Reflecting on 30 years

28 October, 2014 Company

Part 1 of 2

I wrote this blog whilst sitting on a plane from Sydney to Paris on my way to attend the Oracle World Retail Awards. The Winning Group were finalists in three out of the nine categories and Appliances Online won the award for Best Customer Experience for any retailer globally online or offline.

It’s a pretty fulfilling achievement when your company’s mission is “To provide the best shopping experience in the world”.  It is only now that it has hit me at what we have been able to achieve in the past nine years.

When I look back at the team that we have and the passion and hard work that has gone into getting us to this point it is easier to believe but when I look at the bigger picture it absolutely blows me away at where we are today and I would have never thought 10 years ago that we would be in this position a decade later.

To give some background for those that don’t know me well, I grew up in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney and went to what is probably one of the top schools in the country however I was probably one of the worst students at the school and would be a classic case of the student that just didn’t apply himself; you could have said school wasn’t for me. I never really did homework if I had any possible way of getting out of it, my Dad, who is a carpenter by trade, was aware and had always said to me that he was okay with this as long as I learnt what I needed and realised that life starts the day that school ends.

University wasn’t an option for me after how I had treated school studies but that was fine with me as I didn’t really want to go anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time at school and I had a ball and made some great friends. I was definitely the class clown but I think that teachers for the most part understood my humour and realised that I wasn’t trying to be disruptive to others or disrespectful to them but more brighten everyone’s day a little with occasional humour. Of course I was normally punished for such cheeky actions or remarks but never anything too serious.

I really tried to enjoy my time at school first and learn what I needed along the way. I don’t remember putting much effort in during my final year and I think I left most HSC exams before even getting close to finishing them, I guess I just knew somehow that if I was relying on my HSC mark for my future then my future was not going to look very bright so I think subconsciously I did this to not put a grade on myself.

It is interesting to look back 13 years on at the kids that had applied themselves and almost given up a good portion of their school and teenage years to do what they are doing now. Some obviously quite successful and on their way to impressive careers and others that have worked out that there is more to life and doing some really humble jobs that make them happy. I’m not saying that by my definition I am any more successful or happy than any of my peers, I just think it is really interesting to be able to observe where they are each at and who seems the happiest.

From school I applied for a job advertised as a direct marketer, which I quickly found out, was a door-to-door salesman role. This was really what broke me into working life. It was tough, you worked long hours and a lot of the time you could work a 12-hour day and have lost money due to making no sales and having spent money on public transport and lunch. It was tough but it was also a really great time in my life where I met some amazing people, almost all of whom I regret not making more of an effort to stay in touch with. It really taught me some great skills and life lessons that I have kept with me to date. I eventually quit this job after being attacked by a dog and ending up in hospital in Newcastle, but that’s a longer story.

At this point I found myself at home unemployed and with a little money saved up that I figured could last me a month or two if I watched what I spent. This unfortunately was not something that I got to enjoy as my Dad had given me a deadline of Monday to find a job or join the family business and sure enough come Monday morning he woke me up and I was working in the warehouse for my family’s company Winning Appliances. I might point out that I had always said that I didn’t want to work for Winning Appliances as I had grown up at school reminded by others of how easy my life is because I can just go into the family business. Years of this made me determined not to join the family business. I remember always thinking that I would do something creative like photography, not that I had ever taken this up or shown any signs of artistic ability, I just thought it would be more stimulating than working in retail.

So here I am 30 years old, the class clown from school that had grades so low I truly can’t even remember what they were. I had never thought I would go into the family business or any type of retail for that matter and I am sitting on a plane about to speak about retail at the World Retail Conference in Paris and running businesses that are nominated for three of nine awards. Mind you, it is extremely rare that any Australian retailer be nominated for a World Retail Award let alone have three nominations and win a major one.

So I have just asked myself what I think has led to me being in this position and I believe that it is obviously partly a case of the right place at the right time as with many success stories. In saying that, I also truly believe that if you look at the most successful people in the world they were not always the brightest students but in many cases they just had their own way of doing things which seemed to work for them.

This has led me to try and put on paper what I believe are the little life lessons, rules and other things that I may have heard along the way. These are things that have resonated and worked for me in my life to date and led me to where and who I am today. I am sure also that if I revised this list in another decade it will look completely different but I guess that is growing up. Many of these have come in recent years, some I have come up with myself, some I have picked up from family or friends and others may be more well known, I apologise for not stating any sources as I truly don’t remember where and when I have picked each of these up from.

Refer to my next blog post for my personal 50 rules for life.

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