John Ilhan – nothing crazy about him!

Australia’s lost one of its business icons – but also a bloody nice guy.


Kirsty Dunphey

I’m often asked by aspiring business people what I believe to be the one key thing they can do to ensure their business success. Without fail I almost always say that I feel making a commitment to becoming a lifelong learner is the only way to stay at the top of your game. 


I often suggest they find someone that inspires them and take them out for coffee, or ask them some questions, or read their book. Sometimes this scares people a little bit. Their comments to me of “what if the person says they don’t have time, or they won’t answer my questions” is usually met by me saying “well then you’re in no worse place than you started, are you?”.


One thing I’ve overwhelmingly found in my quest for knowledge however, is that if you approach them correctly and with respect, the most successful business people are often the most approachable and generous.


I certainly found this to be true with one of my business mentors, John Ilhan, who I was saddened to hear passed away yesterday at the age of only 42. Not only has Australia lost one of its most innovative entrepreneurial icons – it’s also lost a bloody nice guy.


I met John at an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year event in 2005. I was almost speechless at meeting him, but was even more blown away by the fact that he took about 30 minutes of his time that night to share his thoughts about business with me. He gave me ideas, guidance and encouragement.


His generosity didn’t end there however. John agreed to come down to Tasmania to speak to hundreds of Launceston business people at my request (which I sent fully expecting it to be declined). He spoke on stage for around an hour, shared what he knew, made a sizeable donation to the charity we were supporting, and also took another half an hour to speak with me about my business goals and aspirations.


I know from my experiences with John was that he loved his family, that he was an inspirational business person and that he was happy and eager to share what he had learnt. John Ilhan the business person made the pages of BRW and through his business he’s left an amazing legacy. If other people’s personal experiences with John are anything like mine, the legacy he’s left by generously sharing his knowledge has left just as important a legacy.



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Kirsty Dunphey, the youngest ever winner of the Australian Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year award, Kirsty started her first business at 15, her own real estate agency at 21, was a self-made millionaire at 23 and a self-made multi-millionaire at 25. For more information on Kirsty or either of her books – Advance to Go, Collect $1 Million and Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can head to:



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