Forget bums on seats. Paul Fischmann, 37, is in the business of putting heads on beds and he's got the knack.
''I fell into the hotel business at 20,'' he says. ''I was introduced to a property investor/developer who owned a hotel in Sydney and I spent a year with him, following him around and listening … but after a year he kicked me out and said to go and do it myself.''
What followed wasn't exactly a fairytale start. He was offered the lease on an inner-city boarding house and turned it into backpacker accommodation. Within three years he had five backpacker hostels but his reach was greater than his expertise.
''I was young and dumb and spending more than I was earning,'' he says. ''I had to sell the hostels.''
In 2002, Fischmann was given the opportunity to lease the 14-room Altamont Hotel in Sydney's Darlinghurst and borrowed $5000 to get him started. The gamble paid off.
''The Altamont was up-market with high prices but it was wrongly positioned,'' he says. ''It was a wonderful property but it was a bit snooty, a bit too cool for school … So I brought the prices down and friendlied-up the atmosphere.''
The hotel quickly filled up. Then another opportunity arose for the nearby Kirketon Hotel, which had 40 rooms. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, 8Hotels operates 14 boutique hotels in Australia, with more than 1000 rooms. It also has a hotel in Bali and a small accommodation business in Paris that offers apartments for holiday rentals.
The company boasts annual revenue of more than $50 million and 250 employees, catapulting Fischmann into the BRW Young Rich list with an estimated fortune of $34 million. ''We're making waves in an industry dominated by multinational hotel groups,'' he says.
BIG BREAK Taking the Altamont's lease.
MENTOR I enjoy talking to experienced businesspeople, preferably self-made. Often the best advice is not about what you should do but what you shouldn't do.
BEST INVESTMENT I think I've just made it [a hotel deal]. Otherwise, the people who are around me and work in the business. They have invested in me as much as I've invested in them.
WORST INVESTMENT I made some stupid moves in my mid-20s. The nail in the coffin was an investment in a restaurant. I've never invested in a stand-alone restaurant again.
MONEY PHILOSOPHY I'm acutely aware that money offers independence.
PLAY MONEY My greatest indulgence is travel.
WHAT'S NEXT We've just signed the lease to develop a new hotel in Sydney. We've developed wonderful infrastructure and I'm looking forward to deploying it. I want to build [8Hotels] as big as we can with the right properties and the right partners.