My philosophy to business and life is simple. “Become brilliant at the fundamentals.”
Having spent decades working with, learning from, and personally mentoring countless leaders from various backgrounds, industry sectors, and cultures, I have come to the conclusion that what separates the minority of people who make things happen from the masses is simply this: they consistently apply a handful of key disciplines day in, day out.
It sounds simple, yes. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how so many business leaders expend so much of their energy on activities that produce mediocre results.
The truth is that it takes time to build an awesome business, one that meets the expectations of all stakeholders. Keep it simple. Execute on what really matters and remain totally committed to what works. This is my approach to business and life. It creates miracles.
Business and teaching has been part of my life for over three decades.
In December 1984 (aged 17 years) following my final examinations at Sydney Boys I began preparing senior students in the subjects of Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. Friends at the time queried as to how I could guide pupils in the very subjects that we had just a few weeks earlier sat exams in.
The Quantum H.S.C Coaching College initially operated in a four by four meter space. My intention was to simply generate enough profits to pay my way through my Science Degree – majoring in Pure & Applied Chemistry and Physics.
Studying full time and building the business was a challenge. As the months rolled on the enrolments gradually increased to the point where we moved to larger premises. My natural inclination was to read and continuously develop. Staff recommended I look at a marketing expert, Jay Abraham. So began my journey into the world of business development.
One idea is all it takes is one idea to transform your current circumstances.
Jay recommended finding a way to guarantee the outcomes your customer is truly seeking. So I sat down with a few students and we came up with guaranteeing final exam results. We set the standards at a minimum of 80% for Chemistry and Physics, and 85% for Mathematics. In essence we guaranteed entrance into one’s University course of choice (true need).
All we had to do was deliver on our promise, and we did. As a consequence, our enrolments went up from 87 pupils all the way to 423 in one year! One piece if insight, implemented. 463% increase in revenue.
Then we were blindsided by the government. What was our competitive advantage in integrating Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry (most of our students enrolled in multiple subjects) disappeared overnight on account of changes in the syllabus. After 16 years and assisting over 3089 students into University courses of their choice, it was time to sell.
2001 was an interesting year. I was reading Richard Koch and Tom Peters who both espoused looking at the fundamentals in business. Achieving more with less. I looked at the previous decade and a half and wondered if there could be an easier way.
The new model took the following format. No staff. No long term leases. Three hours per week for 30 weeks. More precisely I made the decision to teach Year 12 Chemistry on Saturday mornings at the University of Technology in central Sydney. Walk in. Walk out. The results? 94 students resulting in revenues of $284,000 ($3000 per student). 90 hours face to face work between February and August producing a net profit (EBIT) of $263,000!
Numbers can be misleading. Just because you are busy being busy does not necessarily mean you are producing more meaningful results. Focusing on just the one subject was a more profitable enterprise than what I had achieved at Quantum with its 19 staff, 550 square meters of space, over 400 yearly enrolments, not to mention 6 days per week comprised of long and late hours. It took me 16 years to have that breakthrough. Defence (expenses) in business is just as important as offense (revenue). Allocation of resources is everything.
The following year was a sabbatical one. During my extensive travels that year I decided to integrate all the business and personal insights I had gathered and deliver them in a short multi-day program. This coincided with enrolment into an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management. I called this program the 5 Day MBA and began offering it between the two semesters.
Initial online interest came from Gas, Oil, and Construction executives across the Middle East, followed by Asia and then Europe. Our maiden 5 Day MBA attracted 37 participants, our formula for the next five years. Small groups of no more that 50 participants committed to learning and applying business fundamentals that make a difference.
Following the completion of my MBA I decided to field some of the requests to mentor clients on a one-to-one basis through our Advanced Business Mentoring Programs. Within this next handful of years I worked with executives across various industries between Sydney and Melbourne. The work produced marked bottom line improvements with clients who were totally committed to the process. Interestingly not all were committed despite their prevailing circumstances. Sometimes those who needed it most were least prepared to roll their sleeves up and implement the strategies we had agreed on. I made a mental note to more carefully screen future clients and limit my time to those that were truly ready to implement change.
How to serve more clients? I sat at the feet of a few peers here in Australia. Rob Nixon advised I focus on one market and provide total commitment to it. My friend from Texas, Keith Cunningham put it this way “Dan, the reason why the Grand Canyon is so grand is because the rivers that etched it out where narrow and deep, not wide and shallow.”
A quick historical overview pointed us to the fact that the majority of our past clients, those that had truly implemented what works were surprisingly under the age of 40.
To this end I created the world class Quantum Institute committed to providing business leaders with deep insights that lead to a sustainably profitable enterprise. Core principles around leadership, team work, strategic formulation, strategic implementation, streamlining sales, building lead generators, aligning assets to positive cash flows, strategic positioning, financial literacy, and off course financial independence.
Business and teaching continues to be a constant in my life.