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“…it’s the ability to assess a situation, understand a vision of where you have to go, and then develop effective solutions to roll out…”

Interview by Mike Sullivan
Mike:
Hey, everyone. It’s Mike Sullivan from MO.com, where we feature small business owners and entrepreneurs and then bring you hints, tips, perspectives, and insights on how to be more successful.
Today joining us is Omar Devlin. He has 15 years of senior management experience with a supply chain focus. Over the past 12 months, he’s been focused on founding and implementing Why Not Enjoy. It’s a company dedicated to spreading a positive attitude and helping children everywhere.
Omar, thanks for joining us today. Can you tell me a little bit about your background before we get started?
Omar:
Certainly. For the last 15 years, I worked for company in Australia called BlueScope Steel. I started with them really through an engineering program when I left high school and did my cadetship program for them, which was a fantastic experience to bounce around every six months between a different department and learn different things of the manufacturing operations. BlueScope Steel, a revenue of $8 billion a year, it’s got 25,000 employees around the world. They are the primary steel distributor in Australia, and the prime location I was at is at the Wollongong Steel Works, which is about an hour below Sydney. During that time I progressed, I did my engineering undergraduate part-time, my Master in Business Administration, my Master of Science in Logistics, and I’ve just submitted my Doctorate in Business Administration as far as understanding how the customer experience and the supply chain links together so businesses can effectively feed and give customers what they want, what they expect, and what they are willing to pay for.

 

