Trudy Gilbert Elite Introductions International


established 2005; five employees;

>$1.2 million turnover



Money can't buy you love,


or so the saying goes. But whoever dreamt up that one hadn't met Trudy Gilbert, Sydney's Cupid and boss of the most successful upmarket dating agency in town.

For $2695 she'll make sure you have at least six dates in six months, though it's unlikely anybody will need that many: nearly 90 per cent of

her first introductions choose to see each other again.

For her, love is half the reward: 'It's been amazing. It's just so satisfying when you get a call to say they're moving in together or are in a serious relationship. I feel like I'm making the biggest difference to people's lives.'

Clients can put the six-month membership on hold for a maximum of two years if they start seeing somebody regularly. It's a concession Gilbert regards as practical as well as ethical. 'It wouldn't be fair to meet somebody on a first date, see them for six months, then have your membership expire.

My business has grown by word of mouth so I want my clients to be delighted with my service.'

And selling love seems to be recession-proof. Despite the global downturn, Gilbert's business has soared. 'I think the crash caused people to re-evaluate and become less materialistic,' she says. In the good times, 'A lot of people made and lost a lot of money, but it didn't make them happy. So I think they started asking themselves how they could be content. And for many the answer was with a fulfilling relationship.'

Gilbert, who had her first child, Siena, in June 2009, and now has an office in Melbourne and is eyeing Brisbane as the next location for her growing empire.

'It's actually a great time to be an employer because I've got such a wide choice of potential employees,' she says.

'Office space is cheap, it's cheap to advertise if I need to—all in all, it's a really good period for the business. It shows there are growth opportunities even in recessions. You mustn't be afraid to expand just because the economy as a whole is stalling.'

Gilbert is a natural matchmaker. She got the idea for Elite Introductions after arranging twelve of her friends into six happy couples. Two couples are now married, and one guy has bought an engagement ring and is plucking up the courage to propose. 'I'm good at seeing what makes people tick. After putting so many of my professional friends together, I thought I could make a go of this as a business. I started researching the market and realised that nobody was really catering for people like them—or me. I read about a company in America that was introducing members of New York high society, which obviously works because you're introducing like to like. So I applied the same principle to professionals and executives in Sydney.'

If this hadn't been a winning formula, Gilbert would have come up with something else. She's one of those idea-a-minute types, fizzing with barely contained enthusiasm and infectious self-assurance, something she deems essential to any budding entrepreneur. 'You have to be confident and present a positive image to staff and clients. You are the embodiment of what you want your company to be, and your staff will draw inspiration from that.'

Gilbert grew up in Sydney's eastern suburbs, the daughter of a clothing sales agent. Naturally charismatic and witty, her father would take her out to work with him. The experience showed her that work could and should be fun. 'It was just like he was going out and visiting his friends. Every visit to every retailer was full of laughs and good humour. It didn't seem like work at all.' Her mother stayed at home while Trudy grew up, but then became chief executive of the synagogue near their home in Rose Bay.

'I get the business side from my mum and the people skills from my dad,' Gilbert says. 'After seeing how he worked, I knew I wanted to run my own business.

And when I left university and took a job in marketing for a hotel group, I found the bureaucracy frustrating and the work politics a waste of time and resources.' She soon got fed up and, aged just twenty-three, went to Italy. After a stint back in Sydney and some more unsatisfying jobs she returned to Italy, where she was hired as a communications consultant, teaching companies how to improve their sales and marketing techniques. 'After a while I thought, Hang on! I could do this on my own. I don't need to be working for this company.' So, at twenty-seven, she started out on her own.

'It was a great success. I had clients including Ferrari, Dolce

I get the business side & Gabbana and La

from my mum and the ^ л T ,

, ,.,, , Perla. In my three people skills from my . J

dad years in Italy, I man' aged to save $50,000.' Then she returned to Sydney to settle down. Two months after arriving in Sydney she met her husband, Philip. 'We were set up by a couple that I'd set up together. Three months later, Philip and I were engaged.'

The marriage has lasted, and matchmaking is also going well. Elite has more than 500 clients, split pretty evenly between men and women. But even those who stump up the full membership fee are not guaranteed admission to Gilbert's books. She turns down up to 30 per cent of applicants. 'I am judged by the quality and integrity of my clients,' she explains. 'I deal exclusively with highly intelligent, successful professionals. If somebody doesn't fit the bill, for whatever reason, I won't take them on.'

She doesn't have to give out much dating

advice, because her clients are savvy and successful with good people skills. But still, people make mistakes. 'Very often men talk about work too much or hog the conversation. I tell them: Be positive, don't talk about the mad, the bad or the sad in your life. Put your best foot forward and give the best possible impression.' Another tip she says works wonders is for the man to pay the bill without the woman's knowing: 'It's a really smooth move to just slip the waiter your credit card on the way to the bathroom and have the bill settled so that when you go to leave, it's completely seamless.

It makes you stand out as a class act.'

As for her first million, Gilbert made that in 2005 just after she turned thirty-four. 'I knew we were close to it, but my accountant rang to congratulate me,' she says. 'I promised myself that I'd be a self-made millionaire by the time I was thirty-five, and I've done it with time to spare. My husband and I are going to the W hotel in Bali to celebrate.'

Gilbert doesn't attribute her happiness to money. 'Success is not about money. You need to be happy about who you are and what you have. My parents instilled a fantastic work ethic in me and I am so grateful, because thanks to that it doesn't matter if I have money or not. They've made me a confident and rounded person who's comfortable in my own skin, and that is what really counts.'

Nick Gardner

golden rules

Do something you truly love—your excitement and energy motivate people around you.

Have a clear vision and create a solid company culture where employees feel valued, heard and rewarded.

Be self-confident but humble, and commit yourself to a life of constant learning and development.

Treat people with dignity and respect, and maintain uncompromising integrity in everything you do. Giving honest value earns you respect.

Be recession proof. Don't be at the mercy of fashion or fickle trends.

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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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