Before I met Harry Oskar Triguboff AO, I had a vision of what he would be like. The 86-year-old property developer will sit hunched on a pile of thick paper, I think, carefully studying every line of sales and expenditure of Meriton, the company he founded and still fully owns and runs as Managing Director.
Maybe he is a little arrogant or impatient; initially annoyed at my presence but eventually warmed up, offering wise and wise advice because only those who lived for eight decades could. I thought he would definitely wear a sharp stripe suit and sit behind a large mahogany table.
This is the part where I should disappoint you, to tell you that the original Harry Triguboff is not like the “hard man of property” that he built for years. I should have told you that he was shy or spoke softly, or not ‘bullshit’ as you might think. But I can’t. When I met Triguboff in his office at Meriton headquarters in the Sydney CBD, he sat behind a giant mahogany desk, researching a pile of documents. And yes, he wore a striped suit.
When I was introduced to him with his EA, it took about five (very long) for him to take his eyes off the papers to even acknowledge my presence, let alone shake my long body, and now tremble a little. His hands greeted me without standing and asking me to sit too. Well, this will be amazing …
In a few short minutes, fortunately, that is true. Triguboff might mean business but there is something that also loves him very much – the way his behavior rearranges himself when the interview begins; how he stares straight into my eyes, pauses before answering each question, sometimes writing his thoughts on a small notepad before revealing his answer.
When I asked the man, it was reported that it was worth an amazing $ 14 billion to describe his leadership style, he said, “Perfect, of course,” before chuckling to himself. “A good leader is someone who believes in what the company does. He must have faith in it – if he doesn’t, it will never work. “
How to build a billion-dollar business
Looking back on his career, Harry cites three determinants of this success:
- You must be in the right industry. If you are in a failed industry, you will also fail.
- You must be in the right country. If you have a problem, it will be very difficult.
- You must be able to see other successful people who are similar to you. If they can, you can too.
Belief in Meriton Group, the company he founded in 1963, was something that Triguboff clearly had never lacked, and the boy succeeded. Now the largest and most successful housing developer in the country, after building, selling and renting more than 75,000 residential apartments and some of the highest occupancy towers in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
And on its way … Meriton recently announced that it had bought a development site in the Melbourne CBD, marking its first attempt at the Victoria market 56 years after Triguboff founded his apartment empire.
And to think about it all started with some very good advice from a friend: “‘Harry, we have to make a few flats’, that’s what my good friend said to me one day. So, we built the first eight units together. I immediately realized that I was doing all the work – I was small and thin, and he was big and fat, so everyone thought he was the boss! – but I know this is what I want to do. “
That does not mean this always happens. “When I was very young, I wanted to be like my father – he was my best mentor. As I get older, I just do things my way. I studied to become a textile engineer at the University of Leeds in England and after I qualified, I went to work in South Africa.
The biggest factory there gave me a job. However, after a few months, I saw the boss and I had to ask him, “Why do I work in the commercial sector and not the technical side of the business?” He called an engineer to his office and asked, “Who did that? You think you are more like me or him? ‘I say,’ You ‘. And he replied, “That’s why you are here.” He saw something in me that I never knew. I realized later that it is very important to understand what people think about you because they can often see you better than you see yourself. “
It was with this newly discovered self-awareness that Triguboff returned to Australia in 1960, became an Australian citizen a year later. With Triguboff who often described Sydney as ‘the best place in the world’, I asked him what he liked most about him. “I’m right,” he said simply.
“I found something that I mastered, and it was here. Of course, I can say it’s beautiful and the climate is good – it’s true, it does have all that. But there are other great places with good climate and beautiful scenery – Sydney is not unique in that. But I found that I am suitable here and that is why I like it. “
It is this openness of fact that makes Triguboff so liked and possibly very successful: he says what he means, and he does what he says. Especially when it comes to money. “In 1973, I was a big enough developer … not that big, but big enough. There is Alan Bond, Christopher Skase, the others … We borrowed a lot of money from America and then one day America came and said, ‘Harry, pay it’. I said, “How can I? I have a half-built building in the whole city, I can’t now but I will definitely reward you. ‘”
Triguboff, loyal to his words, pays them, little by little, every day. “I sold several units, I paid them back. I sell more, I pay more. The Americans were very impressed, they could not believe it. They were sure that I would never be able to reply and that I would just disappear. I said, “I’m not running away.” It was a challenging time but it was okay. I am still challenged every day, every time. The challenge is what makes it. “
According to Triguboff, this can overcome these challenges which are the most important keys to success. “When you run or own a business – this is the same thing – and there are problems, and there are always many problems, you must be able to fix them. Today you cannot fix it, you are not the best. “
There is no doubt Triguboff is still the best, not only because he is as sharp as a nail and is good at whipping but because he loves what he does. He continued to work every weekend – “I am a fanatic for that” – he spent the morning at work and in the afternoon in the office. Future plan?
“To keep going the same way. I am very close to the people who work here – they are like my family, no different. I want to be with them as long as I can, I want to be as useful as I can and work as much as I can. That’s all I want. “