Shane Fox began business life holding management positions within large multinational and national corporations throughout his early 20s and then found himself business brokering in 2003 after selling his very successful communications business.
He is now the Co-founder of Merchant Business Brokers, with his business Partner Ian Jones. Launched in 2016, it is already an award-winning firm due to the team’s focus on customer service for both vendors and buyers, as well as a commitment to innovation in their industry.
One of the first key points-of-difference for Merchant was to invest heavily in a highly advanced and innovative technology platform used by major institutions in other sectors to provide a superior level of connection between buyers and sellers.
- What journey led you to start your own business?
I have a history of being self-employed – back in 1998 I had my own business. I’ve been a Business Broker since 2003 and I’ve always had a passion for small business. It’s something I’ve had a burning desire for since 2003 and since coming out of self-employment.
Business broking is something you need a lot of confidence for as well as a lot of experience. Ultimately, it’s not a journey you can do easily on your own. There’s a lot of admin and a lot of IT involved.
I really needed someone to share the journey with, which became Ian Jones who is the Co-founder of Merchant. We started Merchant in around August last year. So it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, I just had to find the right teammate.
- Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I guess yes. From the days I left school I’d always had multiple jobs and I’d work in management positions very early. I worked for a Telstra dealership back in 1995, 1996 and 1997. I loved mentors back then, which was Crazy Johns and Strathfield Car Radios who were the movers and shakers in the phone industry then.
I went and opened up my own phone store when I was 26-years-old and threw myself into it. I had no idea about anything, which is great, because I wouldn’t have had the courage otherwise. And from there I just developed a really good small business.
Once that sold in 2003, I was ready to have a rest and be an employee. My wife and I bought a childcare centre in 2006, so it was her turn for self-employment. We had to get stable again with where we were at in life.
But yes, underneath and underlying, I always wanted to be self-employed. I’ve always had that flair and that spirit of building something, feeling successful and making it my own.
It took me a long time to get back there, but in the middle of last year Merchant Business Brokers was created and was my move back into the market, to being self-employed, and to allow me to use the passion I have for career business broking.
- What is one action or task you ensure you incorporate into your diary each week?
I do use my diary. It tells me everywhere I’ve got to be and when I’ve got to be there. I don’t traditionally do the allocation of time to follow up buyers and all that sort of thing, because that changes daily. So my to-do list is daily.
But one thing I love to do every week if I can is take the time to call someone who’s referred me business – somebody that I do a lot of business with – and take them out for a coffee or a bite to eat just to say thank you for supporting me and our business. It’s a great wine down for me and it’s a great way to build rapport. So that’s what I put in my diary. And if I can’t do it weekly, it’s very close to it.
- Who do you attribute your success to?
Right back to school time, my favourite subjects were economics and legal studies. I really enjoyed those subjects. We had the traditional school counsellor session – what do you want to do with yourself? I was always confused like most kids coming out of year 12, so I went on and completed studies in marketing and business. I had a natural interest in that sort of field.
I guess having my own business from age 26 gave me a lot of confidence. I had this organic transition between marketing, sales and having my own business. I’d held a couple of management positions through my early 20s running stores for national retail chains. Therefore, I had an organic confidence about me from my retail days, studying marketing and business and then having my own business. Early years – good confidence.
When I started as a business broker, it was about learning my craft and becoming very confident with dealing with people of all ages and all experiences. You really want to know how to deal with people that have years and decades of experience right through to someone who needs hand holding.
My success has probably been because I’ve been passionate about my industry. I love what I do, I love small business, I love Newcastle and I love dealing with people and helping them to sell their businesses. It’s a challenge; selling a business is the hardest asset you have to sell.
My success has probably come about because I love what I do. But I really do attribute it to having Merchant Business Brokers as my own business and having a really good team member in Ian Jones.
The success comes from so many things falling into place, a lot of hard work, a lot of determination and having a vision so we know where our business needs to be. And it’s always evolving; we don’t want to copycat other people. We’re always looking for new ways to challenge ourselves and we’ve got heaps of things in front of us that we want to do. So just a general transition from everything I’ve done, loving what I do and the people I have around me.
- Which local entrepreneur do you find inspiring?
There’s so many people that I aspire to. I really appreciate and love the local business person, mum and dad type businesses; they inspire me. But if we’re going a little bit big picture, I love what Neil Slater has done with Scratchleys. He’s been a very successful businessman, but he’s taken everything that he’s learned and he really has contributed to the community.
He’s had lots of big picture ideas, he’s great with charity and he’s great for Newcastle. So I’ve loved everything that Neil Slater has done.
Also Matt Hall; a country boy who had big dreams of saving the AeroPelican Airport. I love what he’s achieved. I really love those two guys for very different reasons related to what they’ve done.
But you know what? The mum and dad business operators with the courage to start a business, to employ people, to work hard and to put food on the table inspire me. The ones who are successful in particular. I just smile and think,”well done. You’ve done a great job”.
So lots of mentors – small, big, and everyone in between.