Once a salesman, always a salesman, the saying goes. For Tony Beris of Delta Sales who started his working life in Australia some 60 years ago as an imitation jewellery salesman, the saying surely applies.

For more than 50 years now and after leaving the imitation jewellery business within the first five years after his arrival in Australia in 1956, he moved into the business of imports. These days Tony Beris can be easily regarded for many in this industry as “The Guru”.

He was more than happy to share with Neos Kosmos readers not so much his successes, but most importantly the wisdom he accumulated from his half century business journey. It is worthwhile, though, to have a closer look at his business successes before “The Guru” reveals the golden rules that made them possible.

His company Delta Sales, located in Brunswick, Victoria, is one of the most successful importing companies in Australia, distributing Continental delicacies all over the country. Just bear in mind that the Greek or Bulgarian feta cheese you often enjoy, is most likely courtesy of Delta Sales enterprises.

Every year Delta Sales imports more than 850 tonnes of Greek and Bulgarian cheese in Australia, some 250 tonnes of Greek olive oil and about the same quantity of olives. On top of these tens of hundreds of tonnes of the above three products, Delta Sales is also known for the imports of many more Greek products.

The winning trifecta for Tony Beris sounds and is quite tasty, but it has also proved to be very rewarding in terms of profits through the years. In addition to the above, Delta Sales is one of the, not so many companies in Australia, who have the right to import unlimited quantities of products.

Mr Beris arrived in Australia as a single man aspiring to the Australian dream. Soon after his arrival in Sydney he was sent to Melbourne to sell imitation jewellery. There he met Mr John Kotis and within a few months the two of them, each with about $4,000, started Delta Sales.

“Things were not easy in those days. In the beginning me and my partner were the only workers, it was so hard. Long days and nights. During the day, we had to go and see the clients, deliver their orders and then at night we had to prepare the orders,” says Mr Beris.

“It was only me and John for at least two years then we got a driver. Very hard work. We did not have a forklift, we did everything with our own hands, everything [was] on our back,” adds Mr Beris noting that today Delta Sales employs and has developed a distribution network that spans all over the country. The easy part during those days, according to Mr Beris, was the imports regulations regime. “Customs were a lot less strict,” he admits.

The partnership with John Kotis ended in the mid ’80s. Since then the Kotis family started their own imports business Elco Foods. “You have to have a continuation on your service, good prices and, most importantly, good service,” Mr Beris says when asked about the golden rule of success. He adds that none of the above could be achieved without “a little help from your… friends”, meaning his employees.

“I used to work in a company in Athens and every year on our name day they were giving us $200 while in Christmas a bonus was always on the line for all of us. That was a lesson that I learnt early even before I got in the business game. Once you have good employees, you can have good service, you will have happy customers and as a result success,” he says.

Seizing the moment I throw into the conversation the term ‘fiscal crisis’ which undoubtedly challenged many small businesses recently. “You have to have a good relationship with your bank manager, if you need him of course,” Mr Beris says. “Believe it or not, while 1988 was the worst year for many businesses for me it was my best year because I had not borrowed a lot of money that year and as a result I could cope.

I used to take my bank manager out for dinner twice a month, he gave me valuable advice and he regarded me as a friend. I know that I am talking about the past. Things have changed so much.

Today you cannot have a good relationship with the bank manager, because for all the banks you are just a number you are not a person.” While for Delta Sales the banks today are irrelevant institutions to the business, he believes that in order for someone to make money, he should borrow money but he adds cautiously, that they have to “be careful”.

Among the things that have changed for Delta Sales during its half century existence is consumer attitudes. As a result of this particular factor Delta Sales managed to become one of the leading importing companies of deli products in Australia. “I used to bring cheese and oil for the Greek community, 40 years ago.

Today all the Australians love the Greek products, olive oil is for all today, and in five to 10 years Australia will produce so much olive oil that the producers will have an issue with where they will sell it,” concludes Tony Beris.

While his son also works in the family business, Mr Beris, who this year turns 83, shows no sign or will to retire. “I will stay for as long as I can,” he says, adding with the passion and the determination of a man who really means business: “And I feel that I still can.”