Conversation with Evan Bulmer, from Adelaide, South Australia who has been described as the country’s leading financial concierge and CEO wingman. Evan brings a unique hands-on, practical and numbers based approach to working with his clients that provides instant insight to drive actions that boost profitability quickly.
In this episode of Interlinks we talk to Evan Bulmer, from Adelaide in South Australia, who is described as Australia’s leading financial concierge and CEO wingman.
Evan has 25 years’ experience in business, assisting and advising others, through coaching and consulting services to business owners, management teams, and executives.
His focus is on strategic implementation and measurable actions which sees his clients gain clarity, vision, and the tools required to activate successful operating behaviours and procedures.
He is the author of the book Numbers That Matter and is a member of the exclusive Pacific Rim Growth Cycle within the Alan Weiss community, and is one of only four Australians to be inducted into the USA Million Dollar Consulting Hall of Fame.
Evan is a much sought after expert on Strategy to Cash (™) which has helped his clients generate a combined $500 million+ through the growth of their businesses.
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Patrick Daly: Hello, this is Patrick Daly and welcome to Interlinks. Interlinks is a program about connections, international business, supply chains and globalization and the effects these have had on our life, our work, and our travel over recent times.
Today on interlinks, we will be talking to Evan Bulmer from Adelaide in South Australia, who is described as Au and advising others through coaching and consulting services to business owners, management teams and executives. And his focus on strategy, implementation and measurable actions sees his clients gain clarity, vision and tools required to activate successful operating behaviors and procedures.
Evan’s also the author of the book Numbers That Matter, and he is a member of the exclusive Pacific Rim Growth Cycle, which is a group of consultants and one of only four Australians to be inducted into the USA Million Dollar Consulting Hall of Fame. Delighted to have you with us today, Evan. You’re very welcome.
Evan Bulmer: Well thank you Patrick. I appreciate that. It’s humbling listening to it all.
Patrick Daly: Well, it’s great to have you here. We’re here recording in autumn and you are in spring, right? So it’s getting warm for you while it’s getting cold for us.
Evan Bulmer: Well, it’s certainly been unseasonably wet and cold and winter’s gone on longer than normal, but we are getting some wonderful weather now.
Patrick Daly: Great, great. So your summer there, is it generally hot, long and warm or is it more varied?
Evan Bulmer: Yeah. Well, I come from Adelaide, South Australia, and it’s a desert climate, so it gets very hot in summer, 40, 42 degrees at its peak and gets very cold in winter, but we don’t have snow or ice. [inaudible 00:02:22] in winter for a couple of degrees. Yeah.
Patrick Daly: I gave an introduction there as we were opening the program. You’ve been active in business for 25 years, probably longer at this stage. Could you give me just a quick overview of your trajectory over that period of time and how you got to be where you are today?
Evan Bulmer: Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s hard to not talk about the story without talking about my old man in it. My dad had a small business, several of them, and I worked in them from a very young age. And so we had that connection. I always knew I was going be in business for myself and I did that at 23, 24. I’m 52 now so yeah, nearly 30 years of if I don’t sell it, I don’t get to eat.
Patrick Daly: Correct. And that gave you then the foundation to build the business you’ve built. How did that happen and what kind of activities did you get into or what was appealing to you?
Evan Bulmer: Yeah. Some of it is just how we get pushed along the road. Some of the points that I think about are watching my old man’s business I discovered that the need for good financial data, good numbers, having that sort of infrastructure mattered to the decision making process. I was always fascinated by what information could you get out of a business in order to help the business owner make better decisions? I’ve always come at it from that perspective. I’ve tried to, I guess over time, if it was a problem for my business owners and I now have it’s 30 year relationships with some of my clients, that life cycle if it had been a problem for them as a business owner, it’s a problem for me, so that’s kind of how it started.
Patrick Daly: Yeah. You’re described as Australia’s leading financial concierge and a CEO wingman. What does that entail? I mean, being a financial concierge on the one hand and a CEO wingman on the other?
Evan Bulmer: Well, I mean, I probably didn’t start out that way. I started out like a typical accountant I suspect. But over 30 years you keep tooling up, you get smarter, you have more experience, you see more situations both in your own business and in your clients. And so I keep developing services that is aimed at the privately held business owner. And so therefore I can help them set up their business, I can help them with organizational development. I mean, I think the real magic in growing businesses is how small businesses use their team, their people, but equally at some point they want to sell out, so I help them do that. And it all gets tied up in how do you maximize the value of a business; therefore, how do you get the most out of the team that you’ve got in order to generate a result?
Patrick Daly: And that term concierge, what does that mean in the context work you do?
