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Episode 20, Adrian Hermens, Head of Commercial Government & Citizen Services, Spotless Group

  • Posted 05 Apr 2021
  • Richard Holmes
  • Podcast

Adrian Hermens is Head of Commercial for Government & Citizen Services for Spotless Group, a division of Downer.

Adrian is a Senior Finance Professional with over 20 years of experience owning results at global and regional levels. 

Prior to Spotless, Adrian has worked for SIMS, Aristocrat, UGL, Downer, Goodman Fielder and Woolworths. A strong people leader, he has broad commercial finance covering strategy, business analytics, forecasting, planning, M&A and integration planning. 

Transcript Please note that this has been transcribed by AI/Bots so there may be typos and the occasional strange things happening. Richard Holmes 0:00 Welcome to the numbers people podcast in partnership with HPR Consulting a leading Sydney executive finance recruitment firm. I'm your host Richard Holmes. In today's episode, I'm talking with Adrian Hermens. Adrian is Head of Commercial for Government and Citizen Services for Spotless Group, a division of Downer. Adrian is a senior finance professional with over 20 years of experience running results at global and regional levels. Right spotless. Adrian has worked for Sims, Aristocrat, UGL, Goodman fielder and Woolworths. He's a strong people leader with a broad commercial finance, background covering strategy, business analytics, forecasting, planning, M&A, and integration planning. Adrian, Adrian Hermens 0:46 how are you? Yes, good, Richard. Good to see you again in this, hopefully soon to post COVID world. Yes, Richard Holmes 0:53 it's it's great to see you again. It feels like it's a it's been a while. And I've known Adrian for a number of years, probably nearly what, 10 1012 years now? I think. I've seen him progress in his career. And I think he's got really interesting story and in journey would like to tell us more. Adrian Hermens 1:08 Ye, sure. So I've been in finance and accounting for over 20 years. I really started my career at Woolworths. And there was a division of Woolworths called BMW, and I was in the retail space for about just over four years. It's funny, when you're really young, I think there are your sort of older peers who do want to give younger, the younger generation generation opportunities. And I was lucky enough to have that I started out on the buying floor, importing containers from China for gift cards. And I knew nothing about that coming from a degree in economics, and sort of sort of winning, really naive not knowing what I was doing. And then because of the hard work that I was doing, at the time, I sort of got jettison into financial control role. And they actually put me in a role that was far beyond what I could do. So I actually had to put in training in my title. But I was really keen. I had sort of senior finance guy took me under his wing. And then next thing, you know, I was doing all the finances for all the stores across Australia for BMW. I was sitting in general manager meetings, I was working for the general manager of operations, who was very, very senior, he was one underneath the CEO. And in the time, I really sort of cut my teeth, getting across all the detail running, p&l, budgeting, which I like to say to some people, finance is not an extreme sport. But I love it like getting into that detail. And really sort of understanding all the aspects of running a business. Never underestimate if you're in finance and accounting. And I'll get to that later, is people people really value your opinion. And they look to you for stewardship and guidance. And that's why you're there. You're not just there to produce spreadsheets. You're there because of your views and your skills and your background. But anyway, after all, we're so wedded to Goodman fielder. I spent a couple of years there more in planning and budgeting for I guess, a manufacturing business, they refined fats and oils. So that was sort of like the factory side of Meadow Lee, I don't know if you're aware of that. And for example, if you go to KFC and the chips are being fried, that's what Goodman fielded the big vats of oil. So that was my first stint in manufacturing out of retail. And that was really really impressive for me because I really learned the importance of ABC accounting, like unit costing accounting and And trust me, I can tell you, what really sounds like a boring subject on its surface was driving very significant conversations around investment in plant in factories across Australia. So I got I got the opportunity to travel around to the different states in Australia, like for example, Queensland, and look at factories and people were openly no surprise. Still at a quite a young age, people were seeking my opinion. And, and I had the opportunity to work with commercial directors and look up product, new products being launched. And so I'd really sort of moved away from that traditional accounting and controllership into product development. I also worked with a general manager who had an export business within government field and we were shifting product into Asia. And from there I sort of learned the importance of, you know, export channels and For all of my time, at Goodman Theatre, I got to finance directors award for excellence, which I wasn't expecting. And that was good to get that kind of level of recognition from your peers and makes you realize that you're on the right track. It's always if you can, you know, don't expect it, but you know, look out, look out for those moments where you're getting positive feedback from your peers, you know, listen to what people are telling you. Because that's the best way to understand whether you're on the right track is through the peers and how people perceive you, not how you perceive yourself, okay, because ultimately, you know, you've heard of this, the same perception is everything. I don't necessarily prescribe to that theory, I think, I think it's a, it's a balance, it's a bit of both, you need to know