By Drago Alilovic
There are very few things I share with Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Group. But when it comes to life and business, we both ascribe to the belief that when a good opportunity comes along, always say yes and figure out how to make it happen later.
You’ll never succeed without trying—that’s always been my philosophy, whether in hobbies, sports, school and business. So when the chance to buy a PropertyGuys.com franchise presented itself, my wife Savannah and I jumped on it. I grew up watching my parents buy and flip houses, so the brand’s concept intrigued me. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend less money than they have to? I certainly wouldn’t, and neither do the buyers and sellers I’ve helped in the Georgetown-Milton area of Ontario.
Laying the foundation for success
My roots have been in Georgetown all my life. My siblings and I grew up in an old-school European household, my parents being Croatian and having immigrated to Canada in 1970. Also named Drago, our father worked in construction as a drywaller, which at the time was more lucrative than a factory job, the other career path of choice for newly arrived immigrants. With five kids to support, my father was self-employed and did piecework, which meant he was paid per job, rather than by the hour. My dad worked extremely hard and could finish a job very quickly; the harder he worked, the more money he made.
For her part, my mother Mladenka always had side jobs to help support our family. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my father was injured when he fell on a job site and had to stop working. Things got tough after that and my parents sold our house. By this time, my three eldest siblings were already married, so it was just my brother and me. It was at this time my mother took the lead and became the breadwinner. The aftermath of my father’s accident was difficult and this inspired my mother to become licensed in disability insurance for self-employed construction workers.
Our household was always about family and our Croatian heritage. Aside from playing various sports, my siblings and I attended Croatian school. We were extremely busy. To this day, my father always says that for some 30-odd years, he had to drive one of us somewhere every night. I have to give my dad credit—he worked extremely hard to support his family, and I don’t think he ever missed one of my soccer games.
I didn’t really have a dream job as a kid, although I thought about going into engineering or architecture when I was in high school. By Grade 12, however, I decided I wanted to focus on getting a business degree at the University of Windsor. I had my sights set on pursuing a career in accounting and loaded up my schedule with as many courses as I could. I even enrolled in summer school to fast track. Since my parents were paying for my university education, I felt I owed it to them to work right through the summers, rather than making a little bit of money.
By the time third year rolled around, I decided my personality wasn’t suited to be an accountant. I like different scenery every day and can’t be stuck in an office. Switching to sales and marketing, I realized I was short several credits to meet the new degree requirements. By the time I graduated in 2007, I had completed almost 50 courses in three years, several more than the 40 needed to graduate with a bachelor of commerce honours degree.
I don’t really sleep, but I’m constantly thinking and dreaming up business ideas. This was true even while I was still in university. At the time, Dragons’ Den had just debuted and I remember watching it and thinking I was going to come up with my own invention or business idea. I actually e-mailed Robert Herjavec, one of the dragons and a fellow Croat, telling him in a rather long message all my thoughts and ideas about how I was going to become a billionaire one day. He actually responded to me, albeit it in a very short message. First of all, he wrote, don’t ever send long e-mails because nobody reads them. And second, it’s not a matter of how good your idea is. Rather, it’s what you do with it that makes money. That really stuck in my head and made me realize re-inventing the wheel isn’t always a good idea. This is something I would fall back on just a few short years later when I considered buying a PropertyGuys.com franchise of my own.