Fred Van urk
I am the youngest of four kids and grew up in Auckland, New Zealand. My mother was born in New Zealand but is of Chinese and Maori descendants. My father is from Holland and immigrated to New Zealand just after WWII when he was twenty one. He tells a funny story of how he boarded a boat thinking it was going to Sydney, Australia but instead it arrived in Wellington, New Zealand. When he got off he had never seen a mountain before, never seen anybody of coloured skin and did not speak a word of English. He went on to become a self-made entrepreneur and property developer who achieved great success by a combination of hard work, tenacity, risk taking and charm.
I was never really great at school and dropped out at the age of sixteen. This never bothered me because I saw my future in commerce not education. By this age I was already buying and selling cars and worked every school holidays washing dishes. I would buy beat up old cars at the dealer auctions. I would bid and buy them, then take them home and fix them up in my parent’s garage cutting out rust, clean up the interior, get them resprayed and then sell them privately for a profit. I did really well and by the age of seventeen I had bought and sold at least a dozen cars.
The GARLIC MACHINE
At eighteen I started my first company which was manufacturing and selling a kitchen gadget called The Garlic Machine. Within two years this product became the number #1 selling gift item in Australia and New Zealand. In total I sold over half a million units and my company had turned over well in excess of $2 million dollars. I expanded the business pretty rapidly over the next few years by developing and designing new products. At the age of twenty four I expanded the business into the US and moved to California. I would attend every major trade show in the country and sold my products to most major department stores and independent retailer in the US. I later sold my share in the company so that I could pursue my new venture of brewing and selling beer.
Never being one for tradition, I developed my brand, called it “Wanker Beer” and put girls on the label. I called it the “ultimate six pack” and within one year of its launch, I had it on sale in over 20 states across America. This was no easy task given that the Beer Industry in America is controlled by three multi-billion dollar brands. Wanker really stuck out and gained a cult following with expat English, Aussies and Kiwis. I was a one man band doing everything from marketing, sales and distribution. Eventually I accepted that it was too big a task for me and I sold the brewing license to one of the major breweries in the mid 90's. Twenty years on people are still trading my labels and Wanker Beer merchandise. Google it or look on eBay its pretty funny.
After selling the licensing rights to Wanker Beer I decided to focus my sales skills on selling real estate, so I joined Coldwell Banker in Newport Beach, California. I was around thirty at the time and selling multi-million dollar mansions which was a hoot. I don't mind saying but I had a natural talent selling real estate and thoroughly enjoyed the people aspect of the business. To me it came easy. I had now been in America for ten years and I really started missing my family, all who were living at the time in Australia so I made a massive decision to move there. America was great and I had a blast but I didn't want to live there forever. To me Australia in particular Sydney was a blend of California cool with New York vibe, so I up and moved at the end of 1999.
OZZIE OZZIE OZZIE
After leaving America I arrived in Australia wondering what my next venture would be. I had been exposed to the whole internet phenomena in America and was amazing at how far behind Australia was. I spent the next 6 months studying new internet based companies like eBay, hotmail, google and back then Yahoo. All these companies were valued on the number of members or users they had, so I came up with the concept for eClubOz. Essentially eClubOz was a free online membership website that profiled members then delivered back products and services based on that members interests. At its peak the website had over 100,000 members and was a pioneer back in its day. We were successful in raising close to $4m for this company in its start-up phase while still retaining close to 30% ownership. On paper my shares were worth over $10m dollars before the internet bubble burst on the NASDAQ in 2001. Although not directly related this effected the business' funding as investment money dried up. The business traded on and was later acquired in a M&A transaction resulting in me steeping down from the board and daily operations. I then went on to develop other web based businesses including founding a software company called IRM. It stood for Investor Relationship Management software that we sold into over 100 publicly listed companies in Australia.
Bay BEE Biz
This one's a bit hard for me to write about, but in 2003 my wife (at the time) and I started a small shop in Double Bay selling baby clothes. I don't really want to dwell on it but in a nutshell the business took off and started booming. In a matter of two years we went from one small store to stores in Mosman, Chatswood, Townsville, Tasmania and NZ. The business was on a serious trajectory of growth that was being funded by a private equity firm. Everything was going great until the GFC and then it took a drastic turn. Overnight the business turned from growth to consolidation as any external funding dried up, like a tap of money being turned off. We tried desperately to trade through by consolidating, cutting expenses, closing under performing stores and regrettably laying off staff, but in the end it too late.
HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
On the 15th March 2010 I put the company into voluntary administration. Overnight I lost my business, my money and later my marriage. I went from living in a $3.5m mansion on the water in the Gold Coast to a blow up mattress in a rented room in Bellevue Hill. I hit rock bottom and it hurt. The next few years were very tough for me as I worked my way through the collapse of the business and my marriage. I was in my mid 40's and to suffer this blow after years of success and hard work was devastating for me. I guess the biggest blow was to my confidence and in part my ego. I'd lost my mojo and it took quite a few years before it came back. I didn't have the head space to start another business but I needed a challenge and I seriously needed to make money and quick. So I did what anybody would do in my position, I packed my bags and headed to Western Australia to sell houses.
Real EState sales
Over the next few years i focused my sales skills on selling Real Estate. I sold House & Land packages in Western Australia and New South Wales. I was consistently the top sales person in my team as I applied my tried and proven sales techniques. I spent 2 years in NZ where I got my NZRE, selling high-end homes for Bayleys Real Estate. Out of 50 agents I was ranked inside the top 10 in my first year. In between doing deals I started to write down a list of "sales tips and techniques" that I would share with my colleges. I was also heavily into anything self-help to rebuild my confidence and self esteem. Little did I know that I was actually creating my destiny.
They say that everybody has a "calling". Something they were destined to do, that they love, and that they are great at. My calling I believe is in helping others. All I ever did throughout my sales career was figure out what people wanted and helped them achieve this. Its the perfect Pain to Paradise scenario. I'm not saying I'm the greatest salesperson in the world but I've been around long enough, had my ups and my downs, have the grey hairs to show for it and sold just about everything. As a result I believe I can help anybody in sales achieve a much higher level of success and personal satisfaction than they currently have. I hope you come on a journey of discovery as nothing would make me happier than helping you succeed.
"If you help enough people get what they want
you will get what you want"