Insights from Billion Dollar M&A Engineer Cissy Ma

Posted on April 11, 2024 in Business Opportunities

Are you ready to explore the captivating world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) 🌐? Join us in this episode of REDD Business & Technology Podcast with hosts Jackson Barnes and co-host Brad Ferris, together with Billion Dollar M&A Engineer Cissy Ma, as she unveils the intricate tapestry of deals, strategies, and industry insights accumulated over 28 years in the dynamic landscape of business acquisitions. πŸ“ˆ

From exploring the burgeoning interest of overseas investors in the Australian market to dissecting the intricacies of valuation arbitrage, Cissy sheds light on the factors driving M&A activity. 🌏 She delves into the evolving landscape of buyer preferences, highlighting the shift towards smaller EBITDA companies and the growing interest from China. She emphasises the importance of readiness in business owners, advocating for a continuous pulse on one’s company value and operational efficiency. πŸ’Ό

Cissy provides practical networking advice, stressing the significance of building trust and cultivating genuine relationships. πŸ€πŸš€ With anecdotes from her illustrious career, including notable deals and lessons learned, Cissy offers a compelling narrative that educates and inspires entrepreneurs and investors alike, cementing her status as a leading authority in the field of M&A.

#REDDPodcast #MergersAndAcquisitions #CissyMa #Entrepreneurship #InvestmentStrategy #NetworkingGoals

00:00 – Opener
00:53 – Cissy Ma’s Background and Current Work
04:08 – Transition from University to Professional Career
07:51 – Involvement with CPA Queensland
11:06 – Importance of Accounting Background in M&A Work
13:08 – Decline in Accounting Education and Its Implications
14:39 – Interviewing Steve Wozniak and Meeting Oprah
19:33 – M&A Scene in Brisbane
22:05 – M&A Space in IT Cybersecurity
23:06 – Overseas Interest in Australian M&A Market
24:10 – Valuation Arbitrage and Investor Preferences
27:58 – Key Considerations for Business Owners Preparing for Acquisition or Sale
31:28 – Timing and Strategy for Business Acquisitions
35:14 – Leveraging Synergies in Acquisitions to Increase Value
37:30 – Client Acquisition Strategies and Networking
40:34 – Favourite Transactions and Building Long-Term Client Relationships
44:29 – Launching a Business Acquisition Course
46:56 – Outro


If you would like to discuss any of the topics discussed in this episode further with a REDD expert or if you would like to be a guest on the show, please get in touch either via our website, [email protected], or through any of the links below.



Hello and welcome to Redd’s Business and Technology podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Barnes. I’m your


Co-host, Brad


Ferris. Today we’re sitting down with a billion dollar M&A engineer, Cissy Ma, which we’ll elaborate on that. Don’t worry. Done over $17 billion worth of transactions, deputy chair of CPA Queensland and many, many other roles. Cissy, thanks for coming in. Thank


You very much. Great to be


Here. No worries. You want to unpack, maybe I was going to give the whole introduction, but you had so many titles, it was going to be three minute long. Do you just want to elaborate on what you’re doing currently? Might be the best start for the audience.


Sure. One I do currently is I have a business called Grow and Sell Your Biz. I actually help companies grow by getting them the right investors and partners and help them increase their value when they sell. So grow and sell your biz. And the reason I started that business was actually working in the M&A industry for billion dollar companies for 20 odd years, and then I decided that I’ve got all this experience, all the context, all the relationships, and I noticed that the smaller type of the side of the business, like the million dollar businesses, they’re not getting the right advice because all the bigger, like the big four and the companies, the corporate advisory companies, they’re looking at 20 million, $10 million plus businesses. So the smaller businesses are pretty much screaming by they’re not getting the right advice, the right support in expanding their business and they’re not thinking about how they can grow in an organic way because the fastest way to get, if you are a million dollars, the fastest way to get to a $2 million in revenue is acquire another business that is a million dollars in revenue.


