There are few people who can see the silver lining to everything they do, and Dick Smith seems to be one of them.
The entrepreneur has given a very personal interview with the ABC this week and it’s amazing how positive he is about everything in his life – even his humble beginnings and school life.
“I’m actually quite a coward and I do get frightened on some of the adventures I’ve been on,” the 72-year-old told Jane Hutcheon, on ABC show One Plus One.
He spoke about being bullied as a young child due to a speech impediment, and that he never considered himself to be bright.
“I suppose you’d say I was even bullied,” he said matter-of-factly.
“The teacher put me out in front of the class to say my name and I said Dick Fish and Dick Miff because I couldn’t say Smith. Everyone laughed.
“I was hopeless at school, I couldn’t learn”.
Despite all this, Dick went on to create one of Australia’s most successful retailers, Dick Smith Electronics, which he sold in 1982.
He revealed how his business venture was a success right from the start: “When I was about 25, my accountant said to me Dick, you’ve made more money than the Prime Minister of Australia,” he said.
“I said: How have I done that? I haven’t got any money.
“He said: You’ve increased your stock and you’ve paid your tax and all of these things. I didn’t even understand that. Today I still can’t read a balance sheet.
“But believe it or not, after a few years we started ending up with millions of dollars in the bank.”
His recipe for success?
“My success in Dick Smith electronics and Australian Geographic was just to go around the world and copy the best, pinch the best ideas from everyone I could see,” he said.
“I noticed that each company I went to — I’d go to England, Canada, America — had different ideas, so I took the best of them, and that’s why I made so much money.”
But in the 80s, he had already amassed a huge fortune, so he sold Dick Smith Electronics for $24 million to Woolworths, a decision that baffled many.
“It’s amazing how people don’t understand that. They think if you’re a successful businessman you must want to make more money,” he said.
“I don’t want to make any more money. If I did, I would have stuck to electronics.
“I could’ve become a billionaire, but no, I wanted to spend time with my family, to go adventuring, to put something back in, which I learnt from the scouts, and all of those things I’ve been so lucky to do,” he said.
Sadly the company went into liquidation earlier this year and the last of the electronics retail stores have now closed.
Dick also talked about his staunch view on the Australia population and how its growth was getting out of hand. He expressed concern over our resources.
“To me, we should stabilise our population at about 26 million and we have a chance of having a good quality of life, otherwise most people in Australia will be poor,” he said.
As for his positive outlook, he attributes it to just being a lucky person and appreciating that.
“I was starting Dick Smith electronics and making myself millions of dollars when my friends were fighting in Vietnam,” he said.
“So I’ve had this incredible luck all the way through life and I’m always trying to repay”.
He said his successful marriage is his biggest achievement, despite everything.
“I took Pip out when she was 17, engaged at 18, married her at 19 and we’re still very happily in love,” he said.