhibited by family or other common constraints.

My industry has very skinny margins, so I push for volume. I needed to manufacture a product with a cheaper price rather than relying on my existing suppliers. So I’ve started a business with some others, manufacturing the product I need here in Melbourne. The R&D is done in Australia. But manufacturing is becoming less viable here, so we are manufacturing offshore (Thailand, etc.) and we intend to export worldwide from there. Australia is not a big enough market. So we’re pushing to Europe, UK and America.

Louise Lloyd – MD, SETEC Pty Ltd
age 31

I got involved in my parent’s business four years ago. Traditional manufacturing is becoming unsustainable in Australia, so I’m redefining the business to continue making a killing. This means forming alliances and partnerships with overseas companies. Of our two key strengths, we are focussing on manufacturing lower volume-high mix and building up design/R&D.

Manufacturing is a very male dominated industry. I use both the female thing and the youth thing very much to my advantage. A lot of the time it’s looking naïve and playing the dumb person, it allows you to ask the sometimes more difficult questions.

I think being entrepreneurial is part of who you are, but your environment helps nurture and grow that. My father took risks. In my last year of primary school I was booked into three different secondary schools spread across the expense scale. It was a contingency. My parents simply didn’t know how the business would fair that year. I grew up knowing that “tomorrow we may not have anythingâ€?. I think that’s helped me continue to take risks.

Because of our labour cost and the lack of government support for labouring environments, manufacturing offshore higher volume is just a matter of necessity. Where we will keep some of our manufacturing here is to be flexible and to service some of the low volume market, which we will continue to do.

Justin Sway – CEO, FastTrack Software Professionals
age 36

I don’t think being entrepreneurial is about the money. It’s an attitude. It’s about wanting to be successful. About creating something, building it up. It’s about doing business well, with integrity and values, and building a great team of people around you. That’s what is important. Anything that comes with it is a bonus.

I started out 12 years ago making software for the recruitment industry. Now we’re the largest provider of core business applications for the Australasian recruitment industry. Australia is one of the top four countries in the world in terms of software development. About eight years ago I set up a company in Brussels trading with 15 countries. I thought that to be successful I needed to go after the largest recruiter in the world. And I got them. The problem was it was too difficult to maintain. So I made a lot of money and came back to Australia. In about three years we intend to take our products offshore again — to the US and UK. The beauty of operating from Australia is that it is very effective when the exchange rate is low. But you have to know how to do it the right way. And you have to be ready for expansion.

Being young lends itself to the assumption that you’re naïve. The benefit of being in business so young is that you have the advantage of calling on mentors. You can channel your talents by calling on the expertise of others who have been doing it for longer.

Ryan Trainor – serial entrepreneur.
age 31

I have started, built and sold several companies over the last 7 years, including a business in personnel (supplying security personnel to major retailers), an IT business and a training company, which provided nationally accredited training across Australia (sold to a publicly listed company in 2003).

If you know your stuff and you have a level of passion towards your business, age is no barrier to success. You can seek great mentors along your journey. The initial hurdle is to gain someone’s respect. Once that is achieved, things seem to fall into place.

Entrepreneurs are instinctive, but that instinct needs to be channelled and complimented with skills that you acquire. It’s those skills that need to be worked on, and that’s what brings success.

The world is getting smaller and almost every project has some kind of global potential, however remote that might seem at inception. On the whole, entrepreneurs (especially young entrepreneurs) search for possibilities and take risks. Going global is often the ultimate risk/reward gamble.

Along with some colleagues, I’m about to launch a national television show on inspiration. Hopefully it will inspire people to, in the old Australian adage, have a crack. It will profile some of the inspirational things that are happening around the world, which hopefully will encourage people to make positive choices in their life. It’s about inspiring people to have success in whichever part of their life they choose — it doesn’t necessarily have to be business. Inspiration is a state of mind.

Adrian Giles – Co-founder/ Executive Director, Hitwise
age 30

I started Hitwise about seven years ago with my business partner, Andrew Barlow. We saw an opportunity in the online market research industry to provide information to businesses about the performance of their websites that traditional market research methods could not provide.

We started partnering with internet service providers and have now built up relationships with 60 of the largest ISPs around the world. That gives us access to 25 million people in six different countries whose internet activity we monitor every day. It allows us to report on the top 500,000 businesses, and we break that down into 160 different industries.

When we started this, a lot of people said it wasn’t possible. They looked in the market research text books and didn’t see our methodology listed. But the internet is a new medium and requires a new method. We pioneered ahead and ignored the nay-sayers. That confidence in what we were doing certainly helped nurture our success.

I was never able to consider not having my own business. I set goals for myself each year. We just recently moved our corporate headquarters to New York, after being in the US for just 18 months. We have about 30 sales people on the ground there, but expect to double those numbers by the end of this financial year. The point of doing the flip-up into the US entity was to position ourselves so we can list on the NASDAQ in the next couple of years.
A reservoir of talent… and a not a dog among ’em…

YEO Australia

* 200 members who employ 10,000 people with combined sales of AU $3.3 billion.
* To qualify, YEO members must be:
o invited,
o under 40 years of age,
o founders, co-founders, owners or controlling shareholders of businesses with gross annual revenues exceeding (AU) $1.4 million.

YEO global

  • Founded: 1987
  • 5,500 members worldwide in more than 142 cities, spanning 35 countries.
  • Premier, peer-to-peer, global community, network and resource for entrepreneurs.

If you would like information about YEO membership, please contact Peter Noble on 03 9681 5333 or [email protected]

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