An Interview with one of Australia's top entrepreneurs: Jack Delosa

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Hi, it’s Sarah McCormack here with you today. I’m Web123’s Marketing Manager and I’m lucky enough to be interviewing Jack Delosa.

Jack Delosa has been repeatedly featured as one of Australia’s top entrepreneurs, from having his company listed in the Fast 50 Start-Ups in Australia, being listed as one of the top 10 entrepreneurs under 30 in Australia in the Dynamic Business Young Guns and three times listed in Australian Anthill’s 30Under30 Publication.

Jack Delosa has consulted for brands such as Microsoft, Virgin and CPA on the topics of business growth and performance. Today he is a spokesperson for entrepreneurship in Australia and we are very lucky to have spoken to Jack about his journey and the advice he can provide small businesses and entrepreneurs!


Listen to the live recording NOW!


Sarah McCormack: So, Jack, you’ve been repeatedly featured as one of Australia’s top entrepreneurs. What made you want to take this path in your career, and did you have any doubts along the way?

Jack Delosa: What really inspired me to take this path; when I was very young, I had a mentor – although I didn’t attach that label at the time, but in hindsight, he was a bit of a mentor for me, early on – he said, “Jack, your success in life is going to come from one of two things. It’s either going to come from inspiration or desperation.” That was something that I really liked hearing, because I had a lot of both.

I think, predominantly, for me, there was always the need to challenge the status quo and do something a little bit different. I had never felt at home through the traditional education system, so high school was a bit of a strain.

I started a Commerce/Law degree early on coming out of high school, and I only lasted three months, and then I was given an opportunity to buy into a business-to-business call centre down in Melbourne. I hated call centres, because I had worked in call centres as a sales rep since the age of about 15, but I was so hungry to start my own business and get involved in something at a shareholder and a management level that I took that opportunity.

Now, that opportunity probably wasn’t the best commercial opportunity in the world; we lost a lot of money very quickly, and had to dig ourselves out of a hole. So, it was a very rough introduction to business where I learned a lot about what not to do, and I learned a lot about what to do, but it really gave me, I think, work ethic, and an understanding of the emotional fortitude required to get a seat at the table in business.


Sarah McCormack: Did you have any thoughts along the way – when you got yourself in that big hole – about any doubts; should I just quit now, or do I keep going?

Jack Delosa: Sure. Through our MBE Groups –, we’ve got two different educational institutions. We’ve got MBE Education, which helps small businesses raise capital from investors, and we’ve got the Entourage, which is entrepreneurial education for under 35’s.

So, through those combined educational institutions, we see about 10,000 business owners every single year, and I think any entrepreneur who doesn’t say they have doubts about themselves every single day is probably hiding a little bit of the truth, let’s just say. That has always been certainly true for me.

I think taking an entrepreneurial path in life or even for people going through a more traditional career and driving for greatness in any field is going to come up against significant obstacles and significant challenges along the way. One of the things I often think about is that nothing is easy and therefore if it is easy, it is often nothing.

So, challenge and difficulty and self-doubt, I think, is something that entrepreneurs need to be comfortable experiencing, and it’s not about, how do I turn that off? You can’t. It’s more about, how do I manage that along the way and continue pushing myself despite that self-doubt and those challenges that may arise along the way.


Sarah McCormack: In regards to your age, you became quite successful; I guess we could say when you were quite young. Do you think your age played a factor in this success, or did it bring about any challenges?

Jack Delosa: There are two sides to every coin, and I know that’s a cliché, but it’s highly appropriate in this instance. Early on, it really played on my mind that I was young and I often say that the problem with starting a business or buying into a business at the age of 18 is that you know everything.

At the age of 18, I certainly thought I knew everything. So, I did run into a number of obstacles along the way in that, although I thought I knew everything, I actually knew very little. I was over-naïve and over-optimistic, and I was perhaps over-confident as well.

If you look back on that, you think, well, that is probably a strength, because it’s those qualities that get you into business. It’s those qualities that make you say to yourself, ‘I can actually make this happen, even though I’m 18 years old. But then, of course, at times, they can be your biggest weakness as well, because you’ll do things which perhaps aren’t the right things to do at the time because you have that over-confidence.

I think that often our strengths can become our biggest weaknesses, and the optimism of youth often fits both those categories, I believe.


Sarah McCormack: Great. So, you’re definitely a role model for Gen Y. What do you think about Gen Y, overall, in the workforce?

Jack Delosa: Well, we do a lot of consumer insight stuff, so we speak to a lot of small business owners around Australia on a fairly regular basis, and we’re just continually trying to better understand, what the core objectives are and what the core obstacles that small businesses face around Australia are.

