10 minutes with Dorry Kordahi, Joint CEO, DKM Blue
Our subject for the April interview is Dorry Kordahi who, after failing his high school certificate and not attending University, built a merchandise business that is leading the way. He founded DKM in late 2002 while still in his mid-twenties. In 2009 he merged with his brother’s Company DK Blue and now has built a global business called DKM Blue. The business turns over $10 million a year and continues to grow. Today the company, which supplies a wide range of promotional merchandise, including bags, umbrellas and corporate clothing, has a HQ in Sydney, Australia, with regional offices in Melbourne, London and Shanghai.
In his recent book, Power to Act (available from WHSmith), Dorry charts his personal rise to be a recognised entrepreneur. It also records the steady growth of the now international company, which services major brands including Mercedes Benz, Microsoft, XBOX, Mercedes Benz, Blackberry and Samsung to name a few.
So, let’s find out a little more about Dorry, how he came to be involved in the promotions industry and his considerable success:
Q. We know you founded DKM (now DKM Blue) in 2002, but were you in the promotions industry prior to that?
A. Yes, I was part of the family’s promotional clothing wholesale business from 1997 to 2002. Prior to that I served an apprenticeship with my father’s hairdressing business.
Q. What has changed about the industry in Australia since you joined?
A. Technology has changed the industry in a massive way. It used to take up to three weeks for artwork approval, now it can be done in less than three hours. I also think markets have become more alert over the years to the fact that merchandise plays an important role with any media campaign that is being produced.
Q. What do you see as the main difference between the UK and Australian industry?
A. Over the last five years I have seen the Australian market become demanding in terms of creativity. Our Australian clients focus on creativity and innovations. This has forced our suppliers to think outside the box and import more creative products to better service the industry.
I have noticed in the UK market, clients are more focused on pricing rather than working with their suppliers as partners and trying to form a strategy where you use creativity and innovation to create a product with impact.
However, we are able to bring the benefits of Australian innovation to the UK clients who are not so price sensitive. I realised this when I first visited London back in 2002 to gauge the variance between both countries. So we wanted to give added service and benefits to the UK market, that’s why we opened the UK office.
Q. What do you like most about the industry?
A. Every day is different, there are lots of opportunities. It’s fun to be creative and to meet clients and see the ideas from pitches come to life.
Q. Any particular dislikes?
A. Yes, I hate the fact that the promotional sector plays second fiddle in the marketing industry. Many distributors don’t see the value of giving their clients service when it comes to promotional products, but just push price. The strategy of ‘making a quick buck’ is damaging to the industry.
Q. What do you view as the particular challenges and opportunities for your company in the near future?
A. The challenge is running a profitable business, maintaining growth and managing overheads. There are always opportunities, you just have to recognise them and make the most of them.
Q. Promo e-News is a website devoted to promotional-merchandise, so tell us what’s the favourite piece of merchandise you have on your desk/or that you have recently seen?
A. I have my Monte Grappe, Italian pen, on my desk and I love my Mercedes Benz travel bag.
Q. What’s the worst example of promotional merchandise you’ve seen?
A. I cringe when I see brands trying to get the biggest logo onto their products because they think that’s the best value for money. Subtlety is best. If you want people to wear your promotional clothing or use it, be subtle with the branding. Today’s wearers are selective.
Q. If you weren’t in the promotions industry, what would like to be doing?
A. I’ve never thought about it. It just clicked for me when I was 21 that this industry was going to be a part of me for a long time.
Q. Who do you admire/respect most in the public eye in the UK or in Australia? … and why?
A. Richard Branson in UK; I love what he’s done with brand Virgin and what he has achieved.
John Symonds of Aussie Home Loans, he redefined the mortgage industry in Australia and took on the big banks and won. It’s the way he marketed his brand and what he stood for which is a big achievement.
Q. If you were to have a dinner party, who would you invite to chew over the facts and put the world to rights or simply to amuse you?
A. Michael Jordan, a sporting star and the most inspirational person to have lived. He was my biggest idol when I was growing up.
John Howard , the Australian Prime Minister. He’s had over 14 years in Parliament and is one of the longest serving PMs in our country. He’s done a great job.
I’d invite Richard Branson too and my parents, who brought me up well, kept me grounded and taught me the importance of value and respect.
Q. What’s your typical office day?
A. I’m usually in the office by 8am. Being joint CEO means lots of multi-tasking. I could be working on production issues one minute and creating sales campaigns the next. So every day is different for me which I love.
I also work on ‘Branded’ which is a magazine I launched eight years ago. It focuses on the importance of below-the-line marketing activity (products and key case studies). We produce 30,000 copies nationally which is the largest circulating free marketing publication. It’s helped us to position our business as one of the market leaders.
Q. What do you like to do to relax?
A. I love my weekends. I made a rule to myself not to go into the office on the weekends. My weekends consist of watching TV, napping, going to my local cafe, pretty much anything that gives me mental freedom. I think it is very important to have life balance.
Q. Tell me something about you that nobody in the industry knows?
A. Well, I played professional basketball for short stint in Lebanon. I have played basketball since I was 12, so to be able to play it professionally (even though it was short lived) was great. To be able to travel abroad and get paid for doing what you love doing was an excellent experience.
SUMMING UP, Dorry said, “This is an exciting industry, full of opportunities; competitive yet rewarding. If you push yourself and your clients to be different, there are lots of opportunities. It’s an ever changing scene and the challenge is to keep ahead of the times.
“My motto is: If we couldn’t look after our own brand, then how could you expect us to look after yours.”
This year Dorry was listed in The BRW Young Rich List as one of top 100 richest guys under 40 in Australia, probably the only chap in industry to do it, so he must be doing something right!