But people don’t think about it that way because they are good at entrepreneurs when they build a business, typically they’re good at building the business from ground up and they’re really good at getting people on, getting customers, getting contracts, et cetera, but they’re not thinking, okay, what’s the next step? Sometimes they think about, okay, what is my exit point? And that exit point could be five, seven years down the road, but if you have the right support along the way, you could actually get there much earlier, much quicker. Also, actually talking with one of my clients earlier today, and they are exactly there because he’s been in business for many, many a couple of decades now, and he’s basically building the business, but at the same time thinking, okay, what can I do now? I’m already at a point where I can acquire a number of others and then roll up, but at the same time there are other options. So I basically had a chat and I gave him some options as to where to go from there. Yeah, awesome. Not necessarily just roll-ups, you could potentially be rolled into a big company and then exit that way, or you can go through something like a reverse takeover and backdoor listing and things like that. So that’s all potential options. So


You basically leveraging your knowledge and experience and network


Of decades


Of billion dollar businesses




To multimillion dollar businesses. That’s


Right. To help smaller businesses.


I’m keen to unpack that and I know you’ve also, in your time, interviewed and met some pretty amazing people like Oprah and Steve wac, which we’ll go back to later, but where did you start in university? Did you do accounting commerce or something? And then I did.


I did


Account, lemme go back to


There, commerce Honours in uq and then I did master financial Management out of UQ as well. So 95 and then came out this stating me now, but came out of it and then went straight working for Queensland Treasury Corporation, which is basically started to be the corporate treasurer and advisor for Queensland government owned corporations like Queensland Rail, Stanwell, you name it. A really interesting bunch that get the chance to actually talk to work in a lot of really diverse transactions. Quite a few billion dollars of power station assets, some train assets, a few billion dollars of train assets here and there. I mean these transactions, I didn’t count towards the 17 billion of M&A because they’re structured finance transactions, but they’re quite a few billion dollars there as well. How long were


You at QTC


For? Seven years I think. Yeah, yeah, a good stretch. So started working in corporate finance and still ended up actually going to one of my clients. What happens all of those things is that they poached me and they had a summer, a Christmas, three months saying that they wanted us to backfill to support and I did three months and they said, oh, can you be here permanently?


Yeah, right. And you said for the right doors I can. Yes,


They did. Gave me a big raise and then I started, basically they gave me a new team as well, asked me to set up a new team in the corporate finance team in rail, so that’s basically in QTCI was managing people as well, but they were all virtual teams. I managed the first, the transition for the GST implementation project with QUTC and back when I was only, I only graduated three years and I got put into that job and I was managing multi-billion, tens of billions of dollars in transitioning from one system pre GST to post GST for input tax business. Yeah, so if you


Had three years of practical experience, why did you get chosen to do that at curiosity? What were you doing So well?


Yeah, I think it’s because they can see that when I put my mind to it, I was a really good project manager, so that was I project managed a cross border lease database, which is basically managing, I think about 17, 18 billion of cross border lease transactions for Queensland government. And back then there was no push out of things as yet. The calendar system wasn’t that good, so we ended up, so funnily enough, a finance person ended up actually putting together the first software to manage that long-term transaction. There were like 20 year transactions, so we ended up getting Qantas to utilise that for the plane. Some of the plane, yeah,


Technology always comes back. Technology, Brad, we’ve had some many the guests on this show that we had John Buchanan who was one of the leading Australian cricket coaches, probably one of the most famous one here, how he leveraged technology early in his career to get all the data on bowling and


That’s right


And so on, and use that then to go through the ranks for Queensland balls up into the Australian cricket team. And then overseas, same thing. Technology background here we are, technology company. You mentioned as well Cissy that you’re currently deputy chair of CPA Queensland. When did you do that and you want to elaborate on what you’re doing with CPA Queensland?


