David Smorgon OAM - Pointmade


David Smorgon OAM - Pointmade

About this Interview

Our guest is David Smorgon OAM - member of one of Australia's most recognised business dynasty's and CEO of Pointmade, the Nation's pre-eminent family advisory firm. 

For over 25 years David was a senior executive at Smorgon Consolidated Industries, one of Australia's largest private companies before being elected President of the Western Bulldogs Football Club, a role he held for some 15 years. 

David was also Executive Chairman of family business advisory at PwC and is current Chairman of Generation Investments - his family investment company.


David Smorgon OAM, The Interview Transcript

*Please note, this transcript was auto-generated and some inaccuracies may exist.

 Rob Langton  00:12

Hi, I'm Rob Langton. Our interview series delves into the lives of Australia's most respected property thought leaders and decision makers and uncovers what makes them tick. This is The Interview. Our next guest this morning is David Smorgon, a member of one of Australia's most recognised business dynasties, and CEO of Pointmade, the nation's preeminent family advisory firm. Now for over 25 years, David was a senior executive at Smorgan Consolidated Industries, one of Australia's largest private companies, before being elected President of the Western Bulldogs Football Club, a role he held for some 15 years. David was also executive chairman of Family Business Advisory at PwC. And is current chairman of Generation Investments is family investment company and also Pointmade, now David, it's a pleasure having you on the programme. We'll get to your upbringing and career a little bit later on. But let's start with the current business environment. You've been involved in business for many decades, what's your rating on the strength of the economy at the moment? 

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David Smorgon OAM  01:30

Well, we're going through a very tough time. That goes without saying, the whole world is going through a tough time. And I'm no economist, so bear that in mind, please, Rob. But my view would be that Australia is coming through the COVID crisis in a probably stronger position as anywhere else in the world. I think there's a lot of sectors that are doing very well as a result of what we've gone through the last 12 months. But clearly, there's a lot of sectors are doing a tough, you wouldn't want to be involved in a university with with a gap of overseas students unable to come in, you wouldn't want to be in the hospitality industry, you wouldn't want to be in the tourism industry, when nobody in the airline industry or the cruise line industry.

Like with the bad, there's always some good there's people in between. And there's a lot of people doing it tough, I applaud the government's policies, and the job keeper in particular, I think a great all of us, there are a lot of people that are just taking Job Keeper and don't want to go and work. And so at a couple of functions earlier this week, heard from business people cannot find people to do the job. They're going along to Centrelink, they're going along to recruitment agencies, people don't want to go and pick fruit. A lot of youngsters don't want to go and bend their back to earn a back, they can stay home and earn job keeper. 

So hopefully within a few weeks, that's going to come to an end. And then hopefully, they'll be able to go and be forced to get a meaningful job. So the Australian economy, I'd say is doing very very resilient with those variances between sector to sector, I think it's going to be volatile, obviously, the market is holding up, I think, because there's nowhere else to put your money at the moment. So people are looking to buy Australian equities. And so markets held up very well. And I think we're coming through this under control. The Commonwealth Bank results yesterday were positive, lifting the dividend was a confidence boost. And I think the last thing is, from what I gather both the consumer and the business confidence is at a seven year high. So that says something about people's attitude, the way they're looking at the future, notwithstanding the tough situation we're all going through.

 

Rob Langton  03:31

And on a macro level, what do you see the biggest challenges facing Australia over the medium to long term? And how should businesses be adjusting their strategy?

 

David Smorgon OAM  03:39

You're forcing me to become almost a politician here to think about; Well, I'd be worried about China. I'm concerned about China as a macro huge issue, even the thought of them building a what a $20 billion city in Papua New Guinea just so that doorstep is not exactly what what, what we'd like to happen, I don't think but the trade issues with China, and yet Australians are showing they're very innovative and moving away from China to other markets I heard today, some people selling wine into Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Good luck to them. But that's what you got to do. When one door closes, another one opens. And that's an opportunity for entrepreneurship, and not just accepting the status quo.