the detail, and you need to be across it. But, you know, ultimately, your career is full of customers, internal and external. And, and they're the people that really help you along your journey. So then I met my wife, we decided to go overseas to the UK. Adrian Hermens 6:07 You know, I had actually, I forgot to mention, I got a scholarship at the Wallace to study my master's degree in Applied Finance, which I did part time. And I was doing that in the evenings and weekends. So I decided to go into banking. So I went across to the UK, I did a year at the Bank of Scotland, I was involved with one of the largest, I guess, the listing of a private company called Christian, and in a home builder called Chris Nicholson. But I really sort of went away from the traditional finance and accounting into transactional banking, in mergers and acquisitions. And, and some people sort of think that is the really sort of flashy side of Finance. And, and I did really, I really enjoyed that I really learned about how to evade, like, the valuation of companies working with, with clients, one of my favorite memories is I actually had to jump on a plane to go to to Norway. And my director, who I reported to, suddenly caught me on the way to the airport, I was going from Edinburgh, he was coming from Glasgow, and he said, I'm too sick, I can't make the flight, you're just going to have to go ead without me. So I'd never been to Norway, I've never really been outside the UK, and Austria, Australia for that matter. And I was really sort of green around the years. And, you know, but you know, with my bag packed and finance skills ready to go. I just hope for the best. And that really threw me into a situation where I had CEOs, I had, you know, an audit firm, they're all asking me questions. And I'd only been in the job for six months, if that. And, you know, coming from a commercial accounting background, I hadn't been in banking. But at the end of the day, I really learned about the skills of, you know, listening to your audience, I learned about, you know, what, are they really asking me? Do I have the, do I have the answer here? If I don't have the answer? Where can I get it from? You know, it's okay not to have the answer on the spot. And also learned the power of, you know, who you actually representing in the business, you know, I'm there on behalf of the bank, you know, and I have a role. So don't get overwhelmed. You know, just execute the role. And, and talk to those people just like they expect you to talk to them. So I really sort of, you know, feel those shoes of being a banker, even though in my eyes, I wasn't really a banker, and I got it across the line. And that's sometimes what you have to do in your career, you're thrown into spaces where you don't know all the answers. It's new to you, this fear of your finance and accounting background is a new sphere. But you know, you've got the skills, you've got the ability, you've just got to back yourself to adapt to certain situations. So Adrian Hermens 9:10 and then, as you all know, the GFC struck, and I was lucky enough to launch back into finance and accounting on the commercial side, and I work for one of the largest tire retail companies in Europe called Quick Fit. And I ended up in the UK financial planning planning role for for the UK business, which, for memory, I think had over three to 300 stores across retail stores across all of the UK. And I was the second in charge of finance, incidentally. And, and, actually, that was the first soiree into five year planning of an organization or business. And they had a financial controller there who was I guess, who the first in charge as such he was, he was the equivalent of finance director And we both reported into the group CFO. And I quickly found myself being thrown into meetings with the group CEO, the group CFO, purely for them wanting to understand what their business look like in the future, and where it was going, what were they investing in, in all simply from, you know, working across the business pulling information from different sources, you know, yes, throwing into spreadsheets, which is a necessary evil, but you've got to look beyond spreadsheets. You got to look at the content, you got to look at what questions you're trying to answer. What are you trying to plan? And that's where the value is not in the mechanics as such. So make sure that when you're working on the mechanics and the spreadsheets, you're actually coming out with an answer, you're not just sending a spreadsheet, you're actually you're an internal consultant to the organization. And that's why you're a valued individual is because you know, you you're having different experiences, you're throwing different questions, and you have the answers, because you have that ability to critically assess information inside and outside an organization. So that went really well for me. And I think it was almost two years later, my son Laughlin was born in Edinburgh, and my wife and I, Claire, Claire, and I decided to go home, we want to go back to Australia. And then I learned, I landed my job, which was a fantastic job at YuGiOh, which has since been acquired. And I found myself in my first group role. And I worked effectively for the group General Manager finance, who was responsible for all the group consolidation planning, and to ice to the group's the CFO, Ravana Corso and Paul teasdale. Shout out to those two gentlemen who were really, you know, really, people that I admired in my career, even looking back now. And and Paul teasdale took me under his wing. Again, I still, I still felt pretty young, although I was kind of sort of, you know, in my late 20s, at the time, and I was really thrown into, you know, consolidations. But what the fantastic part of that role was working, consultative, in a consultative way across the business with all the general managers of Finance. And with the end with the divisional CEOs, I guess you'd call them. And, and we would review the monthly finances, we would understand problem projects. I mean, for those who