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The unlikely entrepreneur: Alan Manly on being a rule breaker

Alan Manly is an entrepreneur, company director and author. Manly is the ‘unlikely entrepreneur’. As a rule breaker and an out of the box thinker, he was able to climb the ladder to success.

Manly is a successful businessman but doesn’t view himself as ‘glamorous’. He sees himself as part of the group of successful entrepreneurs who have quietly set up businesses and contributed highly to the business world without much media attention. These are the characters we don’t often hear about.

Dynamic Business sat down with Alan Manly to find out more about being the ‘Unlikely Entrepreneur’.

Tell us about your inspiration behind the ‘Unlikely Entrepreneur’.

There are lots of books about the glamourous super smart high fliers that have made zillions. I thought that there are many successful entrepreneurs who have quietly set up businesses employing tens of people and contributed to the business community. These unsung entrepreneurs have not only gained rewards such  as personal satisfaction, income much higher than wages that could be earned. I saw myself as one of the thousands of entrepreneurs who had been successful but were not in the glamorous field.

What is it that makes you ‘unlikely’ to be an entrepreneur?

Many successful people were raised to be inspired to greater things. This also applies to entrepreneurs, many were raised in an environment that encouraged and supported taking measured risks. I felt that with my background I was perhaps the reverse. My mother believed that the less risk the better. The goal was a permanent position a govt job would be what was needed as in safe and secure. Hence I left school at 15 and became a postie wearing a grey uniform riding a red push bike.

What advice do you have for those who have a great idea but don’t think they are the cookie cutter ‘entrepreneur’.

Don’t be distracted by what other’s think. Entrepreneurs are not mainstream people. Their greatest strength is of course also their greatest weakness. They take risks and we all hope as we watch that they can work their way through the issues that their risk taking has exposed them to. Every entrepreneur has a different story. It is only from a great distance do they look similar. The goal of all entrepreneurial business is survival. Achieving that and all other issues become manageable.

Tell us about founding Group Colleges? How did this idea come about?

The observation was made that education institutions in Australia are usually govt funded and have all the characteristics of  govt departments as in very bureaucratic and inefficient. The perceived opportunity was for a group of college to funded modern computerise management systems.  The competitive edge would be the cost saving in the back office.

You dropped out of high school and found your way to success in the education field. In what way is education important to becoming an entrepreneur?

Knowledge is power. Education is a formal way of gaining knowledge. Informal processes such as voracious reading is another way many self taught people gain an edge. Either way it is an ongoing challenge to obtain as much information about a wide range of issues to see an opportunity that further supports your ideas and your business. Networking with smart people is also a way to gain what other well informed people are thinking.

You have spoken about the networking nightmare in the past. How can a busy entrepreneur combat this ‘nightmare’?

Practise does make perfect. With practise you will learn to make it, even if you at first have to fake that delighted to meet you smile. All business is relationship based. Networking in person accelerates the personal confidence process. Unfortunately you have to meet and greet a lot of people to get the ones that need your services. Staying home alone will allow you to feel the  “vibe” of what is happening in your industry. You will never meet a person who can’t teach you something. Even if they prove to you that their thinking is cazy at least you now know that some folks think that way.

You hold many titles and juggle many positions. How important is time management and delegation?

I suspect the answer is in the question. You get a lot more time if you are brave enough to delegate. That can be confronting for the lone wolf entrepreneur who takes risks and moves fast. How do they keep that advantage if they are leading a herd of folks around. That raises the question of the depth of knowledge that your support staff have. If you don’t have faith in them it is not their fault. You hired the wrong people. You have to surround yourself with smart people that you can have confidence in .


What is new on the agenda for you?

The MBA school, UBSS, has taken many years to build. Based on the education depts. National  Student Experience Survey, known as QILT. Our MBA School  is now  amongst the best in Australia. Having achieved that success now it the time to invest in expanding to other locations.



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Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher

Gali Blacher, editor, Dynamic Business

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