Evan Bulmer: Well, because there’s such a range of services that we can offer, it really does depend on the client’s unique set of circumstances in terms of where you might start working with them. For example, some of the businesses that I work with are privately held small businesses. They’ve got a terrible system for producing numbers. There’s very little data or no one believes their data, and so to me, they’re flying blind. You have to start there with some businesses. From the point of view of organizational development how you utilize your talent pool is fascinating to me because I have got living proof of giving people a bit of autonomy, some direction and some metrics, some numbers to back up their position, how incremental improvements in teams get dramatic results at the other end. For me, it’s not unusual to get two and three and four time multiples on current profit levels. An $800,000 business now starts making 2.2.
Patrick Daly: Okay. Is this growth in volume in sales or is it just doing things differently operationally or a combination of… ?
Evan Bulmer: Well, I think it’s a combination of all of that. Businesses need to first of all have a look at their customer base. Who are they selling to, how often, what’s their retention rate, what’s their strategy for getting in new customers? It’s got that, it starts there. At some point that’s going to produce a revenue line for you in terms of from your customer base. Then it’s about how you work with that.
Patrick Daly: Now, I get the impression that what you’re doing is you’re creating clarity and insight through numbers and then with that clarity and insight you’re able to take decisions, different alternatives, yeah?
Evan Bulmer: I agree. I think what I’ve learned, you can go into a lot of business conversations and there isn’t numbers attached to it. And so you get sort of things like, “We need more people. We’re busy.” You get that kind of conversation going. When you put numbers around it, you can start to shore up some of these issues. Is it really a productivity problem or what have you? I think numbers help the conversation a lot.
Patrick Daly: And then you’ve produced this Numbers That Matter publication or book, what’s the premise of that and what’s the target audience?
Evan Bulmer: It’s aimed at the business owner. It really comes from the premise that all businesses have a profit and loss and a balance sheet, a score card if you like. And instead of just looking at the scorecard as the end product, I like to turn it around and go what activities can be done in the business? What can be done differently that would generate a different or improved result? And from there I just go through in the chapters in my book about the numbers I think you should be pulling out, which is definitely metrics around customers, retention rate, conversion rate, because the selling part of any business is important, and from there a lot of magic can happen in a business.
Patrick Daly: And where can people get hold of that book? Is it on Amazon and other platforms?
Evan Bulmer: Yeah, I believe it’s on Amazon and on my website.
Patrick Daly: Excellent. What’s your website?
Evan Bulmer: Www.ebaa.com.au.
Patrick Daly: And you’ve also trademarked this concept of strategy to cash. What is strategy to cash and what are the typical outcomes of its application?
Evan Bulmer: Well, I think if I suggest that there’s sort of five numbers you need to worry about from a revenue point of view, there’s probably only eight or nine after that that turn that into money in the bank. I’m saying if you can get grasp of about 13 numbers then you’ve probably got an overview of the metrics you need to keep track of in order to determine whatever strategy you are running from a client based point of view into money in the bank. Because in business [inaudible 00:10:45] privately held. There are no deals done until the money’s in the bank. And you can see businesses that don’t have a handle on cash flow type issues and therefore think just growing revenue is going to fix their problem and often it won’t.
Patrick Daly: What would you say out of those numbers just here for this conversation, two or three of the kind of key ones that most small privately held businesses should be focusing on?
Evan Bulmer: Well, I’m going to suggest that not enough of them have triaged their customer base and worked out who are the better customers, the more profitable customers, more like the ideal customer that they want to have. I think that’s a strategy piece that’s about having a vision of the future for the business. From that point of view then quantify that. How many of them do you have and how often are they buying and what’s their revenue and what’s the profitability from that? And start there.
I tell you something else I think happens a lot in the work that I do. Take the bottom 20%, this Pareto Principle, take the bottom 20%, that’s usually causing you a lot of grief in your business and get rid of it.
Patrick Daly: Fire your customers, fire your worst customers in effect.
Evan Bulmer: Yeah, I mean, here at least we’re at three and a half percent unemployment. It’s very difficult to get people. When you’re in that kind of environment it’s difficult just to grow by saying we’re going to suck up more talent to take on the growth, but you have to be strategic about your growth and therefore you need to be really concentrating on what business are you really in and who is your ideal customer?
Patrick Daly: Yeah, that shortage of skills and labor that you’re experiencing in Australia is being experienced in most developed countries. I know it certainly is here in Ireland and I know from speaking to our colleagues in the US it is also. What do you think is at the root of that? Where have all the people gone? What’s happening?
Evan Bulmer: Well I mean we changed habits dramatically in the last two and a half years here in this pandemic, and so we’ve got a situation where industries are trying to get going, the tourism industry here. And getting people back isn’t straightforward. They’ve retooled, they’ve gone somewhere else. Remember there was just a lot of money piled up and pumped into the system, so demand went through the roof. If you were making stuff and selling stuff, things were good and are good. Supply chain’s a massive problem, of course. It’s taking forever. You can sell stuff but not deliver it for a year.
