- Disrupting Markets–Lessons From the Front Line
- Why Everyone in Business Needs To Think and Act Like An Entrepreneur
- The Business of Innovation*
- How To Identify And Create Opportunities In Any Sector
Paul Breen tells you the things that are otherwise unspoken, shows you the things that are otherwise hidden, and takes on issues that are otherwise avoided. This is especially critical when the pressure is on, time is short or things have gone pear-shaped. When he is done, you walk away bruised and exhausted but thankful … energised to embrace the future.
Why is Paul so successful? Look at Calendar Club and the many other businesses that Paul has been involved with. What is it that he does, that leaves a ‘better, healthier business’ behind when he moves on?
Paul is successful because he sees things that many struggle to find, let alone where to look for them. The small things that people overlook in their profit driven goals. I once walked a warehouse with Paul who watched as two men did a task, he immediately broke down the task that both men were doing and reassembled them in his head to allow one man to do both tasks! How many CEO’s walk their warehouse and look for those hidden gems – small details that can add up to increased profits, reduced costs or improved customer service. Paul is equally at home with data. Give him a P&L and he will tell you where you need to be putting your focus, then he will tell you what you need to do to bring that line back into balance to deliver a better result.
I always wonder why Paul does not stay on as a CEO somewhere. Surely he could be one of the most successful CEO’s of our time with his overall business acumen and strategic thinking. But I know that it is because he is a true ‘entrepreneur’. Look at the dictionary’s interpretation of the word – “an entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the risks and the outcome.” Many people claim to be an entrepreneur with a great idea but those that know Paul will recognise that he absolutely ‘assumes significant accountability’, delivers the outcome, then moves on to the next big idea, of which he seems to have an endless supply.
I cannot adequately express the indefinable extra that Paul has brought to my business –challenging, stimulating, thought-provoking, straight and honest and always full of valuable insights.
Paul has the rare ability to unlock the true potential within organisations and more importantly its individuals. Helping cut clearly through the myriad of distractions and daily clutter, Paul assists to create a focus that can transform businesses from mediocre to high performance. He’s one of a kind.
The world is full of advisors, accountants, lawyers, consultants, all of whom may be intellectually brilliant. All of them make it their job to tell you how to improve your business, solve a problem or manage a situation. But very few of them have actually “done it” themselves.
Paul Breen is one such person. He has done the lot – done several start-ups – created a market leader from scratch that is still going strong after 20 years – been a CEO of a large organisation – done deals – invested in some winners and some losers too – and even successfully turned failing businesses around.
As long as I have known Paul his approach always starts with uncovering a ‘customer need’ and asking lots of question. He won’t propose changes, improvements, new strategies etc without first clearly getting to grips with what the need is. From this comes everything else. He has proven over and over the success of this approach. He is one of the best innovators and creators that I know.
In the perfect storm of business, it is easy to fall into the trap of short-termism. Carried by the motion and the ideas of the day, you start changing strategies as often as your clothes and end up exhausting your organisation and your customers. In such a time you need a voice of reason, someone who will get you to stop and if you are not listening will smack your head back on your shoulders to make you think through what your end goal is, dissect it with old fashioned Aussie pragmatism and move with slow haste. That person is Paul Breen. A wealth of experience carved out of rich career across a variety of businesses, including his own Calendar Club. Paul will tell it to you like it is, get you to plan your way through any challenge and offer encouragement as needed. He can be a sounding board or smashing board depending on the circumstances. Most of all he has seen it all and will share his knowledge, experience and insights without boasting or condescension. If the world business angel didn’t exist, he would be the definition of it.
The autogas industry is facing significant structural change and an uncertain future. Paul led Unigas through a strategic review, using design thinking, to help us focus on the needs of the end user and how we can influence their purchasing decisions. It was a difficult exercise that forced us to widen our perspective and to challenge many old beliefs. In the end sensible, value-accretive solutions emerged which we are confident will give us the best possible chance to prosper. Paul’s clear thinking and disciplined approach was instrumental in getting us to this point.
One of the best and most innovative thinkers in business that I have ever encountered.
Paul is a builder. Of businesses, relationships, students, processes, friendships and advocates. No, he is more than that. He is a master builder. He has built businesses from the ground up. How he did it was either ahead of his time or he used time honoured principles better than anyone else. I suspect it was a bit of both. At the centre of his approach is discipline but within that discipline is a marvellously innovative and creative mind that allows the businesses he is involved with to leap ahead in the market place constantly surprising the competition. He is also one of the few people that I know that can think and deliver end to end – from the birthing of an idea to its successful execution.
I’ve no doubt Paul could have led any major corporation he chose to. But he is an entrepreneur in his veins and chose to tread a different path. I hope he feels well-deserved pride whenever he walks past a Calendar Club store or any of the myriad of other businesses that he has helped and improved.
A couple of years into my first entrepreneurial business venture I was truly stuck in second gear. Many people, myself included, had tried to help me shift-up, but nothing made long term impact. Then Paul Breen came along. To say I was pushed and probed in very searching, thought-provoking ways is an understatement. Paul busted through my “smoke screen” of self-protection and made me answer questions that no one had ever dared ask prior. I’ve been in overdrive ever since.
