Name: Bob Beaumont
Company: Beaumont Tiles
Bob Beaumont says he learnt much of what he knows about entrepreneurship from his dad.
“He was an ethical, hardworking guy,” says Beaumont. “He was concerned about his people and his customers and I have tried to be the same. But he definitely took more risks than me.”
Beaumont’s father, RJ Beaumont, established Beaumont Tiles in 1960 at the age of 50, after chatting to one of the tradesmen who was tiling his house.
“He was having a whinge about the lack of tiles available in Australia, so my father said, I have an importing licence, which you needed at the time to import anything,” he recalls.
“So, without an awful lot of research – whether irresponsibly or bravely, or whichever you’d want to call it – he ordered in a couple of thousand square metres [of tiles]. With no customers and no shop front.”
The risky move paid off and the business quickly grew from an operation in the garage of the Beaumont family home, to a larger scale set up in the centre of Adelaide.
Despite the growing success, Beaumont says he never felt any pressure from his dad to join the ranks of the family business as a young man.
“There was not any pressure, never one bit,” says the 64-year-old, who began working at Beaumont Tiles at age 19, after a cadetship he’d lined up in the science and engineering field fell through.
“I said to dad, is there room for me to come and help until I get my head together? Then I just found I loved it.”
Fast-forward to 2014 and Beaumont, now managing director of the company, opened the company’s 100th store just this week. The company now turns over more than $200 million a year, employs more than 800 people Australia-wide and has been featured on the hit television renovation show The Block.
Beaumont sits down with SmartCompany to share his thoughts on running a family business, his advice for budding entrepreneurs and why you won’t see him retiring anytime soon.
Beaumont admits he is less of an early riser and more of “late finisher”, sometimes staying up until midnight to finish off a task.
“I’m not one of these people to get up 4am to go for run,” he laughs, putting his sleeping pattern down to his wife, who is also a night owl.
There’s no breakfast for Beaumont – or lunch for that matter. The busy entrepreneur is on a “fasting diet” and says he’s happy to work on an empty stomach.
“Not eating has never bothered me. I have the kind of metabolism that works just as well if I don’t eat,” he says.
Whether it is with clients, his management team, the company’s directors (who are also Beaumont siblings), or the company’s board, Beaumont says his day is mostly filled with emails and meetings.
“I’m disciplined about looking at the strategy and the finance side of the business, and I’m strict about not getting involved in the day to day workings,” says Beaumont, who believes an entrepreneur must let go of tasks, even those they love doing, to allow the company to grow.
“I love marketing, it is my passion, but I had to give that up several years ago. I had to train someone up as a marketing manager, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have the time to drive the business.”
For Beaumont, staff are the most important part of growing a successful business.
“They talk about cash, about profits, but a company is people and that’s it,” he says.
But just because you have the Beaumont surname, doesn’t mean you can land yourself a job at the company. Beaumont says he makes it harder for a family member to apply for a job than a non-family member.
“They first have to apply for permission to apply for the job, then they have to be interviewed by a non-family member for the role and they are under strict instructions not to consider anyone on the basis of the surname. We want the best qualified person for the job,” he says.
Passionate about family business governance, Beaumont says he thinks it would be “grossly unfair on staff if they are at a disadvantage in their career” because preference had been given to a family member.
When asked how he’s dealt with a work-life balance throughout the years, Beaumont says the answer lies in his “fantastic wife, who is unbelievably understanding”.
He admits the work-life paradigm was much harder to balance in the earlier stages of the business and warns any entrepreneur starting up about the hard yards they’ll have to put in during those first years.
“People ask me for advice, and I say, ‘are you prepared to work 80 hour weeks for the first three or four years?’ Because if you’re not, chances are you are not going to succeed.”
Beaumont says he can never really turn his brain off from thinking about work.
“I’ll be reading a novel and suddenly it will trigger something in my brain so I’ll want to take down a note… You never really switch off.”
But when he does get some personal time, Beaumont is heavily involved in his local church, even spending his time and own money to help renovate a new recreation centre for the community.
“All the CEOs I know are involved in private activities and community activities. You are part of the community, so you have to give your time and you have to give your money,” he says.
Having opened his 100th store this week, Beaumont has no plans of slowing down, keeping up with his personal philosophy: “Don’t dream big, dream huge.”
“One hundred is only a number,” he laughs. “The next target is 150.”
While he has strong opinions on the topic of how becoming a listed company can affect a business’ culture—“I think I would be driven up the wall, because I like to be make decisions rapidly and in a public company you have to consider all these extraneous things”—Beaumont also says as a businessman he’s learned to “never say never to anything”, including an IPO.
And there’s certainly no exit or retirement plan in the works for Beaumont himself.
“I was saying to the board of directors the other day, they asked, how long will you stay?’ I said, I’m more excited about this business now than I ever was. I can’t think of anything more boring than retiring.”