Lucky Escape

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BY KERRY ANDERSON

Sebastian Parsegian has had two lucky escapes in his lifetime. The first was 40 years ago as an 11 year old Armenian refugee fleeing war torn Ethiopia. The second was when he and wife Rebecca left their jobs in Melbourne and moved to Swan Hill in country Victoria to become award winning business owners.

If leaving his job selling used cars in Melbourne was a concern at the time, it certainly isn’t now. With multiple trophies lining his office, including the prestigious 2016 Toyota Australian Dealer of the Year, Seb looks very comfortable as both a business owner and resident of a country town.

‘We’re out of the rat race,’ explains Seb. ‘In Melbourne you don’t even know who your neighbour is. We have a sense of belonging here and I have an extra 70 hours a month up my sleeve. No travel and friendlier work hours.’

Having wisely invested their hard-earned wages into property Seb and Rebecca were in the fortunate position of being able to buy into an existing business in Swan Hill in 2007. It was a great time to move to the country with their son aged ten at the time.

‘We turned up at the football one Sunday at Lake Boga, where we had bought a house, and were welcomed with open arms.  Through children and sport you automatically get to connect with people.’

Business wise, Swan Hill Toyota had already enjoyed some success and they were able to invest just as it relocated to new purpose-built premises on the Murray Valley Highway leading into Swan Hill. 

That success has now doubled.  Since taking over, the business has increased its number of employees from 14 up to 34.  The sales figures reflect why. When Seb and Rebecca took over 27 vehicles were sold a month which quickly went to 50 and now 70.

A new location will have helped contribute to this success but more so the culture.  So what makes this rural based business so competitive at a national level?

Quietly spoken Seb believes that sharing his 25 years experience of selling cars with staff helped to increase sales straight way.  Rebecca also brought with her the experience of working in the car industry and has since become the principal dealer of Swan Hill KIA located conveniently across the road.

They continue to invest in staff through the Toyota franchise’s extensive training program.

‘We support each other to exceed targets,’ says Seb.  Everyone gets a KPI bonus regardless of which department they work in, encouraging team work and innovation.  ‘Customers are our guests. The relationship is definitely more important than the sale. It’s all about the experience.’

When announced as the 2016 Toyota Australian Dealer of the Year over all the metropolitan based franchises, Seb and Rebecca were delighted.  Previously on four occasions they had won Rural Dealer of the Year and now they had received acknowledgement at the highest level.

‘We were so pleased for our staff and customers,’ recalls Seb reliving the announcement made at a gala dinner in Melbourne. ‘It was a massive achievement for Swan Hill.’

‘Swan Hill punches well above its weight,’ adds Rebecca. ‘A number of businesses are operating at a national level.’   

Yes, Seb and Rebecca wholeheartedly agree. It was a lucky escape when they came to Swan Hill.

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Seb’s Top Business Tips:

  • Don’t take things personally
  • Say thank you - to staff and guests
  • Don’t major in minors
  • Stand guard at the door of your mind
  • Focus on who and what you can become from being in business rather than what can the business do for you.
  • Have dreams and goals – set your goals in concrete and your plans in sand
  • A big shot is a little shot that kept on shooting

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KERRY ANDERSON: Author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE