Ris­ing above

How Con Makris built a bil­lion dol­lar property em­pire

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Con Makris is a brave man. There are few 16-year-olds who would leave their coun­try of birth to find a bet­ter life else­where. Most teenagers mi­grate with their par­ents and usu­ally have no say where they go. But the Makris fam­ily was dif­fer­ent. Con’s par­ents wanted him to make his own way and es­cape the de­pres­sion that was en­gulf­ing parts of Europe, in­clud­ing his home coun­try Greece.

It was the right de­ci­sion for Con and the Makris fam­ily. Not least be­cause he could find a bet­ter life, but there was also the shadow of na­tional ser­vice loom­ing.

“I was still in my teens, only 16-years-old and it was a de­ci­sion made by my par­ents to em­i­grate, not just me. The other defin­ing is­sue was that Greece had com­pul­sory mil­i­tary ser­vice which was for a pe­riod of four years. Many young men left their fam­i­lies for abroad as a con­se­quence of this pol­icy. The scars of World War 11 were still very real.

Con’s first pri­or­ity was to find a job, work a cou­ple of years, make some money and then re­turn to Greece.

“I think that was the idea of ev­ery other per­son com­ing to Aus­tralia. The years pass how­ever. Be­fore I knew it five years had elapsed, I had mar­ried, started a fam­ily so there was no choice but to make Aus­tralia my sec­ond home.”

The first job in a foundry was the most dif­fi­cult of his life. Deal­ing with molten steel in sear­ing tem­per­a­tures, seven days a week, 12 hours a day can make even the most youth­ful of men fa­tigued. He backed that up with a job in a fish shop – his own fish shop. It was the ul­ti­mate cliché as Con says “the Greek in the fish shop…”

He worked hard, saved money and tried to take care of him­self pay cheque by pay cheque. When he had ac­cu­mu­lated enough money he bought the gro­cery store next to his fish shop. He then kept up­grad­ing.

This work ethic that al­lowed him to con­tinue to ex­pand his busi­ness in­ter­ests was in­stilled in him at the age of 12.

“I was work­ing for a lady who made gar­ments for the wealthy es­tab­lish­ment. I would bring small pack­ets of fabrics to my em­ployer, and she would de­cide whether or not to pur­chase 50 me­ters or 100 me­ters. I would then help her buy pat­terns for the gar­ments. That’s where I cut my teeth in be­com­ing an en­tre­pre­neur. Later, I started work­ing in a del­i­catessen in Athens. Back then they didn’t have su­per­mar­kets as we know them to­day, but in­stead had su­per delis. In this en­vi­ron­ment I learned about ser­vice and the value of good cus­tomer re­la­tions. So when I moved to Aus­tralia, I was primed to put this raw re­tail ground­ing into prac­tice. I was ready to work!”

It was through his own­er­ship of a group of chicken shops when Con’s en­tre­pre­neur­ial tal­ents re­ally came to the fore. He had sold roast chick­ens in his fish ‘n chips shop and was com­ple-

mented about how tasty they were. So he opened a chicken shop in Hamil­ton Vic­to­ria, a wealthy area where he had fan­tas­tic trade. Af­ter a great deal of suc­cess, he opened an­other shop in Port­land. Not be­fore time, Con owned seven shops; this was the gen­e­sis of the Makris Em­pire! Even­tu­ally he had ac­cu­mu­lated seven shops.

Part of the suc­cess of those shops, other than fla­vor some chicken, was Con’s abil­ity to find a property hot spot and rec­og­nize its fu­ture de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial.

“I would find a small property, buy the free­hold, and then es­tab­lish a chicken shop. I would then sell the busi­ness, re­tain the free­hold property and re­ceive rental in­come,” Con says. “This is how I was able to ac­cu­mu­late mul­ti­ple as­sets.

Con was now a property de­vel­oper. He iden­ti­fied and pur­chased small shop­ping cen­ters in Ade­laide with de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial and trans­formed these mod­est cen­ters into flour­ish­ing shop­ping precincts. The cy­cle of pur­chase and de­vel­op­ment, pick­ing off mod­est or un­der­per­form­ing cen­ters and ap­ply­ing a mea­sured strate­gic de­vel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tion still de­scribes the fab­ric of the Makris Group to­day. He rec­og­nized that he was op­er­at­ing in an in­tensely com­pet­i­tive, global and con­stantly chang­ing land­scape, He was pre­pared to com­mit to ne­go­ti­at­ing change, and rein­vent the shop­ping cen­ter busi­ness model, and seize op­por­tu­ni­ties as they present.