I think we've got an immigration issue too. I think we've got a large country, we've built up a lot of services. And we've got 25 million people, but where's the population growth going to come from? And so I think immigration, and the debate about immigration, you know, is a huge issue. We need people to cause demand. And when there's no demand, there's no supply and everyone's where everyone's worth it off. So I think China immigration, what are the next big projects? I mean, Australia will keep on talking about the Snowy River, but that's even before my time. And yet, that's not going to be the biggest problem solver, I wouldn't think but it's a very difficult question to answer from someone coming from where I sit at the moment, Rob,

 

Rob Langton  05:02

You're a noted investor in in business opportunities, equities in property via your family business generation investments. Take us through the types of opportunities you're either investing in now or have invested in over the past, say, five to 10 years.

 

David Smorgon OAM  05:16

Well, there's been a variety of them, generation, which is my family business from my three sons. We've looked at all things A through Z, we ended up investing in some specialised technology organisations because we don't understand technology. And so we decided after a couple of wins and a few losses, right, I've tried to pick winners, that was not the way to go.

So we've been investors in a couple of technology specialist companies. So we've given them the responsibility of managing our money into that sector. And that's been that's been paid off. There's been a number of direct investments in a range of a range of different businesses, Rob, but I think mostly important, we see more back the person than the business. So the business might be great business. But if we don't like or don't see eye to eye with the owners, operators of those businesses, we generally defer and would rather back the person than the business.

 

Rob Langton  06:14

And in your role at Pointmade, what type of advice Have you provided your clients over the past 12 months, given the challenges that Australia and the world's faced, and how has this advice differed significantly, you know, to previous years.

 

David Smorgon OAM  06:30

I think it's, it's, it's been strengthened by the fact that the world has changed. And don't think you can just go back to doing the normal thing that you've done previously, you might have had a great business, but COVID has come and hit. And it's changed the way we do business, the whole issue about whether we're going to work in the office anymore, or stay at home, huge issues now and at first, I think we all joked about, of course you're coming back in the office. 

But there are people I know some of my family clients where they've got some serious issues, because the people don't want to come back in the office. And they're happy being on zoom while they walk their dog. And that's been very effective and efficient. 

And so some of those issues, force us to think, what business are we in the world has changed. Is that business going to be the business that I really want to stay in for the next five or 10 years? What else should I be doing with my money? How can I minimise my risk portfolio? So I think it's a question of bringing some urgency to the table and not just thinking to everyone, well, the COVID is going to be away, it's all going to be finalised in a year or two, we don't have to worry, I think part of our attitude a Pointmade to our clients is nah uh, don't have that attitude, you've got to be a bit more aggressive about looking at where you are, and where you want to head as a result of COVID. 

Now is the time to experiment a little bit, take some risk factor in a small way, don't bet the whole farm but now's the time to maybe do things in tune with what's happening in the global economy that you may not have been able to or didn't want to do previously. So experiment with something else isn't another attitude we've been pushing. 

 

Rob Langton  08:03

And you've previously mentioned the importance of conducting regular health checks of family businesses to monitor and rate the performance of their operations from a family relationship level and family dynamic level. Take us through your evaluation on the health and current strength of the family business sector based on your experience that you've seen.

 

David Smorgon OAM  08:23

Yes, it's going to be a bit difficult doing a face to face, I'd rather give you a document, which would have about 40 questions, Rob, and then I'll tell you whether you got a healthy family or not. But it goes to the essence of a family in business together. But it doesn't necessarily need to be a family business together, it might be investments together. It just might be sitting around the kitchen table as a family. But it goes to the quality of issues of life rather than the quantity of issues. And so I'm dealing with a lot of wealthy families, I had the privilege of working with a lot of wealthy families whose names are in lights, you can't tell them anything about business because they got an impeccable track record.

But what I found over the last 12 years, when it comes to their family, they're in denial. Initially, it's Oh, everything's fine. I'll it's a few little tensions between the sisters and the brothers. But they'll get over it. But there's not really unity, there's not really harmony. And there's a lack of family continuity, because the parents often are in denial. And they don't want to go there and have these sensitive questioning sensitive discussions with their kids about a range of issues. And the most avoided issue is about what am I going to do with them wealth, who's going to get what? And so what happens because we're not comfortable about talking about wealth and money and all those type of things. It stays under the table, it stays in our suitcases. And then the family has a tradition that gets carried on from generation to generation of not talking about these things.

