PASSION, ambition and drive are the key ingredients to starting a successful business – everything else can be learned.
Speaking about what drives his business and his entrepreneurial spirit, Commtech Wireless CEO and 40under40 winner Nathan Buzza addressed a WA Business News Success and Leadership breakfast last week.
Mr Buzza is well placed to speak about success in business, having grown his Osborne Park-based wireless telecommunications business from a backyard shed in 1993 to an international company that turned over more than $5 million dollars last year in domestic and export revenue.
Mr Buzza and his business have received numerous awards, including the 2003 WA Information and Communications Technology Export Award, the 2002 industry and export award for emerging exporters and the 2002 CY O’Connor award for excellence in engineering and technology.
Mr Buzza got an early start in business after selling his first software – a computer game – to New Zealand-based electronics giant Phillips at the age of 14.
More impressively, the software was written while he recovered from a potentially fatal astrocytoma – a brain tumour located in the motor section of the brain that required high-risk surgery.
It was also during this time that Mr Buzza learned the value of debt and negotiation, having written the software on one of IBM’s first PCs that cost $13,000 at 24 per cent interest, which he was to repay with the proceeds of his business ventures.
Mr Buzza quickly repaid the loan after receiving NZ$11 per copy of the software to a maximum of $15,000 – one copy for every Phillips PC sold, of which Phillips sold millions.
After returning to Perth and completing his schooling at Scotch College, Mr Buzza took a position at Omnitronics, where he was involved in the development of the laser ‘shoot em up’ Q-Zar.
Later, he worked as R&D manager at Austco Communications, before starting Commtech Wireless in 1993.
The then 21-year-old Mr Buzza established Commtech after he had developed his paging system, BASEPage2000, a wireless system that takes information from a third party and translates it to a wireless device. That translation can be in the form of an SMS, an email, a pager, or a big LED sign.
The applications of the concept include health care, hospitality, emergency services, industrial and casino industries.
The company started exporting in 1998 and BASEPage2000 is now installed in more than 3,500 sites globally with sales facilitated through offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Florida. The company also recently acquired shares in a company in Shenzen, China.
Mr Buzza said his story was one of many WA success stories and that Western Australians were well placed to take on the world in their fields of expertise.
WA, he said, was built upon a strong tradition of innovation and its workforce was made up of educated, highly qualified, affordable workers.
“We’re the most physically remote city on the planet with few economies of scale, nothing except our land, our brains and our innate competitiveness,” Mr Buzza told those at the breakfast.
“Entrepreneurship is synonymous with life, with spirit, with growth, with challenge, with risk and, of course, with leadership.
“Now, not all entrepreneurs are successful. In fact, statistically, most entrepreneurs aren’t.
“But the good that is done by so many who step up and take risks, exercise their leadership, generate commerce and create jobs is what the Australian dream is all about, and has been critical to the growth and the success of the Western Australian economy,” he said.
Passion was one of the most important lessons Mr Buzza said he had learned while growing his business.
“Be passionate about your business – if you are not passionate you cannot expect your staff, your suppliers or your customers to be as passionate,” he said.
“Forego the profit of today and invest it in the company for tomorrow. And when you think that you can’t stand it anymore, take it to the next level and reinvest.
“Employ on intellect and enthusiasm – everything else can be learned.
“And finally, the last lesson. No matter how big your company is, or how much praise people heap on you – there is always someone doing exactly what you are doing but better, cheaper and faster.
“In the words of Andrew Grove, President of Intel, ‘only the paranoid survive’.”
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