One thing that our research continually picks up is the lack of effective education out there in the marketplace for entrepreneurs or small business owners. For a recent survey, we asked the small business owners of Australia, how effective was your university’s degree in educating you and preparing you for the business world? On a scale of zero to 10, universities and TAFEs and traditional education came out with an average score of 3 out of 10.

So, that highlighted a real gap in the education model for us, and it continues to be seen through our interactions with businesses and our interactions with clients that there is no real place, particularly for Gen Y, to go to get educated on how do you pursue your own path and how do you build a business from scratch and actually start to bring in some revenue, and hopefully make it profitable – and all those sorts of things which typically aren’t really covered at university.

So, I think Gen Y are a very entrepreneurial generation in terms of their characteristics, and I think more could be done on the part of organizations, the part of the media, the part of the traditional education system, etc. to do more to encourage Gen Y to pursue their own path.

That could be seen through further education channels, it could be seen through just encouraging Gen Y to actually pursue something worthwhile, rather than living by the paradigm that we must go to high school, go to university, get a job and work our way up to retire at 60 on a superannuation fund.


Sarah McCormack: I definitely agree with you there. So, what about the business owners, a lot of businesses have the perception or the stereotype version of what Gen Y is like; such as lazy in the workforce. Out of your research, have you found that this is right, or is this wrong?

Jack Delosa: I think it’s great, because there’s often studies coming out an employer, who said this, or the media have said this, or a politician has said this. I think it’s fantastic. The facts and stats must be coming from somewhere, so I think they probably are true. I mean, I’d be the first to admit that there are a lot of Gen Y’s – perhaps the majority of Gen Y’s – who are disengaged at a professional level, or at a career level. However, my take on that is that what we’re seeing is a marketplace that’s tailor-made for Gen Y’s that do want to get ahead.

In our generation, there’s not a lot of traffic on the extra mile, so those that do stick their head up and those that do pursue something worthwhile – particularly at a young age – will tend to stand out, and will tend to garner the support of those around them, which will ultimately push them forward. The disengagement and all the stuff that goes on about Gen Y, I think, is great, because it means there’s more opportunity for those that are happy to go out and get it.


Sarah McCormack: Perfect. So, I guess the seed of that is originating from, again, what you’ve said, getting bored in high school and how they’re growing up, with the beliefs and perceptions they’re getting influenced into them; that that’s how they’re going to keep going, if they want to, or don’t want to.

Jack Delosa: Yes, and I just probably have a slightly biased opinion, because, school never really suited me. Yes, I had lots of fun and all that sort of stuff, but from an application standpoint – from learning about the world standpoint, from learning about myself or human psychology standpoint – I never really took a lot from it.

I’d love to see primary schools, high schools, universities doing more to teach emotional intelligence, to teach financial literacy; what is a credit card, how does it work? What is a mortgage, how does that work? What is the difference between healthy debt and negative debt? What is an investment, etc. None of that is really covered, or at least it wasn’t when I was there.


Sarah McCormack: Now, how can other entrepreneurs and small business owners learn from your success to better their own business?

Jack DelosaI read a book about six months ago which, I’m pretty sure, changed my life. It’s a book called Talent is Overrated by Geoff Cole.

What this book does is, it looks into the greats of history; the people who we would consider to be great, the Mozarts, the Tiger Woods, the Michael Jordans, the Richard Bransons, the Jack Welchers.

It asks the question, how much of a part did talent play in achieving their level of success, and through consolidating a lot of research and looking into the factual backgrounds of these people and looking through the case studies, the conclusion of the book is that talent, being a natural aptitude in a particular field, does exist. If you give one person a golf stick at the age of two, he might hit it better than another person at the age of two. So, talent as a natural aptitude does exist.

However, in achieving a certain level of success, or even a great level of success, the book actually determines that talent is irrelevant, and that actually comes down to something they call deliberate practice – which, translated, is pretty much hard work.

In terms of what could people learn from my story, I think it is that as long as you have a clear direction and understanding of what you want in life, and you’re willing to go the extra mile and work really hard toward that, you don’t need to be smarter than everybody else. You don’t need to be funnier than everybody else. You don’t need to have more money than everybody else. You don’t need to be luckier than everybody else. You just need to out-learn everybody else, and you will ultimately achieve what you set out to do.


Sarah McCormack: Good advice. Okay, now moving back onto your business, how have the Internet and online tools helped you succeed throughout all the businesses that you have started up?

Jack Delosa: Social media is quite a fundamental platform for us these days. We’re able to interact with our clients and target market on a daily basis, in terms of asking them questions and starting dialogue, and even sort of shifting some of the things that we will do, depending on the feedback and the interactions we’ll get through Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever it is.

