Nurture Change Business Retreat speaker Murray Thom spoke to the NZ Herald about his colourful career - from starting his own business the day his first child was born, to meeting Oprah and Michael Jackson, to starting the popular series of "The Great New Zealand" books.
You can read the full article below, or at the NZ Herald HERE. We are very much looking forward to hearing Murray speak in November, about how to make small ideas into revenue streams.
"I became self-employed and a father on the same day."
Most people would dream of having Murray Thom's career. He is the man who introduced personalised plates to New Zealand and less than half a dozen ideas later produced the Together collection - named as Oprah Winfrey's 'favourite thing of the year.'
Today, Thom is having his photo taken in his sunny Parnell office. His bestselling ventures line the shelves. The Great New Zealand Cookbook, The Great New Zealand Songbook, and Miracle - with music and pictures by Celine Dion and Anne Geddes.
To select one moment of bravery from such a daring Kiwi is no easy task.
Thom says, "There are countless moments in my business life where it could have gone either way. I think, though, it would have to be leaving my job at CBS Records.
Here I was just 23 years old running a company, meeting the likes of Michael Jackson and Billy Joel."
"But three years later I decided to start my own business from scratch."
That same day, Murray and wife Anne had their first child.
Next came the challenge of eking out a living. Murray and Anne had a plan. If they couldn't make it happen within twelve months he would find work elsewhere. 'Making it' meant earning $8000 a month, which they calculated would feed and clothe the Thom household.
"$8000 is not the biggest challenge in the world, right?" says Thom. "But, remember, you've got to do it every month. You can't have a corporate lifestyle with a small-business income. You have to fill up your own petrol. Buy your own staples. I had a huge helping of humble pie."
The projects, which evolved over the next three decades, can be found in homes all over the world.
Pianist Carl Doy playing at the Region Hotel inspired Pianos By Candlelight. A Split Enz arena concert in 2008 was the catalyst for The Great New Zealand Songbook.
Thom would come to trust his new mantra: opportunities don't shout, they whisper.
Which leads us onto Brave Moment Number Two.
Could the man well versed in music please the foodies as well? "The Great New Zealand Cookbook was the first cook book we'd ever done. We thought it was pretty brave sending a crew out on the road for a year, to create a project which required a huge investment."
Thom's culinary tome paid off, selling 125,000 copies and receiving a Best in the World award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Such success sparked The Great Aussie Cookbook, The South African Cookbook and the soon-to-be released UK Cookbook.
Being brave opened up a whole world for Thom Productions.
But which idea to go for? Could any one of us create such critically and commercially successful projects? According to Thom, the skill is in choosing the project that is going to suit you.
"A great idea takes about a year to execute. Forget about money - which idea are you going to be happy to give yourself to for the next 12 months?"
"Whatever you do, produce something world-class. Aim to make something magnificent. The Edmonds Cookbook has been around for over a hundred years. What a wonderful challenge."
Thom grew up in a middle class home in Auckland. His father, a self-employed builder who always paid his bills on time, inspired his son to adopt the same approach. "In the early days of my own business," says Thom, "My father always asked the same question: 'You in the black?'"
"I'm very fortunate that I never had to look far to find mentors. They're all family members."
There are many endearing qualities about Murray Thom, but perhaps the most refreshing is his attitude to time spent in the office. "What is work anyway?" he asks. "Is it a location? We should really be awarding productivity, not attendance."
Such a philosophy clearly began the minute he quit his job and became a father.
"As with most new businesses, mine was quiet in the beginning, which meant I could spend more time with my newborn baby girl. And it's been that way ever since. I have pretty much worked school hours my entire career."
Most successful people have an outlet and Thom's is yachting, which doesn't mean to say he ever fully switches off, even in these leisurely moments. Proof being his analogy for business:
"There's a phrase in sailing, 'never chase a dying breeze.' In business, you can't keep going in the direction you've enjoyed. You've got to ask yourself, where is the new breeze?"
"Kiwis already have a head start. We're a nation of small business owners, which makes us a nation of brave people. That's what makes New Zealand completely awesome."