Yeah, I have been A CPA since 1997 and basically only in the last, I guess less than 10 years that I actually started to be actively involved with the CPA community that I started helping acting as in the business committee. So we have, when I was the chair for that committee, we had like 78 discussion group meetings in a year or something like that, but they were all managed by volunteers. So that role is actually a volunteer role. So the deputy president is also a volunteer role, but that role is actually being, you have to be selected by all the members in Queensland. So through every three years we go through election process. So I got elected to be on the council and then you get within the council of 12, then you get elected to be whether you want to stand as the deputy president, the president or whatever.


So it is basically a conduit between members and then the CPA itself, because it’s a member around organisation, it has changed quite dramatically since 2017. It has some events happened in 2017, then the entire organisation turned very member driven and since then we’ve actually increased in terms of net promoter score, which is quite amazing. We’ve got, when we have the member survey, we get eight, 9,000 out of the 172,000 members go through the questions and answer. And we started, I think back in 2017, we were around the five-ish and now we were seven-ish close to edging on to eight, seven something, which is quite good for membership organisations, but obviously we’re always looking for opportunities to improve and we have a number of centre of excellences as well. So I’m on the ESG Centre of Excellence. We are looking at globally how we can actually contribute to the ESG debate and the standard setting, all of those things. And also basically it’s ESG Centre of Excellence consists of 10 members from all over the world. So Europe is pretty good in a lot of the ESG things, so we get a lot of the benefit from there as well. Yeah, yeah.


Quite amazing on being a charter accountant and obviously for a long time now, how does that help your




That’s okay.


You said chartered accountant,


But it’s alright. Sorry, we work with


All the time. Sorry, I forgot. I’m


With two accountants here. Background not, how does it help your M&A work?


Yeah. Oh, I think for me it is quite essential to have that background in doing M&A or in any business we call it the accounting is the language of business. Yeah, yeah. I’m one of the ambassadors member ambassadors of CPA into school. So actually this year I’ve already visited a couple of high schools to go through because there are less and less funding in universities or high schools for a business and accounting type subjects really. So we are actually seeing sort of a pipeline reduction really. And so we are going back to the schools and just basically explaining to them what would an actual accountant do in real life. So in my case, it’s really okay, even though I am a fellow of CPA and I always said I actually haven’t done accounting as a professional role for all my professional life. It’s always been corporate finance, strategic strategy, business development, M&A.


But with that, without the accounting background, without the understanding, I would not be able to do my job really well in the M&A field. I need to understand the three-way financials, the historicals, the forecast and all of those things and whether it’s reasonable, what’s the normalised ebitda, what is the actual for forecast and all of those things. And it is really interesting that when I spoke to the high school students, some of them the two places that I went to, one is a public school, the other one is a private school. And regardless of whether it’s public or private, it appears that only one third of the kids actually know what accounting is or what.


I always say, oh, can you help me with my tax? Yeah,


Why do you think that is? And so did you say before that the amount of people studying going into studying accounting at universities decline?


That’s right. Why is that? There is an increased funding for STEM in high school. So if the kids actually, they can decide which way to go. If they go stem, they have additional funding for the school and if they went business and accounting, the student will have to pay additional fees because the government has reduced funding for it. So that’s the source of it from high school. But going into university, if you didn’t learn any of the accounting in high school going into university, that might be difficult. So there’s that and there is also the, I guess the young kids nowadays they wanted something like that. That is cool. Accounting’s concept is not cool, but what we are trying to say is that actually look at what I’m doing every day. I am dealing with high pressure M&A work and in this morning I’ve dealt with four or five different people from us, from Australia, from Singapore. It is a global job and accounting can take you anywhere. That’s what we’re trying to say. Yeah.