Patrick Daly: Correct.
Evan Bulmer: From my point of view, how do you speak to that customer over that 12 months matters because you can lose them in that long sales cycle.
Announcer: 93.9. Dublin South FM.
Patrick Daly: Now we’re in a new financial environment. I’m interested to ask you this question because you’re a financial person. What does a high interest environment mean for business investment and business strategy and how is it going to be fundamentally different from the period we’re leaving behind, which was kind of like 20 plus years of low inflation? It’s like a new world we’re in, right?
Evan Bulmer: I would agree. I think some things hold through though. Interest rates had to move because they were at an all time low for a long time. No one in business that was thinking 2% was going to last forever. We’re talking about going to six. That’s not catastrophic. Most businesses that we work with have that tolerance in their systems and their cash flows. Inflationary environments can be okay in terms of making sure you get price increases if you can do that. It’s terrible for some industries like the building industry; it’s woeful. You can imagine, you got a fixed price contract, you can’t do anything with the revenue line and your costs are going through that. They were going broke in this country left right and center as a result.
Whenever I look at those kinds of situations, the businesses that we work with, look there’s so much to gain by looking inside and making sure you’re doing the right thing in your business with the people you have. The external circumstances they’re going to be what they are, we’re going to survive.
Patrick Daly: Do you think it will lead to better decisions in the allocation of capital in the sense that when money was cheap or virtually free, there’s all sorts of projects that attracted capital investment that maybe shouldn’t have. And will that do you think improve in a high inflation environment?
Evan Bulmer: Well, I think some of the issues that I see is combating say the Reserve Bank strategy to lift interest rates to try and combat inflation. You’ve also got government or our government anyway with tax breaks coming and spending programs that are huge. And it’s almost like the two things are opposed if you ask me. Therefore, I say there’s money floating around the system, I’m not sure it’s going to affect that much in terms of capital decisions. Money’s still getting invested the way it was before and people just lower returns may be expected.
Patrick Daly: And I guess now with those two things, so high inflation and low availability of labor and skills, and one of the things you can do to combat inflation is increase your productivity. And it suggests to me that we’re going to see a big wave of automation across businesses, all types of automation from process automation to operational automation. What would be your view on that? Do you think there is a confluence of things coming together to push automation forward?
Evan Bulmer: I would agree with you and certainly process improvement automation. You just have to do more with less and you have to get smart about it. Yeah.
Patrick Daly: Now, through COVID a lot of people shifted to work online and I know in my own work we didn’t know when it came to us first in early 2020 what it would mean and would we be able to do it. But we found that we very successfully were able to transfer a lot of our work to the remote mode of delivery through Zoom and Skype and Teams and other things. How much of your work is done remotely now and how has that changed since before the pandemic?
Evan Bulmer: Well, me personally, I was already doing a fair bit remotely because I’ve found that you can implement a lot of things with this kind of technology. I had resistance with some of my clients around doing that; post COVID, no resistance. A lot more change gets through faster I feel now.
Patrick Daly: Yeah, this is the idea of never let a good crisis go to waste, so we were able to push forward changes that maybe we weren’t able to push forward before.
Evan Bulmer: I see that a lot, and necessarily you got to innovate strategies around attracting talent and keeping talent in a marketplace where you’ve got high demand and a dearth of talent. People culture reigns supreme in that environment. You’ve got to be in an attractive place to work because most people have either existing jobs or job offers when they come to the table.
Patrick Daly: Yeah, has remote work extended your geographical reach? Is that something that’s happened or you wanted to happen?
Evan Bulmer: Ah, sure. I mean we’re doing this now.
Patrick Daly: From Ireland to Australia.
Evan Bulmer: Yeah. Yeah. Look mainly for me it becomes about implementation. Some of the clients I work on have multiple locations and you need a tool like this in order to bring people together to create a culture for a whole business across locations. It would be difficult to do otherwise. Face-to-face matters still, but you could implement a lot online.
Patrick Daly: Yeah. And do you work internationally or is it something that is part of your strategy plans for the future?
Evan Bulmer: Honestly Patrick, it’s not. I have a marketplace called South Australia that I’ve operated in for 30 years and I quite enjoy it. I certainly have international connections in terms of learning and growing because I think some of the best organizational development and management techniques and what have you, the US market’s got it stitched up. You kind of got to go there to learn. But yeah, no, I apply it to my local marketplace and love it.
Patrick Daly: And this is a Pacific Rim Growth Cycle that you’re involved with. What is that and who’s involved and how does it work, and what do you [inaudible 00:21:08]?
