Dorry Kordahi's new book 'Win Big Risk Small' reveals his meteoric rise in the ragtrade. In this exclusive series, he reveals some of his winning strategies.
When I look back on my life I am often surprised by how much it has changed.
It has been a long climb and one that is far from finished. But when I think about me as a person, I see the same one staring back at me in the mirror each day and I feel the same too. I think that best describes humility. People often misinterpret the phrase humble beginnings.
They think it means to be financially poor and for some that may be true.
For me, humility is leading my life by a set of life values that have been instilled in me since I was a child. I might have started out with no money but, despite my success I still consider myself very fortunate to have maintained my sense of humility.
That is just as well because when I was a teenager I failed my HSC examination in everything but business management and that included failing religious studies. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact that I went to a Catholic school!
Fortunately, my parents were there to help and my dad offered me an apprenticeship in his hairdresser’s salon. With little or no other options, I gratefully accepted his offer.
Despite that, I always dreamed of doing more with my life, even if I wasn’t sure exactly what. In fact, there were days when I thought about little else. I knew I could do a lot more, but could not yet see my path.
Then an opportunity came along for me to change direction through one of my cousins who had a wholesale clothing business. I spoke to my dad about it and though he was disappointed that I would not take over his business as he had hoped, he knew it was a decision I had to make.
I loved the retail industry from the moment I stepped foot in it. I loved all the wheeling and dealing and quickly became excelled at what I did. However, my early success still left me feeling unfulfilled because I was being held back from exploring my own abilities and learning more. It didn’t seem fair at the time, but looking back it was a blessing in disguise.
Despite the frustration, I knew I had found what I wanted to do.
I wanted to link this new-found passion to fulfilling my own destiny, and for that, I needed somewhere I could plan!
In the end the solution for me was simple - I quit my job and left for Europe.
I thought it would only be for a few weeks, so did my family. In the end, it lasted six months.
I had fallen in love with European style, especially that of the French Riviera. Suddenly I could see the chasm between that style and the home-spun variety I had been brought up with, and it started me thinking. What if I could harness that style in the Australian promotional market?
There was no what if. I knew I could!
Eventually I returned home with a few pages of a scribbled business plan, which I have kept to this day. It was not long before I turned my plans into actions and I founded my company DKM, initially running it from the shed in my parents’ backyard.
I also worked very hard to forge a B2B connection with China at a time when trading directly with it was virtually unheard of in the industry. That became and remains one of DKM’s principal competitive advantages.
That advantage was a prime factor in enabling me to triple my turnover in just a couple of years and move to my first commercial premises. Moreover, using my Win Big, Risk Small formula meant I was able to create the same turnover as my competitors, but with 75% fewer staff than the industry average and with a much bigger margin.
Of course, there have been more moves over the years and we now have the one of largest showrooms of its type in Australia. Not only that, but in recent years I have spearheaded a series of acquisitions that have taken the DKM Group into numerous other business arenas.
Today, our activities range from promotional merchandise to corporate clothing, five women’s and men’s fashion labels, hosiery and even surf gear. This sort of diversity means we are unique in our field. Not only that, but this carefully orchestrated multi-channel business structure has allowed me to spread risk and increase profits exponentially.
Despite this, I’m always prepared for new challenges and look forward to taking on setbacks and enjoying the triumphs of tomorrow. While I continue to experience new things and grow as a person, I have no intention of losing my humility, because that is precisely what keeps me going.