So I've got a range of 79 year old baby boomers. Okay, baby boomers, that have had tremendous business success. Now they're even in their 70s and 80s, they've not yet addressed the issue or what they're going to do with their wealth with their children, and the children that are in the 40s and 50s. And so what happens is, I then label them during the fractured families list. And it doesn't matter how many squillions they've got, if you haven't got a meaningful relationship with your kids, if you haven't got that openness, and unity, to be able to talk about a range of issues, and create a safe environment, and give everyone from the oldest to the youngest, from the smartest of the nuts, as Matt has a voice at the table, whether they're involved in the family business or not, then you're going to have the potential for tension. And if that's not addressed, it goes to conflict, and from conflict, then you get a fractured family. 

That's the focus of the moment. So there's a mounting crisis in Australia, because too many wealthy families are not addressing the issues of succession of entitlement, and who's going to get the wealth.

 

Rob Langton  11:00

And you've obviously got a passion for this sector. And for this sort of family advisory field. Where did that originate from? I think our red Pointmade was launched sometime in the late 90s, potentially 2000s. Where did the passion and energy for that come from?

 

David Smorgon OAM  11:19

It came about very simply, Rob, when the Smorgon family broke up in 1995, after 70 years of harmony and togetherness and great financial and business success, we imploded. And it was a very sad occasion, and other members of the family will have different views about that. But to me, it was very sad that we weren't able to continue the tradition into the fourth and fifth generation, like so many families do, because for many years, a small good family, we had the right recipe, we had the right formula, yes, there were bumps in the road, there were hurdles, we had the job, but there was yelling and screaming, and we'd settle down and we got on with the business.

And that all ended in 1995. And so I went I said, what could we have done, because at that time, we didn't find the suitable family advisors, to help us ask the right questions to help us resolve the issues. And maybe if we had the right advisors and different advisor might have been a different result, you'll never know. And so I went and did a lot of studying I bought every book I could find on family businesses, I went to a few did a few courses with YPO young presidents organisation. And I found that the most important thing in family advisory is not to deal with the money not to deal with the quantity, deal with a quality deal with all those issues that people of wealth struggle with the same as those people that don't have that will struggle with every one of us have got our own fears, have got our own resentment, have got our own concerns have got our own ambitions.

You as an individual are part of a family and a healthy family, a vibrant family, a family believes in Unity and Harmony gives every single person a voice of that table in a safe environment. So if you're not the brightest business person, or you're not interested in being in business, you're a violinist, you're a musician, why can't you express yourself and still play a role within that family structure, you shouldn't be alienated, you should be made to feel inferior, because you're not a business person.

And so many families that are well known in business, they alienated kids, because someone is not interested nor capable of participating in the family business, that's going to lead to friction, that's going to lead to tension. And that's going to lead to a fractured family. Because inherited the parents deal with that particular individual when push comes to shove. And they've got to make a decision about who's going to get what. 

 

Rob Langton  13:37

And when a client approaches you. Where do you start?

 

David Smorgon OAM  13:41

You start with asking the first fundamental question, Rob, what do you want to achieve? How can I help you achieve your aims and objectives? Because they all vary. And I've had the pleasure and privilege of working with many family clients. And yes, there's a common theme, most of it is I just want the kids to like each other, to respect each other and get around the Christmas table or the Passover table. Because it upsets me and my wife, or my husband and I whatever the case may be, because some kids aren't coming because their brother or sisters have their will because we had a falling out with mom or dad. It's basic, simple stuff.

So push put the wealth to one side, and really got no interest how much they're worth, because wealthy to some might be a million dollars and the others might be a billion dollars worth is irrelevant. But the focus on so many families is about the quantity of the wealth. And our focus is on the quality of the life, the health of the family, as indicated, how do they communicate with each other? How do they talk to each other? How do they respect each other?