Evan Bulmer: Yeah. Look, it’s Dr Allen Weiss’s group. I think anyone who’s in the consulting game and doesn’t know Dr Allen Weiss, they should get his book. And I’ve been working with like-minded consultants in a group of seven or eight for six or seven years now. And look, if it’s true of me in terms of learning from peers, I will suggest that it’s true of a lot of the organizations I work with too, where a lot of peer learning that it can be encouraged and systems put in place to encourage it can do some amazing things in your business.
Patrick Daly: Yeah. Next question, we’re going to change tack a bit. We’re going to maybe have a look at the world. I’ll paint the picture for you and then ask you a question about Australia in that and see what your view is. Over recent years, as we’ve all seen, we’ve had kind of multiple shocks, most noticeably COVID and the war in Ukraine, which is driving these supply chain disruptions and inflation that we spoke about earlier. And all of these shocks have been occurring in the context of wider shifts to do with demographics and geopolitics, energy transition, technology, social media and so on. We’re headed to some other place, quite a different place from where we’ve come from. Where do you think the world is heading in this decade one, and then how do you see Australia positioning itself within that future world?
Evan Bulmer: Well, I think Australia will do, and Australians will do what we’ve always done well and that is innovate and find opportunity. We’ve had China aggressively take markets off us and those markets have had to find new ways and often better ways to sell their product. Look, I think we are concerned about what China might do with Taiwan and that could present another shock for our region. Largely though, I think the average Australian just gets on with it.
Patrick Daly: I guess Australia in recent years, over the last 20 years, has become a supplier of resources and commodities to China and perhaps its own manufacturing base has eroded. Is that true and do you see that changing?
Evan Bulmer: I don’t see it changing, no. I just don’t think we’ve got the appetite to… Our US counterparts are talking about reassuring all their manufacturing. That’s just not an option for us.
Patrick Daly: Because of cost or why not?
Evan Bulmer: We don’t have to. We’re 25 million people, mate, on a big piece of land, it’s expensive. Our electricity is expensive because we are pushing hard towards a renewable type world. And so far it’s proving a little expensive to get there. And our labor is through the roof in terms of by comparative countries around us. I think while we’re going to be manufacturing and continue to have our links overseas, I can’t see how we’re going to get away from China. I can’t see that we can do it.
Patrick Daly: Is Australia building and strengthening its links with its other neighbors in the region as a counterweight to China, the likes of Indonesia and Malaysia and Philippines, these countries?
Evan Bulmer: Yeah, I would say yes, definitely. You can see evidence of that everywhere in terms of how industries work with our counterparts there.
Patrick Daly: As we come into the last couple of minutes of the interview, I might ask you a few questions about yourself, about Evan Bulmer. What kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?
Evan Bulmer: Okay. I’m 52. I play AFL Masters, so I play AFL football, which is Australia Rules Football, but for the 50 to 55 year-olds.
Patrick Daly: I tell you what, you’re pretty sore when you come back after a game, yeah?
Evan Bulmer: Oh yeah. We only play once a fortnight because of it takes a little while for us-
Patrick Daly: The recovery time, yeah.
Evan Bulmer: Yeah, a little bit of recovery time. Just came out competing in a carnival representing my state. We played three games in five days. Well, mate, you’re a bit sore after that.
Patrick Daly: Yeah, sure. Are you reading or listening to anything at the moment, books, audio books, podcasts, that you would recommend or that you found particularly inspiring?
Evan Bulmer: Well, I mean I think the two that I think of from a business point of view and there’s the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. I think that is a really good book in terms of processes for implementing strategy in business. And look, mate, anything that’s written by Dr Alan Weiss.
Patrick Daly: And where can people find out more about you, more about your work, and how can they contact you?
Evan Bulmer: Email: email@example.com
Patrick Daly: On your website?
Evan Bulmer: Online anytime www.ebaa.com.au.
Patrick Daly: And I guess you’re going to be on LinkedIn as well, which is Evan Bulmer.
Evan Bulmer: That’s it.
Patrick Daly: I should remember that. Bulmer is quite a famous name here in Ireland because there’s a famous brand of cider called Bulmers Cider. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across it. Have you ever seen it?
Evan Bulmer: Oh mate, it’s famous down here too, Bulmers Cider. Sure.
Patrick Daly: Okay. Okay. So they have that there?
Evan Bulmer: Sadly, I’m not related to anyone there.
Patrick Daly: Okay, Evan. Well it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you today as always, and wish you the very best for the future both professionally and personally.
Evan Bulmer: Thank you very much, Patrick. Thanks for having me on.
Patrick Daly: Thanks again to our listeners for tuning in. Until next time, keep well and stay safe.