Basketball and business great Shaquille O’Neal wows the Melbourne business community at an intimate business event held at CreativeCubes.Co professing “If you come to the USA, I am in!” 25 August, Melbourne: Held in South Melbourne yesterday at the creative co-working hub CreativeCubes.Co, basketball and business great Shaquille O’Neal joined a business community of 260 eager Melbournians in an intimate fireside chat sharing what he has learned in business during his on and off court career.

In a one-off exclusive experience, the NBA megastar and business mogul who is worth $400m (USD) shared stories about his successful 19 year basketball career across six teams, winning the NBA Rookie of the Year, four championships and 15 time All Star and NBA MVP. O’Neal shared with the audience more than his identity as an elite sportsman. The event, which was held for 2 hours, opened with Melbourne based funny-man comedian Dave Hughes who stirred the crowd up with his anti-lockdown jokes, calling out his son’s (who was present) passion for basketball.

Drawing parallels between his business life and his basketball career, Shaq says that the most important thing he ever does is hire people smarter than him. “All of my success I wish I could say was me, me, me. In basketball you have teammates that you trust, these guys make my job so much easier, and I apply this to my business. I invest in businesses that change people’s lives. It has nothing to do with monetary value, it’s about relationships,” he said. “I don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room. I love having smarter people around me teach me what I don’t know,” he says. “I once spent $1M in a day and my bank manager got so mad he gave me the Dummies Guide To How To Start A Business and I learned to ask questions I did not know. For example, when you emailed me Tobi, I wouldn’t have been able to understand what you were asking of me to come to Australia and talk here. I needed my people to help me, And here I am,” he says.

When asked about regrets, Shaq has a few but not investing in Starbucks was not one of them. He spoke about a situation when he was 21 years old when he was asked to invest in Starbucks, but his people in his “Hood” did not drink coffee, so he didn’t believe it would work. “Sometimes you just need to stick to your guns even if it’s not right,” he says. “I did not know anything about gentrification and when the deal was given to Magic Johnson, it was a good deal. I don’t regret it, I just needed to learn from it because in order to succeed you must learn to fail.”

The self proclaimed Chief Fun Officer (CFO), Shaq only ever wants to build a brand that is about fun. “You have to respect the people in your life and those that are like you,” he said. “I consider myself a geek. I like technology, I like the future of things,” he said, “I met the co-founders of Google and thought “yeh, I would like to be part of that, it’s a bit like The Jetsons.” So when given the opportunity Shaq was one of the first investors in Google and got “a nice hit” when they went public. He still remains a holder in Google. But for Shaq, charity is where it’s at. Sitting on the board of Pappa John’s Pizza (the first African American on the board, also) he insisted that the pizzas could not be the highest priced pizza so he dropped the price, he launched the Shaqeronni pizza, an oversized pizza with proceeds going to a charity.

Shaq also told a story of Walmart, when after he received abuse from a mother whilst in the store about the price of shoes that were unaffordable for her son, he challenged the norm and reduced the price. He said that it reminded him as a child, wanting great shoes, but never being able to afford it. Fast forward a few years he’s sold $400m worth of those shoes.

So impressed with the CreativeCubes.Co concept, Shaq shouted out “If you plan on coming to the US, I want in. We’re going to be partners as soon as you come to Dallas. Dallas before LA, so I can save you a lot of money. Dallas is booming, they have the same energy as here in Melbourne.” To which Tobi said, “Shaq and Tobi…. That’s nice. I like that.” Key takeaways that Shaq shared include: Greatness is measured in championships and leadership Hire people smarter than you and build up your team mates for success Support your community, if it means bringing the price down of your products so it’s affordable, do that. In order to succeed you must learn to fail.

So how did Shaq end up at CreativeCubes.Co?

It was after a HBO episode that aired and then was posted to YouTube, interviewing Shaq that Skovron found super inspiring and compelled to reach out. Shaq being an investor in a friend of Tobi’s business from his days living in Los Angeles was the connection he needed and Tobi literally cold called. Within 24hrs Tobi was on the phone with Shaq’s management with a goal of having him visit CreativeCubes.Co here in Australia.

Author Tobi Skovron

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