don't know, UDL is an engineering business. So I've now sort of moved away, I've done retail, I don't manufacturing, I've done banking, I'd done sort of back into retail, and now I was into engineering. And that was the first time I learned the importance of project valuation and project accounting, and the importance of understanding project contingencies. You know, project completion and earnings through a project, and portfolios. So for example, large engineering firms have hundreds and hundreds of engineering projects, and some of them can be worth 300 million, some of them can be worth 20 or 50 million. And some of them can span one or two years, some of them can spend five to 10 years. And, and the great thing that those companies engineering companies lean on is the portfolio effect, which you learned finance. And that's about diversifying risk through having same as insurance companies by having multiple policies in diversity and while the risk. But look, Adrian Hermens 13:53 I spent, I spent five years at YuGiOh, which was a great stint. And I got promoted from a I guess, a group, a group accounting and business analyst role and into a finance a group finance manager role, and then into my first acting, General Manager of finance, in the resources business at the height of the resources boom. And that was a fantastic way. And the reason why I got promoted was the CFO and the GM of finance had tasked me with with a major reporting and planning a global project. twofold one was to basically you've heard of SAP and millions of dollars, people sinking to implementing SAP will, they will, thankfully will pass that that stage and they needed a tool that sell over reporting and planning tool. And that was a two year project out of the five years, but it was so successful, that they asked me to then sort of look at something that I'd never done before, which was as vanilla as it sounds. It was a it was an executive dashboard to sit across the whole YuGiOh business. But effectively it was to raise red flags from a governance perspective on the major projects from there. Because that was successful, I had a chance to work with an executive General Manager, finance, who's now CEO of a listed company. I worked with him and others on the detail about what are the governance red flags around these projects, and sort of working with them to get sign off, or their endorsement on stages of the project. So that ended up being so successful, they implemented that across the business, and it's still there. Today, I've touched bases on former colleagues. And then during that time, UDL did a major acquisition of a property services company called dtz. And that ladoke sort of merged and Cushman and Wakefield. So that was my, I've managed to learn to lean on my banking and m&a background in conjunction with my planning, planning background. And I was I was lucky enough to get sent to Los Angeles, to set up a whole new group finance office in Los Angeles, for the past for the global business to property service business, which set on the, I guess, the UDL, umbrella, global, company, corporate. That was an amazing experience. It's funny, I didn't put my hand up for it, but people came and sought me out. And I guess the key point there is if people value you value, your opinion, value, your skill set, and you stick to your knitting, and put faith in yourself, you know, people will come and seek you out. You don't necessarily have to set your hair on fire and wave your hand and say, I really want to be this and I really want to be doing that. If you do the things that you do well, every day, and sometimes that involves a lot of personal commitment, whether that be sacrificing time with your family, sacrificing, you know, you know, time, you know, to go to the gym or, or even just relaxing some of those some of those sacrifices really pay back tenfold. And I understand now why? Why, you know, certainly executives get to where they get to justify putting in the hours and hard work. But look, I'll just finish off from my, on my, on my last two roles. So then, after five years, I was lucky enough to to land a role at aristocrat in a group planning role supporting the future and now group CFO of aristocrat Julie. Now, she was a very hard taskmaster, and I hope she won't, I think she'll forgive me for saying that. But look, I learned a lot there, I was very green around the years in terms of the, I guess what they call the gaming and gambling industry. It was another industry jump, I sort of came into a team that was I was pre warned that was unsettled. But I was I was very fortunate, I was put on the finance leadership team. And within within two months or even a month of joining the organization, I was told that they are requiring a major American company called bgt, or video gaming technologies, which was a tribal casino gaming company. And, and I sort of now understood why they had chosen me for the role because of my background in finance, and accounting and banking, and movies and acquisitions past. And I was I was thrown in the deep end again, you know, I was doing investor presentations, you know, going to the market within days. Adrian Hermens 18:55 I, I hated the integration, you know, from a finance perspective. And also, based on what Treasury experienced from YuGiOh, I had to set up a whole new governance reporting regime around the covenants testing around all the banking facilities. And I'm talking about I think, off the top of my head, it was it was well over, you know, us. You know, I think it was one and a half billion dollars, for example. So we're not talking small acquisitions here, but but it will, it was a great experience. And then it came a time I was there, I think for about for a couple of years. And I think Julie sort of brought in a colleague that she'd known from overseas. And I was put in a position where I really wanted to move on because because of changes within the organization, so I found myself a downer. And this is where I am today. And I've been a downer now for about two and a half years. So