When his two-year business plan to start taking tour groups up the Sydney Harbour Bridge dragged onto 10 years, Paul admits he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“I had a two-year business plan and that took 10 years, so it was a long time!” says Paul.
“I think during that period when the concept of climbing the bridge ... I actually thought we'd find something else somewhere else in the world that we could replicate. We didn't find something else. That was a big part of the journey.”
Owing to the fact he wanted to effectively open an iconic landmark to the public, and with a lack of precedent to follow, Paul says the sheer number of stakeholders involved in the establishment of BridgeClimb Sydney was enormous.
“We needed to talk to people like the NRMA, and I needed psychologists and psychiatrists about traffic distraction, about people suiciding, and heritage, and environmental ... a lot of people needed to be consulted with including North Sydney Council, Sydney Council, and then a lot of people within government departments,” he explains.
As an example of the complexity of these dealings, Paul recounts a single dealing with the railway authority.
“There’s a rule in the state if you’re within eight metres of train track, thou shalt wear a fluorescent orange jacket, makes good sense. I said to State Rail, ‘We don't want a fluorescent orange jacket, we’re putting people in grey to blend them in environmentally with the bridge. We’re coming down this ladder. We’re within six metres of your train but we’re wearing a one-metre lanyard, and I’ll have a hundred million dollars’ worth of public risk insurance’,” he recalls.
Despite this, they stood steadfast in their demands for the high-viz vests.
“Dealing with State Rail over that issue took over two years.”
Paul admits that had he known the negotiations would be so protracted and complex, he never would have sought to establish BridgeClimb.
“If I had known this was gonna take me 10 years, I never would have started. Simple. Really simple,” he says.
“I allocated an amount of money, I spent four times that amount of money and spent five times as long as I thought I would.”
However, he says that if you have done your homework, and fervently believe in your business, then the only option is often pushing ahead and finding solutions to get your detractors onboard.
“You get so far along a journey that if you think you’re succeeding and if you think you’re heading in the right direction, you want to push [yourself] and that to the end.
“I borrowed some money, then I borrowed some more. If I had turned around, I was dead and buried so far along that tunnel that there really wasn’t an alternative. I didn’t ever see an alternative other than pursuing it and needing to keep going.”
Now, nearly 20 years after opening its doors, BridgeClimb has welcomed 3.6 million climbers and has become a world-renowned experience – a shining example that persistence really can pay off!