Dorry Kordahi’s approach to business is refreshingly simple.
“Business is about common sense, but common sense is uncommon. People tend to make their business overly complex,” he says.
“If you want to be successful you need to follow basic principles, keep the business simple and focus on cash flow. The smartest business people know that success is about spending as little as possible to make as much as possible.”
Dorry Kordahi grew up in Sydney’s western suburbs and trained as a hairdresser in his father’s business before starting his promotional merchandise company, DKM, in his parents’ garage nine years ago.
The business now turns over $10 million annually and has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, London and Shanghai. Kordahi has just signed a deal to open an office in Beirut, which will be the business’ Middle Eastern base.
Not a bad result for someone who failed his HSC and never went to uni.
Kordahi, who worked briefly with his older brother Danny and cousins in a wholesale T-shirt business after quitting hairdressing, decided to open his business following a stint travelling around the world, which he says he used to “get myself in the right mental frame”.
“I didn’t want to come back until I’d worked out everything I would need to know to run a business, things like tax, accounting and the legalities of starting a business,” he says.
On his return, he immersed himself in every aspect of the business, from accounts, to product and logistics.
“One of my most important lessons was to be hands-on, so when I started hiring, I understood the different roles,” he says.
Kordahi credits his success to his determination “not to cut corners with the brand by building a good quality website and business cards and by identifying a niche”.
“There are 5000 competitors in my market and it’s very cut-throat. But I didn’t want to position the business at the bottom end – I wanted to be a management company,” he says.
“My vision was to take myself out of just selling products and instead consult to marketing managers and come up with solutions and ideas about how to manage their budget. It’s about thinking for them and making them look good.”
His ability to find a point of difference from his competitors is not the only innovative aspect of Kordahi’s business. He also launched the first industry magazine for branded products, which can generate up to $140,000 in sales per issue.
The publication, Branded, is inserted into marketing trade publications including Marketing magazine, B&T and Direct Marketing magazine twice a year. And although it costs him $20,000 to produce, he sells ads to product suppliers, revenue from which negates the cost of publishing.
Intriguingly, Kordahi says his early interest in basketball has informed his attitude towards business.
“I took a lot of my business lessons about my mental approach and the need to visualise success and the importance of preparation from basketball,” he explains.
Kordahi, who played a short stint in professional basketball in Lebanon and in the NSW state league, was a towel boy for the Sydney Kings at the age of 12 and by 31 was a part-owner in the team (he no longer has a financial interest).
He also says an early decision to open a Shanghai office is an important key to the business’ success.
“Being able to directly import products has helped me increase my margins, given me better product control and access to a much bigger market of products. And I’m still in partnership with the same guy I opened the office with all those years ago.”
Kordahi has been named in BRW’s Fast Starters list two years in a row, debuted on the BRW Young Rich list last year and was also a finalist in the 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
As for the future, Kordahi says he wants the business to be number one in its market. He also wants to mentor other entrepreneurs and increase his public speaking engagements.
“There are so many people doing the wrong thing in business – and helping them isn’t about the dollars – you get a good feeling when you help someone,” he says.
*Kordahi’s first book, Power to Act, is out now.