what that means to your audience, Richard, so I went back into the engineering sector, I guess, where I feel really, really happy and confident in and again, I was thrown. Firstly, I did. I did a bit of a contract role. So I actually I had to do fly in fly out work down into Melbourne and I was at the second largest rail site in the in the southern hemisphere at Newport. You know, Victoria had just invested in the high capacity Metro trains, and they'd also invested in, I think it was off the top of my head about a $400 million project in refurbishing the Yarra Trams across Melbourne. So I was the finance guy across those sort of major major projects on the HCM tee from a from a regional rail and V. Au perspective. Look, I loved it. And from there that springboarded me into the role I'm currently in which is at spotless for those who are not aware, down a acquired spotless, I think, off the top of my head within the last two years. And then obviously what happens in integrations and acquisitions, there's, there's a lot of change. So I I actually now work for the AGM of the government business and, and the group General Manager of finance and commercial, Daniel February, who both excellent to work with. And what we what we look at is all the commercial and finance, across large government contracts for services. So for example, we do all the contracts for, I guess, facilities management, for all the land and housing in New South Wales, we do all the facilities management across all the public schools across New South Wales, we new land and housing in Western Australia. And what's been really interesting is COVID. So COVID actually ended up being a cleaning boom. So in our business, called government and Citizen Services, we had a very first contract to roll out all the cleaning across the schools, public schools in Victoria. And that was a landmark project for the state of Victoria, because all the schools had individual finance arrangements with with cleaners. And what the state of Victoria wanted to do was bring all those cleaning employees onto the books to make sure that they were getting paid the right amounts in a fair a fair way and making sure there was no underpayment. You've probably heard about the modern slavery laws and legislation that's that have recently come into effect. So anyway, that that, that involved off the top of my head, over 200 schools across the state of Victoria. And, you know, that that contract, although it was difficult, you know, has now been so successful, that they they extended all the COVID cleaning, and ended up expanding the contract, you know, in terms of profitability when from a loss making contract of about $2 million a year. And now that contract is making, you know, $5 million a year for those who are not in banking, you know, what you typically tend to do in a business is take its EBIT, EBIT, da, and you multiply that by 10. So, when you're talking about creating 5050, or million dollars worth of value within such a short space of time, it really shows that people within an organization or within a business can really change the circumstances of an organization's circumstances by working together with the right financial and commercial advice. And, and working together as a team. And delivering effectively what was a challenge for the Victorian Government and executing, you know, by providing a solution. So. Adrian Hermens 23:55 So the final sort of challenge I'll just mentioned before we get on to the questions that you had. So, in my current role, I'm now on the commercial side of Finance. I'm sort of now not only do I look at the finance side, but I look at the legal side of contracts, I look at really large commercial contracts. And look at all the sort of legal structure of those contracts, incentive regimes penalties. And I negotiate what are the key to the legal terms within the contract from a commercial perspective in conjunction with the group legal counsels within downer, and, you know, that negotiation is all about risk sharing, you know, on you know, in these contracts can can be, for example, I work with a business development team on a on a justice contract for the New South Wales government, which we're currently bidding on which we may or may not win, but that would that was worth close to a billion dollars. So you've got to get the risks. Right, and the structure in those risks, right. So I guess my point is that my career has gone all the way back from a retail environment all the way through to, you know, in finance and accounting and spreadsheets all the way through to now working with governments, and working with executives on on structuring commercial and legal arrangements. So, you know, I think for finance and accounting people, the numbers people out there, you know, the world is your oyster, you know, you, you know, you can start in one place, and doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be stuck there. And I've been very fortunate enough to have my peers, you know, nudged me in certain areas, which might have been a challenge for them, and they wanted a problem solved. And I took that problem on and sort of used, you know, my skills and my experience and, and hopefully, like, you'd like to think my brains and tried to solve their problems, by solving their problems that has propelled me to all parts of the globe, and all parts of different industries and sectors and all different parts of that commercial finance and accounting spectrum. So there's, for those who are starting out in the career, there's a lot to look forward to, you know, people look at us as bean counters, or numbers, people. But for those people who are truly passionate about it, it gets really exciting. And when you're jumping on planes, it's short notice, when you when when you're kind of thrown into different countries, when you're sort of faced with panels of executives, and you're the youngest person in the room, you can really enjoy those moments, because you've worked out together. Richard Holmes 26:45 Just listening to you, though, Adrian, I