DOMINIC DOBLO: How I could have saved my $30 million a year business
IF Dominic Doblo had his time over, the Rockhampton businessman would have done one thing to salvage his supermarket operation.
Building Les Doblos from a $500,000 turnover in 1993, to trading $30 million in the 12 months prior to declaring bankruptcy in 2004, Mr Doblo said closing shop had left him $5 million in debt and on the brink of depression.
But the $30 million fall from grace was without warning signs and Mr Doblo has a message for others who may draw parallels with his battle from bankruptcy back to business.
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"For whatever known reason I went broke and it was due to outside forces, about 70%, and you make some bad mistakes, everyone makes mistakes, so the bigger the business and the tougher the times the less area there is for mistakes,” he said.
"The 12 months previous to going broke I turned over $30 million and then Woolworths brought in 10c a litre fuel discount and Rockhampton was the only place they did 10c, everywhere else was 4c (at beginning of 2004).
"So the reason I am coming forward is there's a lot of people going broke at the moment, so the general public out there should not be so harsh on them because these people have done their best, they have made a couple of mistakes for whatever reasons and they don't just go broke today and shut up next week.
"It's a thing they are battling for six to 12 months beforehand, so when you are under that extreme pressure trying to keep everything surviving, you're probably going to make more mistakes.
"So these people that are going broke at the moment they have got to hold their head up high and the public have got to not pass dispersions on them because they have been under a lot of pressure for 12 months, at least previous, before they go broke.”
Mr Doblo said if he had a wiser head on younger shoulders, he would have sought help to stay afloat before letting go 120 workers, more than half of who were long-term employees.
"I pushed myself the whole time to get that growth, but at the time because I built up such a name, and such a sizeable business and the quality of staff that I had, I should have bought in a private equity partner, because at the time I could have brought someone in for $4-5 million and I would still be there today.
"If I had my time over again that's what I would do.
"I was an expert at running the day-to-day operations, but for long-term growth and strategy I needed to get an equity partner in and someone who had more experience than me.”
Mr Doblo said the way forward was for all levels of government and the community to support local business at every opportunity and keep dollars in the community.
He said the "astronomical” rise in the cost of living, teamed with few job prospects, out-of-town contracting and a lack of immediate major projects were hitting the collective working class' hip pocket hard.
He suggested council only contract to the local workforce, and the state and federal governments stimulate immediate job-creating projects, rather than longer-term five to 10 year investments.
"It's a thorough disgrace at the moment in the current economic crisis that both our state and federal politicians are doing nothing to stimulate regional Queensland's economy,” he said.
Mr Doblo teamed up with Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow last month to advocate for the Rockhampton Ring Road, which would stretch from the Yeppen roundabout sweeping around the airport to a third bridge crossing to reach the current highway at Parkhurst.
Mr Doblo urged the community back the project, he he said was the long-term construction project the region desperately needed at a time when interest rates were at record lows to support government borrowings.