Cool. Now you mentioned as well that you interviewed, I think it’s on your LinkedIn was or Steve Wozniak. Do you want to elaborate on how you got the opportunity to do that and was that experience like Yeah,


Sure. This is actually back in 2018. I just started my business back in 2018 and I went to an event Tony Robbins event. I wanted to see which


Led you to a room. Honestly,


I wanted to see Tony Robbins, but I didn’t actually end up buying Tony Robbins. Which event wrong? Yeah, it was May, 2018. Was it a




No, it was before upda. It’s one of those national academy things like a 3D event in the convention centre. So that’s the one that I went to. There’s about four or 5,000 people there. So I ended up actually buying the number one business and business coach, JT Fox. So he’s the one who actually provided that opportunity. What he does is he actually provides a lot of those high level opportunities to his clients. So provide the platform for you to actually go and go in front of people from 2,500 people from 70 plus countries. You go there in Los Angeles and you get on stage, you go and ask questions of Steve wk. That is really good branding, isn’t it? Oh yeah, yeah.


So you went to a Tony Robbins event and you met a business


Coach. That’s right. I’ve heard these


Stories before and then that landed you on stage in LA


With That’s right. With Steve was, yeah.


How was the interview?


Yeah, it was really good. It’s in front of that many people. It feels like I was just talking chatting to him in the lounge room or something. It didn’t feel like it’s, I


Wasn’t nervous. One of the Apple, hey, one of the fans of Apple,


I Apple, I know he is very down to earth and you ask him a question, he will just go ahead and elaborate. It makes it really easy being the interviewer. I like your role.


The other one you said it was pretty cool and not many people in Australia in Brisbane would’ve given us opportunities. You ran to Oprah as well? Yeah.


How did that come about? That was a really a surprise for me as well, and it was many, many different ways and it can be traced back to JT Fox as well because one of t’s client is called the Black Mentor Joseph in the us and he saw me present in one of the forums that JT had. It’s called the Chairman. So it’s a group of high level business people getting together and we pretty much all have significant businesses. So talk about at that event, I pitched a rollup of education businesses and he thought, oh, that was a great idea. He wanted to do that as well. So he asked me to go to the US and so he sort of funded me to go to the US and help him build a programme. So from end to end on all of the steps that he needs to go through to acquire businesses in the US and in this area.


And he’s got a target of acquiring a hundred businesses in the next five years. And I did that programme for him in early June and by September he’s already bought three businesses. So he is very someone who implements straight away, but then he said, oh, this is great, can you come and actually present that to this wealth flow event in October, September, October? So I said, okay, yeah, sure, why not? Good opportunity as well. So I went and then Oprah’s significant other, so Staman Graham, he’s been J t’s coach for almost 10 years now. He’s one of J T’s coaches. JT has a lot of coaches, he pays a few million dollars of coaching fees. So far your


Coach with a lot of coaches


I know, I know mean if you want to be really good at something, you need to find the right coaches. But anyway, Staman Graham was on stage and then Oprah came in as a surprise and she was invited offstage after Staman spoke and we got the opportunity to listen to her just off the cuff for almost 20 odd minutes. We got the opportunity to take photos with her, but only the speakers get that chance. Yeah, wow. Yeah, that’s awesome. Was very lucky.


It sounds like you’ve had a very cool last couple of decades. So I want to unpack a bit more into for the audience listening, get some of your knowledge in the M&A space, the M&A scene in Brisbane. What’s it like now compared to a couple of years ago? Obviously you’ve been doing out on your own for you said now like several


Years. That’s right. Since 2018. Yeah, so I think it’s heating up. So the last couple of years a lot of people have been reviewing things but not making decisions. Last year I did help one of my biggest clients with a listed company out of the US acquiring an Australian company and was announced on the New York Stock Exchange in September. So the transaction went through, they announced something like 45 million us, so that’s a transaction that took almost 12 months, but the actual work is probably half a year, but end to end from the point we started looking to the point we actually transacted took almost 12 months. But that’s the rare transaction. I think if you look at the number of transactions, it has definitely come down last couple of years, but the year before 2022 is pretty good. 23 hasn’t been that great. Then 24 we’re all saying, yeah, we are all coming back to the market.


Obviously there was the tech crash and stuff that happened. Yeah,


Exactly. That would’ve been interesting. It’s all not just tech crash in the public market in the VC market as well. So 21 was like everyone was happy to invest on a promise without any money is


Cheap. Is that also because of interest rates?


