Don Manifold

Joint Managing Director of Equity & Advisory

Don Manifold is the Joint Managing Director of Equity & Advisory, a preeminent South Australian Corporate Advisory firm. Prior to Equity & Advisory, Don was the Managing Partner for EY South Australia and Northern Territory.

Originally from the small South Australian city, Mount Gambier, Don started his career in Adelaide and has worked in London, Sydney and Melbourne before returning to Adelaide in May 2006.

Don has over thirty years’ professional experience including twenty-five years specialising in corporate finance. Don has advised on over 60 completed acquisitions, divestments, capital raisings and IPOs with a combined value in excess of $3 billion and has produced valuation and independent expert’s reports for businesses with a combined value in excess of $25 billion.

Don has helped businesses across a range of industries including financial services, professional services, food, agriculture and technology; and has worked in Australia, England and Croatia. He has advised on many of South Australia’s most high-profile transactions including the sale of S. Kidman & Co, the sale of Powerhealth, the acquisition of Adelaide Bank and the acquisition of ABB Grain.

Don is married to Rachel, a dermatologist, and has three daughters. Don enjoys time with his family, cycling and running and the occasional triathlon.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

Equity & Advisory was actually 21 years old when I joined it had been dormant for about five years when I joined.

My job was to restart the business and we commenced with the idea that our purpose is creating wealth for our clients and our communities. Creating wealth for clients in turns creates wealth for our communities. Wealthier communities typically have lower levels of poverty, better education, better outcomes for women, greater adherence to human rights, lower levels of crime and better opportunities for all. This is not to say that they are perfect. Inequality and injustice are key concerns but I believe that, in the long-run, wealthier communities have the greatest opportunity to create a fair and inclusive society. Creating wealth for our communities includes creating wealth for our team by helping our team improve their talents (corporate finance and leadership skills) and their tokens (money).

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I get to the office about 8am (or 9am when I am dropping the kids off at school). Half the day is meeting with clients and the other half is meeting with our team. Our team is our most important success factor. Early in my career I spent all my time with clients until a mentor asked me what was important. He then looked at my diary and asked the simple question – “If your team is so important why aren’t you spending any time with them?”

Helping our team succeed makes me and our business more productive.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Our team is the best source of ideas and each quarter we get together, brainstorm ideas and decide as a group on which are the most important three ideas to focus on for the next three months. The team selects the ideas and my vote is the same as everyone else.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Artificial Intelligence or AI. Most people know that an IBM computer beat a world chess champion. What most people don’t know is that a computer has never beaten a world chess champion coupled with a computer. AI will not replace people but will help us build better businesses and better communities. The opportunities are endless.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Do the worst first. My dear cousin shared that with me early in my career and it has helped me get the hard things done.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Take risks and be kind on yourself. Nobody really cares too much if you fail. They worry if you don’t try.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

While everybody agrees gender inclusivity is a human right, I think the greatest barrier now is role perception. Everyone (or at least most people) realise that women are just as capable as men in the workplace. I believe (and nobody agrees with me) that men are just as capable as women in the homeplace. I believe if we break this perception, the march towards a more inclusive society will be shorter and easier.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?


What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Our business has grown tenfold in the past four years. The one strategy that has helped the most is the direct marketing strategy. The strategy is simply taking valuable ideas directly to our clients to help them create wealth. The strategy is heavily influenced by Michael Kean, a former Deloitte Managing Partner, a former mentor and an inspiring person. Michael created a Sharing, Refining, Proposing and Delivering model for professional services. The most important step is the first one – sharing valuable ideas directly with clients about how to create and protect wealth. I swear by the approach.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Allowing the wrong people to stay in the business. Cultural fit is fundamental. Equity & Advisory is a boutique business. Big companies (prior to Equity & Advisory, I was Managing Partner of EY South Australia) can withstand some bad eggs but in fast growing small companies, bad culture fits are caustic.

Our recruitment is now focused on chemistry (how they get on with the team) rather than biology (the talents and skills of the candidate).

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

My wife is a medical specialist. I think there is a business providing a “Medical Practice as a Service” to medical practitioners. That is a bundled service providing property, staffing, systems and information technology for medical specialists for a monthly fee. My wife just wants to help people and don’t like dealing with all of the delivery systems that allow her to help people.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A close friend recommended I read “The Book of Beautiful Questions”. It is a great read and well worth the money.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

From a personal perspective, I love Google Keep. I can keep on top of my priorities from any device anywhere.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I love the book Scaling Up. The book is the most practical guide I have read to creating wealth in business. One of its key messages is focus on what matters by working out the top 3 most important things to create wealth, focus on those three things and stop doing everything else.

What is your favorite quote?

Work hard, be humble. It is a quote from a successful private equity fund manager. My greatest mistakes I have made in life (and there are many) is when I have not followed this simple quote.

Key Learnings:

  • People are the most important success factor. Spend time with people, nurture their talents and allow them to be creative.
  • Focus. We are the stolen focus generation as we are constantly interrupted. Focus on what is really important and have the discipline to stop doing what is not important.
  • Have a go. Failure is not trying. Making a mistake when you have tried something new is learning not failure.