Okay, all those simple things. And that's what comes out through what we would call a Pointmade health check. So it's a pretty accurate assessment initially, and there's a few tweaks along the way because sometimes people actually call it as it is, but you only have to go and meet the kids and meet the family and all of a sudden We see, these are the issues where they're divided. And these are the issues, we're connected. And so what we need to do is reduce the issues where they're divided, and get more on the other side of the ledger of what connects them. 

 

Rob Langton  15:11

And how did you find the response from the business community once you'd launched the business? And what are some of the most common challenges that your clients are experiencing in the in the current environment?

 

David Smorgon OAM  15:22

Well, the current environment, as we discussed earlier, in a lot of sectors, it's tough. If you're in the property, business, property values might be going up, but there's not as many deals to be done. And so therefore, you know, the business is not making as much as what it ought to be in the in the good days.

I think the lack of communication within a lot of families, the lack of clarity, about how to even deal through these tough times, and particularly if you're in one of those sectors is doing it tough. People don't know, it's already in the good times, everything's hunky dory, with buying new cars and new apartments and travelling around. Now it's time to build time, and a lot of people don't know how to deal with crisis. 

And so that's part of where the advice comes in to be realistic about the, the, you know, the situation. Look, there's a lot of accountants that a lot of lawyers say they do family advisory work, and no disrespect for them, there's a role for them to play. But in my experience of doing this work for 12 years, and listening to all of my clients, most of them don't get down and dirty. They're not going to ask the patriarch or the matriarch. What's keeping you awake at night, Rob, what do you want your legacy to be Rob. And some might say, I want to be the richest guy in the cemetery. Well, that's fine. If that's what your objective is, you're leaving your kids behind, you're not interested or that you don't rate them, not important for you. That's their call. Because they do have choices, every one of us has got a choice to make about our family. 

And if you just want to be the richest guy in the cemetery will continue to focus 100% of your time on the business. And you'll leave the family behind, I would hope, by the work that we do. If there's any semblance of wanting family harmony and unity, they will want to have a closer family unit, they'll want to listen to others. And they'll see they've got choices and options to make that balance it up between the business and the family. And so the healthy families would be spending a lot of time on their family as much as nearly as what they do on the business.

 

Rob Langton  17:19

To what extent do you rely on the Smorgon way philosophy in your dealings with some of these families? 

 

David Smorgon OAM  17:25

Well the Smorgon way was a was a statement about how we like to do business, respect each other no raised voices, two heads are better than one. Pulling back to the community giving back. It was a basic philosophy that drove our decision making and drove the way we do business. You might have seen in my foyer, it's on the on, on the on the board outside. And that still drives me and Pointmade. And often a lot of my clients come and say, gee, that's interesting. They want to explain that want to take it away and adopted themselves. So you just can't duplicate somebody else's way. Because it doesn't work. You've got to make it very personable, personable to your situation. And that's what that does.

 

Rob Langton  18:06

Now, in your role as a family advisor. I think in 2014, you joined PwC, as executive chairman of family advisory. Take us through your couple of years there and then why did you go out on your own again?

 

David Smorgon OAM  18:20

Well, it was five years of PwC, five years of PwC. And I never would have dreamt I was ever going to work for a professional services firm. But I must say it was a really fascinating and informative five year period. And I'm pleased that the outcome was the PwC went into the family advisory space, we were successful in getting a lot of new clients to PwC that started off as family advisory and now moved in to tax m&a, or whatever the case may be. So that was good. But frankly, PwC came to me a couple of years ago, and said David would like you to sign a five year contract, which is very nice of them, particularly when they're texting other partners on the back of 55 and say thanks very much. 

But I was 71 and a half of the time I said guys, thank you very much. But you know, my stage of my life, I really don't want to be signing five year contracts. And so we did a very pleasant deal where I bought back Pointmade from them. And so some of the team from PwC join me back at Pointmade doing the same family advisory work. So I put it down. It was a great experience for me. I felt I did my very best for them. They're a very good employee. And it was a great experience.

 

Rob Langton  19:33

And what about the growth of the Pointmade business? I think it's been in operation for circa nine or so years now. But how have you actually managed the growth of the business and are there more clients now than they were 10 years ago given that the wealth of people on the fractured family list or the AFR rich list is only increasing.