So, social media has been really crucial. I suppose the other thing is, we’re always working towards bringing on really intelligent people in any field of our business, so finding people who are great with online marketing and online sales, and even online brand building around blogging and all that sort of stuff, that’s what we’ll always be pursuing; how do we surround ourselves with the best, when it comes to online strategy.


Sarah McCormack: Okay, so in regards to small businesses and entrepreneurs, what do you suggest would be the most effective online tool to focus on, if they wanted to build on their relationship with their customers?

Jack Delosa: Yes, I think if I could sit on the fence on this one, I would say that it really depends on what that company is trying to achieve. I believe that every website should have one purpose; so, that is, we are trying to collect the details of potential clients, or, we are trying to sell stuff, or, we are just wanting to be a brochure and we want people to call us.

Whatever that might be, I think having a web strategy which is aligned with your corporate strategy and your overall objectives is probably what’s first, and then I’d say what is second is going and talking to someone like you guys about, how do we best achieve that objective, because you’re far more qualified to answer that question than I am, Sarah. [laughs]


Sarah McCormack: Now, talking about generating clients, what advice would you give small businesses and entrepreneurs from your experience and knowledge?

Jack Delosa: This is a good question. I am a big one for leveraging business development; so, when I say that, I mean how do we do more with less?

Through the last seven or eight years being in business myself, the most effective ways I’ve found to drive business is to put in place mechanisms that pull business towards you, rather than you having to always push out to go and find business.

Two quick examples I’ll give of that is, number one, developing strategic partnerships with people who are in your industry or in a complimentary industry. I’ll try and give you a real example of one we’ve either done or one we’ve seen a client do.

Through the Entourage, for example, we run the Young Entrepreneurs UN Conventions. They are the largest events for young entrepreneurs in Australian history. We often have three or four hundred people arrive at that.

How we were able to get that many young entrepreneurs in a room, despite the fact that entrepreneurs and small business owners are a fairly segmented market – fairly independent thinkers, rarely would come together – we were able to do that through developing strategic partnerships with people like Microsoft, CPA, ANZ and Yellow Brick Road.

In engaging these organizations in a way, which was fantastic for them, to attach their brand to what we were doing, but also in a way that invited them to invite their clients to the events as well.

Through the partnerships which we would develop in putting on an event like that, we would probably send out something close to 500,000 emails in the lead-up to an event, and it has cost us nothing. So, if you’re an accountant, you could partner with a lawyer and gain access to the lawyer’s clients. If you’re a lawyer, you could partner with an accountant. If you’re a DVD store, you can partner with the restaurant next door, and just always cross-pollinating between the two. So, that’s what I mean by strategic partnerships.

The second example I’ll give you quickly is PR. So, if you can position yourself in the media, either as a subject matter expert or as a business expert or in your particular field, putting yourself where opportunity can see you will ultimately mean that people will start to find you.

Whether they be investors, whether they be partners, whether they be employees, whether they be potential customers; PR is probably the second most effective business development strategy that I could share with you.


Sarah McCormack: So, what’s your view on traditional advertising then; does that work, or do you think it’s just a big waste of money?

Jack Delosa: I’m probably leaning towards the latter. Again, it depends on the business, but I think that any paid advertising campaign should be coupled with PR and should be coupled with strategic partnerships.

I think as long as you’re doing the other things which are free to do – and which cut through paid advertising anyway – as long as you’re doing all of that sort of stuff, and really leveraging those strategies, often paid advertising can complement those sorts of strategies.

I’d say put the strategic partnerships and put the PR first, and then if you want to bolt on a paid advertising campaign to those strategies and you can do so in a way which is profitable, then, why not?


Sarah McCormack: So, last question. In all your success, you must have some top pointers for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Out of these top pointers, what would you like to say for all small businesses and entrepreneurs for 2012?

Jack Delosa: 2012, my number one tip would be, spend 80 per cent of your time on sales and marketing. If you as an entrepreneur or a small business owner do just that one thing – just spend 80 per cent of your time on sales and marketing – because research shows that the average small business owner in Australia spends 13 per cent of their time on sales and marketing.

If you can build a business and systemize the business and build a team in a way which removes you from the day to day operations, which I understand can’t happen immediately, but hopefully it can happen over time, and you just spend 80 per cent of your time on sales and marketing, then it will revolutionize your business.


Listen to the live recording NOW!


Web123 would like to thank Jack for sharing his thoughts, wisdom and advice. We hope all our customers and readers gained a piece of knowledge or an idea to implement in 2012.


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