Mark Bouris
Photography: Tristan Edouard

NOT TOO MANY people make it in business. Even fewer as a media personality. They rank among the most competitive industries you can choose to make your mark. Mark Bouris has succeeded in both. As one of Australia’s most prominent businessmen, Bouris is a trusted source of knowledge in the complex fields of finance and mortgage lending. As an author and podcaster, the 63-year-old has emerged as a North Star for aspiring entrepreneurs and prospective mindset masters. Here, he sits down for Esquire’s long-running Q & A series ‘What I’ve Learned’.

We were the first people to move into our street [in Sydney’s Punchbowl. It was a modest timber house, and at the back of our street was the factory my dad worked in.

I don’t think kids do what they’re told, they do what they see. And what I saw was that my father would come home after the factory closed and go do a contract cleaning job. Then he’d go to sleep, then do the milk run at midnight and then go back to the factory. I ended up doing what I saw.

At school I was competitive. I didn’t want anyone beating me. I was good at drawing and my mother’s sister’s husband was an architect. But Mum’s view was there was no money in that. She dragged me to the university [UNSW] and enrolled me, like a little kid, in a commerce/law degree.

When I started working at a firm in the city, it was the first time I’d ever seen a white Mercedes-Benz sports car. I thought, Wow, how do I get one of those? It’s not just the car – you get the girl, you get the house. There’s a whole lot of stuff that comes with it.

Market conditions determine how successful you are. What you can control is how hard and how smart you work.

To be successful, you’ve got to choose something first. And the question becomes, well, how do you choose things? To me, that’s a function of your curiosity and what you do with that curiosity.

Too many people judge their success based on a number. Everyone talks about what I sold [Wizard Home Loans] for [in 2004]. It [$500 million] is a lot of money. I just see that as a representation of something on a particular day, at a particular time. The number doesn’t mean anything because it could change the next day.

Photography: Tristan Edouard

Everything in business, for me, is transactional. I don’t believe you should fall in love with your business, ever. You’ve got to eat it [the business] all day, every day, but the obsession is not uncontrolled. It’s a controlled obsession.

I didn’t realise at the time how lucky I was that I got exposed to people like Kerry Packer, Daniel Petre, David Gyngell and Nick Politis. How did a kid from Punchbowl get to meet these guys? I put it down to luck and not many people get that. That’s why I feel as though I should pay it forward to the next lot of Aussie businesses.

When I was first approached to do the show [The Apprentice Australia], I had never watched [the US original]. I don’t want to sound arrogant but I didn’t sit down and overthink it. I didn’t have a rehearsal, nothing. Just jumped straight in. As a person, that’s what I do.

If criticism is constructive, I have no problems. For example, I remember Richard Wilkins said to me, “If I was you, for the show, I wouldn’t smile”. That was good, constructive criticism.

If I think criticism’s unfair or coming from someone who’s got no cred, I get a bit cranky. But I go to bed, wake up and I couldn’t give a damn. I always sleep on it.

I couldn’t care less about praise. I’m always looking for the other side of the coin. What are they after?

Retirement is a government fiction. Who says everyone should retire at 65 or 67? What the hell is that? I’m a little bit over governments telling me how to live my life.

I’ve got four sons. I thought to be a good father I needed to be like my father and just work all the time. That was all right then. It’s not all right now. So I basically spend my life these days trying to be a better father and trying to be a good grandfather.

Rugby League is my escape. It represents the working class. It’s basics, fundamentals, it’s competitive and physical.

If there’s something you’re really curious about and it’s a topic that there’s a tide rising around and you’ve got some skill in it, pursue it. If you’re saying, “Oh, I don’t have time”, well, just accept the fact that you’re not going to do anything new. You have to be prepared to give something up.

Photography: Tristan Edouard


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