Find your passion, surround yourself with the right people, and have a fair dinkum crack.
That’s the message to come out of YP Gold Coast’s Entrepreneurs Lunch at Harry’s Steak Bistro and Bar on Friday, March 10.
Keynote speaker Tony Cochrane, Chairman of the Gold Coast SUNS, was joined by some of the city’s trailblazing entrepreneurs - HiSmile founders Nik Mirkovic and Alex Tomic, Amazonia creator Dwayne Martens and Superdraft owners Jake Robinson and Mark Deacon.
Cochrane is a firm believer in having a go and believes passion and persistence are the ultimate ingredients for success.
“Don’t hold back. Don’t wait for somebody to invite you. Get involved and have a fair dinkum go. You’ll be amazed at what you can do,” he says.
“These guys (the entrepreneurs) are proof that if you’ve got a good idea and you’re willing to work hard you can make it happen.
“Look at what’s been done in the education space on the Gold Coast – 15 years ago it was barely an industry in its own right, now education is one of our top economic drivers.”
Cochrane says small to medium sized companies are the future of the Gold Coast’s business landscape.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be a big business city. We’re not about skyscrapers and suits. It’s not us and I hope it never is,” he says.
Nik Mirkovic, whose teeth whitening company turned over $10 million in two years, agrees the city’s smaller size and laidback nature are conducive to success through innovation.
“The Gold Coast allows you to be the best version of yourself and not get caught in the business rat race,” he says.
Size and location aside, each speaker highlighted the important role their teams have played in their organisations’ success.
Dwayne Martens founded Amazonia at 22 selling acai smoothies from a stand at his local markets. He established his now mutli-million dollar health food empire with the support of friends, but rapid expansion required him to staff up.
“Now I’m in a great space where my role is to drive innovation in the business,” he says.
“I can’t be completely involved in all operational aspects of the business – I need to work smart.
“I spent a lot of time ensuring the right people were around me, and that those people hired the right people.
“They all do it a hell of a lot better than me.”
Superdraft’s Jake Robinson, who leads a team of 120 designers with a portfolio of more than 2,700 completed projects, says people are the hardest part of any business.
“People are expensive and they can make or break your business,” he says.
“Find the right people who share your vision and follow your leadership. Then do what only you can do and delegate everything else.”
For the founders of HiSmile, finding the right team was integral to filling a skill gap in their business.
“We’re not dentists, we saw a business opportunity,” Alex Tomic says.
“We knew our strengths and sought the expertise of the right people when we needed to.”
Cochrane says a skilled and supported team is vital for any successful business.
“You can have the best product in the world and the best ideas, but if you don’t have the right people around you, you’re in trouble,” he says.
“We (Gold Coast SUNS) have spent the last 12 months making sure we have the best people in their roles.
“Whether you’re the chairman or the cleaner, every person has a role to play, and there’s no excuse for not treating everybody in the workplace the same.
“Of course not everyone can be the CEO, but everyone deserves respect and to truly feel part of an organisation."