Mob Pod - Paul Dodd from Corporate Culcha.
Paul Dodd is the CEO, Director and Principal Consultant of Corporate Culcha.
Paul identifies as a Bundjalung man, with traditional kinship ties to Wirri and Birriah First Nations. He is part-owner of a number of other successful businesses including Geared Up Culcha and Yaru Water. In this interview with Lisa Gissing from Westpac's Davidson Institute, Paul talks about the importance of staying positive and pivoting, where it makes sense, during uncertain times.
LG: Hello and welcome I’m Lisa Gissing from Westpac’s Davidson and today we are very lucky to be speaking with Paul Dodd CEO, director and principal consultant of Corporate Culcha, managing director of Geared Up Culture and also owner of Yaru Water Welcome, Paul.
PD: Hey Lisa, lovely to be here.
LG: Now before we begin today I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land in which we meet and pay our respects to elders both past and present. I also acknowledge and pay respects to those here today who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and recognise the diversity of indigenous peoples countries and culture within Australia.
As Australia’s first bank we acknowledge our role in supporting an inclusive and diverse nation where all of our cultural backgrounds are recognised and respected.
LG: So, Paul, can we start today by you telling us a little bit more about yourself and also too the 3 organisations that you are involved with?
PD: Look I’m a Bundjalung man from Northern NSW. And Bundjalung is my mother’s country and I’m working on country today so it’s really important that I acknowledge that I’m on Bundjalung country today in beautiful Pottsville beach. I grew up in Western Sydney, in Mt Druitt and proudly so.
PD: And then I moved up to the Gold Coast, Tweed area back in 1990 and have been here ever since. I was lucky enough to have some really good people to support me and I was first in family to get a degree back in 1998. I left the government in 2007 and started Corporate Culcha. Predominantly it was around cultural awareness programs but we’ve grown a lot larger now. We do a lot of work in remote communities for government.
PD: We have about 25 facilitators consultants 95% of them are Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander. The majority of them are trainer and assessor. So we do a lot of work around research evaluation, training, accredited training for government and remote communities. 2013 I started Geared Up Culture. And it’s a PPE uniform, promotional merchandise company. There we have about 12 staff 40% are Aboriginal Torres Strait Islanders.
PD: And yeah we do a lot of work for the construction industry, the resource sector, banks and government. Yaru water started in 2011 but I became an owner in 2016. So that’s a little bit about me and my businesses
LG: Wonderful, thanks Paul. So as an organisation, how are you adapting in the current environment and I guess what are your main issues in these changing times?
PD: Well it's really interesting with Corporate Culcha. I only have 3 full-time staff and as I said we’ve got 25 other consultants. So in this time, it’s more around cash flow. For me, it’s about my team members and staff and keeping them employed. So it’s a bit different for me for Geared up culture compared to Corporate Culcha. Because I’ve got 12 staff, it’s ensuring that they feel safe and that they are not losing their job and that we can keep the business rolling.
PD: We’ve had to be very strategic in the way we’ve done that. So it’s really interesting from a Corporate Culcha point of view, 75% of our work is done in remote indigenous communities for government. Obviously, because of COVID, that part of our work has just stopped. Basically, because it’s about the safety of those communities. So we’ve had to adapt with that, and as I said those consultants for us aren’t full-time employees, they’re not even casual; they’re fee for service.
PD: So its had a major impact on those guys in particular. Whereas Geared Up Culcha is an essential service because we do provide PPE. Therefore doors are open and we still got money coming through the door.
LG: Are there any opportunities in there that you’ve identified that your business can potentially pivot to in adapting?
PD: Yes, interestingly we’ve always utilised E-learn, as I said 75% is face to face stuff that we do out there in remote communities. However, we’ve been utilising platforms like E-learning and learning management systems and utilising zoom and other platforms to hold webinars for a long time.
PD: So, for us, what we’ve had to do is pivot to focus on those ways of facilitating workshops because the training that we do provide in community, and also for corporate Australia, is still required. So our E-learn has been a real big buy-in from our current clients but other clients as well.
PD: It’s been an easy pivot for us from that point of view. Geared Up Culcha, again we’ve pivoted to get some niche products out there. There’s a lot of demand for masks and gloves and hand sanitiser. So we found an antibacterial wrap that goes on desks, doors, and so forth that lasts for five years.
PD: We’ve been a bit more niche around that. Offering other things, value-added pieces.
LG: Now from a money perspective, and you highlighted a little bit before about cash flow, what are the main things an organisation needs to concentrate on and I guess too you’ve got two very different businesses?
PD: Yes, so I think, and again the two businesses are very different. Corporate Culcha has a virtual office. So there’s no expenditure for leasing, those sort of big items. Where with Geared Up Culcha, there is. So, I might focus on Corporate Culcha. Again we’ve been very strategic about sending out our E-Learn piece. We’ve been able to because our income obviously has dropped more than 30%, we’ve been able to get JobKeeper in place.
PD: We’ve been lucky enough that we had cash in the bank. And we’re actually still delivering quite a lot of projects that are more desktop research. So we are keeping an eye on that. The JobKeeper will support us and subsidise some of our hours. But we have projects that we are currently doing.
PD: And so it’s about reducing expenditure firstly ok and having a look. So, again, in this period of time for Geared Up Culcha, we’ve reduced hours. That’s our first level of reducing costs. We have negotiated with our landlord; we’re only paying half the rent. We’ve negotiated with some of our loans that we have out there to defer them.
PD: We’ve looked at a 3-month period - 3 months ahead. That’s what we look at in forecasting and we’re negotiating with our clients. Because again most of, a lot of, our clients are in infrastructure mining and from that point of view they still need their products. Again we’ve looked at essential staff to get back to work. The people we need in at the office are there, at the warehouse, and some are working from home.
PD: Like I said, we’ve had to negotiate with our staff around that. It’s important to keep bringing staff along the journey. Keeping them informed along the way because it’s about them feeling safe. So yeah, I think you’ve got to think ahead. Look at what subsidies that are there to support. Just be a bit frugal.
PD: It’s always smart to keep an eye on your cash flow. And you’ve got to be looking ahead all the time. And from the point of view of Geared up Culcha, we’re always trying to fill the funnel ahead of time but also managing it. It’s important to manage the clients that you have and keep communication flows.
LG: Absolutely, which I guess leads me to I guess my final question and that is. What would you say to other businesses or community organisations that are listening here today to help them through some of these uncertain times?
PD: It’s about staying positive and seek out the support, don’t be ashamed.
PD: Get out there and talk to your bank. What can they do to support you? And like I said, sometimes it’s not the monetary stuff, it’s the advice and coaching, building on your systems to be able to have a line of sight and forecast ahead of yourself. It is uncertain times.
PD: But talk to your suppliers, they’re going through the same thing and your clients, importantly your clients. You know we’ve had to really negotiate with our clients about “Well, can you save this order for next month?” You know, because that will help maintain cash flow as well. “Can you invoice me next month?” You know. Funny, strange but also going to them and asking them, you know, 14 days and 7 days during this period of time.
PD: Some of them are flexible enough to do it. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
LG: Great points raised today Paul and I really thank you for your insight. You’ve certainly got a wealth of knowledge and experience that I’m sure the listeners today can really learn from and take back into their own business and community organisation.
LG: So Paul on behalf of Westpac’s Davidson institute I’d really like to thank you for your time today and sharing your thoughts and your wisdom. And wish you and the teams Corporate Culcha, Geared Up Culcha and Yaru Water all the very best during these changing times. Thanks Paul.
PD: Thank you Lisa, thanks everyone.