Starting a new life with an award-winning business

Since he left Croatia in 1986 for a new life in Australia, Ivan Filipovic has built one of the biggest formwork companies in Victoria. As owner of I&D Group and winner of the Medium to Large Business category at the 2014 Ethnic Business Awards, he shares what it took to succeed.

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With nominations now open for the 2015 Ethnic Business Awards, we take a look back at one of 2014’s courageous winners.

In 1986, Ivan Filipovic arrived in Australia from Croatia with a small suitcase and less than $100. Today, his company, the I&D Group, is one of Victoria’s top three formwork businesses, working with large-scale building and construction companies on landmark projects across the state. His win at least year’s Ethnic Business Awards underlined the scale of his achievement.

Do you or someone you know have a story that rivals Ivan’s? Click on the link below to nominate for the 2015 Ethnic Business Awards. Want to learn more about Ivan’s journey? Read on to find out about his inspirational success story.

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A disadvantaged childhood

One of seven children, Filipovic was hard at work fixing roofs by the time he was 11. When his uncle offered him work in Australia he saw an opportunity to improve his own life and also to help his family back home.

For the first two years he worked two jobs, starting at five in the morning and rarely finishing before midnight. “It was tough but it put me in a position to start my own business,” he says.

His biggest challenge was competing with companies that had been established for 20 or 30 years, particularly as he was still learning English. “We had to fight for every job and then prove that we could deliver on our promises,” he says. “By working hard and being honest we gradually started to win people’s trust.”

Now, that trust extends to the 700 people he employs. “Our people are our most important resource,” he says. “I can make the promises but it’s down to them to do a good job. If you don’t look after your employees they won’t be motivated, so we do everything we can to provide a good working environment.”

Family support

His wife, Kathy, has been integral to the business from the start – managing the accounts and other paperwork, and. providing crucial moral support. “Running your own business is very hard work and you have to put in a lot of hours if you’re going to be successful,” Filipovic says. “It’s almost impossible to be that committed if you don’t have the support and understanding of your family.”

Their two children also help out with the business – their daughter recently qualified as an accountant and their son is about to start the final year of an engineering degree. “I’d like to think they’ll play a more active role in the business in the future,” he says.

Winning the award

Filipovic is very proud to have won the Medium to Large Business Category at this year’s Ethnic Business Awards, and donated his $10,000 prize money to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

While he’s happy that his hard work has been acknowledged, that doesn’t mean the hard work is behind him. “Having so many employees on your payroll is a big responsibility,” he says. “It’s not just the people who actually work for you but also their families who are relying on you for an income. I have to make sure the new contracts keep on coming.”

He wants I&D to be the biggest company of its kind in Victoria and also has plans to branch out into building work. “The more successful you are, the more you have to share with others,” he says. “I want to take advantage of every opportunity Australia has to offer to become as successful as I can.”

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