mentioned before, you've got an interesting career, or had an interesting career and just proven that from retail, manufacturing, banking, engineering, fly in fly out, it's certainly been quite a journey for you, and it just shows what you can achieve. Which is, which is great. And what advice would would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career like yours, like you've obviously worked in Australia worked overseas in UK, you've had experiences like Norway, what, what advice would you give, Adrian Hermens 27:13 I think, going back to the fundamentals of being patient, you know, stick to your knitting, as I mentioned, and those those opportunities will present themselves. I think, you know, when I employ sort of young people, or even people who are sort of mid career into our finance teams, you know, I think the key thing is to not look at your job as nine to five. And, and, and I don't necessarily mean, you know, about putting the hours although that that is a large component of it. But it's about looking beyond, you know, your job as a as a job. It's about, about looking at the tasks you've given as opportunities. And when you look at those tasks as opportunities, you'll put more into it, and you'll get more out of it. And when you're getting more out of those tasks, the people that have asked you to do them get more out of it. So they want to include you. So be patient, you know, add value by by looking beyond the immediate task, what more can you give, and your career will give more back to you? Richard Holmes 28:19 Ye, no, I, I agree with all those points. Adrian and and listening to you before, I mean, it sounds like you're a naturally curious person in all the roles you've had, what's the biggest area related to your current role that you're you're curious about and why? Adrian Hermens 28:34 Well, as, as I mentioned, I've sort of now become sort of more on the legal side of finance and accounting and commercial. And that was really a new sphere for me. I'd touched on it in banking in a transactional sense, but to really understand contracts. It was a whole new game. And so I took that as a learning opportunity. I sort of worked with group legal counsels, I asked them questions, so I could understand what it meant. Don't just do a task to get it done. You know, do a task to understand that because at the end of the day, you're going to have to present it, the work that you've done and the solution. And people are going to ask you questions to make sure you just you understand what you're doing. Because so people will have confidence in the decisions and the product that you've you've produced. So I'm naturally curious. So I've actually even taken the opportunity. Now. As I mentioned, previously, I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to do a master's degree in Applied Finance. I've now been lucky enough. I'm now going to start a master's in business law, which actually started last week. And that's because you know, don't stop learning, the day to day job activity and education outside the workplace. And if you're lucky enough, and companies back you they'll actually help fund that education and training. So don't be afraid to put your hand up for more training. Even though I've got some gray hairs happening here. I still I still love learning. And I really have the attitude of every day is an opportunity to learn. Richard Holmes 30:13 Now, it's, again, just listening to you as well. I mean, that's self development, I think you've had throughout your career is quite evident in all your roles. And it's, it's just fantastic to hear that your company are sponsoring you to do your MBA. And, and again, looking back is the one thing you wish you would have known at the start of your career. Adrian Hermens 30:33 Ye, I think definitely. I think as finance and accounting people or professionals by nature, you can get buried into working long hours and working hard. So working hard is is fundamental. And I'll touch on that more in a second. And why I think working hard is important. But you also need to be smarter. I learned, I learned probably about halfway through my career is that it doesn't really matter how many hours you put behind the desk, or at home in the evenings. You can probably cut cut through half that workload by taking a step back and thinking about the options that are in front of you. And thinking about well, what is the most efficient way of coming up with a solution. Don't just dive in to the spreadsheet, don't just dive into the data, don't dive into the problem. Look at it from different angles, because in the long run, you can spend hours and hours and hours on a piece of work. But if you haven't answered the question, if you haven't thought about, you know, option, ABC, you know, when you're asked the question, you may have only approached it from one angle. And don't forget that that opinion can be you know, multiple perspectives, it doesn't necessarily have to be one. So, so don't just work hard, you know, work smarter as well. Richard Holmes 32:04 And you mentioned a couple of your managers, or bosses who has influenced you the most? Adrian Hermens 32:11 Well, interestingly, it's actually my father. It doesn't, it doesn't necessarily certainly have to be someone within, you know, your workforce, it can be a sports star, it can be whatever, that's me, that person was, you know, and luckily enough, my father's still alive, that the his background Look, he emigrated to Australia post World War Two, with a family of nine other siblings. He was a teenager, they started a large tire returning company, I think from memory, they had about six or seven large retail stores across New South Wales. And they started the business from scratch, importing a technology called retreading. from the Netherlands. It was a family business. My father was the eldest of all the siblings, so he actually ran the company, you know, in his early 20s, with his father as the, and he eventually became the CEO of that organization. And then he, they eventually sold the business