An open letter to John Hughes, one of Australia’s great businessmen. From CEO of a small but significant, 300 strong business network in the Eastern Corridor of Perth.

It wasn’t just a room full of business people, it was a room filled with individuals that want to make a difference.


First time in my association with the Swan Chamber of Commerce since my involvement in 2007 have we had to stop the ticket sales. We’ve doubled our attendance over the last couple of years, but this breakfast was something else.

John was the guest speaker in the DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP BREAKFAST SERIES, held by the Swan Chamber of Commerce on Sept 17th in the heart of Midland at the Crooked Spire.

He walks the walk, and talks the talk.

I had the privilege of meeting John Hughes some months back. John is most definitely, one of Australia’s best recognised car dealership founders. I also have to recognise him as one of Australia’s best businessmen, still going strong at 86 years of age.

John is a no nonsense character, what you see is what you get, so what does that mean?

In his office, the setting is minimalist in style, and completely set up for effectiveness. He reminds me of an SAS business person the way he operates. Every second is counted for. As John likes to put it “I am the light switch in my business”, meaning, John sets the tone as the leader of his organisation. With over 400 employees, I think John is hardest on himself. It’s an old school way of leadership, and it is so refreshing to see it in action.

Let’s fast track a few months later, John Hughes, on stage, in the heart of Midland, doing a speaking engagement, says, “I stopped doing speaking engagements two years ago. Tom, God knows how you got me here”

The audience laugh!!!

John’s talk was filled with humour, common sense and a call to action. The audience loved it. No one leaving early is always a great sign of connecting with the people.

John’s commitment to the business community drew him to the Swan Chamber of Commerce when he least expected it. The business community in the Eastern Corridor of Perth also responded well, this particular business breakfast being best attended business breakfast since my association with the Swan Chamber in the last fourteen years.

What made this Business Breakfast different?

1. There was no name tags on entry. Business People are being treated with the respect they deserve.

2. There was no hierarchy. Everyone in the room stands on equal ground. No special tables for dignitaries. First in get the best seats.

3. There was no room for negativity. With a smoking ceremony at the entrance, the message was clear. Keep all your negativity at the door and enter the event with a new set of eyes.

The smoking ceremony at the entrance of the event was symbolic of all that we want in life. An ability to leave all negativity, ill will and failures at the door. To enter a new season of opportunity without the past weighing us down.

Thank you Koya for your smoking ceremony contribution on the morning.

John Hughes wasn’t the event, John added to the spirit of the fresh direction that the Swan Chamber is going. John spoke with a spirit of a twenty year old and with the wisdom of an ancient elder. Which depicts the current spirit of the Swan Chamber. It’s an old network with a fresh lease of life.

At the end of the event, it was both surprising and encouraging to see so many young business people go up to John and glean one more pearl of wisdom from him.

Driving John back to his office, he commented on how impressive it was to see so many young people interested in being part of a business chamber and developing their business skills. I expressed to John how intentionally we have been as a business network to build a new culture, relevant to this generation.

All in all, John spoke into the lives of individuals that are hungry to succeed and grow their businesses in such a way that is doable.

What an amazing morning that didn’t feel like just another business breakfast, it felt like a revival meeting.

When John said “Tom, God knows how you got me here?”

My cheeky response was “God does know”

If you are open to the extraordinary, you might just experience it.

Thank you John Hughes for your example, commitment and humility to inspire the next generation.

It’s always about preparing the next generation to prosper. John takes time always to speak into the life of one more person with an appetite to succeed.

John said that he would do his last speaking engagement with the Swan Chamber of Commerce, apparently not. John had been invited by The West newspaper to do their Leadership Matters breakfast next month. As much as John desires to get on with his business as it continues to grow, it would be a great loss to our next generation when he does his final public engagement.

I believe John will do the speaking engagements until he reaches the grave! As much as he would like to just mind his own business.

Comments from a handful that attended the DISRUPTIVE LEADERSHIP BREAKFAST,

Was a great morning with 6 leaders from our company being able to sit and listen to a quality speaker in John Hughes.. our team left with full stomachs and a full list of ideas and inspiration. ~ Daniel Gafney MD ALLSAFEWA

It was totally inspired by the pearls of wisdom, learnt at the University of Life shared by John Hughes at the Swan Chamber breakfast this morning.
What a great event, I felt like standing and applauding on numerous occasions. ~
Chris Bown MD Thrive Integration

Tom, had a top breakfast, amazing business and life tips from John Hughes and met some great people. Puts me in good stead for the day and the rest of my life! ~ Peter Sansom Experius Group.

Fantastic event full of opportunity by Swan Chamber with a gathering of like minded business men and women. The inspiring, insightful and thought provoking stories and analogies from John Hughes topped off what was already a fantastic event! ~ Terry Bingham MD Five Star Business Solutions

Another outstanding leadership breakfast hosted by the Swan Chamber. The message from John Hughes was loud and strong – regardless of the industry, we are all in the People Business! ~ Paige McNeil, Councillor Elect Mundaring

God bless you John Hughes for your service to the business community at large.

Tom Smilovitis : Honorary CEO SWAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

‘Changing the way we do business’

A Business Network going back to the basics. In the words of John Stefanelli, one of the founding members of the chamber “There is no security in life, only opportunity”

Call me direct if you are in Perth Western Australia to enquire more how you can grow your network on 0407866555 , or look me up on WhatsApp..

One Comment on “An open letter to John Hughes, one of Australia’s great businessmen. From CEO of a small but significant, 300 strong business network in the Eastern Corridor of Perth.

  1. exactly like you said it Tom, God does know . Amen to that.

    what a beautiful humble man , I got lost in his wisdom.

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