Don Manifold serves as the joint managing director of Equity & Advisory, an Adelaide-based firm working on high-value transactions. Since its founding, the firm has completed more than 200 transactions valued at more than $8 billion. Manifold specialises in advising commercial clients on valuations, divestments and mergers and acquisitions. He is also the founder of Manifold Advisory Partners which helps boards and business leaders with strategy development, including major transactions.
Prior to joining Equity & Advisory, Manifold served as a Partner of KPMG and as the office managing partner for four years for South Australia and Northern Territory for Ernst & Young (“EY”). He also ran EY’s Transaction Advisory division in South Australia. With more than 25 years of corporate finance experience, Manifold has advised on more than 70 completed transactions, including acquisitions, capital raising, divestments and initial public offerings. Their combined value is in excess of $3 billion.
He is considered an expert in business valuations and independent expert’s reports. Manifold has worked with clients in an expansive range of industries, including agriculture, consumer goods, finance, information technology, manufacturing and retail. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and has served as a director or chairman for multiple companies, including ADX Depot, Booth Transport Pty Ltd, EC Carpets, Whittles Body Corporate Management, MGA Insurance Brokers and RAM Equipment.
Don Manifold earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and accounting with honors from Flinders University and holds an executive MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. He is also a member of the Seymour College’s Finance and Risk Committee and was on the Finance Council of the South Australian Catholic Church for over 10 years.
How did you get started in this business?
I grew up in Mount Gambier, a small regional city in South Australia. After graduating from Flinders University, I worked for KPMG in Adelaide. I worked in London, Melbourne and Sydney before returning to Adelaide.
How do you make money?
Our work comes from helping corporations with strategies to create wealth. We provide independent business evaluations which identify opportunities that can guide which direction to take. That may mean a merger or acquisition, raising capital or going public. We provide impartial, data- and market-driven insights that help companies thrive.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Equity & Advisory was founded in 1997. I arrived in 2018 and am very proud that in the past four years, our company has grown tenfold.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I think we all experience doubt from time to time. When I’ve faced adversity and challenges, I think the best thing I can do is stay true to my convictions. The other rule I have is to do the worst first. It’s advice I was given early in my career and I’ve found it works well.
How did you get your first customer?
I think the best way to get any customer is to focus on your strengths. Our firm’s tagline is “when experience and outcomes matter.” We lead with how we have generated considerable wealth for our clients and the process we take. Underpinning all of those insights is the experience and expertise my colleagues and I bring to the table. I think that provides a compelling case.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
We bring valuable ideas to our clients that we believe will help them create wealth. Our marketing approach is heavily influenced by a mentor of mine, Michael Kean, a former partner at Deloitte. He created a model that professional services firms should use – Sharing, Refining, Proposing and Delivering. The first concept, Sharing, is the most critical. It’s an approach I swear by because it tells our clients our commitment to creating and protecting their assets.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Failing to recognize the importance of chemistry in the workplace. Equity & Advisory is a small, boutique firm, so cultural fit is imperative. We now focus on chemistry – how people get on with others – rather than just resume and skills – when looking at candidates.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Prioritize the work you’re doing and make sure that you focus on the work that is going to have the greatest impact on outcomes, for your firm and for your clients.
I also believe in the power of relationships and networks. You need to establish a reputation and build people’s trust to be successful.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
There are too many to narrow it down to one. I think each time we help a business create wealth using the ideas we’ve presented, it’s tremendously rewarding.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
We are looking to leverage the organic growth that has developed in the South Australian market. We would like to launch an investment vehicle for high-net-worth individuals. The fund would offer investment opportunities to private companies in South Australia first, followed by expansion throughout Australia.
What business books have inspired you?
The book “Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It … and Why the Rest Don’t” is a practical guide that shows you clear paths to creating wealth. It emphasizes focusing on the most important things that will generate wealth.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
-Don’t be afraid to take risks. People don’t concern themselves much if you fail. They are concerned if you don’t make the attempt.
– Be efficient from the start. Don’t waste time you don’t have.
– Culture is very important. Make sure the culture you build when you have the chance is the right one and not spoiled by toxic people.
– Seek help when you need it. Don’t be so stubborn that you can’t recognize when you need support and find it.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
You can find my contact information on our website.