 

David Smorgon OAM  19:52

It's a it's a very defined business that we want to be aspire to be Australia's preeminent and family advisory firm but we're We're only based in in Melbourne. And we're really at the pointy end of town. Because that's where I think the real issues are. And that's where we go from the rich list to the fractured families list. And our job is to keep the family not only rich but rich in their family environment as well. And we've got a different process, frankly, that's a lot of others sort of adapt to and a similar, but it really gets the nitty gritty, I need to understand the real Robert Langdon to try and help you and your family before I come up with solutions and options for you. And you're going to be different for Billy brown and, and Janet Smith. Right? That that's just the reality of it. And it's the ability to listen, it's the ability to understand what they want to achieve, and then provide some options and choices for them to make. Because it's not our job as family advisors to sit in judgement. 

You ask me for an opinion about how you're doing things or what you should do. I'll give it to you. But I don't sit in judgement. Say, Rob, you're wrong doing this. I can't impose my values on your values. But we can have a meaningful discussion that does get flushed out. So the process has been working. I'm very pleased, I'm probably working a bit harder than what I would have envisage. 

But I love making a difference. And so when I get a phone call, like I did a couple of phone calls this year, they after Christmas on Boxing Day, David, I just want to thank you, we actually went to mom and dad's we had an incredible time. I never thought it was possible during the year. But thanks to you and your team's work, we actually got to Christmas. Well, you hang up the phone, and you've made a difference. Rob,

 

Rob Langton  21:31

David, I wanted to ask you, in your experience, how significant is the gap between generations in terms of decision making and risk appetite? And then how do you bridge that gap?

 

David Smorgon OAM  21:42

I think in a lot of cases, Rob, it's huge. And it comes back to some of the things we were talking about earlier. If you don't have a structure in place within your family, to talk about some of those issues on a regular, informal formal basis, you inevitably as setting up a higher risk profile, that there's going to be a disconnect between the generations. And on the other hand, if you have a structure in place, we have regular family discussions, and you're giving every family member a voice, and they understand who they are, what they stand for, and where you're going as a family. 

So let's just go, who are you? What do you stand for and where you're going as a family, you've got a much higher chance of connectivity with all of your family members. So the gap that you call between the generations is not there, because you're bored everyone along on the same page on the same path. And tragically, what leads to this fractured family list is when that doesn't happen, when the patriarch or the matriarch decide, it's our money. It's not the family's money, I've done it, I've created it, it's my money, I'm going to make that call. That's fine. But that's the dictator. That's the general, that's not going to be the best way to bring their family the next generation onto the same path as what they are.

 

Rob Langton  23:03

Now, presumably, when clients approached you and some of these wealthy families approach you, they are seeking help. But are there any examples of of families or clients that you haven't been able to assist with just because they're not open to the suggestions,

 

David Smorgon OAM  23:17

One of the things I learned Rob, when I did various courses, where sometimes people are impossible. And it wouldn't matter how good you are, what advice you gave them, what choices you gave them, they're not prepared to help themselves. And so there's been a couple of cases I can think of where the patriarch, in particular, has not wanted to be vulnerable.

He wasn't prepared to sit with his kids in a safe environment. Then he comments from the children about how he was not as a businessman, but as a father. And he couldn't cope with that. And all got to heart. Okay, so we tried, and he couldn't cope with it. And I said, but your aim is to have a happy united family. Your aim is to bring your kids closer together with you. And so part of the hard yards you got to do, you have to hear their reaction because you're an absentee Father, you went there on a Saturday morning going to the netball or the basketball or the football, you're in the business. And that was all understandable in the early days.

But the kids don't understand that today. Because you've got all the money in the world. You're living in the middle of to rec, you got three cars, you've got a happy wife, all the money in the world, but the kids need to get it off their chest. And so if you don't have that safe environment, the young provide the opportunity for the kids to tell their parents as it is that leads to a breakdown and so I've had a couple of cases that were the patriarch, too hot in the kitchen, not prepared to be vulnerable, left it. Nothing else I could do.

 

Rob Langton  24:44

And what about when clients approach you? What is it that brings them to you over others? Do you think is it the family name, the family experience?

