A lifetime of business lessons from Stefan Kazakis
Name: Stefan Kazakis
Company: Board of Directors 12
Location: Doncaster, Victoria
Stefan Kazakis will be your coach, but not your friend (at least when it comes to business).
The founder of Board of Directors 12 and a variety of other business training programs, Kazakis has experienced it all. Brought up in business, his parents started a textile manufacturing company and Kazakis watched the business boom and crumble throughout his childhood and teenage years.
His personal experiences motivate what he preaches – his five Rs of business: “Having the right people in the right area getting paid the right money doing the right roles and responsibilities will get you the right result.”
For the past eight years Kazakis has been a business coach, but it wasn’t until the start of 2011, during his work at ActionCOACH, he realised there was a growing market of small businesses owners seeking business advice. He prides himself on offering a training program for small business owners which allows them to go from “good to great” with an emphasis on results and profit delivery.
In December 2011, Kazakis had five clients for the first pilot program, which has gone on to become Board of Directors 12. It now includes nine programs and over 80 small businesses, with his largest client now making a turnover of $20 million. His business now has a turnover of approximately $1.5 million.
SmartCompany had a chat with Kazakis about bringing businesses back from the brink, growth strategies and his beloved Collingwood Football Club.
Kazakis lives a structured life. His efficiency in operating his business is replicated in his personal life, where everything runs to a clearly defined timeline.
Like many, Kazakis believes a healthy body means a healthy mind.
“Generally, my day will start off at about 5.30am and three times a week I’ll be training – whether it’s personal training or a cycle class, something to get the blood running. The other two mornings start at 6.30am and I’ll have a meeting with clients.”
From this point, Kazakis’ schedule splits in two, dictated by whether or not it’s a week where he works with Board of Directors 12 clients or on his other array of programs.
His days are consumed by workshops, strategising and working one-on-one with clients.
“It’s a fortnightly program and everyone comes in (to his office in Doncaster). During a program week, programs run on Tuesday and Wednesday and I run four programs on both days and one on a Monday afternoon.
“Mondays start with a client and I also have an individual, one-on-one session, then we have a non-negotiable team meeting where we think about where we are, where we’re going and I ask if anyone is feeling stuck. We cover strategic and non-strategic elements of the business,” he says.
He runs all his programs and workshops from his Doncaster office – a brightly lit open space with tables placed in a rectangular arrangement, decked out with writing paper and colourful textas.
He acknowledges that as the business grows, he will have to consider bringing other people on board as coaches.
“On Tuesdays in non-program weeks we will now also be running the business fundamentals workshop. On Wednesdays we run the sampler programs in the morning and in the afternoons I have strategic alliance meetings or VIP meetings with future clients. On Thursdays I have back-to-back coaching assignments,” he says.
The sampler program run on Wednesdays in non-Board of Directors program weeks was launched in March 2012 and Kazakis says it has been mutually beneficial for himself and his clients.
“We created what’s called the sampler where people can come in and try the goods. This made it very easy to attract our future customers and clients and de-select those who would never be able to contribute or come into this space with an open mind.”
He spends much of his time coaching his 80 small business clients and if a client is panicking or has a question regarding their business, he happily talks them through it at all hours of the day.
“I just had one of my clients on the phone saying ‘arghh, what do I do?’ And I know, if I can help this guy and let him get it off his chest, he’ll be back to where he needs to be in two minutes’ time and he’s going to tell me exactly what needs to be done and he’s back in control.
“I’ve walked his walk, I know exactly what it’s like to have your back against the wall and not be able to pay rent and/or salaries. There’re not too many things a small business owner can go through that I haven’t,” he says.
What Kazakis teaches his clients informs his own business.
“Start small, make sure it works, make sure we do whatever it takes so people get value and results for buying the services or product, and then you can look at growing and investing more money and more resources.
“It’s been the path I’ve always walked on for my own businesses. Until you are confirmed that something is working, don’t go and invest a bundle. I’d rather be bored and rich than excitable and broke. This was something I had to learn over many years,” he says.
Kazakis also emphasises consistency as a fundamental in any business.
“Consistency is one theme which is critical in my programs, if you’re going to do something and it works, why would you take your eye of that?”
Jovial in person, as a business coach and mentor he doesn’t care for popularity.
“I’m not here to be liked, I’m not here to be popular, I’m here to be respected and, ultimately, I’m here to be effective. Popular versus effective is something else I teach my clients when it comes to building their teams, their A-grade clients and their A-grade suppliers; you’ve got to be effective, not popular,” he says.
Every 90 days, he constructs a business plan to work toward and every Friday he dedicates time to ensuring he’s on track to achieve the goals outlined in the plan.
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