Friday, June 3, 2011

Rags To Riches – The Australian Story

There are many people in this world who have achieved and accumulated a fortune starting from very humble beginnings. One way to achieve inspiration is to follow the characteristics of these people.

It has been said that Australia is a land of opportunities and everyone is entitled to a “fair go”. This has been demonstrated by the many migrants who have arrived in Australia with virtually nothing and now are millionaires or even billionaires.

Frank Lowy is one of them. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1930 and surviving the Holocaust, Frank Lowy moved to Australia in 1952. Frank Lowy now is the second richest person in Australia, second only to James Packer. Forbes magazine estimates his current wealth to be in the vicinity of the $US4 billion mark.

Frank Lowy started from very humble beginnings by working in a delicatessen. In 1959 Frank Lowy with his then partner John Saunders who was also a migrant, and is now deceased, opened their first Westfield shopping store in Blacktown. Back then the move of opening shopping centres in the suburbs was a risky concept. But this gamble paid off handsomely.

In 1959 the majority of the immensely popular stores in Sydney were located in the CBD. Stores such as Anthony Horderns, Farmers, Snow, Winns, Buckinghams, Bebarfalds, David Jones, Grace Bros, Waltons, John Martin, Buckley and Nunn, Gowings, Mantons, Cox Bros, and Allan and Stark were all based in the Sydney CBD.

However, such was the popularity of the Westfields concept that the majority of the abovementioned big stores that failed to embrace the shift in consumer sentiment have subsequently perished. The consumers embraced the concept of mega shopping centres, and the rest is history. Frank Lowy recognised the needs of mass consumers and his calculated gamble has been rewarded handsomely.

Success is not limited to migrants. There are also many Australian born entrepreneurs who have battled hardship and are now very successful. Gerry Harvey the well known Chairman of Harvey Norman comes to mind. Gerry Harvey has a motto of never give up and has famously been quoted as saying:

“I went to the brink many times. A couple of times I thought I'm gone; this is it. But then you would just keep working. I think if you're close to the brink and just make sure that you work twice as hard and put twice as much effort into everything and the people around you and everything, you should come through.”

The persistence and the determination of Gerry Harvey have paid off. Today there are over 200 Harvey Norman stores worldwide. Gerry Harvey commenced business by selling goods door to door in the 1960’s with a friend Ian Norman and by 1982 they had 42 stores. In that year these stores were purchased by a consortium led by Alan Bond. Gerry and Ian started again with a single store in Auburn.

Although he is now 67 years of age he recently said that, the last thing he wanted to do was to end up being a "boring bastard in a retirement home". Instead of looking at retirement he has embarked upon a plan to challenge the big retailers in the U.K market, recently stating that "We're that far behind them they mightn't even notice us coming. Now what a challenge in life, when you take on the giants like that, in the UK market, and in 10 or 15 years from now … they'll say 'Harvey Norman, they crept in'."

Another Australian success story is Aussie John Symonds. John Symonds grew up working at his parent’s fruit shop and learnt at an early age that customer satisfaction was the key to success. Hard times came upon John Symonds when a joint venture with a subsidiary of the Bank of South Australia failed. The lesson John Symonds learnt from this experience was to ‘when you are knocked down, learn from the experience and have the guts to get up and keep going'. John Symonds got back from this setback and now has totally revolutionised the home lending market.

With all due respect to Frank Lowy, Gerry Harvey and John Symonds, their intellectual capability in the normal literary sense would not entitle them to be the brightest students in their school. However these people have set high goals for themselves. They have created their own opportunities in life. They have not been afraid to go that extra mile and to do the dirty work. Many times in their life they were in a situation where a lesser man with a higher intellectual capacity may have given up. Hard times were overcome through hard work, persistence and a belief in themselves.

They embraced challenges and surrounded themselves with the right people. They have put their heart into achieving their goals and objectives and have achieved what another person would have thought to be impossible.

So have the opinion ‘nothing is hard – it is merely hard work’. Never give up. Try hard, work hard and give it your best shot. If you encounter failure try harder. Go again! Learn from your mistakes. Treat failure as merely a detour to success and Go For It. Remember Champions are losers who never give up.



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