Languages: German, Russian, English
Education: Marketing degree, Melbourne University
First job: Washing dishes in a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia (age 15). Eventually the owner of the restaurant was kind enough to buy me a black-tie outfit and made me a waiter. Six months later, I was the manager of the restaurant. It went on from there.
Career movers: CEO and a director of Salton Inc., August 1988 and founder; 1988 to July 1998, president; 1987 to 1988, president of the company's predecessor Salton Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of SEVKO Inc.; prior to 1987, managing director of Salton Australia Pty. Ltd.; 1988 to December 1993, officer and a director of Glacier Holdings Inc., and director of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Glacier Water Systems Inc., 1987 to 1993; 1989 to 1993, officer and director of Salton Time
Boards: Adler Planetarium; Goodman Theater; Better Business Bureau; deputy chairman, AMAP, South Africa
What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?
There is no such thing as a good deal with people you don't like, and there is no such thing as a bad deal with people you like.
What is the greatest business challenge you've faced and how did you overcome it?
The greatest business challenge I had was probably in 1989 with Salton. We had $67,000 of total availability of capital that we were turning every 11 minutes. We were so successful that the stress of how to finance inventory and receivables with all of the orders that were flowing into the small company that we ran -- at that time it was tough.
How did we manage? I can remember maxing out all of my credit cards on cash advances to ensure that we could get our next container of sandwich makers in on time for our customers' needs. And so did everybody else in the company.
They all chipped in; they worked long, long hours, and nobody worried what title they had and what they did. We then started leap-frogging and doubling our sales volume almost every year.
When things aren't going great -- and every company will have its ups and downs -- it's easy to go and review and see what you need to fix. But surviving a success -- many major successful people in the world have said surviving a success is probably the most difficult thing one can do.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I think I admire Bill Gates in business most for a number of reasons. One, he's always respectful of how successful Microsoft has become and how dominant in the industry they are. He's always maintained the caution that you are only as good as you were today, and tomorrow is a new day, and you can become too complacent and have your business spiral down the sink.
He's always been very conservative about his business approach, very careful with how he's grown his company, and never arrogant that he has it forever. He keeps on working to improve it, to make it better.
He is, from what I know, one of the most involved in charity work worldwide and has pretty much been extremely generous, not just with his company's involvement, but also with his own personal involvement in the various charitable trusts that he has established. I've never had any thing to fault him on, on the actions he has done.