Massive toll of company collapses on hospitality juggernaut
A YOUNG hospitality entrepreneur has employed two staff to chase debts after his company lost $160,000 when dozens of clients went into liquidation.
About 12 years ago Peter Marinos took over family business Big Michael's Fruit and Vegetables from his father, Greek immigrant Michael Marinos.
What started as a one-man operation has grown to a 26-strong staff with 14 trucks, supplying produce to 830 restaurants, cafes and fish and chip shops across southeast Queensland.
But Mr Marinos' business ran into tough times as he realised how the "biggest threat" in the industry was taking its toll.
Big Michael's lost about $160,000 over a few years when dozens of clients went bust with thousands of dollars in outstanding bills.
Major customer liquidations have resulted in debts of $25,000 and $17,000 owed to Big Michael's, frustrating Mr Marinos.
"People get in over their heads," he said.
"They think they have a business, they get customers and they start spending money that isn't theirs.
"You need to pay the milkman, the breadman, PAYG and staff superannuation."
Behind the Australian Taxation Office and owed employees, Mr Marinos said his business was low on the list when it came to getting cash back.
"I've never ever, ever been paid back," he said.
"You cut your losses. There's no way you're getting it back."
Now Mr Marinos has employed two people to stay on top of customers who fall behind in invoice payments.
From fine dining restaurants to local fish and chip shops, Big Michael's supplies fruit, vegetables and eggs to businesses across the southeast.
Despite the thousands in unpaid bills Mr Marinos has managed to grow the business exponentially since he took over 12 years ago.
Armed with one ute and a strong drive Mr Marinos went from restaurant-to-restaurant to secure clients.
"It's been an incredible journey," Mr Marinos said.
"The business has been more than doubling every year."
Big Michael's and Mr Marinos' separate trucking company have an annual turnover of about $13 million.
Big Michael's is the largest homegrown fruit and vegetable delivery company in the area.
"When my dad passed me the business we had one customer and one ute and the ute had no fridge on it, nothing," he said.
The 28-year old credits the success to old-fashion hard work and a personal relationship with clients.
For years he worked seven days each week, from 2am to 7pm.
"While everyone was partying I was working," he said.
"My biggest secret is service.
"Clients ring me up and if they're asking about an order I can tell them.
"I know who's taking the order and what time it's going to get there."
Despite handing the business to his son, Michael continues to work night shift and drive deliveries.
"It started off me helping him then it was him helping me," Mr Marinos said.
Knowing how volatile the transport and hospitality business can be, the father-of-two has invested in property.
"I'm putting my money into rock-solid investment properties," he said.
"All I do now is maintain the oiled machine."