Five years ago, the twins bought a pub in Newcastle together. Geoff had been a pub licensee since 1984 – at the time, he was the youngest in Australia – but he had never owned his own venue.
“We knew our capabilities in hospitality – to be honest we've both done extremely well for other people,” says John. “We know the secret ingredient, which I think we’d learned from our parents: treat people the way you’d like to be treated. It's nothing amazing, it’s as simple as that.”
Geoff looked for a venue with potential to grow. He knocked on doors and found one about to go into receivership; and so they went into in partnership with Geoff’s current employer.
They then asked Francis for advice and were surprised when he recommended Macquarie.
“I never really knew Macquarie was a bank for someone like me – I guess I thought of them as being an investment bank, quite prestigious. But the interest rate and the terms are absolutely brilliant,” says Geoff.
“Macquarie’s like a best kept secret – it’s like all of a sudden we've discovered it’s a bank for people like us,” says John.
Geoff had known he was paying too much interest on his home loan but hadn’t been able to resolve it through his previous bank’s branch. “I’m really lazy with things like that, but then I realised I was probably paying $10,000 a year more than I needed to. And I thought, that could be a holiday!”
John took the opportunity to consolidate his share of the pub with his home mortgage, and is now planning to extend that to do some renovations.
“I like being sensible with my money but I’m always too busy to pay it much attention. Francis always helps us with the fine print. So now I have the credit card, the offset account and it’s so easy, it’s no fuss. Even my wife says, ‘Macquarie’s so easy to deal with.’”
John admits he’s not technically-minded but he found the online banking very easy to set up, and when he phoned for help he was quickly guided through.
That responsive service has made everything much simpler for the twins. “We work long hours – 50 to 60 hours a week, travelling up to Newcastle, down to Wollongong,” says Geoff. “But I love it. And I know my wife and I are very privileged to have the lifestyle we have, but it hasn't fallen into our laps overnight. I respect what I have to do.”
They are now about to buy their second pub together. John sees these investments as a ‘calculated risk’. “You’ve got to be confident in the opportunity. Nothing’s 100%, but you work hard to make it a sure thing.”
Geoff says he’s learned not to get emotionally involved in a new investment decision. “Once you do, you’re sunk. It has to be a business perspective, look at the financials, and see what way you can steer the business to get a greater return. That’s what lets you pay back the bank.”
But he also knows the people are the greatest asset in any business, and he feels responsible for their livelihoods. “Without them you’ve got nothing. It’s like a house: without a family it’s just four walls.”
He says he sees the same commitment in the people he’s dealt with at Macquarie.
“John and I – we’re a little different but we think alike. I think it’s the same thing with Macquarie. We’re different, but they think like us.”