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How Dorry Kordahi turned his childhood dream into a fruitful career

In the US, only 10 per cent of adults are actually doing the jobs of their childhood dreams. Dorry Kordahi is one of them.

Aspiring to be a professional basketball player, Kordahi not only competed professionally around the world, but he followed his passion into the business arena. Previously the Co-Owner of the Sydney Kings in the National Basketball League, and now currently the Part Owner and President of the Illawarra Hawks in the NBL, the businessman is the only person to have owned two separate professional sporting teams across any sporting code in Australia.

"Playing basketball professionally overseas taught me a lot of things I found to be just as important in business as sport," Kordahi tells The CEO Magazine. "Things like good team building and being self-disciplined. It moulded the way I am today."

From being a teenage towel boy for the Sydney Kings to a professional playing career, Kordahi founded his own company, DKM Blue, which manufacturers corporate merchandise and uniforms for about 30 of the world’s top brands, from automotive to computing and hospitality.

Establishing his business in his mid-20s from his parents’ garden shed with no money or backing forced his determination to shine through.

The leading business for corporate merchandise has offices in Sydney, London, Beirut and Shanghai; however, Kordahi hasn’t always shot goals.

From failing his HSC to working for his father as an apprentice hairdresser, the entrepreneur never gave up.

"Whatever your start in life is, it’s possible to become a success provided you are passionate about what you do," he explains. "If you believe in yourself and are determined and prepared to work hard, you will succeed.

"I’m a very motivated person and always put all my energy into any project at hand. I’m certain these qualities are the reason I am where I am today, and although I have grown and changed since I started out on my journey, I remain fundamentally the same, down-to-earth person I have always been."

Kordahi's humble corporate approach is evident through his "strict open-door policy".

"I’m a firm believer in running a very tight ship," he says. "Unlike the leaders of many companies, I see turnover as irrelevant because without profit, turnover means nothing, no matter how big it is. If you focus on succeeding while adhering to your strict, preset goals and guidelines, then profit will be the big product of achieving your goals.

"You need to be able to weather the storms of bad times in order to enjoy and profit in the good times. Basically, turnover is vanity while profit is sanity."

After a testing economic crisis, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the successes of business leaders at the 2021 Executive of the Year Awards.

Bringing his wealth of entrepreneurial knowledge to the table of experts, Kordahi will be part of the judging panel, deciding which three CEOs will be crowned CEO of the Year.

"The Executive of the Year Awards offers validation both professionally and personally," he shares. "It’s recognition of a job well done, especially in the face of COVID-19 – one of the biggest global disasters in decades."

Looking forward to lauding the accomplishments of Australia’s determined executives, the businessman says the pandemic has been a true test of business acumen.

"If a person can successfully lead a company through something like COVID-19 and emerge intact, I believe it shows exemplary leadership and strength of character," Kordahi says.

Leading with courage and bravery is something he has delivered during his decades-long career.

"Don’t waste time trying to be perfect. Be good at something first and make it perfect later." – Dorry Kordahi

Most recently, one of the bravest decisions the entrepreneur made was to join with his partners and buy the Illawarra Hawks.

"It required nerves of steel," he tells The CEO Magazine. "They had gone into liquidation and COVID-19 was raging around the world when the purchase was finalised.

"As President, I had just six months to hire a team of players and coaches as well as admin staff. Then I had to win the confidence of some important sponsors and, at the same time, reinvigorate the fan base.

"Everything had to be built from scratch at a time when Australians were experiencing the most severe restrictions regarding the size of gatherings and access to public spaces.

"Bravery is essentially stupidity unless it is tempered with wisdom. It would be fair to say I have had a reasonable number of ‘brave’ moments."

After a tumultuous year, the leader’s approach to business doubles as insightful advice for fellow entrepreneurs and Executive of the Year Awards applicants.

"I’ve seen lots of people go bust trying to be perfect instead of getting on with running their business," Kordahi points out. "I always maintain that you don’t land on top of a mountain, you have to climb it. And that climb can be a tough one – you have to keep yourself focused and determined.

"Don’t waste time trying to be perfect. Be good at something first and make it perfect later."

Discover all the finalists for the 2021 Executive of the Year Awards and celebrate the winners at The Star, Sydney, during the black-tie gala dinner on 24 February 2022. Vaccination requirement to be confirmed.


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