Marsh Tincknell client Mat Stillone, the founder of Protein Supplies Australia, was recently announced as one of Brisbane’s best young entrepreneurs for 2015. We thought it was timely to catch up and have a chat with him about his achievements.
When you set out on this journey five years ago, did you ever imagine the business would grow to such an extent?
I certainly never expected it to grow so quickly. I think in the early years I was just happy to survive. I took a fairly conservative approach. Every dollar I made was reinvested in the business. My intent was to make the growth sustainable, but the last couple of years have just been crazy. Turnover in the past 12 months alone has gone from $1.5 million to between $5-6 million.
You must be doing something right! Have you had time to develop a business philosophy – a mantra that guides your decision making?
I don’t know whether it’s a philosophy, but I’ve got a print out on my office wall that simply says: “Nothing is impossible”. I honestly believe that. You only have to look at where I am now, and compare that with what I was doing a few years ago. Wow! I don’t even recognize that other person – it’s like looking at a ghost! I’d fallen in with the wrong crowd, I was pushing the boundaries of the law, then one day, after a heart to heart with my mother – the penny dropped. I had to make some serious changes, and quickly. I moved, I got rid of my phone, and I started a new life. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I did.
The power of the company you keep – it’s obviously very real to you then?
Absolutely. And clearly it works both ways. Hang with the wrong crowd – you can get drawn into a destructive place, believing the world owes you a living. Alternatively you can feed off the positive vibe and energy of high achievers. I no longer have anything to do with negative people. I find they suck the oxygen from my lungs.
Did you cop any grief from the people you left behind?
You know, I did – not from all of them, but definitely from some. That’s OK. I’m very happy with where I am, and the new influences I have in my life.
What are some of the opportunities the come from be anointed as one of Queensland’s best young entrepreneurs?
The opportunities are endless. The visibility you gain in the business community, the calibre of people you’re exposed to, potential investors, shared ideas, collaboration – I’ve been overwhelmed by the response and the doors that have opened. I need to take some time to digest it all!
On account of your business growth, you’re gone from sole operator to now employing eight staff. Has that been a difficult transition?
I have to be honest. I was the original octopus – I had a hand in everything – going a million miles an hour. But that was obviously unsustainable. Besides there were plenty of things I wasn’t very good at! So I started bringing specialists into the business. The transition wasn’t easy – letting things go. Managing people can also be pretty tricky. It’s probably the hardest thing I do now, day to day. You’re a friend, but you’re also a boss. I think the key is finding the right people – those you click with. Create a family environment. I’m so appreciative of my staff. I’d be nowhere today without their effort and contribution.
What’s the one tip you’d give a young person, starting out in business?
Other than the importance of the people you hang around with – follow your passions. I’d grown up around health foods and nutrition. It’s what I knew and loved. If you work in a field you enjoy – it won’t seem like work. You’ll just be living a lifestyle.