Small Business

Deconstructing Mark Bouris

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This week I’ve been hanging out with the Celebrity Apprentice program’s hirer and firer — Mark Bouris. No, I’m not trialling for a spot on the show; I’ve been interviewing him during a road show for a financial institution for their financial adviser clients.

Mark is the founder of Yellow Brick Road, a financial planning and mortgage group — and I have an advisory company, Switzer Financial Planning — and so it was great to delve into his business story to appreciate what he has learnt over the years.

Of course, I have written many stories about Mark and was one of the first to cover him when he kicked off in a small office in Double Bay around 1996 with a very big dream. That said, in grilling him three times in two days, I’m teasing out some pearls that have not come out before.

Better perspective

Now don’t assume that I did a poorer job in the past as Mark admits that he has grown in his business knowledge and his businesses changed as a consequence.

By the way, to be honest, I’m actually doing a better job in deconstructing this great Aussie entrepreneur because I now know a lot more about business after growing my own organisation, employing a whole lot of people and realising that I had to pump up my leadership skills. This has given me a better perspective on what business building is all about. 

Growing a business

Let me give you, in a nutshell, the planks to the platform off which Mark grew his brand name — Wizard — and what he’s likely to do with his new business.

It started with a big dream to build a mortgage business tapping into cheap securitised funds from overseas. Mark admits that John Symond had shown others the way and he decided to compete, especially playing up his decision to compete as the lowest interest rate deliverer in the market.

In those days the Sunday newspapers would rank the best rates in the market and Wizard would be among them. This was a really novel thing and Wizard built a brand around this reputation.

A part of the blueprint was to invest in public relations to get the media to come along for the ride and this helped build the brand and the eventual interest of Kerry and James Packer.

Eventually they bought into the Wizard brand and Mark says he had no problem surrendering some equity for the advantages of extra capital, the Packer’s insights as well as their circle of influence. He got good deals on Nine, which was the top TV network in those days.

The rest became history with Wizard eventually sold to GE for a lot of money. It’s pretty well the dream of most entrepreneurs to build up a business that either floats and becomes a public company or someone comes along with deep pockets and buys you out.

Direct contact

However, the entrepreneurial zeal can’t be ignored for long by people like Mark and that’s why he’s now in Yellow Brick Road. And while I know his modus operandi pretty well, he reminded me why he’s so good at business.

Asked by an audience member how he drives his team without direct contact, he contradicted the questioner insisting he does have direct contact with his team every week.

He says he sends out 120 texts every Saturday afternoon to find how his team have fared over the week and he isn’t happy when they don’t respond! This is a timely reminder to all business leaders that you have to be involved and you have to ask plenty of questions.

I guess Mark learnt this important leadership technique from the irrepressible Kerry Packer. When he came on board with Wizard, Packer insisted that his new partner spend a day a month doing a show-and-tell, which seemed more like a grill session from the Spanish Inquisition.

Be open

One of the important lessons I have learnt along the way is that you have to be open to two things to succeed.

You have to be open to objective criticism and you have to be open to putting yourself in better company where you can learn stuff that will add to your competitive advantage.

This’s why I sought out a business partner for my financial planning business that ticked both boxes. His name is Paul Rickard and he was the founding boss of CommSec. While he doesn’t cut as imposing a figure as Mr Packer, he certainly is a guy who asks the hard questions. 

Get out of your comfort zone

My old mate Tom O’Toole, the Beechworth baker, one of the country’s best business speakers, told me on SWITZER on Sky News Business Channel that he thinks high achievers are always happy to get out of their comfort zone and that makes all of the difference.

Mark Bouris says he sets big goals, though to him they don’t seem big, but he talks about them and that puts the pressure on him to kick those goals.

“It’s like a father who tells his family that he will run the New York Marathon,” he says. “The more he talks about it, the more the pressure builds for him to actually do it.”

So the lesson is pump up the goal, tell plenty of people, get the straight-talking objective person into your business life and make it happen.

Of course, if you can’t do this but you still want success, then give yourself a good talking to and if you still won’t change for the good, say this to yourself: “You’re fired!”

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Thursday, March 29, 2012

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