Dubbed ‘crazy’ John, after his Australian-wide chain of mobile phone retail stores, Ilhan grew up in the tight knit community around Broadmeadows in northern Melbourne, where, according to the Crazy John's website, “strong family values instilled in him the importance of hard work and a desire to achieve”.
His Turkish immigrant parents worked shifts at the local Ford factory allowing him to witness the sacrifices they made as a family.
From an early age Ilhan developed a strong love of soccer and he always remained sports crazy. As a teenager he would walk more than one hour to attend soccer training a few times a week and was not deterred by others being taller or stronger. Instead he worked hard on other aspects of the game and eventually rose up to play in the National Soccer League as it was called back then.
In his early 20s Ilhan began his career at Strathfield Car Radios and as a young man soon rose up to become one of the company’s top national salesmen. According to Strathfield Car Radios he had a simple yet effective business philosophy that earned him immediate and ongoing success — "give the customer great service and they will be loyal in return".
Ilhan “admitted to being a salesman at heart, but someone who had a natural empathy for what customers wanted. But he soon realised he could offer customers more if he created his own retail outlet,” says the Crazy John’s website.
When Mobileworld was established in 1991, with its first store opening in the northern Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, Ilhan’s approach to business brought about the name change to Crazy John’s shortly after.
He understood that customers wanted great deals and good service. Crazy John’s was the first to introduce $1 phones, the idea of ‘buy one, get one free’ and ‘cash back’ incentives to customers.
Also, throughout his life Ilhan was a strong believer in corporate and social responsibility. From the beginning of its existence, Crazy John’s has been a proud supporter of many charities across Australia and particularly one that was very close to home, the Ilhan Food Allergy Foundation. He was also a member of the NAB’s Community Advisory Council and contributed to other areas of public debate as a member of the Premier’s Business Advisory Council in Victoria. He was also a financial supporter of the Richmond Football Club (and was touted to be its next president) and Kids Under Cover, the Royal Children's Hospital neonatal unit, the Lighthouse Foundation, the Shane Warne Foundation and St Vincent De Paul, among others.
In May 2006 at the Future Summit, Ilhan was named as one of fifty Future Leaders of Australia. The Summit, an initiative of the Australian Davos Connection, “recognises leaders who have the creativity and insight to pursue innovative and far-sighted projects and have demonstrated a commitment to creating a better future for Australia”. The patron of the Future Summit is Prime Minister John Howard.
The team at Crazy John’s intend to carry on Ilhan’s plans to expand the Crazy John's empire into New Zealand, Europe and Asia.
Ilhan is survived by his wife Patricia and his four children
Crazy John: The life behind the name
By Lilia Guan on Nov 6, 2007 10:25AM