Interest rate would have something to do with it. Yeah, definitely money is cheap easier, but I think it’s because people were looking for things to invest in during the pandemic and basically they were all rushing and it’s like the fear of missing out. They don’t want to miss out. And then the market went so high that it’s not really sustainable and it’s not really backed up by fundamentals. So if you look at the fundamentals of the sum of the businesses that people, they are paying 30, 40 times revenue, which for the business that are not even earning profit. So crazy. Yeah, it’s crazy.


What are you seeing in the M&A space in the industry wearing technology, cybersecurity in particular? I think you mentioned you do some work in that space. Is that a industry that’s got a lot of overseas interest at the moment?


Yeah, definitely overseas interest and Australian private equity or Australian interest as well. So US interest is one that I would point out a lot of US private equity and even listed companies because of the arbitrage, pretty much the Australian companies still are seen as cheaper for them if they were a listed company and they’re act to their PE at let’s say 15 times revenue, and the Australian one is typically much lower in the multiple. So immediately when they acquire a business, they’ll get an arbitrage. It doesn’t matter how small the business is, it all adds up.


So you’re saying that because if they evaluate in the US at 12 times multiplier and they buy a company in Australia at eight times, that adds to their revenue and that’s automatically


Worth more straight arbitrage. So there’s revenue, the valuation arbitrage, and then there is also if you buy a number of companies, a number of smaller companies because each one would have been valued lower than whatever, eight times if it’s even lower, might be even lower than that, then you are building up a revenue kind of portfolio that is, it could be something that quite sizable, but then the valuation multiples are not high. And then when it gets to, we call them the private equity pyramid, the higher the EBITDA there is, the higher the multiple as well because there are less and less companies that has higher ebitda. And so your typical demand supply, right? Yep.


Yeah. In your experience, you said the market’s heating up, but what are US investors, what kind of companies are they’re looking for in particular? Is there a certain size turnover or industry


Or It varies. What are looking for varies. It varies. Previously companies, listed companies like to acquire businesses that has three to 5 million of EBITDA as a minimum. So earnings before interest, sorry, I forgot to account speak, break it down. Earnings before interest tax depreciation, amortisation. So it is kind of the cashflow equivalent that takes out all these non-cash items and they like to acquire something like three or to 5 million of EBITDA as a minimum, but now they’re coming down in looking at even smaller EBITDA companies, they’re happy to look at it as well. So I’ve been approached multiple times by listed companies in the US and family offices and there are more interests out coming out of China as well, which is really interesting because there is a fairly strong capital control from China to overseas. But there’s still a lot of the requirements because they want a lot of the people in China, they wanted to migrate to develop countries and a lot of people actually do have quite a significant amount of money and they want to diversify their wealth basically globally. And Australia is seen as one of those countries that they are happy to look at and they’re focusing on at this moment. Interesting.


Yeah. So apart from profit, what else are investors looking at in particular? Is there any kind of industry or size or


Yeah, it all depends. I mean if the listed company is in B2B enterprise says or that type of business that they want to acquire, others that are similar in that similar line. But if the listed company is in a different industry, then some of the list companies are more like a listed investment holding company. So they will be quite okay with all sorts of different companies and they’re quite open to whether it’s cybersecurity, whether it’s education, whether it’s, it’s the technology companies, they tend to look at technology companies and then for others in some private equity, they’re only interested in boring stuff like transport, marine manufacturing, you’d think that people don’t want to do that kind of thing anymore. But on the country there are quite a lot of interest in that because they believe that it’s a need versus want. So some manufacturing is still required. We still need staff to, we need our garden more.


Oh, you mean more services? Services?


A lot of services as well. So services, industry, accountancy, bookkeeping, and a lot of things you wouldn’t have thought that makes that much sense, but it’s because people need it for their business or for their life and it’s a need versus want. Yeah.


