Three Aussie billionaires who have held onto their spots on the nation’s rich list for decades have shared their simple tips for getting rich and staying rich.
Each year, The Australian publishes The List, a definitive ranking of the country’s 250 richest people and how they made their money. This year, the listers were collectively worth a record-breaking $531.96 billion.
Three of the men towards the top — all of whom made, rather than inherited, their fortunes — have shared their advice for making a motza.
“Stay alive and don’t make foolish mistakes,” said Jack Cowin, founder of Hungry Jack’s.
‘Stay alive’ — Jack Cowin, Hungry Jack’s
Speaking with Channel 9, Jack Cowin — fast food tycoon and founder of Hungry Jack’s — said his best tip for getting and staying on the rich list was quite simply to “stay alive and don’t make foolish mistakes”.
The power of compounding interest, Mr Cowin explained, meant that increasing one’s fortune by just 10 per cent each year could mean enormous wealth over a lifetime.
An entrepreneur needed to be part astronomer, part microbiologist, Mr Cowin added, saying: “He’s got to have astronomer instincts, in that he’s got to look at the big picture — he’s looking at the stars, he’s got to know where the future is, you’ve got to know where the rocket ship’s going. And the microbiologist is looking through the microscope at the detail … The successful entrepreneur needs to do both.”
Mr Cowin was the 22nd richest person in Australia in 2023, with a fortune of $4.21 billion, according to The List.
He started the Hungry Jack’s and KFC franchises after moving Down Under from Canada, relying on a $300,000 loan from a slew of Canadian investors.
Mr Cowin sold out of KFC 10 years ago, but retained 450 Hungry Jack’s stores that made $1.77 billion in revenue last year.
He’s known as the fast food king, and is also chairman and major shareholder of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, and owner of Houston-based oil and gas industry services business Apache.
“Invest in your employees,” said John Van Lieshout, founder of Super A-Mart.
“Incentivise your employees” — John Van Lieshout, Super-A-Mart
John Van Lieshout, founder of the Super-A-Mart furniture chain, said he made and kept his fortune through generous rewards for his staff in which he decided to give store managers a meaningful share of his profits.
“My freight costs came down because they were much more careful in negotiating with transport companies,” he explained to Channel 9.
“My electricity bill came down because they switched the lights off earlier. There were all sorts of things where costs came down because, suddenly, it was in the store manager’s interest to control every part of the business. People do good work if they have a stake in what they’re doing.”
Mr Van Lieshout’s second tip, though, was to embrace risk — which he said was often the differentiating factor between employees and bosses.
“Every day I look at professionals that work with me, and I’m amazed how smart they are with financial things. Australia is full of talented people who should have their own businesses,” he said.
Mr Van Lieshout placed 44th on The List in 2023, with a fortune of $2.7 billion. He started out working as a cleaner at a Brisbane furniture store, before going on to found one of the industry’s biggest players.
Mr Van Lieshout sold Super-A-Mart to private equity in 2006 but retained ownership over the freehold of the stores, making for an impressive property portfolio.
“Think 10 years ahead,” said Gerry Harvey, founder of Harvey Norman, pictured here with his wife Katie Page. Picture: Celeste Humphrey
“Think 10 years ahead” — Gerry Harvey, Harvey Norman
Gerry Harvey, of Harvey Norman fame, said his best tip was to “think 10 years ahead” of your competitors.
The Harvey Norman brand had 50 per cent of the market share for refrigerators in 2023, he told Channel 9, saying: “What share of the market will we have in 10 years’ time? Who will be our opposition in 10 years’ time? How will fridges be sold? What will be the new technology – it just goes on and on and on.”
Mr Harvey has long been a believer in owning as much property as possible, making it difficult for competitors to get the same kind of reach as Harvey Norman.
“We’ve just always worked on where’s the best site, put the best shop there, put the best salespeople in there, advertise that you’ve got it, and just make sure you do a better job than all the other retailers. You survive, and they don’t,” he said.
Mr Harvey co-founded Harvey Norman with his late business partner Ian Morna after the pair sold their previous business, Norman Ross, in the late 1980s. He now runs it with his wife Katie Page, with plans to grow the brand in Malaysia.
Eccentric billionaire spotted on rare outingBizarre detail on Bezos’ $750m superyacht
Mr Cowin, Mr Van Lieshout and Mr Harvey are all self-made, having made their billions in cutthroat consumer-facing industries. While names on the rich-list come and go each year, the three men have maintained their posts.
The three men sit among the 139 billionaires named on The List in 2023. Top of the ladder was Gina Rinehart, with a fortune of $37.1 billion, closely followed by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, with $35.21 billion.