A TWENTY year old with no formal qualifications and only a handful of low-level administrative-type roles might not sound like a pedigree for business success, but for Rory Vassallo, short-listed for the 1st Amongst Equals award, it was more than enough t
A TWENTY year old with no formal qualifications and only a handful of low-level administrative-type roles might not sound like a pedigree for business success, but for Rory Vassallo, short-listed for the 1st Amongst Equals award, it was more than enough to begin building his childcare group.
During the past seven years as Vassallo Corporation’s managing director, Mr Vassallo has expanded his business operations to now encompass more than 20 childcare facilities across Western Australia and Queensland.
He also diversified his business interests last year, starting a commercial maintenance division, while selling his first childcare centre. This, in turn, presented him with the opportunity to enter the Queensland market with his first interstate purchase.
The company now turns over more than $17 million each year and employs more than 300 people nationally.
But to fully grasp how a young man such as Mr Vassallo managed to achieve so much in a relatively short period of time, it’s best to look back and see how it all began.
In 1998, he left Kwinana Senior High School before he finished Year 10 to take up a position as an apprentice boilermaker. But he lasted less than six months on the tools before being moved into the office to do basic bookkeeping
“I just never went back to the tools, it wasn’t for me,” Mr Vassallo said.
“Then I ended up leaving there and getting into the rag trade and started packing boxes. Soon I was running the dispatch centre and then doing payroll, and it spiralled from there.”
While many 18-year-old Western Australians prefer to divide their time between their first jobs or some kind of study, Mr Vassallo was making his first entry into the local real estate market.
“The week I turned 18 I bought my first house,” he said.
“I moved to Gosnells and took another job as a bookkeeper-office manager for a hotel.
“Then the hotel went into administration about two weeks later, and I was kept on by the administrators.
“Then I was doing manager courses, serving beers, doing the books, a real Jack of all trades.”
The diverse range of jobs and experience allowed Mr Vassallo to absorb various skills along the way.
“A bit of knowledge here and there and then I got a job at Melville Toyota as admin manager and assistant accountant, and that’s where I met my wife,” he said.
However, going from a junior accounting role at a car dealership to running a national company seems a giant leap, but it soon became a reality for Mr Vassallo.
“People say ‘how did you do it? Financially, how did it all work out?’,” Mr Vassallo said.
“I was very lucky when I bought my house: I bought it for $80,000, then in 2003 it was suddenly worth $160,000 and I had $100,000 in equity and away we went.”
It was at this stage, in 2003, he founded Vassallo Corporation and borrowed $100,000 against his home to purchase his first childcare centre in Applecross.
Mr Vassallo said his purchasing decisions are based on buying run down or poorly performing childcare centres, instituting changes from the ground up including new staff and/or management where required, negotiating new rental agreements to allow profits to increase, and generally improving conditions for both children and parents.
Within nine months of buying the first facility he was able to pull together enough money to purchase another.
As the business continued to grow he formed a partnership to assist in financing, establishing a corporate office in 2007 at the same time as buying five more centres.
In 2008, after buying a further nine centres, Vassallo Corporation became the largest privately owned and operated childcare outfit in the country.
He recently bought out his business partner.
Mr Vassallo believes a combination of high energy levels and perseverance, along with his wife keeping him grounded, has led to success, with more structured expansion on the cards for the future.