because it came successful as my and they wanted to retire as such. And then my father started a whole new career and he became, you know, university lecturer and professor. And he went on to do his MBA. And in the end, he actually ended up teaching business, and started the executive, you know, Executive MBA program at the University of Technology is Sydney, and he was one of the first in Australia to do that. Yes, so. So he went from a background of, you know, from from nothing, they actually when they immigrated to Australia, they were living in immigration camps. And they, you know, that's where I learned my hard work ethic is that you can come from nothing, and not have, you can have very little, but if you work hard, you can create that opportunity. And, and just because your career and life will go through multiple phases, you know, don't stop at the first phase, keep going. And my father actually ended up earning his PhD, and he ran the business school at UBS. And he's only recently retired, but he still does a lot of, let's say, consulting work for four different universities, like, say, the University of Oxford, and in Manitoba and Canada. And again, as an inspiration, he lent me the power of education. So, so that's why we're working don't just work. You know, just because you've done a degree. Don't stop there. You know, for example, wall words. I did a short course on you know, advanced analysis in finance. So, never stop learning, because sometimes your career stops and changes but if you're continually learning continually rowing. And you can continually propel yourself in a new direction. Richard Holmes 35:04 Ye and and what what a great story about your your father and I guess that's where you get your passion for learning from and kind of watching. Ye. What was influenced you over the years and knowing knowing what you know now and when we reflect back at our age, what would you say to younger self? Adrian Hermens 35:21 I think definitely don't. Don't forget to set some time aside for friends. I know it sounds that that I've had, I definitely have, I've had a lot of interesting career changes, I've spent a lot of my time in educating myself in my own time. But look, don't forget to spend or set some time aside for family and friends. Because I think you can look back in your career, sometimes you go, Wow, I really put the hours into my job. But But don't forget, you know, your your support network, which is friends, and don't forget, you know, you've got to have a life outside your career as well. Because, you know, life's not all about working. And look, they're those people that really make your life worth living and support you. It's really a symbiotic relationship, because I know that without my, my, the support of my family and my wife clear, and the joy that my children bring me. You know, I find it's really it is always hard. And I and I and I, I ask anyone to challenge me on, on the question of balance in life, between work and your personal life, it's very easy. You know, sometimes things in your life are going really well, you know, that your career might be struggling or your career is going really well. But you know, someone might be, you know, going through a hard time at home. So the key thing is, is make sure you set some time aside for those people, because they're very much a part of your success. You know, so make sure you invest some time back into the people that invest time in you. Richard Holmes 36:53 Ye, that's, that's great advice. Adrian, I think the people that are closest to us at times, right, sometimes we kind of push them away, because we're we've got other things on that on the go, which is interesting how that works and, and listening again, reflecting on your creed, you obviously had a few challenges along along the years, which which hurdles Did you personally face? And how did you? How did you overcome them? 37:17 Um, Adrian Hermens 37:19 well, firstly, I've always never really like a, you know, a great, you know, sporty, you know, I wasn't a sporty still popular person at school, I didn't really have a lot of confidence or self-confidence in myself. So, you know, I could never seem to break into the popular groups in school. And, you know, no matter how no amount of sort of hanging around, those people are trying to be me or trying to do cool things, I never sort of really broke into those circles. So I sort of looked at that as a bit of a, you know, difficult time and, but what I did is I started to surround myself with people that had similar life face, to me, like, people who like reading people who wanted to be somewhere after school. In what's interesting is a lot of those people today, have, you know, that had those similar, you know, values around education and wanting to be something and do something with their lives became CEOs, they became doctors, they became very senior politicians and directors. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, you know, those people, you know, have now become my people that I look up to their friends and colleagues. You know, so if you ever find yourself where you're not in the right crowd, and you're lacking self-confidence, gravitate yourself to people that share similar values, and have the same sort of sense of direction in life. And you'll soon find self-confidence through sharing in their experience. And secondly, one thing and maybe some of you will find humour in this is that although I've now been 20 years in finance and accounting, and I've done a master's degree in Applied Finance, I was never good at maths at school, I was really not and, but I really had this passion around business for my family, from my father's side, and, and I knew something that I definitely wanted to do, but I kept hitting sort of this personal brick wall around doing numbers. So I kind of, did okay at maths, but I was never, I was never in a three and a four-unit Maths. So what I did, I decided to actually face that challenge front on, I decided that I would actually do something that I found very, very difficult. So