From growing up in a caravan in Scotland to making mega-bucks from pet food and owning a motor racing track, or two, Tony Quinn has had an eventful life. The self-made millionaire has an eclectic portfolio: he owns two motor-racing tracks and two confectionery companies. He tells his story to Kathryn Ryan.
"I always say to people that I am a quick learner and I am strategic at what I do."
The thing that sums up my early years in Scotland is that I went to a private school for a minute and I passed the exam to get in, of course my mum and dad couldn’t afford the fees, that was always a problem… there was this chess championship. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know how to play it, but it was kind of compulsory that you played it. The tournament started and I played it and won it. And I always say to people that I am a quick learner and I am strategic at what I do. I think that sums up how I am, what I am.
"Whatever it is, I like to do the very best I can at whatever I put my hands to."
People think I am passionate about cars, which I am to an extent, but I am probably more passionate about competition, more passionate about the game and about doing well in the game, whether it’s the game of life or the game of motorsport. Whatever it is, I like to do the very best I can at whatever I put my hands to.
"It is nothing short of hard work. I don’t know anything else."
You’ve gotta believe in what you’re doing. For most entrepreneurs it comes from deep in your stomach and then your heart takes over, and you’ve just gotta keep going. It is nothing short of hard work. I don’t know anything else. I take my hat off to people who invent something like Google or whatever it is, I have no idea how they do it or even how it works, I am useless at it. But digging holes and moving buildings or creating a brand, delivering on your promise, all of those things I can do.
The three rules of business:
The first thing is you must have a brand. The brand is the most important thing in any business.
The second thing is that you must deliver. Whatever the brand promises, you must deliver it. Come hell or high water you have got to do it.
You shouldn’t be practicing about it. If you are in business, you are in business to make money and employ people, develop progress, improve everybody’s surroundings and do it honestly. I think if you do that, all of the accolades come to you.
On the difference in doing business in New Zealand and in Australia:
The fundamental business difference between New Zealand and Australia is that it is a little bit tougher to compete in New Zealand because the market is a little bit tighter and the Kiwis themselves are very capable people and they will make things happen. Whereas on the other side of the Tasman the Aussies will talk about doing stuff and they will invariably fail or they make up excuses for why it hasn’t happened.
"You only get one crack at life, you’ve gotta give it the best shot."
Anything I do I want it to be top quality. I don’t really buy into the cheap and cheerful stuff. You only get one crack at life, you’ve gotta give it the best shot. When you build something that’s quality, you will find that through thick and thin, quality will always win through. That gets back to the number one rule of business: the brand. You have got to have a brand that is strong and quality.