Beechworth Bakery founder and small business guru Tom O’Toole had a funny, insightful, hard-hitting message for local business operators at a Gippsland Business Festival event in Wonthaggi last Friday morning. m183619

“THAT’S enough, that’s enough, that’s enough!”
Beechworth Bakery founder and small business guru, Tom O’Toole, announced himself at a Gippsland Business Festival breakfast in Wonthaggi last Friday morning by cutting short Mayor Cr Brett Tessari’s attempt to read out Tom’s impressive CV.
“No one wants to hear that garbage,” said Tom as he launched himself into a funny, frenzied, informative, hour-long presentation on the secret to success in business.
There were many takeaways.
Chief among them were:
“Number one, look after the customer. Number two look after the customer, number three look after the customer.”
He also recommended ignoring the “dream takers” and knockers.
“Don’t let anyone steal you dream,” he said.
Get involved.
“Get out of your comfort zone, get out and talk to other business owners, get out there and get involved, talk to winners. Get involved in your community because that’s what it’s all about.
“If I sit at home and isolate and talk to myself, I’ll get bad advice.”
Go for the goals.
“Goal setting has changed my life. Without goal setting I am just drifting. Goals hold me accountable. I don’t like being held accountable, but goal setting does that. Goals give me that purpose and direction. The magic begins when I write down them goals. People with goals normally succeed because they know where they are going.”
And according to Tom, the key to success with goals is to apply dates and deadlines.
“The secret with goals is having them dated. If they’re not dated, they’re just a list. And it starts today. Tomorrow’s success starts today. There’s never a right time, just get started.”
Tom was also big on training staff, developing a team approach and keeping everyone happy, engaged and passionate about the product and the business with shared activities and opportunities.
“Our product’s no different to anyone else’s. It’s our people who make the difference,” he said.
“They’re our best advertisement.”
Attitude is another big one.
“When we wake up in the morning, we have two choices, whether to be happy or unhappy… chose to be happy, you silly bugger!
“Smile and the world smiles with you.
“Attitude is the thing that makes a big difference. It’s infectious… if it’s a pity party don’t turn up. Hire for attitude and train for skill.”
He also spoke about leadership:
“Train them, don’t brain them.
“I used to adopt the “seagull” approach to management. I used to come in, shit all over everyone and make a lot of noise. But that’s not the way to go. Tell them what they are doing right, not what I’m doing wrong.”
He was funny too.
“We used to have a problem with possums coming in and eating the fruit and veggies we had set out to go into the pies and pasties, up until a Chinese restaurant opened next door. Now we don’t have any stray cats, dogs or possums around the place.
“When we opened up a Beechworth Bakery in Bendigo someone said to me why are you opening a Beechworth Bakery in Bendigo and I said, well they’ve got a Bendigo Bank in Beechworth.
“Behind every successful man is a surprised mother-in-law.”
But there was a dark moment too, Tom recalling when he’d had a marriage break-up and things weren’t going well in the town and in the business.
“If you’ve ever put a loaded gun in your mouth, you’ll know how cold and oily it feels. I was as low as you can go and if it wasn’t for Lifeline I’d be dead. They talked a lot but among other things asked me where I wanted to be in five years. I was just so busy doing and doing that I couldn’t see it. I decided to make my most important investment decision, I invested in myself and got a business coach. And I stopped watching the nightly news. It’s always the same any way. One disaster after another. Who needs it?”
Now he runs a business with an $18 million turnover, hundreds of employees and nine outlets.
“I’m in business to make money. It gives me the choices and options I want in life.”
If anyone is troubled by aspects of this story, call Lifeline Australia, the crisis support and suicide prevention line on 13 11 14 or go to