Entrepreneurs – Then and Now

Entrepreneurs The Now And Then

My first meeting with a true entrepreneur was in 1975 when I went to work for Philip Dulhunty at his company Dulmison Pty Ltd. Philip is the type of person Indiana Jones was cast from, Born in Kempsey, New South Wales, in 1924, great-grandson to Robert Velour Dulhunty, the first white settler of what was to become the city of Dubbo, New South Wales. At age six, the family moved to Port Macquarie where Dulhunty left school after completing his Form Three Intermediate Exam, no higher school tuition being available in Port Macquarie at the time.

In World War II he served as a Commando in the Australian Armed Forces in Japan, following which he was posted to the reconstruction forces stationed in Japan where in 1947 he started Dulmison Pty Ltd to exploit importing opportunities in the strictly controlled, quota and foreign exchange limited trading environment then prevailing in post-War Australia, opportunistically trading in whatever available quota presented itself (e.g. fireworks, costume jewellery, calico and case shooks),

A flying start

Philip is a keen aviator and on his return from Japan he continued with Dulmison and in 1949  established Port Macquarie Clipper flying services from Rose Bay Sydney to the northern New South Wales town of Port Macquarie in 1949, operating several Short S25 Sunderland MKIII flying boats leased from Trans Oceanic.

Good vibrations

Whilst maintaining a lifelong interest in flying Philip steered Dulmison into the power distribution components business in which it became a leading player in Australia for decades and having successfully developed a portable testing set for recording Aeolian vibrations in 1976 he created and patented the Dogbone damper which represented a significant improvement on the traditional Stockbridge damper commonly used. The design was adopted worldwide and sold in the millions.

Staying afloat

Philip had always been a keen swimmer and won the North Coast Junior Open Surf Race in 1940. Always the thinker and inventor he and a colleague, Calvin A Gongwer devised the “Aqueon”, a winged contraption configured to cause the swimmer’s legs to operate in unison, delivering power in the manner of a dolphin’s kick. He claimed it had a propulsion efficiency of 86 per cent, as compared to 25 per cent for the average swimmer. The Aqueon did not sell and by the time I met Philip there was a warehouse full of unsold units. Nothing would curb Philip’s enthusiasm and, in an attempt, to promote the Aqueon he swam across Sydney Harbour towing his wife Lenore in a dinghy but still no sales were achieved.

Under water

In 1986, Dulhunty designed the “Flook Anchor”, an automatically setting flying anchor. The device automatically adopts the correct angle on the bottom, obviating the necessity for sailors to make the often difficult estimation of depth and length of line to pay out. It was patented and sold successfully in Japan and the US.

All downhill

In the 1960’s Dulmison won a contract to install power to Perisher Valley an Australian ski resort and Philip decided to build a chair lift across the mountain to another close resort. The electrification contract went well but the chair lift venture did not as the route exposed the lift to high crosswinds, so it was closed and never reopened.

At about the same time he decided to build Australia’s first indoor ski hill and converted an old theatre for the purpose. Artificial ski slope technology was primitive to say the least and slopes in other countries were using a white mineral Baryte as the substitute for snow, however, baryte was not available in Australia and crushed blue-metal (stone) was used and lubricated with kerosene. The venture lasted one day.

The digital age – World’s first laptop

Dulmison continued to create new products and solutions in the power industry and in 1979 conceived the idea for what became the world’s fist laptop computer, the Dulmont Magnum.

Dulmont Magnum (later, Kookaburra) Laptop PC

The Dulmont Magnum went into production in 1983 and was successfully marketed both domestically and internationally by a joint venture with Tramont Ltd, a subsidiary of the Belgian National Electricity Authority, (one of Dulmison’s customers).

The Indiana Jones spirit

In 1976 Philip was a passenger on  Egypt Air Boeing 737, which was on its way from Cairo to Luxor with 96 passengers aboard, most of them Egyptians and Japanese and French tourists who wanted to visit the ancient valley of the kings and the temple at Karnak. The plane had a crew of six.

According to an Egyptian Government spokesman, the guerrillas had threatened to blow up the plane and its passengers unless five persons in jail in Cairo in connection with two assassination attempts were released.

The spokesman said that the guerrillas demanded also that the plane he flown to Benghazi, Libya. But the pilot told them he did not have enough fuel, whereupon he was allowed to land at Luxor.

There the plane was surrounded by paratroops, and the guerrillas negotiated with Egyptian officials. The Prime Minister and War Minister Mohammed Abdel Ghany el‐Gamasy flew to Luxor to take charge of the operation.

According to Egyptian officials, the plane, which had left Cairo at 7:30 A.M., was stormed in mid-afternoon by army commandos dressed as mechanics.

As the commandos entered the plane, Philip jumped out of his seat and wrestled with one of the hijackers, however, the commandos could not distinguish between the two and knocked both of them out with their rifles. A few days later Philip recovered and walked out of hospital.

