In the mid-1980s I owned a motorcycle distributorship and retail outlet in Victoria Park, Western Australia. It was called Herb Watson Motorcycles. We handled Italian motorbikes such as Ducati, Laverda, Moto Guzzi, and Cagiva. There was only one other Italian bike dealer in the greater Perth district that could be considered “competition” or “opposition” in the traditional business sense.
My opposition was an acclaimed engineer and he specialised in “hotting up” Ducatis for his customers to race. Despite his formidable reputation in the mechanical field, he was never very good at the retailing of new motorcycles. We, on the other hand were very good at customer service and dominated the retail market. But although we had a sophisticated workshop with great mechanics, we were never as famous as our opposition in terms of mechanical repairs and servicing.
As entrepreneurial business owners, both of us sought to strengthen our weaknesses and did our utmost to compete for the dominant market share. We tried to undercut each other, we tried to discredit each other, we tried to damage each other, and we tried to “outdo” each other at every opportunity. Our objective was to eventually put our competition out of business and secure the entire market for ourselves. This is the traditional capitalist model which is undertaken by virtually all businesses worldwide, especially in the developed world.
In this case, because both business owners were high achievers who were naturally competitive, we very nearly succeeded in putting each other out of business! We inflicted significant damage on each other’s businesses and had we continued I genuinely think neither business would have survived.
During this “battle of the businesses” our wives had met quite randomly at a church, and had become great friends. They had managed to maintain their relationship extraneous to the toxic business aspirations of their husbands, and they met regularly.
In 1987, I decided to attend the Harvey Adventure Rally with my family. This was a social dirt-bike enduro race in the Harvey State Forest about 150km south of Perth. Coincidentally my opposition, whom I had never met in person, also attended with his family. Without realising it, they set up camp very close to our site. Naturally our wives were delighted and they introduced us for the first time.
Over the long weekend, as we rode hard through the bush by day, and told “war-stories” and drank beer around the campfire by night, we got to know each other quite well and we found that we had a lot in common. After several more meetings at various industry functions, I grew to enjoy the company of my “opposition” and we became mates.
In the following months, as our friendship grew, I realised that I could not continue to strive to put my friend and his family out of business. I realised if I succeed in this crazy quest I would inflict incredible financial hardship on this family, and they would end up on the welfare system. I also realised that not only would I have to live with the guilt of deliberately ruining my friend’s business, and crippling a productive Australian family, but that as the survivor of this ridiculous battle I would be paying their welfare bill!
I decided to sit down and take a very good look at the logic behind the economic theory under which we were all operating. I concluded it was inherently flawed, it was completely illogical, it was utterly unsustainable, it could only lead to disaster, and it was driven by a reckless greed to accumulate wealth despite the cost to others. I was certainly not against accumulating wealth, but at what cost? It became very clear this was insane, and as I studied it historically I found that this culture of maximizing self-interest at the expense of others was the fundamental reason why societies had imploded and fallen into anarchy for thousands of years. I needed to find a sustainable alternative whereby we could ALL prosper.
As I pondered this dilemma the obvious became clear. We needed to build on our common ground (the Italian motorcycle market), we needed to major in the areas that each of us was good at (he at engineering and we at retail), we needed to support each other by sending each other business in the areas where we were weak and they were strong, and above all instead of trying to gain market share (wealth) by putting each other out of business, we would achieve the same thing manifold (much greater wealth) if we intentionally worked TOGETHER and GREW the market! In a nutshell, the answer to the flawed model of greed and self-centredness at any cost was a counter culture of caring and sharing, which would inevitably lead to universal prosperity.
With this in mind I took a trip over to what was the “opposition’s” business and declared that we were now “fraternity”. We sat down and discussed a strategy whereby we would promote each other’s good points, we would send each other business, we would share the market, and together we would grow the market instead of competing for market share.
We commenced trading in this new way, which immediately caused us both to prosper. In order to grow the market, we set about expanding our following of customers by producing shop race-bikes and developed them to such an extent that we challenged and then defeated the Japanese marques on the racetrack. This grew our market to such an extent that within 12 months my business exploded from bordering on failure to a multimillion-dollar enterprise, and the same happened to our newfound “fraternity”.
Through its incredible engineering prowess our “opposition” turned “fraternity” created the Alchemy, an Italian-Australian superbike, which went as far as 4th place in one of the world’s most important twin cylinder races at Daytona in the USA!
The Herb Watson Paso 750 on the racetrack at Wanneroo, Western Australia, 1988
Our business became a household name around the country, with centrefold write-ups in motorcycle magazines.
At the time this story applied to an individual case in a single sector of the Australian economy. However, by 1988 I realised this overarching culture of caring and sharing would lead to universal prosperity if applied to all sectors of the market, and at all levels of the market, including at a national level, and at an international level. I realised that if we cared for and shared with all parties to any transaction, whether it be business transaction, a political transaction, or even a social interaction, it would always lead to universal prosperity.
During the ensuing 30 years to 2017 I have applied this policy to its maximum extent. In 2001 when we first formed the predecessor of the Paladin Group we coined the slogan “That all May Prosper” and we have intentionally set out to prosper every party to the entire supply chain of every business we have engaged in, and that included any “opposition” in the market.
Further, we have sought to apply this same culture to our private transactions such as buying or selling our personal home, and to our social interactions such as encouraging, teaching, and building up others to prosper in all aspects of life.
The results have been absolutely remarkable and as of May 2017 the Paladin Group owns over $700 million in business assets, and has literally prospered thousands of people with many of them becoming millionaires, through its trading, training, and social culture which is the heart and soul of the modern-day ASP Movement.
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