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10 secrets to success from one of Australia’s top property developers

For many, the prospect of battling a seemingly never ending succession of odds to go from poor to prosperous within our lifetime would see us give up the fight and be content with our lot…with the odd complaint here and there.

But for Malaysian born immigrant Maha Sinnathanby, giving up was not on the cards and now he boasts 39th ranking on BRW’s Rich 200 list with a total fortune of $820 million.

A recent Business Spectator article tells of Sinnathanby’s bumpy journey to wealth, from 1959 when he first landed in Australia as an engineering student, to the remarkable creation of an entire city on the fringes of Brisbane. And in it he shares his 10 rules of success.

Over the last 20 years, the millionaire mogul, who cites Mahatma Ghandi as his inspiration, worked with business partner Bob Sharpless to turn a parcel of apparently unusable land into the Greater Springfield masterplan community, consisting of 23,000 residents.

Recently, he has helped to publish a book called ‘Stop Not Till the Goal is Reached’, part biography, part business guide and part self-help manual written by Scottish author Karen McCreadie.

At its core, interwoven throughout his career biography of sorts, are 10 principles that Sinnathamby says he has based his life around.

Sinnathamby’s three core beliefs as an entrepreneur, drawn from his “idol and inspiration” Mahatma Ghandi are persistence, hard work and positivity.

“They are fundamental beliefs that I’ve had for 30 years,” he told SmartCompany.

“Ghandi changed the course of history. He had no money, had no army. He had the self-belief that righteousness and truth could win alone.”

The ten fundamental rules that this self-made multi-millionaire lives by are a fantastic template for success. In fact anyone looking to make something of their life and create real wealth, would do well to take a leaf out of his book.

Sinnathamby’s ten rules 



1. Make one idea your life

2. Arise, awake and stop not till the goal

3. Work relentlessly

4. Be fearless – face the brutes!

5. The darkest night brings the brightest dawn

6. Pure in thought, word and deed

7. Character is established through a thousand stumbles

8. Everyone is great in their place

9. Create your own destiny

10. All power is within you

While he believes all of the rules are important, it is the last one that carries the most weight, with his message being first and foremost, to believe in yourself and be self aware.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself and you’ve got to trust yourself. You are your best friend. Trust your friend, believe in your friend.”

Real estate roller coaster

In 1972 his young family, including the wife he was betrothed to in an arranged marriage, joined him in Perth, not long after he had begun selling real estate on a commission basis.

He soon landed a job at the Perth Municipal Water Board, but by then the property bug had bitten and he spent weekends dragging his kids around Perth’s suburbs trading real estate.

In 1976, he and a Water Board colleague set up a company called Murdoch Projects and entered the world of property development.

The value of Murdoch Projects grew from $17,000 to $7 million quickly, but in 1982 Sinnathamby’s business partner moved overseas and things soured for the budding real estate tycoon.

A year later, with a recession brewing, he launched a disastrous attempt to raise $14 million through a public trust and was forced to hand the money back when a key investor pulled out of the capital raising. Sinnathamby was left with debts of $42 million.

Hell and back

In retrospect, Sinnathamby says it was his “first visit to hell”. He managed to dodge bankruptcy by selling all assets held in his wife and children’s names and promised creditors that he would sell his family home for $170,000 and give them $100,000, pleading to keep $70,000 so he could start over again. They agreed to the deal.

Sinnathamby says he was proud he “fought the battle all the way” and did not simply declare bankruptcy and walk away. He says he was deeply hurt by the episode, but determined to start again.

“I have a very strong philosophy that you never give up and when you fall down you have to pick yourself up. Because it is you and you alone that matters.”

Upon arriving in Brisbane in 1984, Sinnathamby went on the hunt for a big, dramatic project with business partner Bob Sharpless and when a parcel of old forestry land outside of Brisbane came up for sale in 1991, his vision for a city began to develop.

Sinnathamby eventually secured the 10,771 hectare site for less than $8 million and although he had many telling him the plan was doomed to fail due to it being unsuitable for residential development – including his wife and business Sharpless – he ploughed ahead regardless.

Twenty years and countless hurdles later, including another foray into potential bankruptcy, numerous fights with the Queensland government and unfavourable media attention, and Greater Springfield is now home to more than 23,000 residents, boasts its own education and health precincts and is due to be connected to Brisbane by rail next year.

Despite his success, Simmathamby says he continues to get up at 4am every morning and credits a very supportive wife and family for his success saying,

“They know I’m mad. Well, not mad. Half mad.”

Nothing like a bit of madness peppered with a good dose of positivity and perseverance to make your way to property development millions!

Source: Business Spectator

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Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who help their clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's once again been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and his opinions are regularly featured in the media. Visit Metropole.com.au


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