Why am I having lunch with 500 strangers in five years? So I can meet people like Mario Bekes.

Mario, the 48th person I’ve met on my #500lunches journey, is an amazing person with an amazing story.

Mario was born in Croatia. He was kicked out of home when he was 14. He was wounded while fighting in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. After active duty, he was seconded to the Croatian embassy in Canberra as a part of its security-intelligence services.

Mario remained in Australia and started an investigation service. But a few years later, his partner closed the company and took all the clients with him.

Eventually, Mario opened his current business, Insight Intelligence. He had to hustle furiously for clients. One of his favourite tricks was to attend events, approach potential clients, introduce himself and ask: “What can I do to make you king in your organisation?”

The hustle worked. These days, Mario has a successful business with 17 staff – and no business partner in sight.

Mario is charming, charismatic and full of energy. He’s also very smart – he speaks seven languages. In April, Mario is planning to climb Everest with a group of friends. Wish him luck.