say, for example, you know, I actually ended up doing a degree in economics, even though I lost business, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. And I got through that. And then I was frustrated because people looked at me as an accountant, but I wanted to do finance. Though there's there's a lot of overlap there. So I went and did a master's degree in Applied Finance. And it was technically very challenging. And the one at Macquarie I don't know if you're aware of it is one of the highest sorts of rated masters of Applied Finance programs in Australia and one of the most technically difficult. So I had a lot of colleagues drop away during that time that I was studying with, and people sort of being thrown out of the course, because they tried to cheat their way through it. It does happen, it does happen. I guess what I'm trying to tell you is, is, is sometimes you've got to face those challenges front on, just because it's difficult, doesn't mean you need to walk away. And now I broke through that personal barrier. And now I'm very comfortable and very highly skilled in finance. But it has been a journey. So So sometimes you're faced with personal hurdles. Don't give up just face them, and jump the hurdle, learn how to jump. But if you don't know how to jump, learn how to Richard Holmes 41:11 love that. That's it's just such good advice, isn't it when the going gets tough? Just keep on keep on falling through? And what’s been your biggest failure? And why do you think that happened? And did it set you up for success? Adrian Hermens 41:25 Ye, look, I think I think it was my real sort of the first experience of managing a sort of managing a senior team I, I was, I was thrown into an acting journal manager's role at UCL after I'd had all this sort of massive success. You know, however, I had one particular person in my team, who sort of resented the fact that they were overlooked. And if that wasn't my choice, unfortunately, it was what it was. And in any way, so because it was my first sort of, sort of acting GM role, I tried to really sort of micromanaging that person. And I tried to sort of limit their exposure in some ways, because, you know, sort of that kind of, you know, damage limitation mentality. However, that ended up being the wrong strategy. You know, you know, it ended up costing a lot, ended up causing a lot of sort of friction, resentment. And in the end, the executive General Manager could see through all that, and, and knew that it wasn't working. And in the end, I sort of got moved back into a role that was, you know, comfortable for me. But I learned a lot from that experience. And not to say, that definitely wasn't the end in terms of managing large teams, because, you know, within a year's time, I was managing a large team, again, at aristocrat that the very, very important lesson I learned is, and I understand why people feel this way, because I've been there too, is it, you know, you can't micromanage, you can't micromanage people, you know, you're never going to get the best out of people by micromanaging them, you're never going to improve their motivation to work and succeed by micromanaging people. I think, I think a lot of that micromanagement came out of my self-doubt, as I stepped up into a bigger role. And what I've subsequently learned from that experience is that you have to put trust in faith in yourself, that you can execute on a more senior role, because, you know, your peers have chosen you. Because they see things in you that you may not necessarily see. And they have confidence. Because they know from your track record, you do have that skill set, you do have that ability to manage the bigger team or take on the bigger task. So don't let your self-doubt get the better of you. Don't try and micromanage people, you know, let those people rise to the occasion, even though they don't necessarily like the situation they're in. Because I've actually found by leading by example. And if you face those challenges and succeed, and those people who might not necessarily like the situation, I mean, they go, Well, you know what, I don't necessarily like to be here. But I like the fact that this guy's a leader, this, you know, he or she is a leader, and you know, what, I'm gonna hang around, because I might learn something from them or, you know, hang on, it's not so bad. You know, maybe this person's, you know, being a bit of a human shield for me in the food chain, you know, so, so don't say, don't try and micromanage your way out of a situation. You know, be a leader be self-confident. Richard Holmes 44:43 And learning and self-development. Going back to that point, Adrian, how do you continue to learn in order to stay on top of things in your current role? Adrian Hermens 44:53 Ye, so, one thing I've learned all along, through my career, is prioritizing. the right kind of tasks. So, you know, organizations are structured in a way that you're you're most likely doing, you know, one and a half full-time employment roles, you know, very much by the nature of efficiency and what business does have to be to compete and survive. So often you've got a massive workload in front of you, and you've only got a certain amount of hours in the day between work life and personal life. So what you've got to do is you've got to prioritize the highest value add tasks, never find yourself in a situation where you're doing high volume tasks that add very little value or have very sort of little sort of organizational output. You know, unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to cherry-pick the tasks that they get, given whether they've been in a senior or junior role. So even in senior roles, I get given tasks that are just time orientated, they're not necessarily, you know, changed the organizational landscape. So what you've got to do is, is make sure that you're spending most of your time on the value add tasks, because they're, they're the ones that people will remember you by. And that's why people have put you in that role because they want you to add value, not just to churn out low administrative duties. So never forget to think about what's said of you, and divvy up your time. So you've got plenty of time for the things that will add value to the organization. Richard Holmes 46:36 Ye, that's great, Adrian, it's all about adding value, isn't it? If you had the extra budget to spend within finance, how would you spend it? And why? Adrian Hermens 46:44 Richard, I think definitely, cloud-based solutions, I think, during the pandemic, that was priceless for spotless, and also it played a big role in the down integration of spotless, we had teams working together. across the organization, we did our first major integrated bid for New South Wales justice as well worth over a billion dollars in terms of the contracts which were waiting for an outcome. 