Leader of the pack: Jack Delosa, Founder & CEO of The Entourage
Founder of The Entourage, Jack Delosa, discusses education models, entrepreneurship and why you can’t run a business on ‘love, trust and pixie dust’.
Today’s world of business looks vastly different to 20 years ago. As baby boomers transition into retirement, millennials have risen through the ranks as the new corporate leaders and new business founders. And as the flow of veterans steadily continues to travel downstream, a tide of bright young entrepreneurs is rising all over the world. But age is not all that separates the two generations — gen Y and gen Z bring with them whole new values, working styles and education needs — and no-one sees this better than the founder of one of the most disruptive education platforms for entrepreneurs, Jack Delosa.
People are starting businesses to create a meaningful life for themselves and look after the people around them
“Up-and-coming generations are dissatisfied with traditional education and the traditional career path. So, more and more people are starting to look to new paths; it may be ‘I want to start my own business’, or it may just be ‘I want to work with a business I find meaningful’,” says Jack. As Founder and CEO of The Entourage, a training organisation for entrepreneurs that has racked up a community of 300,000 members worldwide, Jack sees that in many business situations, the image must be flipped. Instead of learning on the go, Jack and all of his students want to focus on learning first, to increase the chances of business success for entrepreneurs, while also changing the role that money plays in a company.
“The main generational change with entrepreneurship today is that those who are starting their own businesses do not necessarily want to be the next Warren Buffet. This generation don’t start businesses to become billionaires; they start businesses because they want to contribute something. They want to create a meaningful life for themselves, and they want to be in a position from a resources and financial perspective to be able to look after the people around them,” explains Jack. “Fortunately, I think the world has moved on from that Wall Street paradigm.”
As for Jack, his story starts when he was just 5 years old, when he became aware of the work his parents were doing as the heads of a not-for-profit organisation called Breaking the Cycle. “They’d take long-term unemployed youth off the street, and they’d put them through a three-month training program to give them life skills and employment skills. Then they’d place these young adults into jobs,” he points out. “They were the most successful job placement agency for long-term unemployed youth in Australia. They’d take highly at-risk kids who were on and off drugs, kids who were in and out of jail, kids who were from abusive homes.
“That was really formative for me at a young age, and it gave me an inbuilt dissatisfaction with traditional education, because it obviously didn’t serve everybody,” he says. Another takeaway Jack attained from his parents’ business was that people’s lives could transform when put in the right environment and given the right support. Some of the organisation’s successful transitioners sometimes lived with Jack and his parents, becoming like his siblings as they felt the support of a family for the first time.
“The main generational change with entrepreneurship today is that those who are starting their own businesses do not necessarily want to be the next Warren Buffet … they start businesses because they want to contribute something.” – Jack Delosa
Sadly, the third-biggest lesson Jack learned from Breaking the Cycle came when it was unceremoniously forced to close, despite its success, following the Victorian Government’s 1995 decision to restructure the funding models of not for profits.
“Breaking The Cycle was unsuccessful under the new regime, so the organisation collapsed. Thousands of kids who could have been helped would now go back to jail, do drugs on the street, or even die, because of a lack of finance. So one of the things my father said to me afterwards was: ‘You can’t run an organisation on love, trust, and pixie dust. It needs to be underpinned with commercial and financial sustainability’. The intent and the efforts of Breaking The Cycle really gave me quite a social DNA as a human being, but it also reiterated to me that in order for an organisation to scale, even if you are in the business of making a difference, money is the fuel that will enable it to do so.” But rather than be a road to riches, money to Jack has always represented the same thing it has to most of his students — the means to deliver a service or product they think is missing.
‘We make money to deliver and scale education’
“At The Entourage, we don’t deliver education to make money; we make money to deliver and scale education,” says Jack. He explains that education is at a crossroads. Historically, institutions such as universities and private colleges have been able to rely on the old paradigm that the future will resemble the past. “They assumed change would happen slowly, and whatever happened in the last 20 years, something similar will happen in the next 20 years, and therefore education was relatively static and consistent,” he says. This has continued despite a wealth of rapid real-world changes, with the latest research from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) suggesting as much as 40% of all jobs in Australia will be automated within 20 years.
“We live in a world where Snapchat has a higher valuation than Deutsche Bank, and Netflix is now larger than CBS. The world is not only changing; the world has already changed fundamentally, and that is only increasing,” says Jack. As an example, he cites a statistic delivered by Harvard professor and disruption specialist Clayton Christensen when presenting to the Utah Higher Education Appropriations Committee in 2012. “He believed that higher education, for the first time in history, was ripe for disruption. This was because in 2012, Harvard produced $4 billion in revenue. So revenues are still going up, and everyone is happy. But how much did they spend on making teaching better? Zero dollars,” says Jack.
Students are being taught outdated strategies
“Education globally is a $4.4 trillion industry, but very few people are looking at the product or revising what’s being taught. In a lot of instances, in our research around universities, we find what’s being taught is often counter-productive. It’s not that it’s a neutral ball game, that students are wasting their time and money; it’s worse than that. They’re being taught outdated strategies that were applicable in the corporate world in the 80s. They’re not being taught strategies that apply for starting and building businesses today.”
