SIMON Hasson was an engineer when he fell into telecommunications by accepting a mate's offer to sell phones in an Optus store.
"Engineering is abrupt and tasked, phones and sales is about people so it was totally different but suited my skill-set better," the 46-year-old says. "I wouldn't say I have the gift of the gab, just the gift of connecting with people."
Mr Hasson is marking 20 years in business as the owner of Optus dealer stores in the Hunter Street mall and Mayfield. His son Kingston, 21, joined the family businesses after finishing school and father and son split their time between both stores.
After working for his mate, Mr Hasson responded to a job ad to work at Optus' Mayfield store. About then, he was given the then bestselling tome Rich Dad Poor Dad.
"It talks about generating passive income and part of that is building a business," he recalls.
Soon after, Mr Hasson bought the Mayfield store in March, 1999, then by Christmas had bought the Optus store in the mall.
Back then, he says, it was easier to make a quid: "Commissions were higher and things weren't as highly regulated."
He says the hardest lessons of two decades of trade has been learning to work on the business rather than in it - advice he received from a mentor when he was up against a wall financially.
"You become busy working on it so money is leaking out and you are trying to spend more time making money but you should be looking at why money is leaking out," he says. "I am still learning."
With both their stores hitting peak sales targets within the Optus network, Mr Hasson believes trade in the city has improved as apartments go up and more residents move in.
"[The mall shop] for the first time year-on-year has seen improvement, so we feel like the dip has gone out and the city is starting to move forward," he says, while acknowledging other businesses, particularly in hospitality, had not fared as well. "I am surprised we survived the light rail, we gritted our teeth for three years, but I am supremely confident we are through the worst of it."
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