Over 160 people came out on a chilly winter’s evening for a ‘fireside chat’ with Deague Group CEO, William Deague and Ironfish CEO, Joseph Chou.
Spilling out of the Ironfish North Sydney boardroom, attendees gathered to hear unique insights into the life and success of a prominent business-leader, whose family legacy encompasses five generations of wealth, multiple landmark property developments and an iconic Australian hotel chain.
Never far from the media or public eye Will Deague and his family are commonly profiled for their envious lifestyle – famously taking their own private helicopter from their home in Portsea to Melbourne each day. However, in person, Will Deague is surprisingly low key, very modest and extremely private about his family and personal life – this private interview for our investors was therefore all the more valuable.
Ironfish and Deague Group have a close partnership that began five years ago. Mr Deague is the second, high profile CEO to be interviewed as part of our new ‘CEO Talks’ series of events. Here are some of the key takeaways he shared on the night.
With the silver spoon comes responsibility
Will is the first to admit that he grew up with the silver spoon – top schools, luxury homes and even his own helicopter.
That said, Will’s father and grandfather always instilled in him a great sense of responsibility and discipline – key factors when it comes to building inter-generational wealth successfully.
“I worked odd jobs in the company from a very young age; my father and grandfather would pay me $12 an hour. What I realised very early on is that with wealth, comes responsibility – and the greater the wealth, the greater the responsibility.”
Having now taken over the family’s business, taking on the helm of CEO since 2008, Will continues to practice the values ingrained into him by his family from a young age – being often the earliest to get in and the last person to leave.
“Seeing the growth of our employees, the completion of our projects has really given me a greater feeling of accomplishment, but also added to my sense of personal responsibility.”
Bringing together passion and expertise
Will Deague’s father is a well-known art collector and patron. During a trip to Miami, Will discovered a new concept – the boutique art hotel.
“With Art Series, we were looking to really build our family legacy – we have a passion for Australian art and this way, we could bring together our passion, with our expertise in development. It also helped us to diversify and provide alternative cash flow to complement our property development projects.”
In 2008, the Art Series hotels were born, each named after a contemporary Australian artist, and filled with artworks by the artist. The concept was extremely successful, with eight Art Series Hotels around the country today.
Negotiation needs to be a win-win
From our two companies’ many collaborations, Joseph shared with the audience that he discovered very quickly that Will Deague is a master-negotiator.
When asked “what is the secret of a successful negotiation,” Will’s reply was succinct: “put yourself into the other person’s mindset.”
“When negotiating you have to think about the other person – what are they looking to achieve in the situation. The concept of ‘win-win’ is strong philosophy in my family – for a negotiation to go smoothly, all parties need to benefit.”
Growing your income
According to Will, the key to building wealth ‘from scratch’ is to start with the fundamentals.
“You need to be aware of how much your daily expenses are, or how much passive income you need to be in a position where you don’t need to work for a living. You also need financial buffers in place to be prepared for situations that may arise in life.
“You need to work hard too, of course. But there are a lot of people who work very hard, and they’re all doing things the same way. You need to break from the conventional path.
“Your income from work shouldn’t be treated as the upper limit – it should be your starting point from which to progress. For example, you can use your income to buy investment properties; rental income can diversify your income source and the property itself can grow in value to add to your wealth.
“I know there’s a lot of noise in the media, with people complaining that Sydney and Melbourne house prices are crashing. But the fact is that in these markets, house prices have fallen by about 8% in the past 12 months, but in the last 10 years, they’ve grown by 80%. If I were 20 years old man today, I’d definitely start with property.”
Ironfish & Deague Group: shared values
Today, Deague Group (formerly Asian Pacific Group) is a prominent Australian development company, known for delivering quality homes. Ironfish and Deague have had three joint venture partnerships – and when asked why they chose Ironfish as a partner, Will answered without hesitation:
“Without a doubt it is shared values. That is, we both seek to place our buyers at the forefront. I’ve seen myself that Ironfish’s highest priority isn’t profit, it’s maximising the outcome for their investors, providing better service and trying to support them throughout their journey.”
Recently, Will’s wife was diagnosed with blood cancer, naturally a major shock for the family. After multiple treatments, she is thankfully in remission. But through this experience, with a cause so close to home, the family is now a major supporter of the Australian Children’s Cancer Foundation, raising a record $1.2 million for the charity in one fundraising lunch event.
“Being able to use our wealth to help so many people is something that is infinitely satisfying. It also gives me greater motivation to help more people.”
At Ironfish, we believe that wealth forms part of the universal formula for happiness (along with health and love).
Whether you create wealth or inherit wealth, whether you aspire to billions, millions, or just a bit of luxury in life – it’s important to know how to manage your money and grow your wealth effectively.
Events such as these are part of helping our customers to open up the realm of possibilities and learn more about wealth building from people who have done it before.
We thank Will Deague for generously sharing his time and experiences with our investors.
If you’d like to see our next upcoming events in your city, visit our events page.