McMillan Shakespeare founder Anthony Podesta has been named the 2012 Ernst & Young Australian Entrepreneur of the Year, with the founders of Jetts Fitness, Ozsale and OzHarvest also recognised at the awards.
Podesta, a former school teacher, is the founder of McMillan Shakespeare, a market leader in outsourced remuneration and asset management services.
He established the business in 1989 after identifying a gap in the market created by the introduction of the Fringe Benefits Tax regime.
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Podesta realised the FBT regime could bring wider commercial benefits to businesses and employees, creating an opportunity for the provision of outsourced salary packaging services.
McMillan Shakespeare manages more than $4.6 billion of remuneration transactions annually, delivers services to more than 250,000 employees and directly employs about 800 staff.
At an awards dinner held in Sydney last night, Podesta was named the 2012 Australian Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year after going up against 27 other national finalists.
In June next year, Podesta will travel to Monte Carlo to represent Australia at the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
“To be a successful entrepreneur you really have to believe in what you are doing. If you don’t have the passion for it, it’s not going to work,” Podesta says.
“You also have to have a very strong sense of self-belief, surround yourself with great people and be prepared to invest back into the business.”
“By investing in technology and processes we have been able to stay ahead of the curve and be a market leader… We were the founders of not just a business but really an entirely new industry.”
Podesta described the first five years of the business as “pretty scary”.
“I think if you’ve got the confidence of your staff, the right investment and good project management, then you can navigate your way through those difficult times,” he says.
Podesta wasn’t the only entrepreneur who was recognised last night.
Jetts Fitness founder Brendon Levenson was named Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, while Ozsale founder Jamie Jackson was named Technology Entrepreneur of the Year.
Unlike Podesta, Jackson says he always planned to become an entrepreneur.
“I was asked to leave school at an early age and told I would fail. But there was something very solid inside of me that knew I could prove others wrong,” he says.
“For any budding entrepreneurs, I’d say don’t be held back. Don’t listen to anyone. If you’ve got it, do it. And don’t be concerned about getting it wrong. Getting it wrong is not failure.”
“There’s no such thing as fail to an entrepreneur; our mistakes are what drive us to get it right the next time.”
Dan Collins won the industry category for his business GenesisCare, while the services category was won by Dr Andrew Kuper of LeapFrog Investments.
Meanwhile, OzHarvest founder Ronni Kahn was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year.
This article first appeared on StartupSmart.