47:16 But Adrian Hermens 47:17 ye, so Microsoft Teams being the primary package there. Also, there's a lot of cloud-based analytical packages such as Power BI, incredible, like, there are so many different analytical packages out there on the market. But I think this one really is a lot easier to use, it's a very powerful tool. And a new thing, in terms of budgets being that I would invest time and money in his is a process software solution by Microsoft called hollow centric. And that's really great for process mapping. So during our dream, our time, so far, spotless, we had a problem contract, we had a key people leave the organization, so that, you know, there was a corporate knowledge was lost as such. And so we use that to go back to basics and really map out, you know, key processes within the organization. And that's something that, you know, various people can pick up, it's a brilliant training tool, as well. So, therefore, it just, it just allows a lot more freedom for, you know, key people movement, and making sure that for any kind of investment in future initiatives, everything's mapped out. And then lastly, I would say, I've still got money leftover in the budget, just invested back into training for my team, because as I said before if you can invest in your people, there's a lot of goodwill there. And I think it is well received by the team. You know, if you show that you can invest in them, it pays you back tenfold in terms of motivation and effort within the team. Richard Holmes 49:03 Ye. And going back to your point about the systems as well, that obviously makes it easy for your team long term and keeps them engaged, which is, which is great. And you've obviously seen a lot in your finance career. Adrian, what do you think the future of finance looks like? Adrian Hermens 49:19 I think with post-pandemic, I definitely see a lot more remote and agile working. That's where downer has definitely moved to or moving to. So what does that mean? It means that you know, there may be, you know, a 6040 split within the office and working remotely from home or from other hubs. And I think, generally, that means that people will be more accountable for their outcomes. So, historically, I think there was a notion that the number of hours you put behind the desk, equated to how high You're working or how much value you're creating, I think. I think that that perception is completely shattered. Now, I think it creates a lot more freedom for professionals in their life to try and get that work and life balance. Right. One other sort of big thing I think is on the very short term horizon is blockchain technology. I know it plays a big part in the finance and transactional banking sector, or will be that then I see that as a massive opportunity for accounting and finance, in particular, for traceability of information, decentralization of, you know, governance processes, and it's pretty exciting. I mean, you can kind of understand, you know, the good thing about the hype that comes with blockchain, because, you know, look at all the remote working tools like Microsoft Teams, look what that is enabled, you know, society to do to face the pandemic, I can only imagine we'd see a similar benefit to blockchain technologies, and, and all of that is each of us in terms of the profession. Richard Holmes 51:07 So it's exciting, isn't it? Really? Absolutely. Richard Holmes 51:10 It's a division, a role that's constantly evolving, and it's, it's going to be good. And to finish off, Adrian, tell me something not many people know about you? 51:21 Well, Richard, I, Adrian Hermens 51:22 I actually used to avidly play the violin and teach the violin to young students. And, interestingly, they say there's a bit of a connection between the musical part of the brain and the mathematical processing part of the brain. Look, as I said, at the top, of our meeting, I just, I know, finance is not an extreme sport, but I've always found finance, a very sort of stimulating, you know, and challenging and thought-provoking profession. And I know those people who are starting out their career, I think they've, you know, that level of enjoyment, I think they're gonna get that. So I think initially, starting out your career, you know, you might be hit with low-level tasks, you might be sort of unsure where all this is going to take you. You know, but for those starting out, I really would like to reassure you that all the hard work and all the challenges are well worth it. People, people are continually coming to me with their challenges, and they're seeking my opinion seeking solutions. And that way, you'll never have a dull moment in his career. So I'd like to leave you with that thought anyway. And, and that's why I never sort of wake up any morning thinking, oh, I've got to go to work. Or, you know, you know, being counting, you know, finance. You know, there's a world of opportunity there for everyone. So, so ye, hope, hope that gives you some insight into my career today. Anyway, Richard, Richard Holmes 53:00 I'm sure he does every night. Well, thanks. Thanks for coming on the podcast. I think you've been a great guest. And we'll have to have you on again soon. And I look forward to catching up.
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