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Last night I met a group of 12 prospective members of the Entrepreneurs Organisation. We came together to listen to Peter Kazacos, the inaugural winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award, who sold his business to Telstra three years ago for about $333 million.

Since late last year he has been back on his own, looking for a new venture to create.

What I took from his talk was that he is living proof that sometimes there are business opportunities in other people’s dirty work.

He was brilliant at picking a wave. His timing was perfect. As he said: “I did all the stuff that no one else wanted to or could be bothered to do.” He developed the first superannuation management software, just at a time when legislation was changing.

He took on outsourcing and built a data centre, before IBM or anyone else ever considered it an opportunity.

What made him successful wasn’t little trinkets he gave his staff, it was that he did something no one else wanted to do and he persevered. He applied the work ethic he learned in his parents’ fish and chip shop to his business.

Before the session started, I wanted to know what each of the entrepreneurs at my table had come to learn, glean or discover.

I asked them: “What is the greatest issue you are facing in your business?” To my surprise, I effectively got a dozen different answers. Here are some of the challenges they are facing, in no particular order.

  • Attraction of qualified employees.
  • Differentiation of the business compared to competitors.
  • Cash flow (of large, lumpy corporate orders).
  • Staff engagement ? keeping people focused.
  • Processes to allow for growth.
  • Promotion / marketing.
  • Keeping people.
  • Growth strategies.
  • Keeping up with IT.
  • Challenges in a family business (family members not agreeing).
  • China (competitive pressure on a manufacturing business).
  • Opening remote offices overseas.

Listening to Peter, who started Kaz in 1988, I questioned, ‘Were these similar to the challenges that he faced back then?’ And I wondered whether these challenges are any different to our large corporate counterparts?

Over the next few weeks I will share my experiences on all of them.

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