A butcher by trade, Spiro Michas grew up working before and after school in the family meat business. Raised by immigrant parents from Greece, he was taught to “get a job, earn a living and roll up your sleeves”. He left school in Year 10 to enter the industry full-time and eventually took a job at Coles Supermarkets.
“During that time, I learned a lot being in that sector,” he recalls. “I learned about work ethic and ensuring that all the work gets done within a time frame. They were long days and hours, with not a lot of money involved. However, respect and work ethic was built into me.”
Spiro moved into store management at Coles and while visiting a friend at Primo Smallgoods, he found an unexpected opportunity. “I was visiting a friend of mine, Michael Gilpin, and met the two business owners, Mr Paul Lederer and Mr John Hunt,” Spiro reflects.
“After our conversation, Mr Lederer offered me a job, but in reality I was lucky enough to gain lifelong friendships, business mentors and disciplines to succeed in all aspects of my private and working environments.”
Spiro started as an Account Coordinator, then joined the operations side of the business and was promoted to General Manager of Operations for the Primo Group. “I moved from department to department,” he says. “I had the opportunity to learn from some great mentors.”
When the business was sold in 2015, Spiro moved to a small hospitality group, Tomkin Australia, where he took on the role of CEO. “I didn’t know about cutlery, glassware and kitchenware, but business is the same in any organisation. The principles are there, so you need to immerse yourself and surround yourself with the right kinds of people.”
In 2018, Spiro joined Real Dairy Australia as CEO and took it in a new direction. He says culture and expectation are imperative in changing the path of a company. “We have to be flexible,” he explains. “We must have a can-do attitude. We have a saying, ‘love what you do, and you’ll love Monday’.
“It’s the staff that make the business. Without people, you don’t have a business.”
“We’re at work more than what we’re at home, so we need to make sure we turn up to work every Monday excited about being there, looking to make a difference and making sure that we’re responsive to our customers.”
The culture at Real Dairy is collaborative and transparent. “It’s about speed to market and it’s relationship driven,” he explains. “We have an open-door policy. We work together and we’re accountable for our roles. At the same time, everyone can put their hands up and ask for help. That’s critical.”
Above everything, Spiro is confident that the success of the business comes down to its people. “If you don’t have the right team, from the cleaners through to the management, it won’t succeed,” he says.
“We’re all working to put food on the table for everyone’s families. We need to be here to support the growth of our business but, more importantly, to help individuals. Our people are our greatest asset. Without amazing people, you don’t have a business.”
When hiring people for his team, Spiro says that passion is the first thing he looks for. “If you have someone with passion, you’re halfway there,” he explains. “They’ve got to want to win, achieve and learn. I’m a big believer that passion and drive come from within. The rest you can teach.”
“I’m a big believer that passion and drive come from within. The rest you can teach.”
Through challenging times, Spiro says it’s drive, passion and a will to succeed that has kept the business moving forward. “We’ve had obstacles, like unfortunate fires that have destroyed whole facilities,” he explains.
“And you look at those times and you say, ‘But we didn’t lose one staff member to unemployment. We redirected the business and we were able to get back up on our feet within days, not weeks or months.’ And that was a team effort across the whole business.”
Though the dairy industry may be going through a tough time at the moment with price wars and drought, Spiro looks at every challenge as an opportunity. “It will be tough, but business is never meant to be easy,” he says.
“We look for opportunities. I think the industry is looking strong. In every industry, there’s a bit of a shake that comes along, but we are positive about our growth.”
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