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David Michaels Bite Me Burger Co.

established 2007; eighty employees; $18.5 million projected turnover for Bite Me and two other enterprises

From Las Vegas casino king to Sydney burger baron, the roles come like courses for entertainer turned entrepreneur David Michaels, founder of Sydney's newest fast-food outlet, Bite Me.

Life seems like one long banquet for the British-born businessman, who models himself on Richard Branson and 1. enjoys at least two lunches and two dinners a day. 'Sometimes I'll have six meals—then a cocktail party after that,' he admits cheerfully. 'Eating out is my pleasure.'

He's gained a couple of kilograms since opening the first Bite Me burger bar in 2007, but Michaels's smallish frame is only slightly rounded. His shape and his relentless energy convey only rude good health. Maybe his hectic lifestyle helps keep him trim. Bite Me—at Star City Casino— sprang from his early assessment that Sydney suffered from a lack of good burgers—a view many may hotly dispute, especially outside the inner city.

His open-plan, first-floor office in Paddington hums with activity.

At one table three women, dressed in carefully casual chic, discuss arrange-ments for a cocktail bar. Topics include the relative merits of wooden cocktail crushing sticks or muddlers as opposed to stainless steel ones. At another table staff from Michaels's design company, BEE (Brand Environment Experiential), are busy preparing material for various projects, including Michaels's ice-cream brand, Pat & Stick's. In the lane downstairs, a fleet of Smart cars in red and black Bite Me livery stand in a neat line.

Michaels, who shares Branson's fascination with the power of brands, is primarily a design guru, but he began his business career selling breathalysers. 'I made my first bit of money when I was nineteen in England,' he says.

After ditching

theatre school the

С I'm no good with money. brash lad from north I'm a creative person, an London approached ideas person. I'm not a a financially troubled financia| person. manufacturer, offering to shift its surplus breathalyser stock in return for a 50 per cent share. The company agreed, and Michaels says he made his first million pounds repackaging the devices and selling them as Christmas-stocking fillers. Within two years the money was gone—blown on boats, cars, friends, jewellery and houses.

'I don't regret that,' he says. 'It was part of being young. But blowing a fortune helped to teach me about my own limitations. I'm no good with money. I'm a creative person, an ideas person. I'm not a financial person. So ever since then I've surrounded myself with good people who can take care of the parts of the business that I'm not so good at handling. The finances and cash flow are among them.'

He left for the US in his early twenties, landing first in New York, then in Los Angeles, where he ended up as a staffer (or 'cast member') at Disney. Despite his complete inability to draw and lack of any formal training he quickly became involved with the company's design team, producing concepts for new theme parks and other projects.

Later, in Las Vegas, a combination of design nous and fast-talking bravado gave him entree as a design consultant to the city's lucrative casino industry. 'Las Vegas is an amazing place,' he says. 'I ended up spending a lot of time there. I just wanted to learn what makes the whole Vegas model tick.'

Something of the theme-park casino—with an inner-city twist—has found its way into Bite Me. The menu, developed with prominent chef and food writer Kim Terakes, includes the Beef Encounter, Soft Prawn and Pluck Me (chicken). A concession to the local burger culture is available in the Great Australian Bite—'one with the lot' to you and me. It turns out to have all the right ingredients in a slightly narrower and substantially taller package—about 12 cm high, with a Bite Me flag stuck on top.

Chips arrive crammed into miniature shopping trollies. Michaels admits to a certain bemusement at the Aussie burger: he doesn't like beetroot and doesn't understand the inclusion of pineapple.

He doesn't quite understand how he became so rich, either. 'I can't attribute the success to any one thing,' he says. 'It's really been a combination of a whole load of projects and businesses and fingers in different pies.' Despite being worth many millions of dollars, Michaels says he doesn't regard himself as wealthy: 'Wealthy to me means Bill Gates and Donald Trump. To me, it's not about the money. It's about the game—the fun of building something new. Money gives you freedom, and that's great, but I want to get up every day and create something. That's what makes me happy.'

For Michaels, who works 'sitting cross-legged on the floor and drawing in my head'—leaving trained designers to finish the job—concept is the key to success. 'If I had to say what I am more than anything else, I'm an ideas person,' he says. Friends—and the chance to buy an

apartment on Kent Wea|thy to me means Street with views of

Bi|1 gates and Dona|d King Street Wharf Trump. To me, it's not . , , ,

on one side and the

about the money. It's about

the game—the fun of Opera House on the building something new. other—brought him

to Sydney, but he remains a man of international horizons.

Rejecting the franchise model, he plans more wholly owned outlets in Australia before taking the brand to China, the US and Europe. More casino projects in Macau and Las Vegas also keep him constantly on the move, as do plans for a return to the theatre with a massive ice production, billed as Cirque du Soleil meets Torvill and Dean.

Although he enjoys a party and clearly knows how to have a good time, he doesn't seem the type to lapse into extended bouts of relaxation. Among Michaels's few private passions is tele-vision: EastEnders, The Sopranos, Boston Legal and Oprah are particular favourites.

He seems to mean it when he insists it isn't all about money, that if business isn't 'fun' it isn't worth doing.

'I don't know whether it's being a driven person, or being stark raving mad,' he laughs. 'Nothing's ever done. It's always a work in progress, and I'm learning every day.'

Jim Dickins

golden rules

Relationships: It's crucial to get on with the people you work with and go into business with. If the chemistry isn't there, forget it.

Passion: I have to be able to be passionate about my work, so it has to interest me. If you said we could make a fortune selling air conditioners, I wouldn't be interested. It's too dull, and life's too short.

Innovation: I need to create new things, to be imaginative and not have that constrained. Always dream to the fullest, then pull back if you have to.

Fun: If it isn't fun, then there's no point to it. I want to get up every day and enjoy it.

Diversity: I know it's a cliche, but variety is the spice of life. I love to have a variety of projects on the go and different challenges to meet.

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Источник: Nick Gardner. How. I made-.my first million. 26 self-made millionaires reveal the secrets to their success. 2010

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