What Behind the Scenes is all about.
Mark Falzon says: “It’s sort of like who am I. I started in business when I was … actually I was born into business. Both my parents were entrepreneurs. My mother owned ladies retail clothing shops and my father owned a motel. They both worked hard and I grew up in an environment that promoted independence, initiative, hard work and that entrepreneurial drive. I learned to count sitting at the end of my mother’s bed putting the weekly cash takings from the shop into piles of ten. I started answering the phone at home (the reception for our motel) and taking bookings from such an early age that I can’t remember ever not doing it.
I worked in the family retail shop writing sales dockets and doing the weekly banking. I travelled to Sydney regularly with my mother to look at fashion ranges to buy for the shop. I was in marketing from about the age of two months when my mother put me in the shop window on my bouncer which attracted hoards of passing women into the store to ooh and aah at the baby.
My mother read me to sleep with books like Think and Grow Rich and How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Is it any wonder I wanted to leave school and get out into the world and start building my first business.
I started in the film industry by making a film in India with my brother at age 16. I convinced my father to support me to open my first business which was a capital intensive, technology based state of the art, broadcast film and television production and editing studio. I made films for the ABC, SBS and a host of corporates such as KFC, Quicksilver, EMI, Johnsons & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Krone, White Wings, Audi, VW, Subaru, Masterfoods and many more. I started a full service advertising agency by the time I was 20 and had a staff of 30 people. That’s when I also started running my parents businesses for them.
I was self-taught. An avid reader. I devoured books and audios on everything from property investing, shares, telemarketing, sales, personal development et al.
By my mid-twenties, I had travelled the world, sold television programs into more than 100 countries, built a successful business and sold it and had dropped out, with my wife, to travel Australia and live in the country. After five years in the wilderness I decided that it was time to come back to the real world.
I landed in Sydney and started working with a friend whose business, (I had helped start), was taking off. We quickly built this small catering and events company into one of the largest of its kind in Sydney, winning the restaurant and catering award two years running and placing it into the BRW Fast 100 for two consecutive years before we sold the business.
I built a million dollar staff recruitment and training business in the hospitality industry and sold it in under a year.
Not long after that I started working with a one-man financial planning practice with the objective of growing the business into a multi-faceted wealth creation company. Within two years we had set up six new businesses within the group. A property research and education model, a mortgage broking arm, a financial services dealer’s license and fully independent financial planning division, an events, education and training program and a dynamic marketing distribution stream. The group rapidly grew and was in the BRW Fast 100 four years running. We peaked with a team of 50 staff and a multi-million dollar turnover. We quickly built a $150m loan book, had more than $1b funds under advisement and sold over $300m in real estate. The GFC hit hard and we struggled to sell the business during a very difficult market. I saw the value of the business deteriorate from $16m plus to less than $6m in just six months showing me how important timing, succession and exit planning really is.
I have consulted to and helped many other businesses over the years. I have seen the good times, the bad times and everything in between. I have built and had the pleasure of working with amazingly creative and talented teams and have always been able to derive their very best from them. I have seen many of my staff go on to become highly successful entrepreneurs in their own right and many have remained life-long friends.
I love business. I love pulling the leavers and watching how small changes in the right place can have a highly leveraged outcome. I love teams and seeing how under the right conditions they can achieve astounding results and will move mountains for you. I love customers and how honest and loyal they can be. Love them, and you will have raving fans, but treat them badly, and watch your business fall apart. I love suppliers and how they can deliver above and beyond the call of duty if you look after them. It’s a game. It’s fun and demanding and punishing and exciting and challenging and rewarding and … so much more.
What I want to do?
I want to find my tribe. Entrepreneurs and CEO’s that are inspired. That want to make a difference in the world. That love business and love what they are doing and want to be and do the best they can. They are open to learning and adapting and changing so that they can grow and drive and develop their business and get the most from it. They have a philanthropic nature and want to make a difference on the planet. They want to inspire and transform people and be inspired and continually grow themselves.
I want to work from my farm in the country and be different. I want to be able to be objective and removed from the day-to-day’s of business. I want to be rich and full and ripe and able to be there for people. Able to cut through the crap and tell them how it really is. Help them when things get tough and inspire them when things are great, to encourage them and make them even better. I want to grow and transform and be inspired. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to connect people and opportunities together that synergistically can change the way we do things for the better and greater good of all. I want to encourage entrepreneurs to use business as a catalyst for positive change on the planet. I love technology and smart thinking. I love fast minds and thoughtful people. I love being part of a team that wants to make things happen.
I think the value that I have to offer is my experience. I have been there and done that in many instances. I have a unique perspective on the world. Creative and analytical. I get the big picture and can understand the detail. I understand the stresses of being the leader. I understand the egoic drive that CEO’s have that pushes them on and often haunts them. The “am I good enough” and “am I worthy” stuff that can paralyse or drive someone on to great success.
Living in the country and spending time in the garden has taught me about the seasons and natural ebb and flow of life. I can see how this applies to business and can also see how difficult it is to see when you are caught up in the cut and thrust of it all. A CEO often gets so involved in the minutia of everything that they forget they need to be playing chess and looking forward 10 moves. Perhaps taking that even further and looking at the game they are playing and wondering if it should be backgammon or even snakes and ladders. I can help by sitting outside of the circle of influence and by being objective.
I often speak about the greatest forces in the universe being light, love, electromagnetism and gravity. The interesting thing about each of these great powers is that you can’t see them. They are quietly there. Undisputed and completely real, but invisible. That is the sort of role that I can play for a CEO. Quietly there, behind the scenes making a difference. Not wanting to have the spot light. Not needing the recognition. Not wanting to be centre stage, but genuinely wanting to help them be the best they can be. To lift them up and see their greatness shine in the world.
I’ve been asked many times how have I managed to help so many of my staff go on to become great leaders and entrepreneurs in the world? I simply answer, “all I do is look for the greatness in others and then help them see it in themselves”.