Paul is both a friend of our firm as well as an accomplished contributor and lecturer at our university-accredited, Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The experience he brings, as an entrepreneur and innovator, has been invaluable. He managed to captivate the class with his personal case studies of success and failure which is no mean feat considering the audience comprised senior executives from the banking, legal and finance sectors. That he did this is a testament to his strength in communication and ability to engage with an audience. This doesn’t happen if the person does not believe in what they are saying. It’s even more powerful when he can back it up with hard business experience earned at the coal-face.
When Paul speaks about his experiences and the lessons to be learned you can tell he genuinely loves to pass on the messages to others and help them to succeed with their own innovation and entrepreneur goals, whatever they may be. Outside of lecturing, the Institute has recognised Paul’s business and advisory skills in the innovation space. Paul was recently invited to participate in a think tank on the future of the Institute, sharing ideas alongside other accomplished thought leaders in innovation. Again Paul’s contributions to this think tank were invaluable.
Recently I was at the crossroads with my fast growing business and was lucky enough to be able to seek counsel from many successful friends and associates – including Paul.
The wisdom and clarity of thinking I received from Paul was without parallel – it helped keep me sane and move me forward. As a result Paul is now Chairman of my Advisory Board and provides me with guidance on a range of crucial issues as I gear up for our next stage of growth.
Paul’s accomplishments speak for themselves (that’s a good thing, as he’s reluctant to talk about himself). What you really need to know is that Paul is the real deal. He’s a genuine, honest and otherwise centred human who walks his talk every day. He’s the same guy in every situation, always does what he says he will and a leader in every sense of the word.
What you should also know is that Paul’s methods (his piercing questions, clarity of thought and unrelenting search for the raw truth) are awesome. Once you let go of your ego and embrace an open attitude… You’ll have lasting knowledge imparted, authentic black and white assumptions to (re)commence from, and insights to use as beacons once things get murky.
Just like a search and rescue helicopter can discover those lost in the dark – Paul can help you carve a new business path, whatever that may be.
Paul is one of the most commercially inquisitive and original people I have ever met. He genuinely enjoys seeking out and solving market problems and eliminating inefficiencies in the business sector, wherever he finds them. Best of all he has the innate ability to inspire and take people on the journey with him. As a result he has developed a very strong network of people which only enhances his abilities.
Paul is quite simply a ‘go-to’ guy. His extensive business experience and his willingness to ask the (very) hard questions have had a profound impact on my career. There is rarely a problem, or opportunity, that I’ve come across that a conversation with Paul has not only resolved but has led to the best outcome being achieved. He has been, and remains, my greatest mentor.
An entrepreneur and engaging agitator of change who leaves you buzzing for hours. He sees barely-visible opportunities and has a different perspective, has learnt from real world battles, and applies that knowledge to help you win in business and in life. He is a member of our Mastermind Board, which has allowed us to achieve super-charged growth, year on year.
An amazing individual! He has made a career of out of recognising and creating opportunities out of nothing and seeing market trends and gaps earlier than most. Paul is intelligent, street savvy, warm, generous and supportive. He never disappoints you. In my own experience I’ve learnt more in a single day from Paul than I would in a year from most people. He has unique skills and is a remarkable guy.
When I think of entrepreneurs Paul Breen is one of the first that comes to mind. He is incredibly creative and innovative, but disciplined too. He works all the angles in maximising opportunities and mitigating risks. His track record speaks for itself and I have been fortunate to have him as an early stage investor in my first business, Epay Australia, which was a wonderful and successful experience. Paul simply ‘gets it’, an uncommon skill in business.
Paul was a key advisor to Real Institute during its high growth period from 2012 to 2014. Such was the regard we held in him that we appointed him Chairman of our Advisory Board in late 2013 to guide us towards our ‘exit’ objectives in 2016.
As it turned out Paul played a significant role in setting us up for a phenomenal exit two years earlier than planned when we sold the business to an ASX-listed company in mid-2014.
Paul’s deep understanding of ‘deal strategy’, his coolness under pressure, his clarity of thinking and his strong negotiating and mentoring skills were outstanding during what was a high stress time for us leading up to the closing of the deal. We are already in the midst of planning our next venture with Paul.
I first heard Paul speak on innovation at an event in early 2010. I invited him to come and visit my fledgling social enterprise, STREAT. At that time, all I had was a big dream of changing the lives of hundreds of homeless young people, and a tiny food cart on Federation Square where we provided the youth with hospitality training.
From that very first visit Paul rolled up his sleeves and got to work helping me. I was completely new to hospitality and retail, and he was a veteran. He was generous with his knowledge and quickly demonstrated his value to STREAT beyond being a personal advisor to me, its CEO. He’s been on our Board of Directors ever since.
Paul thinks deeply about ideas. He gets up really close to them to see their component parts and sees how they’re constructed. He rolls them over. He prods them. He pulls them apart. He makes them interact with other ideas and the greater system. And once he has a strong understanding, you can always rely on his frank and fearless advice on the direction forward.
I’ve not only valued Paul’s thoughtfulness over the last five years, but have also learnt a lot from the process he uses in thinking problems through. And when I’m trying to make a hard decision I often invoke Paul’s wisdom, asking myself ‘What would Paul do right now?’
The great news is that he’s now captured his wisdom in a very digestible book. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!