 

David Smorgon OAM  24:56

I know what brings them to us whether it's us or any other family advisor, there's usually a catalyst for that. Often it's they've listened to a mate, that's just told him a story about how his kids, you know, aren't talking to anymore or they've stormed out. Or there's a divorce in the family. There's usually a catalyst and they pick up a phone or send an email. I've heard of the work you do, but it's not yet very well publicised. I mean, I know every time there's an article about breakups in family businesses, or we talk about what we're doing a Pointmade or others, the phone rings, and are often the catalyst is just reading that newspaper reading that article, or, unfortunately, looking at what's happening, some of the very well known families, they're in court with each other. And people think, Oh, my God, how do I sit in this? Where do I sit? Where do I sit with my family? 

Why they pick Pointmade than anybody else would, you'd have to ask them? I think it's been opportune and very good, that I've been there and done it. So the Smorgon experience, I think Smorgon is a well known name, certainly in Victoria. The fact that we were very successful family that they imploded, I think people recognisable, David must have learned something through that process. And maybe he can help us.

 

Rob Langton  26:06

And just pivoting slightly to two topics. One when you were at Consolidated Industries, what were you doing there? What was your role over the the journey that you were there, I think you were there for about 50 years, but..

 

David Smorgon OAM  26:20

I come on, I was only there for 25 years. I was there from 1972 to 1996. And before that, I was a lawyer. And I was only a lawyer for nine months. I hated that. And then Victus Morgan, our chairman collared me and my brother Rob these engagement party and said, I heard you're not enjoying the law wanting to come out to the factory in Sommerville Road West Footscray and get a real job well that real job was starting down in the gut house, not exactly the place to start your career. But we learned the hard way. 

And I now use my experiences to encourage others to get their kids down and dirty. And so from the gut house, and we went through the offal room, and then you went to the boning room, then the slaughterhouse. And then after about five years or so you make it into an administration job, or selling job, in their case in the meat works. And so you do the hard yards First, there's no substitute for that, and you just can't come in because you've got the right surname, then you're going to be a big time executive. That doesn't work.

 

Rob Langton  27:21

And the Western Bulldogs you were the president there for 15 years, why did you take that role on and what you learn?

 

David Smorgon OAM  27:26

No one else wanted to take it on. And again, look, I followed the Bulldogs since I was a kid, since 1954. And I mean, I maybe aspired to play league football in my dreams that I never aspired to become a president. And I wasn't supposed to be the president, because they were four guys were we put our hand up or our hands and put up for us to join a subcommittee looking at is there a future for the Footscray Football Club and I was one was, there's no future. We got no money, no players, no coach, and no hope. There was the attitude I went in with. And it's amazing when you start focusing, and you lock yourselves in a room as we did from August in 1996, to probably December, the end of that year, full time just looking at options and choices. 

And the crystallising moment was when we looked at map of Victoria, we looked at the western part of Victoria, thinking about Geelong because they're farmers down there, the Western part hang on that's Footscray. That's the Bulldogs territory. But Footscray was just a small little suburb there that had moved from very white Anglo Saxon and now into a Vietnamese community. So we couldn't rely really on Footscray to give the support But hang on, what about inWerribee and Hoppers Crossing and, and all that route through that whole western region? It's open territory, and we had the Essendon on one side, and then North Melbourne down there. We said Hang on, this is it. We've got to be the western, the western club, the Western Bulldogs, which was great. 

And then I was threatened. I was going to be sued, you know, destroying 100 years of tradition and naming rights. And we got over that. And probably that strategy that we had, was probably will just 10 years, too, too slow. I mean, it took probably 20 years for that to be successful as compared to the 10 years we thought but today, the kids in the kindergarten grades one and two and three in Sunbury and Keilor and all that area they don't know Collingwood they don't know Essendon, they know the Western Bulldogs and helped by of course our Premiership win in 2016. So looking back, it was a brilliant move.

 

Rob Langton  29:41

And what about the game today? Do you still have a love for it and a passion for it? You still go regularly?