In founding The Entourage, Jack has attempted to right this wrong and create a culture of prepared future business leaders, covering everything from mindset and psychology through to start-up strategies, product-to-market fit, proving a business case, minimising risk, effective marketing, and much more in its comprehensive curriculums, which are developed in conjunction with industry and other entrepreneurs. “We discuss the right attitudes, effective marketing on a shoestring budget, how to attract the right customers into your business; and we talk about online strategies and how to become number one online in your marketplace,” he says.
“It’s important topics like these, through to more senior stuff like the management and leadership of people, building value and raising money, and ultimately running a business or exiting and selling it off; if that’s what the entrepreneur wants to do. So it’s a very pragmatic curriculum, delivered by people who have ‘been there, done that’ experience.”
Unsurprisingly, Jack also falls into this category, having first branched into business at the age of 18, following four years of studying psychology, leadership and politics after his parents’ company closed.
‘I made every mistake in the book’
“I dropped out of a commerce–law degree, borrowed $20,000 from a very reluctant bank, and started a business-to-business call centre in Melbourne,” says Jack. “I think of that as my apprenticeship period. It went for a couple of years. I made every mistake in the book, was working harder than anyone else I knew, was losing money, going backwards and not making any visible progress.” But he was still making progress, he says, by developing his understanding of how to start and build a business. “Soon after, I shut that down and went on to my second business, which was relatively successful. Then I went on to my third business, founding a company called MBE Education, which was hugely successful.” MBE Education assisted small- and medium-sized enterprises in Australia to raise money from investors and ultimately build value to go on and exit their business.
“I co-founded that with a guy called Reuben Buchanan, who was also the co-founder of Wealth Creator magazine and Wholesaler Investor magazine. MBE shifted the needle in terms of how capable the SME market in Australia was.” Through MBE Education, Jack and Reuben helped their clients raise hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, while also building their own reputation and a network of entrepreneurs and others working or consulting in that sphere, at the same time building the financial foundation needed for Jack to go on to start The Entourage in 2010. “I didn’t invest any capital into The Entourage; we were fuelled out of a mixture of dissatisfaction with traditional education and inspiration because I believed we could play a part in changing it.”
Jack demonstrates excellence in business and leadership through his purpose-driven organisation
Today, The Entourage is Australia’s largest educator and community of entrepreneurs and innovators, delivering programs for business owners and potential start-up founders that will help them to start and build businesses. Through The Entourage, Jack also demonstrates his capability as a businessman and a leader, giving confidence to his pupils, with the company awarded the fourth-best place to work with under 100 employees in Australia by BRW.
“I think that at the centre of our growth is the fact that we’re a purpose-driven organisation that genuinely cares. I think that the more businesses can genuinely find and connect to a purpose that they care about, the further their vision will travel,” says Jack. He also has a history of success in his field, having contributed to the development of the curriculum for The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in South Africa the same year he founded The Entourage. He has been named one of Australia’s ‘Top 10 Entrepreneurs Under 30’ twice by Dynamic Business magazine and SmartCompany, and he has featured in the BRW ‘Young Rich List’ since 2014.
Along the way, Jack has also become an investor, investing in growth companies such as Q-Biotics, Martin Jet Pack, eMerchants, and founding The Entourage Growth Fund to invest in start-up businesses. His success has clearly not been kept to himself, with a considerable number of The Entourage’s alumnae also rising through the ranks. “Today, our graduates pepper the lists of BRW ‘Fast Starters’, and are being recognised in various ‘young entrepreneur awards’ all around Australia, because we’ve got a model that enables us to truly educate and enable people to start and build great companies,” Jack says. “I love genuinely improving the lives of our students. We’re very fortunate that we’re in a position where we help people to grow into the best versions of themselves; we equip them with the practical skills to be successful in tomorrow’s world, and we get to see the direct results of all of our blood, sweat and tears on a daily basis.” Moving forward, Jack says, the company hopes to continue to expand into new regions and cities after recently opening up a development centre in Melbourne to complement its Sydney headquarters, with another centre due to open in Brisbane in early 2017.
“Popular opinion will not agree with you; therefore, you need to become very resilient and very much guided by your own voice and your own intuition.” – Jack Delosa
Once The Entourage consolidates its business in Australia, which is expected to take another two to three years, Jack says it intends to look at international expansion, with researchers already placed in Singapore to assess the market. The company has also grown to include a consultancy and training platform for CEOs and senior management for large-scale organisations who want to hone their entrepreneurial and innovation skills. Known as The Entourage Beanstalk Factory, big names like Suncorp, Monash University, Queensland Government, Hoyts, Telstra, and News Corp number among its clients — but Jack’s main focus remains educating and inspiring entrepreneurs. “The best advice I could give an aspiring entrepreneur is that, when following a non-traditional path, you’re going to come up against conventional wisdom,” says Jack. “Popular opinion will not agree with you; therefore, you need to become very resilient and very much guided by your own voice and your own intuition. The voice inside of you needs to be louder than the voices outside of you.”
Unwritten: Exploring the stories of people who have changed the course of history
In his latest book, Unwritten, Jack explores the unique and shared qualities of people who have changed the course of history, from Michelangelo and Einstein to JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey.
“I look at these people and I ask two questions: first, how did they get so much out of themselves on a daily basis; and second, how did they touch the hearts and minds of so many others? Unwritten takes a look at the common principles and practices of those who are able to truly grow into the best version of themselves, and maximise the impact and the contribution that they can make.”
You can download the PDF version (as seen in the magazine) below...