And let’s say someone’s listening and we have a female business owners I guess always is a combination like business owners or business leaders or people in the IT space or cybersecurity space. So let’s say we’ve got some people listening and they’re considering for future to get their business ready either to acquire other businesses or list or sell or whatever. What do you think is important for them to do?


I mean actually don’t even need to think about, okay, in number of years I’m going to exit. I think it’s actually important to keep a pulse on your business at any given time. Know the value of your business at any given time. It’s what they call them. Always be ready. You never know. I come across people who just say, actually last time I went to Dallas, just before I got onto the plane, one of my clients actually said, oh, I just got an approached, someone gave me an offer, what should I do now? I said, okay, now I wrote a list of things that she should do before I got onto the plane. So basically you kind of have to get your house in order what needs to be done so that when the investor or the buyer comes in, they can look at all your historical financials or the process and procedures in the company that still works and what is your contract, whether you have good long-term contracts, recurring contracts, that kind of thing.


So ultimately the buyer is buying a future recurring revenue or future maintainable revenue. So if you were doing a million dollars last year and you say, I’m going to do 5 million this year, they will do a pretty big, they will say, Hey, why is it that you can do that? And then you say, well, next year I’m going to be doing $10 million. Okay, well you want the buyer to pay at a higher EBITDA or whatever. But you’ve got to be able to demonstrate to them that what happened in the past is a good indication of what’s going to happen in the future. And if what happened in the past is not a great indication, then you have to be able to demonstrate how you bridge the gap is basically you might have a big contract that you’ve just signed that you haven’t been able to deliver it as yet or is on the way being delivered.


That will be something that would be good for you in terms of valuation uplift based on history. So getting your housing order, get a good advisor to help you with that. And also don’t always think about it in a way that you want more people to look at you, not just the first person to look at you and say, Hey, I want to buy you at this. And you said, okay, I’ll go for it. But if you were to sell your house, would you sell your house to the first person that comes knocking? Right? Business is the same thing. If you want to sell your business or think about selling your business, then you should actually think about the process as running some sort of auction process. Obviously you’ve got to be really careful about the confidentiality, which is why having an advisor would be better because you can keep the company from the market as a very small place. It’s very easy that people talk. Yeah,


You don’t want to chuck a false as line out the front, put it on because that business is a bit interesting. In your experience on the acquisition side, at what stage in a business should they consider acquiring another business and what are you seeing that’s work really well in terms of the, say a business in general talking, not what you’ve done but acquiring other business.


I have seen business acquiring other businesses when they’re very, very early as well as when 20, 30 years into their business life, the earlier ones that typically the ones that are a startup and they’re into, let’s say they’re earning about a million dollars of revenue and then they saw, oh, there’s another startup that could potentially compliment each other and they get together, then the whole scope increases. So it’s one plus one equals three rather than one plus one equals two. So both of them, they would say, Hey, I can contribute half, I can contribute the other half. They can do a script for script rollover and then you can actually acquire another business without any cash so that that’s possible. And even you can acquire a bigger business without any cash as well. So sometimes people think, oh, I have to have a lot of money to actually acquire, I have to be profitable to acquire another business.


That’s not the case because you can actually, if you have a really good platform, I’m talking about technology platform, I’m talking about business platform. So for example, one of my client is education and they do education, international student recruitment. So they have a really good platform in that they’ve already been in that industry for 30 years and they’ve basically got 85,000 plus people coming through to Australia, but they want to expand globally. So they basically got in work with another company out of China who we got this two-way work and then another company out of uk which got the students going from China to UK or UK to Australia. So the synergy is the three companies adding together would be better, one plus one plus one equals six other than three. But whilst one of the companies is quite significant, they don’t need to be a 10 20 million business. They can be a small business and all of them worked together and then once they started working together, they started to combine the front end and the backend and the marketing and all of those things. They will get the operational benefits out of it and they can prove it for a little while and then private equity will start to get interested in that. Right.


