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Lesson #2: “I learnt from that experience that people should be given a go.”
Ilhan's time at Ford had made him know what it was to be overlooked for positions despite being fully qualified. So, when he ran his own company, he made it a priority to ensure his staff felt valued. He instilled a democratic culture throughout his company, and toured the country to visit all of his staff and even take them out for bowling.
"It should be democratic, it should be on the table," he said. "Talk about the facts, performance, no emotion. Freedom of speech, whether it is me or the managing director down to the youngest courier driver. And you can do that in a smaller company." He also held a staff conference in Queensland to get feedback from his employees on their issues and ideas for the company.
"My experience working for a big company was that I was never given the freedom, I was never rewarded or appreciated," he says. "I learnt from that experience that people should be given a go. It is a simple thing, but most companies don't do it. How can you get people to really commit and care about your business like they would their own business? That's the trick." With a turnover rate of less than 15 percent among his senior management and 25 percent overall, it seemed his tricks were working.
He also offered impressive rewards and bonuses to his staff. Once, he gave his top performing 100 employees an all-expenses paid $500,000 holiday to Hawaii. This was preceded by trips to Fiji, Bali and Queensland, and Ilhan wanted to make this an annual event.
And Ilhan gave people a chance when others might not have. Of his secretary, Ilhan said, "My PA is a young girl. She is not qualified, but she has been trained. Sure she could learn a lot more, but we are sending her to a school and we are paying for it. But she is so dedicated and committed and has such a great work ethic - why wouldn't you work on someone like that and develop them?"
All of this gave Ilhan the right, he thought, to expect top performance and accountability. "My staff, if they dare sell a product, like for like, on a higher margin than somebody else, they will get two warnings and they will be out. Because you are robbing," Ilhan said.
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