A born survivor

In the early 1980’s Philip purchased Haxstead a national trust property of 400 acres on the coast south of Sydney. It had a lake and a working cattle farm. Ever the keen aviator Philip accompanied by his wife Lenore and his dog, took off in their Tiger Cub seaplane from their home on Sydney Harbour and headed for Haxstead. The Tiger Cub is a two-seater with one behind the other and a small area for luggage.

On approach to Haxstead Philip lined up the lake and touched down. He was at the opposite end of the lake to the homestead so turned around and started to taxi towards it, however, since his last landing there had been no rain and the lake was shallow. The plane hit a sandbank, flipped upside down during which the dog and the anchor (both stored in the back), flew past Lenore and Philip’s heads and exited through the front windscreen remarkably missing both of them.

On the hillside, witnessing all of this was Colin Eddy, the farm manager. He was on horseback mustering cows and on seeing the plane inverted in the water, he reacted like a true bushman and galloped towards the crash to save the planes occupants. Sadly, for Colin, he fell from his horse and broke his arm, made his way to the plane from which Philip and Lenore had emerged. Both were totally uninjured and Philip calmly aske Colin ‘what was wrong’.

Other achievements

On the water

The list is long but one day in the early 1980’s I was with Philip on his large cruiser entertaining some Saudi Arabian clients with whom we had a power transmission line contract. He asked me to accompany him to the top deck where he showed me a surfboard with a sail. He had just secured the Australian rights and went on to make sailboards for many years.

Never to be left behind Lenore had imported acupuncture needles (unseen before by the average Australian) and was busy demonstrating them on their pet dog on a midday TV chat show.

Below the road but above water

Philip was the chairman of the Seaplane Pilots Association is the only person that has ever flown under Sydney Harbour bridge.

At the age of 91 as the Chairman of the Catalina Flying Memorial he found and purchased a Catalina flying boat in Portugal, returned it to Australia and is involved in its restoration to bring it back to flying capability.

The wrong side of the fence

The Meta Sokol was a Czechoslovakian sports and touring four-seat single-engine low-wing aircraft and Philip is obviously a keen pilot, so why not import them into Australia. The story goes that on taking delivery personally in Czechoslovakia he took off and accidentally landed behind the iron curtain. Another narrow escape.

Dulmison becomes a circus

With over 200 people employed in Dulmison Thailand much time was spent in that country. Philip walked into the office in Australia one day and said that he thought that the way the Thais employed elephants to move logs could be useful in Australia for electricity authorities in the erection of telephone and power poles.

The bombshell was that he had purchased two elephants and they were on board a cargo ship on its way to Sydney!!! An immediate problem arose, a permit for their entry into the country had not been applied for.

After some quick research we found that the only way they could enter the country legally was to register Dulmison as a ‘Circus’. This was formally done, and the elephants were set to work in Sydney, however, it did not work out as planned and they were retired and spent their lives at a wildlife sanctuary west of Sydney.

Idea after idea flowed continuously.

Fighting on

Having survived this and so many other events including being gored by a bull in a Mexican bullring where he had climbed over the fence to take on the bull, Philip has never lost his fighting spirit or his passion for life. The photo below was published in the Lane Cove magazine ‘In the Cove’ in May 2018.

Philip Dulhunty was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2004 for “service to international trade through the design, manufacture and export of equipment for large high voltage electric systems, and to aviation, particularly through the Seaplane Pilots Association of Australia.

In 2008, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) conferred its James N Kurby Award on Dulhunty for “outstanding eminence, distinction, and public recognition”.

Sir Richard Kingsland described Dulhunty as a “truly Renaissance man, and his contribution to the business and engineering life of post-war Australia … astonishing.”

In June 1986, Dulhunty’s Dulmison UK Ltd received a Queen’s Export Award in recognition of its successful exports of power-line equipment, particularly vibration dampers, from its plant in Corby, Northamptonshire.

A privilege to be there

As the author of this article I was privileged to spend 8 years working alongside Philip as Contracts Manager, Production  Manager and International Development Manager during which time Dulmison employed more than 700 people in its offices and factories in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Tokyo, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and the USA. His leadership and willingness to explore new ideas was legendary and proved to be influential in my career as an entrepreneur in my own right. I will be always grateful for the opportunity Philip gave me including the recognition and understanding that you will not always get things right but if you keep working at it success is achievable.

The Modern Entrepreneur

There are 582 million entrepreneurs in the world. 22.5% of small businesses fail within the first year. Here are some interesting statistics about today’s start-up scene:

In conclusion

Everyone has the opportunity to become an Entrepreneur. Starting with money does not guarantee success. It was once said;

“How do you create a small fortune?”

The answer was;

“Start with a large fortune.”

There are no guarantees but as is the case with so many successful business people they never give up, never lose the passion and are prepared to learn from failure and try again. The story of Philip Dulhunty is testament to that theory.

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