 

David Smorgon OAM  29:46

Yeah absolutely. Well when I can, apart from COVID, but no, I go with my children. I'm blessed to have nine grandchildren we all go together and it's one of the wonderful things I enjoy today. Sitting in the outer with them so to speak is complete Being in the inner sanctum, because it was actually 16 years, I think Rob, I was president and a lot of lunches, a lot of networking, a lot of proud moments, a lot of disappointing moments.

It was an incredible experience and a privilege to do that. And I look back, and I think I learned a lot in a business sense in a personal sense. And I did my very best, I went in there with the attitude, I want to go on to do my very best, I want to look myself in the mirror of the day that I finished, and say, I gave it my very best and what we achieve, we achieve and what we didn't achieve, well, I can't do any better, the more I gave it 100%

 

Rob Langton  30:35

On reflection, what does David Smorgon consider his biggest achievements over the course of your career?

 

David Smorgon OAM  30:41

My family, the fact that I've got three wonderful sons, three beautiful daughters in law, and nine grandchildren, my mother, my mother is still alive at 94, nearly 94, my brothers and their families, my wife, of course, my second wife, Kathy, I lost my first wife, Rosalind, to cancer back in 2008. And was very lucky to find Kathy and we've been married now for just on 10 years. So I would say it's my family.

 

Rob Langton  31:08

And to the contrary, is there anything you'd do differently in hindsight, or if you had another opportunity,

 

David Smorgon OAM  31:13

I probably wouldn't make as many hasty decisions before I invested or spent my dollar. I've like everyone, I've always I've had some failures. And when I reflect on that it was probably because I didn't understand the business, I should have gone there. Sometimes I misread the people. And thirdly, I probably didn't do enough extensive due diligence, because I'm pretty much a generalist. And I think sometimes when you're investing serious money, you've got to do the due diligence. And if you don't do it, you've got to have a team that then does it for you. 

So I think those three things would be I do them different if you had the time again, but I've got no regrets I, I find I live every day I wake up in the morning, I've got my list of things to do, that you get off your backside and go and make it happen. And I'm a big believer, it's up to you. I hear too many people wanting to delegate and blame others. Fundamentally, I think you've got to position yourself, you've got to take responsibility, and you have to make it happen.

 

Rob Langton  32:07

You've sort of answered my next question there, which is what are the two or three fundamental pieces of advice you can pass on

 

David Smorgon OAM  32:14

Be yourself? You don't need to try and be like your brother or your father or your uncle or your auntie or whoever, okay? You got to be yourself. Every one of us have got something that's special. Every one of us what we've got to try and identify what is special for you, not for your parents or not for your brothers, as I said, What's the special thing for you? What's your special thing that you've got that makes a difference for you. And when you understand that, go and do it. Like it's taken me 50 years to understand, really what I'm doing, I'm having as much fun now. And much enjoyment from doing what I'm doing then I think I've had in all my career, and I've done some wonderful things I've been blessed to have, you know, working in a wonderful family business for 25 years.

I then was the chairman of family businesses Australia for seven years travelled Australia, it's an incredible families doing things together, whatever, then I had the Bulldogs 16 years experience. And then the last 12 years or so as a consultant again, life is a transition Rob. And some of us are lucky not to be stuck in one job, day in, day out week, in week in year in, year out. And all these experiences that up. So be yourself, find out what special way and then go and make it happen.

 

Rob Langton  33:28

You're still a young man, so what's the next 10, 20, 30 years look like for David Smorgon.

 

David Smorgon OAM  33:33

I'm very fortunate i've, i've got reasonable health, reasonable fitness within reason. I'm enjoying what I'm doing. My clients seem to get on with me and we get on with them. So I wouldn't be looking more than continue to do this for the next few years. I'm very fortunate. I've had to walk the talk and I've had the my own succession plan.

So I'm very fortunate my three sons are running all of our investment portfolios, they're running our operating businesses. We still work as a team, but their responsibilities that to allow me the time to focus on what I enjoy doing, and that's family advisory. So I hope that continues. Not sure I'll find some new field because I think this is enough. I've got enough on the plate at the moment. 

 

Rob Langton  34:14

David, it's absolute pleasure having you on the program. Thanks so much for your time.


About the author
Rob Langton
Rob Langton
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Joined Jan, 2021

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