From almost losing it all in his first business to going on to build one of the fastest 50 growing ventures Australia saw in 2009, he’s the adrenalin junky who is now launching a movement that is developing entrepreneurs all over the world.
Jack Delosa was named one the Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 in Australian Anthill Magazines 30Under30 Awards. His business at the time MBE Education had a team of 6 staff and 25 corporate advisors who are today executing over $250m in corporate transactions on behalf of clients.
It is no wonder he is now using his network and resources to connect the world’s best entrepreneurs with the world’s next entrepreneurs, through his new business The Entourage. He has also started working with The Branson School of Entrepreneurship in South Africa, to develop entrepreneurs where they’re needed most.
We speak with Jack Delosa about failure, money and how to get ahead in the business world.
The media has reported that you took the School of Hard Knocks to get to where you are, what’s the most difficult thing you’ve done in business and what did you learn?
The most difficult period for me was definitely my first business. I found myself at 19 years of age, having worked for a year with no wage and certainly no profit, in a financial hole that I didn’t think I could get out of.
This period taught me a lot about persistence. In business, particularly in the early stages, you’re going to cop a lot of knocks, and it’s the people that can come out the other side without having given up, that will go on to do something special.
What’s the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs making in the early stages?
The most common mistake is they’re not focused on sales and revenue generation. I think that particularly in the early stages we tend to spend too much time on the planning and not on the doing. A start-up business is just there as an experiment, to find a financially viable business model. It needs to be about testing and tweaking the model to see if it can work financially, rather than in theory.
What you start with is not going to look anything like what you’ve got in 6 or even 3 months time.
What’s the best way to generate new clients in the start-up phase of the business?
I’m a massive fan of marketing joint-ventures. Meaning find a business that is complimentary to yours and talk to them about promoting whatever it is you’re doing, for a share of the revenue. They might be able to send out an email to their clients, include a gift certificate or a product sample with some of their products.
This will give you free distribution to hundreds or thousands of targeted prospects with zero outlay, and the conversion is greater because it acts as a third party referral.
How do you go about finding joint-venture partners?
I think you need to start with your own brand because you want to be a company that other businesses are happy promoting to their clients. And if you’re at the point where you’re ready to go to market then ask yourself three questions to find partners…
- Where do my customers go before they buy my product?
- Where do my customers go after they buy my product?
- What something else that my customers love to buy that I don’t offer?
Find some great businesses that fit one of those examples and have a chat with them about what you can bring to their business.
It’s always very important, regardless of whether it’s a joint-venture partner, customer or investor, it’s always important to really understand what they want and give it to them.
As the businesses grows what are some important things to understand?
Once you’re out of the “income” stage where it’s all about paying the bills and surviving, I think you want to start to work-out your end game. What are you trying to achieve the business?
If you’re in business to make money, then you really want to understand how to build a business that can be sold, and how to reach the maximum price, because it’s often through the exit of a business that an entrepreneur sees the real return on investment.
Are there any tips you can give to achieve this?
The first thing, which is often the most time consuming, is about removing yourself from the business. A business is worth much more if you’re not there. This involves systemizing the business and developing really well a manager or management team that can steer the ship.
The other thing is to spend some time taking the risk out of the business. This is the boring stuff like ensuring key contracts are in place, ensuring your accounting and legals are up to date, and making the overall business model as streamlined as possible.
And finally, what’s the vision behind The Entourage and what can entrepreneurs expect to get out of it?
The problem a lot of people face at the moment is that there are very few places to go to learn about how to build a business. Our focus groups showed us that university students rated their lecturers a 3 out of 10 in terms of how effective they were at preparing them for business.
I believe that the best way to learn is from people with “been there done that” experience. So at The Entourage we connect entrepreneurs with the people and the education that will without a doubt, give them the knowledge they need to build and exit high-growth ventures.