The last four years at BlueScope Steel, I was head of the consulting department and our principal supply chain logistics consultant, where I did an overview of and ran a project redesigning all their business processes. So how effectively we capture information, put it into a P&L, understand how we are delivering products to the customers, where our inventory is, where our problems are, and how we make effective decisions. And the biggest thing I learned from that, as far as working with the board, working with management teams, rolling out a significant amount of change of how the business operates, is most of it is just about communication and people. And all of it’s just, a lot of it about people. They’re stuck in the way that they’ve done things for the last 20 years without realizing that for a supply chain in a business to operate effectively, we have to optimize the whole. So everyone has to come together and get rid of their little silos and their views and what’s expected of them, and understand that they have to make a sacrifice here for the whole picture to be better, to give better [inaudible 02:55], to make more money. And most people fundamentally resist that because they really like their boundaries of what they can control and what they can be held accountable for, and they like everything to be in there. It’s very difficult for people sort of to share and give things that seems like they’re losing, but as a whole, the business is winning. That was the most significant recent project as far as at BlueScope Steel.
I took a year off from last year to complete my Ph.D. and in the process moved over to America. My wife’s from California and our two little girls and we moved over to bring Why Not Enjoy into the U.S. and across California, and it’s just been the most fantastic experience and a fantastic engagement of people as they say, “Yeah, why not enjoy the life you live?” People want to be inspired, and I love inspiring them.
Mike:
You talk about inspiring others through Why Not Enjoy. What exactly is Why Not Enjoy?
Omar:
Why Not Enjoy is, I suppose to answer really simply is, it is the question we should ask ourselves every hour of every day. Whenever we get frustrated or whenever we think that there is something outside of our control, we should be stepping back and say, “Why not enjoy the moment? Why not make it special?” Because it’s not up to anyone else to resolve our frustrations, resolve the issues in our life. It’s really about attitude. So Why Not Enjoy is trying to spread that attitude and that inspiration across to everyone in America and through Australia, so that they can sit there and reflect and be reminded all the time, “Life is attitude and life is up to me.” And it’s exciting when people can be inspired and seeing a coffee mug “Why Not Enjoy,” and they sit back and they say, “Yeah, I should enjoy.”
Mike:
You’ve taken a pretty big leap from senior management now to starting your own company. What was the inspiration behind that?
Omar:
I suppose the biggest inspiration came from my two little girls. Over in Australia, we had business consulting. I was traveling for five to six days a week, internationally and domestically. When my two little girls were born, I sat there and said, “Well, why aren’t I enjoying my life? Why can I not [inaudible 05:16]?” It’s a natural transition over into this business, and from a business perspective, the amount of change in process and improvement in my previous role, it’s exactly the same here. Whether we’re dealing with steel slabs and steel coils or a $350 million warehouse expansion, it’s all really the same. It’s about finding people, connecting them together, surrounding yourself with a great team, and making effective change and pushing through.
So I find that there is a huge amount of similarities between both, 80%. Big difference between T-shirts and hats and stickers and I’ve never actually worked in the apparel industry before, and every time I choose a product, my team says, “Omar, why did you chose that shirt?” So I’m trying to step away from choosing clothing and fashion, because I’m not a fashion person, and concentrate on really getting a team to work together and overcome these obstacles as we grow across the U.S.
Mike:
Back in Australia you have a WhyNot! Restaurant. Tell me about that and how it ties into the overall mission here?
Omar:
WhyNot! Restaurant, it’s all a family business. Back in 1979, I’ve got four brothers, I’ve got a twin brother and another brother two years younger and another brother four years under, and when I left home, we had our last family holiday. It was over in Sri Lanka actually at the time, and all four of sat down and said, “We like each other. We all want to work together. Let’s create this. Why not enjoy the life that you live?” So the business is run with a board of all my family and some other key partners from the University of Wollongong. We have a marketing company, Christie Communications, Gillian is on the board, and so it’s a great team of people. Che and Jules run the Australian operation, the WhyNot! Restaurant downtown, which creates fantastic food and sends a global positive message.
Why Not Enjoy is run from America. I run these operations. My brother runs operations in the Dominican Republic called Blue Horizons, and he is working heavily with me on trying to expand throughout the U.S. There is nothing greater than working with family, because no one understands the same set of mindset and principle about moving forward as family. Frustrating, because you get in some great discussions and great arguments, but fundamentally if you’re going to choose a great team of people to work together, we all have the same understanding of results and trying to achieve results, and my family is the greatest team in the world.
whynotenjoy.com
Mike:
What do you think has been the most important skill set that you’ve been able to carry forward from your background and implement into Why Not Enjoy to help you be successful there?
Omar:
I think if I look it’s the ability to assess a situation, understand a vision of where you have to go, and then develop effective solutions to roll out, and then execute those solutions. So even if we look at BlueScope Steel and a full redesign of all our business processes, that was working with a management team of 20 people and a team underneath of over 300 to try to redesign all the processes. From when we first walked in, the same problem applies. What is it that we want to do? We want to have a more effective operating business where people aren’t fighting about information. There are no information debates, and we’re communicating effectively. So the ability to go in, talk with people, understand what it is that they want and need, bring that together with what a different department wants and needs, find common ground, and then implement that forward, it’s a whole skill set in business and implementing change and it’s the biggest aspect which I bring forward into Why Not Enjoy. The ability to see a vision, see the strategies, execute those strategies, and always overcoming obstacles, and developing opportunities.
Mike:
And along those same lines; what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur?
Omar:
Back yourself, back your vision, and have a great team of people around you, because you can’t do it all alone. I think that’s the biggest fault that a lot of people go down. They’re very controlled on every single aspect, but no one man, no entrepreneur can get it all done by themselves. Even though I know they know the best ways to get it done and if they could copy their own body and their own mind, it would be great. They would have ten of themselves executing it perfectly. But you must be able to step back and you must be able to train, develop, and work with people so that they can accomplish the results and the vision and achieve that you need to get done. And the backing I’ve got with my board and the backing I’ve got with my management team is what allows all that to happen, because they’re a great group of people who work and resolve the issues as we go forward, and it’s just an absolute pleasure to work with them all.
Mike:
What’s the message you’d like to get out there for other business owners or entrepreneurs or people just looking to get started and they have an idea? What direction do you have for them?
Omar:
Go forward. Go forward as quickly as you can, because the time it takes for you to heat your dream and vision is the time it takes you to get in between each obstacle. Because the obstacles in front of you, you don’t know what they’re going to be until you actually have a go and try something out. And then it’s the ability to overcome those obstacles and move forward. And the other thing, you step back. Don’t get caught down in the detail too much. Realize the role of the entrepreneur is really to create the vision and get the team working towards doing it all. Not sitting there programming, not doing all the detailed skills that are effectively in a business. If you don’t have the vision and you don’t have that management overview, then you’re always going to be spinning like a hamster in a wheel. You need someone to sit there and take that vision and strategy and board and directions, and move that forward, because that’s where the real progress is done.
It’s not in a sense hitting the streets and going around and trying to implement it into every single shop, because if you had 20 people like yourself, that would be great. You could do that. But you need to work at how do you get other people to execute your plan.
Mike:
What would you say is one of key elements to success in day-to-day business?
Omar:
I think one of the key things about business, and I gave an inspirational talk to a local group called the Dons Net CafĂ© in Santa Barbara. We’ve got an arm of our business called the Why Not Enjoy Kid’s Foundation, where 50% of our products goes towards our kid’s foundation, because I really do believe in partnering with these great organizations to help disadvantaged kids get up and out of their situation and realize that it is attitude and encourage them to move forward. And when I was doing that talk, I really focused them on whatever you do in business with any partner, and it’s also in personal life as well, you must always try and seek a win-win relationship. You can’t go into business and develop partners where you win and your partner loses. You can’t do a relationship where your partner wins and you lose. It’s self spiraling downwards. So always try and develop the contract, the solution, the partnership with what’s successful for them. Once you develop win-win partnerships, then they’ll grow forward and together you’ll be able to overcome all obstacles.
And I find a lot of businesses these days, especially a lot of the global corporations, which are already sort of at that level, everything is around trying to push to win-lose. And you can’t work as a supply chain, you can’t have an effective business model where one of the partners is losing, because it might be a week, it might be a year, at some point, they drop their quality, their drive to try and make the partnership as successful as possible.
Mike:
Omar, it’s been pleasure. Thanks for sharing with us today, and good luck with Why Not Enjoy.
Omar:
Mike, thank you very much. It was a pleasure. I look forward to doing it again.

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