So when you say the one plus one equals six thing to elaborate on that, you are saying because they leverage other capabilities from those other companies their full and they also get to a certain turnover or profitability percentage where they’re more attractive to someone to buy. Is that what you say?


Yeah, one is that, but also even within the three companies that we’re talking about, those companies are actually, they each need their marketing arm for example, now they can pull the resources so they can just do one set of marketing do It’s like a


Shared service kind.


Yeah, yeah. So it’s the economy of scale thing, not just syner Syn. Yeah, exactly. Synergies.


Do you still use that word? I dunno.


They do. They do. I mean that’s the whole basis of M&A is that you have to have synergies. So otherwise there’s not much point.


A couple more questions, Brad, anything else you wanted to ask?


So I was just going to ask around in the Brisbane market, so one I guess around attracting and finding clients for your business, so your process for that, and then since the market is heating up, is there more competition with other kind of M&A consultants?


There’s always competition. I mean it doesn’t matter, even if the market is, it is that there will still be a competition. For me, I think it’s more because there is a reputation out there and so far I’ve always had deals inbound and I haven’t done any advertising or marketing or even though you can see me on the social media, I get invited to speak, I get paid to speak in various forums in the US in Singapore online. I’ve actually got a full day thing this Saturday, which I will speak for 45 minutes about how to buy a profitable business with minimal money in capital. Yeah. So by doing that, and I’m doing thought leadership and networking, thought leadership network. Yeah. Yeah. So that’s kind of the lead generation thing.


I didn’t want to ask him that word


Of mouth as well. I suppose it’s pretty much word of mouth. I know my coach would say, no, you shouldn’t just do that. My coach is very strong into marketing and branding, but I think it works in some areas and I think in the M&A area, people would only work with people that they trust, which is why I’m very careful about the clients I take on. I always do a lot of due diligence before I take on a client. And sometimes it can be frustrating for the potential clients is that I want to give you money, why aren’t you getting it?


I think you’re probably right. Doing that approach, speaking at events and then word of mouth referrals, that kind of thing. Because it probably unlikely someone would just Google someone to sell their business in Brisbane or whatever. And it




I do want to pick your brain actually on networking because when we first met at the Westpac event, we held a couple weeks ago in the city and I was like, oh geez, Cissy’s really good at networking. And obviously you are because networked your way to meeting Oprah and those kind of things. What advice would you have on people around networking?


I think the important thing is what’s your objective when you to go to network? I don’t believe in going to a network event and giving out business cards because I think you’ve got to be able to see someone and talk to them and understand where they’re coming from. So it’s really understanding the other person’s perspective and then you are able to actually talk about work. And if you just keep on talking about yourself, then you might be able to get something across, but it’s not going to be a good basis for building a relationship. I always think that it is good to hear what the other side says, the age old thing about two years and one mouse, right? Being a good listener, it is really an art, but it sort of comes with practise as well. So you got to put yourself out there, you got to go to those networking events, but be selective at the ones to go as well.


So I won’t go to a lot of the networking events where I might go once and then I feel like this is not something that, not somewhere I belong, it’s more understanding that people go there with, I need to get some job out of this. It’s more, okay, how can I help each other? We have the Coralus thing, I think, I’m not sure if I mentioned I’ve been a Coralus activator since 2018 Australia. We are basically a fund to increase funding for female entrepreneurs and we’ve already funded 24 ventures in Australia. We funded over 170 ventures across five countries and 95% success rate, which is quite amazing. But we have monthly catch ups for Coralus people and when we go there we basically say, Hey, what’s been happening this month? Tell us what you need, how can we help you? And then there is one offer and one ask. So something that you can offer others and something that you need help on. And we just help each other that way. It’s not something that happens all the time, all the networking events. I feel like that is a really different environment. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. That’s pretty cool.


I got one more question then I’ll get back to you, Brad. What was your favourite transaction that you’ve done in your, I think you said about 27 years in the industry


Now? Yeah, 28 years. Yeah, 28.


What’s your favourite one?


