Getting started

How to build a billion-dollar brand according to serial entrepreneur Richard Turner

- December 21, 2022 4 MIN READ
Richard Turner

Life as an entrepreneur is full of ups and downs; take it from someone who has not only done it all, but done it several times over.

Richard Turner is a renowned entrepreneur, founding several billion-dollar companies, including clean energy retailer, ZEN Energy. A former Australian Entrepreneur of the Year, Richard has dedicated his career to pursuing innovation, sustainability and achieving industry disruption. Joining Cec Busby, Editor of Flying Solo, Richard shares some of his biggest learnings and advice on the fundamentals of business success for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Success depends on innovation, not industry

Growing up watching his father’s success in his meat processing and wholesale business, Richard quickly learned the value in the ability to adapt and change. Trying his hand at the new phenomenon that was computer coding during his Bachelor of Business, Richard was primed to take over the family business, automating and systemising processes to keep up with demand.

“My first job was to automate the whole livestock trading process … I was only 21,” Richard says. “The competitive advantage that gave the business in the market and how that business developed and evolved from there gave me an insight into innovation and disruption in an industry.”

Richard’s passion for reinvention and improvement continued to fuel his business pursuits over the next few decades. Bringing his expertise to a number of sectors, he’s proven that success comes from pursuing passion and innovation, two traits that can be applied to any idea.

For instance, Richard’s second business venture was another family pursuit, Regency Food Services. He and his brothers dove head-first into the food service distribution industry, researching what was being done globally and where opportunity for improvement lay.

“If you had a restaurant, takeaway or catering business at the time, you were generally dealing with lots of suppliers because of the different temperature zones and logistics required,” explains Richard. “There was an opportunity to start consolidating that and become the first total food service supplier, being the one-stop shop for everything, and setting up the first complex multi-temperature zone warehousing system.”

Richard’s knack for innovation didn’t stop there. Continuing to think about how they could more efficiently service their hospitality-industry clientele, the Turner brothers introduced the country’s first 24-hour food distribution operation.

“We were last to take orders, we got the orders right, we had the relationship with the customers, and we were first on the road with the deliveries the next day,” Richard says. “That obviously created a very significant point of difference in the market for the business.”

Listen to Richard Turner on the Flying Solo podcast:

Disrupting an industry takes guts, resilience, and a lot of planning

In 2004, Richard founded yet another ground-breaking business, ZEN Energy, focused on sustainable energy technologies. Inspired by an opportunity he discovered while playing in his kids’ cubby house, Richard foresaw a new venture – a chance to develop the renewable energy system and the sector.

“A really important thing for people trying to separate themselves from the masses and be found in the market is to create,” Richard says. “If you’re going to disrupt, change or create a market, give it a name … so we called this market ‘home energy’.”

This clever branding and marketing choice came from a pre-emptive desire to expand in the future, predicting that other technologies would emerge in conjunction.

What makes a business truly successful

From the get-go, Richard’s businesses have taken flight with systematic planning in place to support long-term growth, just one of his most recommended nuggets of advice to any aspiring business owner.

“The critical ones are validating the idea, developing the startup business plan, spending the time that you need to be confident in the plan, testing it out, piloting it, talking to industry people, and understanding how to finance your business,” Richard says.

He also urges fellow entrepreneurs to remember that thorough planning includes not only ideation and processes, but also the people you employ.

“The young girl I employed as my receptionist when she was 20 is now the CEO of that multi-billion dollar business in Australia,” Richard explains. “You don’t just employ someone to be the receptionist forever; employ someone that has the potential to develop within the organisation and go on that journey.”

Innovation and industry disruption are, and always have been, the primary aspirations for Richard in his business pursuits.

“There’s no point in going into business if you’re just going to compete day-to-day with companies that already exist, because people don’t buy sameness, they buy difference,” he says.

Richard shares more about where his fascinating journey in business has taken him over the years, offering practical advice for anyone interested in sharpening their entrepreneurial tools in this episode of Flying Solo.

Richard Turner on the Flying Solo podcast


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