Old-fashioned values still apply

SPEND WISELY: Working Style founder Chris Dobbs says it’s not how you earn it, it’s how you spend it.
SPEND WISELY: Working Style founder Chris Dobbs says it’s not how you earn it, it’s how you spend it.

Working Style founder Chris Dobbs started his business the hard way, hawking made-to-measure shirts door to door in 1987. The menswear company now has five outlets but, despite his success, Dobbs' attitude to money is old fashioned.

"I was fortunate to have good parents who made me appreciate every dollar that I got. It's something I want to pass to my own kids, as a father I am very conscious of it - I don't want them having everything at once."

What was your first paid work?

I used to work in the factory where my father worked. The factory manufactured petrol pumps in Marton, where I grew up. I also used to mow lawns and all that sort of stuff but working at the factory was my first holiday job with regular hours.

If a child asked you the best way to make money, what would you say?

Get out and sell something. Hustle something. I used to sell pinecones - it's the classic thing of having a lemonade stand. I think it's a great thing for every kid. They learn the logistics trying to get something - they learn how to hustle.

What has been your biggest investment mistake?

There have been many. Investment mistakes in business can be very expensive if you don't get it right. We have certainly opened some stores - we haven't opened many - but some haven't worked. This has seemed to happen when we have decided to make an investment decision for our business and the whole team hasn't been behind it . . . You employ good people in your management team. You have to listen to them.

What's the biggest lie about money that people routinely tell or fall for in your view?

I suppose people believe often that people who look like they have money have money, when often that is not the case. Looks can be deceiving. People that look like they haven't got two cents to rub together are quite comfortable thank you very much.

Are you a collector and if so, do you do it to make money out of it or for personal enjoyment?

Not in the traditional sense. I have got an obsession with certain hobbies. I am mad keen on fishing and boating, I have an extensive collection of rods and reels and I keep acquiring and hoarding. It's not a particularly good use of money. I would like to collect boats but I'm too tight and my wife is too sensible to let that happen. I have one boat but I would like two . . . I sound like a typical Aucklander!

What has been your best investment decision?

One of the investments I am proudest of was our reinvestment in Christchurch. Everyone said it was the wrong thing to be doing and the wrong timing. We listened to our people, our customers, and had confidence to make a reasonably significant investment [purchasing a building in Merivale]. It was high risk but it's one of the best things we have ever done. You can't wait for people to tell you it's the right move - you have to do what you want to do.

How do you sum up your feelings towards spending?

It's not what you earn, it's how you spend it. I am not as frugal as I should be but I am not brazenly out of control. I don't spend money on clothes - I have a store full, but I like to spend money on myself like most men.

Are you in KiwiSaver?

No, but I should be. I am in the process of getting it sorted out, I just haven't got to it yet. Everyone should be in KiwiSaver.

Do you trust the money men?

That is a good question . . . I have got people I do trust. Generally I would have thought, yes, but you have to do your own due diligence and decide who you trust.

Gambling is something of a national past-time. Do you like a flutter? Not even a Lotto ticket?

No, never. It doesn't smoke my tyres.

Sunday Star Times