Muhammed Ali once said, ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count’.

As the MFAA’s fifth ever member, John Macalyk is one of our industry’s longest serving professionals with more days under his belt than most.

But it’s how the AAA Financial Group Managing Director has made his days count, staying one step ahead of a rapidly evolving industry to deliver top notch service for almost four decades that truly sets him apart.

With a story to tell for any scenario, and a pearl of wisdom for every challenge, John Macalyk has combined old school resilience with new school thinking to remain at the top of his game.

And with a relatively new push into residential broking and some exciting projects on the horizon, this legend of the industry has a long way to go yet.

MFAA Feature Groundbreaker John Macalyk

MFAA: So, can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the business?

John Macalyk (JM): I was NSW state manager for AGC in equipment and asset finance, and when my second child was born there was a medical problem, and I needed to stay at home more. So, I left AGC and became an asset finance broker. When I started out, I had to knock on doors, but I wasn’t good at it. So, I hired a guy and I said to him, ‘I want you to make me 10 appointments a day all over Sydney for six months non-stop’, and that’s what I did.

MFAA: How did things develop for you in those early years?

JM: From those meetings I was able to gather thousands of business cards and develop a database, which was quite a novel concept in the early 80’s. But thanks to those connections, after a few years I was sending an average of 100,000 personalised letters a year to my database. I remember my daughter who was about seven or eight at the time helped me to lick the stamps.

MFAA: What have been the biggest changes that you have seen in the industry and what have you learnt from those?

JM: In 1991 we had the recession we had to have. At that time interest rates were upwards of 19 or 20%. I remember getting a loan for one of my clients, and I thought I got a great deal at 16.5%, fixed for five years. But within three years the rate had gone down to 10%, so I investigated paying out the loan, but the lender told me, ‘Oh there’s a $22,000 penalty on that’. So, I learnt lessons from that.

MFAA: What other wisdom have you gained along the way?

JM: There is a lot of pressure in our business, because brokers are always trying to do the best thing by their client. That comes with a lot of stress, and sometimes you work harder than you should. Someone said to me once, ‘John, go home, that deal will still be there tomorrow’. That was a good lesson I learnt. The other one was, always have something to look forward to. That could just be a lunch next week or an MFAA conference. They always have the best speakers. I remember once we had Bob Geldof, and another time there was a fellow that walked on the moon. And there are always terrific motivational speakers.

MFAA: What are your best tips to stay positive and motivated?

JM: I have always been interested in industrial psychology, and I’ve learnt that if you are under stress you should think of a good moment you had with the family or yourself on a beach, and that helps you to realise that things aren’t so bad. Another one I like is, if you are under stress just close your eyes and picture 20 balloons tied to your head, and the balloons are slowly going up into the sky. Breath in and out, and it’s like the balloons are lifting the stress away from your body. Another saying I like is, ‘The road to success is always under construction’. I used to do a lot of construction loans, and I used that as my email signature. It’s also important to have work / life balance, because that helps you to last longer.

MFAA: Do you have any other secrets to longevity in the industry?

JM: Charles Darwin said the animals that survive in the jungle are the ones that adapt to their environment. You have always got to adapt. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t accept change, but you’ve got to. And you have got to stay positive. I’ve always read a lot about motivation and self-improvement, one of the first books was Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’. One of his pieces of advice was that if there are people that you don’t necessarily agree with or like, you should always focus on what you do like about them. He gave an example of being in a long line at the bank, and he thought ‘what can I say about these tellers’ and when his turn came he said to the teller, ‘you’ve got a great head of hair’. Just remember to make it sincere, but a positive attitude is important. If you are mentally attuned, everything else will flow. And you have got to be healthy. I walk 10,000 steps a day, and when I play golf, sometimes its 20,000.

MFAA: John, what are some of your career highlights?

JM: I have a highlight every time I get a new scenario in front of me. That’s what keeps me going. And I enjoy telling people’s stories. I have also always enjoyed events, and over the years I’ve collected some pieces of memorabilia that I love. I recall a conference in the 1980’s which featured a charity auction, with the most incredible prizes like a six-foot-tall glass case containing Mohammed Ali’s title fight coat and gloves. As you would expect the competition was fierce, one gentleman bid $85,000 before Vernon Spencer, who owned Interstar at the time, bid $87,000 and won. Before giving it to the other fellow and instead donating his $87,000 to charity. It was at that auction that I paid $3,500 for my signed picture of Muhammed Ali.

MFAA: What are you most looking forward to, John?

JM: I resisted doing home loans for 25 years because commercial was going so well, but we’ve been doing home loans now since the GFC, and it has been terrific. Certainly, one of my highlights has been to be the second biggest commercial introducer to Colonial First State. But we have a lot going on. We have wholesale money now, and I have some other investments and projects that I’m excited about. So, as always, lots to look forward to.