Mark Haysman on what it takes to turn a business idea into success


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Mark Haysman is chief executive and managing director of Founders First. His professional career spans more than 25 years and includes stints at Carlton & United Breweries (now part of Anheuser-Busch InBev), SABMiller and Lion and as CEO at the Port Adelaide AFL club.

What was your first job?

As a teenager growing up in Adelaide I worked at Myer, my time split between counting and recording cash in the office and selling Lego in the toy department!

Mark Haysman is chief executive and managing director of Founders First.

It taught me the value of money, and how much easier it is to work with products you know well.

What's the best money advice you've ever received?

Save hard from an early age with a goal in mind. Then invest in assets that appreciate in value, while paying down debt as quickly as you can.

Understand your appetite for risk, and don't be afraid of taking on debt to fund and fuel growth - and then pay down that debt as quickly as you can.

What's the best investment decision you've made?

To continually push ourselves to invest in our home to maximise the value of our appreciating tax-free asset.

And then to back my judgement to leverage against our home to invest in a pub with trusted business partners.

The Moseley Bar & Kitchen continues to be a great business, and now we have a second pub in Melbourne, the Royal Saxon, as we continue to grow.

What's the worst investment decision you've made?

Investing in a business in my 20s that I did not fully understand, on the promise of great tax deductions.

My lesson was that you invest in good businesses that can generate strong cash flow and profits, not because the tax deductions are appealing. Needless to say the business withered on the vine.

What is your favourite thing to splurge on?

I really enjoy great holidays and shared experiences with my wife and family and also friends; travelling and creating great memories, especially beachside summer holidays; and great food and fun times over a beer or wine.

If you had $10,000 where would you invest it?

I would invest it in Founders First, the company that we will be taking to an initial public offering on the ASX during 2019.

Founders First is a craft business accelerator that will impact the craft beer and spirits industry in Australia, backing ambitious entrepreneurs by providing growth capital and low-cost business solutions and expertise to enable rapid and sustained growth.

What would you do if you had only $50 left in your bank account?

I would learn from my previous successes and mistakes, and then start over again. Work hard and create new opportunities.

Do you intend to leave an inheritance?

My wife and I have worked hard as a team, and we would like to enable our four sons to have a good start in life.

Most importantly we would hope that they have learned from our commitment and work ethic, and see that nothing worthwhile comes easy.

We have a long way to go to achieve our dreams, and we expect our boys will chase their own. We will help them in whatever way we are able but they will need to be responsible for their own choices.

What does it take to turn an idea into a successful business?

You need to have the courage to act and surround yourself with the best people with absolute expertise in that space.

Build a strong business plan and execute it flawlessly. Be prepared to adapt as you go but execution is where it will be won or lost.

Finish this sentence: money makes ...

... you happy and provides choices. The absence of money, on the other hand, can create real challenges for good people and bring very real stress and pressures.

So while money does not of itself bring happiness, a comfortable level does help.

True wealth is best measured in terms of having a healthy, happy family and being able to make the choice to do what you are passionate about, and be in charge of your own time and your own destiny.

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