Favourite one. There’s quite a few interesting ones. Like the listing IPO of Aurizon, for example, I was basically the head of the vendor due diligence team and we’ve got a hundred people working on that deal for a long time, almost a year. And that was a 5 billion transaction, but that is fairly transactional. I have to say that a lot of people working on it. But the one that’s my favourite is actually a transaction that we didn’t end up doing, but I spent a lot of time on it. So back then, I think we were called QR at the time, this is the railway, and we worked with the China Railway Corporation and worked together on a deal that we were going to acquire a business together. And so from the beginning I was basically there to acted in a way that is way more than the financial hat in that transaction.


I was doing all the due diligence, the pitching, the explaining in Chinese, which yeah, it was very interesting that some stages where I was talking to my Chinese colleagues or the China railway colleagues in English, I’m talking to my Australian colleagues in Chinese because I was there doing the translation, I completely forgot. And it was like, okay, well sorry, that’s wrong. But it was very interesting in that it’s a transaction that transcends both the financial and the cultural for the two companies and two countries. And we had a common goal trying to acquire an Australian railroad company, but there are differences in understanding from the Chinese perspective and from the Australian perspective. And what the seller was looking for was an amount that we could not support. So in the end we did a lot of work but decided that it’s not in our common interest to go forward with the transaction.


However, we cemented our working relationship from then and then we continued looking at other opportunities from there. So you always, the thing is a transaction is a transaction. You don’t just stop there. Most of my clients have been my clients since day one. Not all of them. The one that I have since day one, they’re still my clients today. The one I did the transaction for last year, actually they were one of my first clients back in 2018, this solicit company. And the first deal that they asked me to help them look at was like a $10 million acquisition, very small deal. And I looked at it and I told them I did a good presentation and basically said, it’s not worth it. You shouldn’t invest in it. And the head office was very happy and they said, oh yeah, because I’m really acting in their interests. I could have earned more money if I said Yes, go ahead. Yeah, yeah. But I don’t believe in that. I believe in actually acting in the best interest of the client. And since then I’ve looked at seven transactions for them. Oh wow. Yeah. So it’s all, every year pretty much we look at a transaction and a few and once you build up the trust, they will say, Hey, going forward, every deal we want to see involved.


Brad, do you want to ask?


No, I think that was pretty good. We’ve covered quite a lot of ground there.


Yeah, I think we did just on 45 minutes. I did have one more thing, but that’s right, I guess. And on what’s next for you in your career? You more of the same? You doing anything more exciting or?


Yeah, I’m very excited because I’m actually doing a course, right? I’m putting up a course, no, I’m doing a course. I did that in the way in Singapore and now I’m doing that on this Saturday as well to take people through how they acquire business. So to help them look at the different methods, the different options. And also if they were looking at a plumber acquisition for example, I can tell them, okay, this is what you need to do. Obviously that’s very small for most transactions, but if you have 10 plumbers that it’s repeatable revenue as well, it could actually be quite good


Deal. And what are you planning on doing with the course that you are writing is going speaking more about other places?


Yes. I am going to speak about this on Saturday and hopefully we’ll get some people actually subscribing or buying the course. And then we’ll start doing it as a 52 week course. And I call it Business Buyers launchpad. And it’s basically every week we get on a webinar group together for one hour, and I will talk about an element of buying businesses for half an hour and the other half will look at a particular deal. We look at deals that I’m doing or a deal that was brought forward by one of the people. We’ve already got a few people interested and people have paid money for it as well. So my daughter was saying, you are selling it too cheap. But I said, well, I’m not trying to earn a living out of doing this course. This purpose is more to say, Hey, how can I help people? And also if I help people, they are more likely to bring me deals as well. Yeah, network when they need, when need some business, when it could start with a small transaction, but it could also end up being big transactions. You never know. Awesome.


Yeah. Thanks for coming on. I feel like you’ve shed a lot of wisdom around the M&A space and like you had an awesome last couple of decades, so I really appreciate you coming in. Thank


You very much. Really appreciate it.




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