He un­der­stood property de­vel­op­ment and he also un­der­stood the needs of the ten­ants, be­cause he had been in that po­si­tion him­self. He is a re­lat­able man, well liked and this trait goes be­yond busi­ness skill. This trait can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween suc­cess and fail­ure.

“Over the years I have been able to build a rep­u­ta­tion which is syn­ony­mous with sound ethics, ethics which to­day are still the cor­ner­stone of ev­ery de­ci­sion my com­pany makes. I de­mand this of all my em­ploy­ees. This trait is what drives ten­ants to fol­low me from one shop­ping cen­ter to an­other. The most im­por­tant thing you’ve got to re­mem­ber is that land­lords should act as part­ners. My part­ners are my ten­ants and my bankers. My ten­ants have to work to pay the rent, and by pay­ing the rent they en­able me to pay my bank. That’s how it works. Ev­ery­body makes money this way. It’s that sim­ple!”

It wasn’t quick move­ment into

You can’t just see a property and think wow, I’m go­ing to buy it, de­velop it and make money. You have to ap­ply ap­pro­pri­ate due dili­gence, do the sums, and then if ev­ery­thing points to a suit­able yield, you in­vest. This busi­ness is not about ag­gres­sive ac­cu­mu­la­tion, it’s about mak­ing smart play; that’s when you cre­ate wealth.”

de­vel­op­ment and re­de­vel­op­ment, but that was cer­tainly be­com­ing Con’s core busi­ness. He knew he had to find some­one with a strong fi­nance and ac­count­ing back­ground. Those skills were lack­ing, as his only for­mal ed­u­ca­tion was a very limited time of pub­lic school en­rol­ment in Greece.

Even­tu­ally he found a for­mer banker to in­stall as CO, who has now been with the com­pany for al­most ten years. How­ever, in typ­i­cal tenac­ity, tan­ta­mount with his early foray into re­tail, Con also taught him­self about the com­plex­i­ties of bank­ing, ac­count­ing and how to read the mar­kets.

“You can’t just see a property and think wow, I’m go­ing to buy it, de­velop it and make money. You have to ap­ply ap­pro­pri­ate due dili­gence, do the sums, and then if ev­ery­thing points to a suit­able yield, you in­vest. This busi­ness is not about ag­gres­sive ac­cu­mu­la­tion, it’s about mak­ing smart play; that’s when you cre­ate wealth.”

There is much more to de­vel­op­ment than buy­ing and sell­ing as we are learn­ing here. The lo­gis­tics of a shop­ping cen­ter also come into play. Con has stud­ied this and knows how to de­sign a shop­ping cen­ter.

“You have to in­sure that the shop­ping cen­ter is aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing. You have to pro­vide a range of ser­vices people need; park­ing has to be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and plen­ti­ful. The ac­tual con­fig­u­ra­tion of re­tail out­lets is para­mount to the suc­cess of the cen­ter. For in­stance, the chemist and the newsagent need to be lo­cated near the en­trances, from one end to the other be­cause the shop­per will use the ser­vices of­fered by these out­lets. In ap­ply­ing this strat­egy you cre­ate in­creased foot traf­fic, an ab­so­lute must for any cen­ter to be­come a suc­cess­ful shop­ping des­ti­na­tion.”

The Makris Group has de­vel­oped and continues to grow through Con’s abil­ity to read an area and its de­mo­graph­ics, his will­ing­ness to learn all there is about his busi­ness, to be as­tutely aware of his com­pe­ti­tion and to zeal­ously ap­ply that work ethic that was in­stilled in him dur­ing his early teens.

All of those fac­tors com­bined to help Con ex­pand be­yond the borders of South Aus­tralia. He had a zeal­ous ap­petite to nav­i­gate dif­fer­ent mar­kets.

“Ade­laide is a lovely city to live in and raise a fam­ily, but the land­scape to fos­ter and en­cour­age de­vel­op­ment is dif­fer­ent to that of other cities such as Mel­bourne and Syd­ney. Some time ago I pur­chased a shop­ping cen­ter in Syd­ney. This shop­ping cen­ter had some ten va­cant shops. Not to be dis­cour­aged, I saw an op­por­tu­nity, as within

The Makris Group are a pi­o­neer­ing na­tional de­vel­op­ment group, con­stantly break­ing new ground in the re­tail en­vi­ron­ment. It has been a priv­i­lege for In­tro to pro­vide specialist town plan­ning ad­vice to as­sist Con and his team deliver on their vi­sion.

In­tro De­sign

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