MH Boss: Mark Bouris

Mark Bouris shares his hard-won strate­gies on how to be your own boss and tur­bocharge your busi­ness

Men's Health (Australia) - - Contents - By Luke Bene­dic­tus

The wiz­ard of wealth on how to start build­ing your for­tune.

IT’S PAY­BACK TIME for Mark Bouris. Ever since selling his com­pany, Wiz­ard Home Loans, for $500 mil­lion back in 2004, the Syd­ney busi­ness guru has es­tab­lished him­self as Aus­tralia’s face of en­tre­pre­neur­ial suc­cess. Yet for all his big wins in the prop­erty and fi­nance sec­tors, Bouris ad­mits he couldn’t have done it alone.

“When I was start­ing my busi­nesses, peo­ple taught me and showed me things and they helped me along,” he says. “What I’m do­ing now is re­turn­ing the favour back to Aus­tralian small busi­nesses.”

That’s the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind The Men­tor. In the new Chan­nel 7 se­ries, Bouris is parachuted into strug­gling busi­nesses to of­fer strate­gic guid­ance on how to trans­form their for­tunes. “We’re not talk­ing about fancy busi­nesses, we’re talk­ing about hair­dressers, pizza shops, lawn­mower fix­ers, florists,” he ex­plains. “They’ve all got a dif­fer­ent prob­lem and they’re all seek­ing help.”

Film­ing the show high­lighted key prin­ci­ples that can help any busi­ness to get ahead. Use the men­tor’s strate­gies to set your­self up for suc­cess.


Lack of struc­ture. Bouris reck­ons that’s the sin­gle most com­mon prob­lem hold­ing back busi­nesses on The Men­tor. “A lot of these peo­ple weren’t track­ing them­selves to a fore­cast so they didn’t know if they were mak­ing any money,” he says.

It doesn’t mat­ter how good your prod­uct or ser­vice is – any busi­ness will splut­ter with­out sound struc­tural scaf­fold­ing to sup­port it. Ba­sic non-ne­go­tiables in­clude a solid ac­counts sys­tem, a firm busi­ness plan and de­tailed fore­casts to chart your progress.

But for a small busi­ness, Bouris also ad­vo­cates build­ing sys­tems on a smaller scale too. Af­ter your next sales at­tempt, for ex­am­ple, crit­i­cally as­sess

the ex­pe­ri­ence. Did your in­tro­duc­tory salvo strike the right tone? What type of lan­guage elicited a pos­i­tive re­sponse? Could you have closed the deal more ef­fec­tively?

Write all that down, both good and bad, Bouris sug­gests. By do­ing so, you’ll form the bones of an op­er­a­tions man­ual for your busi­ness. Not only can you learn from this, even­tu­ally it can form a best­prac­tice guide to train your staff on any­thing from cus­tomer ser­vice to so­cial me­dia.

“Man­u­al­is­ing things al­lows you to build struc­ture into your busi­ness as op­posed to just work­ing on in­stinct all the time and flip-flop­ping all over the place.”


There are no short­cuts to run­ning your own busi­ness. Long hours and hard work are part of the deal. On The Men­tor, Bouris reg­u­larly wit­nessed the toll this took on the per­sonal lives of the own­ers.

“The se­cret to work/life bal­ance is to make more time for your­self,” he says. “But how do you do that when there are lim­ited hours in a day?”

Bouris’ strat­egy is to sim­plify your life by par­ing back su­per­flu­ous de­ci­sions. Every day for the last 28 years, he’s started each day by go­ing to the same café and or­der­ing the same break­fast. For work, Bouris has a uni­form on ro­ta­tion: 10 iden­ti­cal white shirts, suits in two colours - navy and char­coal - and block-coloured ties to match each. He goes to bed and rises at the same time every day and hits the gym four times a week.

This process of reg­u­la­tion, he ex­plains, pares his life down to es­sen­tials to cre­ate ex­tra time and free up his men­tal band­width.

“If you’re go­ing to get fraz­zled, get fraz­zled in the of­fice when work­ing on your busi­ness, not when you’re try­ing to work out what you’re go­ing to wear in the morn­ing,” he says. “Reg­u­lar­ity >

gives me struc­ture and dis­ci­pline, elim­i­nat­ing the need to carry all these un­nec­es­sary things on my shoul­ders.”


Change is often con­fronting and scary. But many of the prob­lems that Bouris wit­nessed on The Men­tor stemmed from a mis­guided in­sis­tence on stick­ing to an out­dated for­mula.

“Some of the busi­nesses I’ve seen are in trou­ble be­cause they don’t want to change,” he says. “They’ve run their busi­ness the same way for 40 years. But that’s ir­rel­e­vant when it comes to how you should run your busi­ness in the fu­ture.”

Right now, when so many in­dus­tries are un­der­go­ing seis­mic change, that’s more true than ever be­fore. What­ever your line of work, look ahead and plot ac­cord­ingly. Bouris in­sists that it’s vi­tal to stay in­formed of what the cut­ting-edge prac­ti­tion­ers in your in­dus­try are do­ing both lo­cally and over­seas. Sim­i­larly, stay abreast of emerg­ing trends and how the ex­pec­ta­tions of the mar­ket­place are chang­ing.

“You’ve got to be pre­pared,” Bouris says. “Don’t let changes take ad­van­tage of you. You’ve got to take ad­van­tage of the changes.”


You’ve had your light-bulb mo­ment. You’re now armed with a game-chang­ing idea that’ll en­able you to tell your boss to stick it and then make you lu­di­crously rich. Yet be­fore you launch your­self into your new busi­ness to be­come an all-con­quer­ing ty­coon, Bouris of­fers a cau­tion­ary word of ad­vice.

“Don’t leave your job. Start your busi­ness af­ter work,” he says. “You’ve got to be aware of the sta­tis­tics. The Elon Musks and the Mark Zucker­bergs - they’re one in 10 mil­lion. So the odds are against you from the start. That’s fine - still back your­self. But what those odds tell you is that in your risk-man­age­ment process, try to avoid giv­ing away your day job be­cause you’ll need that cash flow.”

Start off by de­vel­op­ing your busi­ness at nights and week­ends, he urges. Tir­ing? Sure. But this could be life-chang­ing. Or work out a part-time ar­range­ment with your em­ployer that’ll give you a cou­ple of free days to con­cen­trate on your side project.

Your job doesn’t just pro­vide a reg­u­lar in­come stream ei­ther, says Bouris. Keep your eyes open and it’ll give you the chance to up­skill your­self with vi­tal knowhow that you can later ap­ply to your own busi­ness while get­ting paid.

Im­merse your­self in the in­ter­nal me­chan­ics of how your busi­ness runs on a daily ba­sis. Fa­mil­iarise your­self with ev­ery­thing from the man­age­ment pro­cesses to distri­bu­tion. Stay alert, ask ques­tions and ex­tract the lessons you can ap­ply to your own op­er­a­tion. “Ob­serve, ob­serve, ob­serve and draw as much out of that place as you can.”


Pho­tog­ra­phy by Isamu Sawa

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