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Kevin Panozza and his son Aaron Panozza work together, drive fast boats together, and spend a lot of family time together – but they didn’t grow up together.

Kevin was, for much of his son’s youth, a “school holiday dad” – flying in to spend time with his son (or flying his son interstate to see him) when he could wrest himself away from selling encyclopaedias door-to-door or waterfront property to cashed up miners in WA.

Today they are respectively the chief executive officer and managing director of Engage, a Melbourne based business established by Aaron to deliver contact centre as a service based on Genesys systems, which is now being marketed by Telstra, and to deploy Liveperson solutions for clients. With a headcount of 30 people and a turnover around $10 million Engage has already racked up clients including the four big banks, Officeworks, Webjet and Optus.

Aaron set Engage up in 2009, within days of leaving Salmat – the company which had bought his father’s call centre business, SalesForce, in 2005.

Like his father at SalesForce, he’s also negotiated a partnership with an advertising agency - with one key difference. Where US advertising agency DDB held a majority stake in SalesForce, Clemenger holds just 40 per cent – Aaron and Engage staff control the rest.

Call centres and selling are in both Panozzas’ blood. Kevin set up SalesForce originally to service the call centre needs of Ansett. Aaron – now 42 - joined his father in the business in his early 20s, initially working in Ansett’s call centre, and later becoming SalesForce’s IT director responsible for developing call centres for a long list of blue chip clients.

It’s unusual to find a father-son combination working together quite so closely – but then it’s a father and son who didn’t spend much time together until Aaron was in his 20s.

Kevin’s father emigrated to Australia with his two brothers during the Depression, and made a living cane cutting and pouring concrete graves. With two much older siblings, Kevin grew up as a quasi-only child in Geelong.

After briefly entertaining the notion of becoming a lawyer, Kevin instead - “Because of a very strong streak of irresponsibility” - started selling encyclopaedias. “I learned to sell in the most difficult environment on the planet which was knocking on peoples’ doors at nine o’ clock at night and trying to sell them encyclopaedias,” he says.

A born salesman by all accounts he later sold property to cashed up miners in WA, before starting to work in sales for Ansett, and later to set up call centre operations for the airline which was the genesis of SalesForce.

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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.

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