A Morning with Philip Di Bella – Queensland BRW’s Richest Under 40 Self-Made Millionaire 

 May 29, 2016

By  Miriam Holme

If you wake up every morning craving that first cup of coffee, then chances are you’ve heard of Di Bella Coffee.

The caffeine-supplying juggernaut was built by founder Phillip Di Bella, who started the company from scratch in 2002 and sold his empire for a reported $47 million just 12 years later.

I had the chance to hear from Phillip in Brisbane recently, and his talk was inspiring, motivating and challenging – I am still buzzing over a week later!

Phillip isn’t afraid to share his opinions. He’s famous for being outspoken in the business world and in the media. He even unleashed on a few people asking questions on the day.

But what was clear about Philip Di Bella was that he is a man who gets thing sorted. In one minute, he was able to solve a major problem that one of the business owners in the group had been struggling with. BAM. Done. Phillip doesn’t have time for excuses and you can tell why he has a world class management team and that Di Bella is Australia’s largest speciality coffee company.


Here’s some of Phillip Di Bella’s tips for how to perfect your business blend:

1. If you’re not solving someones problems you don’t have a business. Get excited when problems happen. Be passionate about helping people solve their problems. Di Bella is clear with their mission – they help cafe owners make money.

2. Customer Service was yesterday. It’s not about customer service anymore – its about exceeding customers expectations! Are you giving your customers the ultimate experience? People want to choose you. What are you doing to make sure that’s the case? Phil raised an interesting point. Instead of looking at the businesses that are doing everything right and trying to copy that ALSO look at the businesses that aren’t going well and DON’T do what their doing. Do the exact opposite!

3. The best pizza in the world is the simplest! Phillip gave the example of Italian food. The most amazing Italian food is always the simplest, but the most delicious. Don’t overcomplicate things within your business. Keep it simple!

4. People. People. People. Business is all about people. Surveys are shit. If you want to find out how you could improve your business ask your customers. Stuff the email, pick up the phone and call your customers.

5. If you’re not moving at 100 miles an hour you’ll get left behind. Phillip Di Bella was a man on a mission. He was joking about being on a plane full of energy, legs shaking, ready to go but no where to go… I know that feeling! Luck in business is all about timing and opportunity.

6. Build your brand. What do you want people to think of you? Build the personal brands of your team. Personalise your business. Why are you in business? Share stories. Make your team care about their personal brands.

7. Four Million cups of coffee…. When Phillip said that Di Bella was currently supplying 4 million cups of coffee…. I was thinking in a year…. but that’s in a WEEK! Everyone in the company is working towards a goal of getting to 5 million cups of coffee a week by next year. Their output is measured in how many cups of coffee they helped facilitate today. This is a tangible way to get staff on board with the vision of the business and with something everyone can understand. I am still a little shocked at the volume! But it’s exciting to hear those numbers and the growth they want to achieve and all staff are aligned with this.

8. A Strategic Plan made simple – Di Bella doesn’t have a business plan, they have a strategic plan. Here’s a summary:

Why: 5 million cups of coffee


  1. Maximise profit
  2. Employer of choice
  3. Coffee company of choice
  4. Coffee authority
  5. Continuous improvement

The above Strategic Plan is a great way for you to start planning for your business!

How: How they will do this – he’s obviously not going to share all his secrets out on this one!

But you’d be surprised at how open he is. I asked Phillip what his biggest mistake wa
s and what he learned from it. He said it was when their front end didn’t meet their back end. They’d gone out and made all these sales and they couldn’t process them. They broke quickbooks! Their inventory software couldn’t cope with it and a million dollars later they had to upgrade software to be handle the amount of orders going through.

9. If you have idiots in your team. Whose the idiot? I had a chuckle at this one. Sometimes business owners want to blame employees, but the responsibility has got to lay a little higher. Phillip says if the employee is going to be consistently late, let them be consistently late somewhere else!

10. Sell on the way up. Di Bella Coffee sold for a multiple of 12 times EBIT. If you don’t know what that means, let’s just say it is a lot! One of the key things he said which a lot of people don’t do is leave some growth for the next owner. Leave some ceiling space. Phillip also didn’t want to publicly list so he wouldn’t have to be a slave to the shareholders.

11. BRW title. So Phil doesn’t care much for his title but one of the interesting things he said was that his wealth was real assets. Liquid assets. A lot of people that make BRW lists wealth are tied up in their company shares. They can’t exactly sell those shares as their wealth tied up in their company and the value would plummet if they tried to sell it. Food for thought for those trying to break into the BRW lists and/or create wealth!

12. Spend time with people that tell you what you need to hear. There’s no point hanging around with people telling you how amazing you are all the time. Phil admitted that he was tougher on himself than anybody else. Do a SWOT analysis on yourself and focus on getting better at your weaknesses and threats.

Here are some other pieces of Phillip Di Bella gold:

“Hire attitude. Teach skill.”

“If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”

“Out of failure comes success. Out of success comes failure.”

“Control what you can. Influence what you can. Fuck the rest.”
“The less fear you have. The more dangerous you are.”

So there’s my summary. I have listened to a lot of entrepreneurs talk and Phil has been the best and most inspiring person I have heard from. Phil made the analogy that some of the motivational speakers have never actually run a business, other than making their money from speaking. Some high profile speakers have also rehearsed their same speech down to the tee. But you know with Phil that he’s talking the talk and walking the walk. Its genuine, authentic and full of real pearls of wisdom. Despite selling Di Bella, he is still dedicated to growing the company and his enthusiasm is unwavering. He also has other businesses on the go and is extremely passionate about charity, donating all his speaking fees to charity!


Miriam Holme

Miriam Holme - Founder, Director and Chief Accounting Angel of Fab Tax Accountants. Miriam has completed a CPA and a Masters in Taxation and is passionate about making accounting relevant and understandable.

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