After three decades of writing literally thousands and thousands of business success stories and interviewing some of the biggest names in local and international business (from Richard Branson to Gerry Harvey to Janine Allis of Boost Juice fame), I’ve finally decided to write the story I’ve never written about — me and our business!
There are two reasons I’m writing about Switzer the business. First, because I’ve written for News Corp’s newspapers over the years, it’s been hard for my colleagues to talk about my business. Too self-promotional but that doesn’t worry me! Second, Fairfax, as a News rival, has never gone out of its way to tell my business success story.
Over the 10 years of hosting Talking Business from its inception on Qantas (yes, I kicked off and helped develop that inflight radio programme for Qantas during the Geoff Dixon/John Borghetti years), there were a couple of times when I nearly interviewed myself, following requests from listeners/passengers but I never quite got around to doing it. I’ve toyed with doing a self-interview on my Sky Business TV program but, once again, I’ve chickened out.
But now we have our own media assets, I have a right to go for it!
The Switzer Group is a diversified media and financial services group that employ over 50 people with a head office in Sydney and offices in Melbourne. We also have a small team in London.
Our core business produces content and provides services to investors, self-managed superannuation fund trustees (SMSFs) and business owners. We currently have an audience of over 700,000 users per month who consume our information from websites such as Switzer Daily, the Switzer Super Report, Grow Your Business and Switzer Broker.
We also provide financial planning services and home loan solutions for our clients. It was this parent company that financed the growth of other opportunities that came into our life, one of which is RUSSH! Most of our businesses are what you’d expect from a teacher turned University of New South Wales Economics lecturer, who ended up as financial media commentator. But RUSSH is an outside the square innovation, which has proved to be a winner. RUSSH is an internationally recognised fashion brand with over 1.8 million global eyeballs across a magazine, website and social media platform. The parent company invested in the business but the creative drive comes from our daughter-in-law, Jess Blanch, who has done the family proud.
We invested in the brand when it was in the red, thanks mainly to the GFC. It’s now strongly in the black because of Jess’s creative commitment, our son Alex’s strategic direction, a strong board and a hard working team of young professionals who live and breathe its existence. RUSSH has a magazine and website with a strongly focused international audience and a Facebook and Instagram audience in the hundreds of thousands. It’s a dream demographic for fashion, beauty and luxury advertisers.
The other side of Switzer was born out of my passion for writing and educating and the October 1987 stock market crash. This took a University of New South Wales lecturer (who wrote HSC supplements for the Daily Telegraph in 1985 and who had a weekly economics column in the Tele), onto the number one radio breakfast program in the country. Triple M’s star was the legendary Doug Mulray and his sidekick then was an unknown Andrew Denton, who was clearly going places.
I was ‘discovered’ by the station’s news director, the ‘Mighty Whitey’ — David White, a Walkley-award winning media man — who saw something in my quirky way of making business and economics understandable.
That said Whitey was the second to discover my talent. Maureen had spotted it while I was stalking her at the University of New South Wales campus! She was crazy enough to marry me and while this young economics graduate, who went on to do law, saw my/our potential as a team, she knew I needed major improvements!
Volunteering to be my life coach, she not only identified what was wrong with me, on a daily basis, she kindly showed me what I could do to fix things! And this is why I often tell business audiences I talk to that “behind every successful man is a very surprised woman!”
No, seriously, Maureen and I have been a team as a couple and as a business and she has been the driving force behind my success.
Our elder son Marty so competently drives our financial services business and Alex who runs RUSSH with Jess also runs our media company. Alex’s wife Renee is also an editor in the media business.
One of the great luxuries of having a business that has permitted me to hang out and learn from the greats of business, such as Richard Branson, GE’s Jack Welch and the likes of Aussie’s John Symonds and Wizard/YBR’s Mark Bouris, (I first met Mark and John when they were no ones!) is that you learn stuff.
One of the greatest influences on me was Edward de Bono, who I’ve interviewed twice and who was the man who coined the term lateral thinking or thinking outside the square.
We did exactly that a few years back when we looked for a business partner to help us build the Switzer Financial Group and Paul Rickard came into our life. Paul was the founding CEO and then chairman of one of Australia’s greatest disruption businesses, Commsec that turned the stockbroking industry on its head.
So when you trade stocks under $20, think about what Paul Rickard and CBA’s then boss, David Murray’s lateral thinking has delivered to you!
We created Switzer Financial Group primarily to give Australians financial planning done as honestly as it can be. We rebated commissions and charged flat dollar fees rather than percentage charges. We realised Aussies need to learn about money and business so we created Switzer Daily a business, finance and political commentary site, which now attracts around half a million people a month and some 50,000 receive my daily newsletter. Our columnists include David Bassanese, David Speers, Steve Price, Angela Catterns, Janine Perrett and a whole lot more. It’s clear we’ve become a part of the media disruption that the Internet encouraged.
And a part of that has been the development of the Switzer Super Report — which is a subscription-based newsletter for SMSFs and self-directed investors. It has attracted a great following with some of the best investing minds in the country contributing to it. This includes the likes of yours truly, Paul Rickard Charlie Aitken, George Boubouras, Geoff Wilson, Tony Featherstone and James Dunn.
Recently a business adviser asked me why I was doing all this? My instant answer was “for happiness”. This business journey started as a home-based business and, with the odd hours of radio and university, I was able to take my sons to school and pick them up. Being there as a father was a number one priority for me.
This business of ours has provided opportunities for all my family to grow in knowledge and know success.
As long as happiness is the dividend, I’m happy to keep building Switzer with my family, because (call me a big sook) but happiness should be a key factor driving our world.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
A perfect weekend….
Read: Sport and business! What else is there?
Eat: Slow cooked beef and heaps of veggies plus one glass of red or any Italian
Sport: Tennis and a run and a cool off swim
Social activity: Eating with friends
Getaway: Melbourne - it's a great weekend destination
Indulgence: Going to more than one movie in a day! We don't do it enough but it feels so out there when we've done it!