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Mark Bouris on The Apprentice, what he learnt from Kerry Packer and why most entrepreneurs fail


Mark Bouris earned his entrepreneurial stripes founding ‘Wizard Home Loans’, a business he sold to GE Money in 2004, and Yellow Brick Road, a wealth management company, which he listed on the ASX within four years of launch.

But for many Channel Nine viewers he is perhaps now better known for his role as the host of The Apprentice (and, as of last night, Celebrity Apprentice).

In this Q&A interview with Alex Pirouz, Bouris shares the key lessons he learnt working with legendary Australian business tycoon Kerry Packer and the main reasons why he started Yellow Brick Road in the first place.

Mark what would you consider to be the top three main personal characteristics that have proved to be instrumental in you reaching the level of success you now have in business?

There are many characteristics that have been instrumental. But the top three I would have to say is my ability to remain optimistic at all times, my persistence when striving towards a common goal and being frugal with my spending within the businesses I have operated.

Based on your experience what do you believe are the main reasons why most entrepreneurs fail, while only some succeed?

It usually comes down to not enough capital because their costs end up more then their revenue and most often entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of capital it is going to take to launch their business.

Having access to capital has become a lot more challenging, because banks don’t usually give you capital and if they do it’s at a high interest rate. There is not much private capital around. It’s hard to become listed and globally there is liquidity problems.

It does not matter how good an idea is, if an entrepreneur is not able to access capital.

You talk a lot about starting a business based on a good cause and having the right intentions. Can you please explain the thought process behind this strategy?

This is my approach and it does not necessarily apply to everyone else. I believe that in order for a business to be successful it needs to be focused on a common cause and how that can impact the lives of others within the community. In order to do that you need to have the right intention.

In the case of Yellow Brick Road, it’s about making advice accessible to individuals who ordinarily are not entitled to advice or don’t think they are entitled to advice. When I was with Wizard it was about giving Australian’s home loans when they continued to get knocked back and thought that they could only get a loan from a bank.

For me this is a good outcome that is only derived as a result of having a good intention. This is how I measure my success in business as appose to just making money.

In less than 4 years, you have built a national brand for Yellow Brick Road, with over 75 licensees. How much of that success do you place on what you mentioned previously?

Everything. This was my motive behind all the branding and that to me is what has built everything up and till now and will continue to build the company. We would not have reached the growth we now have without having started with the right cause and intention for the business.

You were able to successfully start, build and exit Wizard home loans. Do you use much of the same methodology within that business in Yellow Brick Road?

It is much similar but I would have to say that Yellow Brick Road is a far more developed and sophisticated business. We have a much broader offering, far bigger audience and rather then just give people a product we are giving them advice and helping them through a life cycle.

You were business partners with Kerry packer for 12 years. What were the top three lessons you took away from that relationship?

Business success is always built on the broad shoulders of others. To always go through and look at how you can best manage risks within the business. Establishing a fundamental truth in your business model.

How have those lessons helped you in building Yellow Brick Road?

In Yellow Brick Road, I have hired people who are better then me in the various departments within the company, continue to always look at the risks within the business and how I can best minimise it as much as possible and the only reason I started the business is because I believe that every Australian has the right to good financial advice, this is what I like to call: The Fundamental truth.

When you hosted The Apprentice back in 2009 the main theme was based around team work. This year you host Celebrity Apprentice, what theme do you have in store for that? Why?

Team work is still a big factor. No one individual in these programs can win a challenge without good team work because most of the challenges I set are about team work. This is the main determining factor when I am deciding who to fire.

What are the main lessons you have taken away throughout your involvement in both The Apprentice and also Celebrity Apprentice?

I would have to say Team Work and the importance of having a purpose or cause behind accomplishing a task. None of the contestants are experts in the challenges I give them but they can become an expert team or a competitive team if they work together and learn how to trust and rely on each other.

All celebrities within the show get to raise money for their favourite charities. Now, given that there is a purpose or cause behind their actions, you will find that some individuals will perform certain tasks that they ordinarily would never have done if there was no purpose behind their actions.

If you gained the chance to do it all over again, what is the one thing you would do differently?

Nothing, I believe that everything in my life has happened for a reason and therefore would not change anything. Every decision I made was the right decision at the time.

And moving forward what does the future hold for Mark Bouris and Yellow Brick Road?

Yellow Brick Road has identified some areas of the business that the company will look to cultivate in 2012, and a major development for the beginning of the year will be our small business advice offering.

Currently the only option SMEs have for loans, insurance, financial planning and accounting is the banks, and we believe that Yellow Brick Road can be a valuable asset to businesses looking for a likeminded company to assist them in their financial strategy and operations. SMEs are the engine room of our country and with approximately four million small businesses in Australia.

We believe there is a real opportunity to build bespoke mentorship programs and advice based strategies to help SMEs succeed in the long term.

The Celebrity Apprentice Debuts on Nine

The Celebrity Apprentice debuted last night to an audience of 1.35 million.

While a celebrity carwash hosted by contestants successfully raised $166,385 for youth charity The Reach Foundation, most online chatter has surrounded Pauline Hanson’s uncharacteristic decision to ‘disrobe’ for the camera.

The controversial politician coaxed a $50,000 donation from aussieBum founder Sean Ashby by washing his car wearing little other than aussieBum’s underpants and a singlet.

Alex Pirouz is the founder of RIDC Advisory Pty Ltd. A Business and Sales Advisory firm partnering with the top 1% of Australia’s largest and fastest growing companies to further increase their sales revenue. (Visit www.ridc.com.au for more details)