Who will replace elders like John Stefanelli? (3)

“It takes Time, so have the long view – Develop patients with people – Have respect for nature, it’s a great teacher” ~ John (Giovanni) Steffaneli

The three gems I gleaned at the end of our conversation from John’s vast business and life experience.

John’s Businesses, from a wood-mill, tree plantations, cattle, fishing charters, tyre factory, news paper, property developments, shopping centre or commercial properties ownership, just to name a few. Many of these businesses John knew very little about when migrating to Australia, yet he was able to achieve profitable outcomes.

In all our conversations over the years, it’s clear that John looks for key people and empowers them. John’s type of leadership is a dyeing art and if we don’t capture its spirit and impart it into our next generation, we will lose what makes this country great.

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Picture of John in his office at ninety-three years of age still sharing with whoever is open.


I met John many years ago while I was in commercial real estate. He called me to enquire about a restaurant I had up FOR LEASE. The signs with my name on it were plastered all around a property. I helped my Aunty sort out the family properties when my uncle Chris died. John asks the question “How are you related to Chris Smilovitis?” My response “Chris was my uncle and the family has asked if I could assist with their properties”. This particular property John knew very well, It was once a well-known restaurant called Chris’s Country Diner and business men like John would frequent it with their bank managers as well as build their business connections.

While still on the phone, I asked “And who are you and what do you do?’. John would’ve been in his late seventies at the time and he seemed a little mused by my tone and he began to tell me who he and his family were. John tells me that he was close friends with my uncle and knew him through the restaurant. My ears pricked when he also told me that the family owned a local shopping centre and I asked straight away….

“I want to manage your shopping centre, when can we meet?”

John still mused by my tone and initially called me to see if my family were interested in selling the restaurant. It was a great connection as both of us looked to see if we could do a deal over the phone and we hadn’t even met each other yet. Within three months I was managing that shopping centre and leased out the restaurant which allowed John to continue his tradition of taking his business connections to lunch.

John was well into his nineties when you could still reach him at his office from week to week. John still had that spark in him that enabled him such great business success.

I just visited John at his home in just before new year 2021, as he was unable to do business as usual but still he was as philosophical as ever.

“Tom, we are in the people business”

With an endearing manner, John reveals some of the keys to his long-standing vocation in life, “Tom, we are in the people business”.

From his early twenties when he migrated to Australia, John knocked on doors and took on any jobs that were offered. John clearly had an ability to rally trust and confidence that he would deliver an outcome. From an employee to an employer, John’s philosophy is the same, rally trust and confidence and allow others to deliver with you.

……….it’s clear that John looks for key people and empowers them.

John never got stuck on the details, that’s for everyone else to work out.

He continues “Tom, there is only twenty-four hours in a day and unless you develop people, you will never be able to expand.”

John goes on to tell me about his involvement in the community. From Swan Chamber President decades ago to building an Italian Community centre among other social enterprises.

As far as John is concerned, nothing has changed, there is always opportunity if you’re looking for it by knocking on doors relentlessly.

You can’t help but admire unique people like John who connected with me in his late seventies by cold calling me off a FOR LEASE sign and seeing if the family were interested in selling.

Who will replace JOHN STEFANELLI?

I can’t think of a better time in history than building on the foundation stones of entrepreneurs like John and others in the SWAN REGION and the Eastern Corridor of Perth, filled with migrants that allowed hard times to make them innovative.

I take away with me three simple nuggets from my latest conversation with John

  1. It takes time to build big so take the long view but stay focused and do deals
  2. Be patient, don’t get stressed and work with people to gain a greater outcome
  3. Respect nature, because it teaches us so much about the cycles of life              P6240316.JPG

Picture taken of Perth’s beautiful icon SWAN RIVER in Guilford

Calling all Pioneers to create new opportunities not only for themselves, but for the next generation.

I received a message on Friday 18th February 2022 that John has gone on to be with the Lord. John was a gentleman that had all the time in the world for the next generation. Perhaps a great key to John’s success was his ability to see opportunity in people rather than just business itself.

Who will replace John Stefanelli?

I invite you to be just that person.

Being the honorary CEO of the Swan Chamber wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t met John all those years ago. I represented the family interests at the chamber for many years and met others that had the same spirit as John, men like Gerry Hanssen who invited me to take the role I currently have.

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