Crikey.com.au has a fascination with the Rich List and will be producing our own version as a companion series to what BRW publishes each year in May.
We want to find out the secret of how to become filthy rich. Therefore, we feel obliged to reproduce this incredible article written in the Daily Telegraph by Harry Triguboff, the profilic Sydney flats builder, after BRW declared he was Australia’s fourth billionaire in the 1997 Rich List. We want Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Packer, Gerry Harvey, Jodee Rich, Dick Pratt, Frank Lowy and any other future Australian billionaire to tell all, just like Harry. If they won’t, the Crikey team will be happy to write the piece for them.
The numbers in brackets in Harry’s article is the cumulative total of his use of the words I, my or me.
HOW TO SAY I OR ME 77 TIMES IN EXPLAINING HOW I BECAME A BILLIONAIRE
By Prolific Sydney High-Rise Flats Builder And All Round Nice Guy Harry Triguboff
Daily Telegraph, May 5 1997
“I’ve always been in a hurry - I don’t know why but I have. (3).
When I arrived in Sydney as a young man I had a small amount of money which I earned working in my father’s textile business in Israel (6)
Now I could have bought a very good house in Sydney with that money, continued with my little business and saved on rent, but I didn’t. (9)
Instead, I invested the money by buying a block in Roseville where I built myself a house. (11).
At the time, I was driving a taxi in Sydney and ran a profitable milk round in Chatswood but I always knew I would not get very far doing that. (14)
I tried selling real estate and worked as an assistant to a lecturer at university, but my combined salary still wasn’t very good. (16) So I bought that land in Roseville and hired a builder and began my house. (16) But the builder turned out to be awful. So I threw him out and finished the job myself, learning from his mistakes. (18) >From the experience I gained I bought a second block of land, this time at Tempe, and began building a block of eight units with a partner. (20)
The foreman on the job turned out to be a drunk, so I had to learn about sub-contractors very quickly. (21)
I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make money until the roof went on. (23)
But proportionately, I have never made as much profit from a job since (24).
It is very important you do the first one right. You have to have luck on your side, too. When I bought the land it was next to a rubbish tip which I did not know about. (26)
Naturally, that affected the value of the units. But because planes flew directly over the property and seagulls feeding on the rubbish were always getting sucked into the engines, the council moved the tip away. Suddenly the value of the units went up. (Wow, three sentences without an I).
While I was building the Tempe units I bought another block of land from an ex-jockey and started a third project. (28)
I told him I could not pay him until the roof goes on. My business went from there. (31)
The secret is you must not stop your momentum; you have to keep moving. There’s always money to be made. You must be sure of yourself. Have faith in yourself and your work and make money all the time. Be consistent. (I is nowhere in this par but there are seven derivatives of “you”)
Times are always good in my book. The country cannot survive without a viable building industry. (32)
If things are bad you buy land for nothing and by the time you finish building, times are good again. It’s not so much a gamble as making things easier for yourself. (10 yous)
You turn adverse situations to your advantage and never give up. That is very important. (12 yous)
When I had trouble with the unions or local councils, I realised if I could get on better with them than my competitors then I was at an advantage. (36. Hmmm, wonder how Harry managed that).
You need a good team behind you, too, and you must keep them busy. Give them work all the time; keep them happy. (15 yous)
The same builder I used in the old days is still with me. I’ve never missed a night’s sleep. Things never get me down. I never give up. (39)
Someone just starting out in Sydney could probably do the same as me, even now. Everyone wants new apartments, especially in such a vibrant city as Sydney. (40)
Maybe my background has helped me get where I am today. I first came to Sydney with my big brother when I was 14. (46)
Our parents were Russians and we were brought up in China before being sent to Australia. We were quite poor, although my father made some money after the war in the textile business in Israel. (47)
I went to Scots College before travelling to England to study textile science at Leeds University. After college I worked for a while in the family business in Israel but it did not work. (49)
It was good fun but I did not see eye to eye with my father. I thought my father’s ideas were out of date and my brother was a good lawyer but did not really suit the business. (54)
I thought I knew all the answers - which I didn’t - and was impatient to try out what I knew. (58).
So I returned to Sydney - it probably broke my father’s heart to let me go - and began a couple of businesses. It went from there. (61)
While we were born poor, my father made some money and I was a rich boy by the time I was ten. (64).
But when I came to Sydney with my brother we had very little, so we were poor again. (66).
There have been lots of ups and downs in my life, but I’ve now built close to 40,000 units. (68)
I’m married for the second time and have two daughters and four grandchildren. My daughters are quite happy pursuing their own things and I don’t think they will take over the business. That’s fine. (71)
I’m 64 and I just want to keep building. I never intended to be the biggest or the richest, it just happened. But I always pushed myself beyond my limits. (77)
To be honest, becoming a billionaire came easy.”
Do you live in one of Harry’s efficiently constructed high rise flats? Tell us your story at