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40 Under 40

The ultimate COVID pivot comes up aces

40 Under 40

Thomas Carlton, the owner and managing director of Bailey Abbott, was named Solstice Media’s First Among Equals at the 40 Under 40 Awards for 2022 – an honour he says is life-changing.

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Bailey Abbott was established in October 2020 in the middle of COVID-19, when Carlton and a number of colleagues were put out of work due to the virus.

Carlton and his colleagues recognised that a new way of working was required and developed a consulting practice specialising in business transformation, automation and optimisation for clients affected by COVID-19.

He then raised $1 million in six weeks and started Bailey Abbott with three staff based in Stirling in the Adelaide Hills. The company has since grown to 51 full-time employees who work across 27 South Australian clients in defence, government and the SA top 100 companies. According to Carlton, the company’s first financial year delivered close to $7 million in revenue.

Carlton said that being named the Solstice Media First Among Equals at the awards last week would help him achieve his goal to take the consultancy national in the next calendar year after revamping and relaunching the company’s online offering in July.

“The award is incredible, it’s life-changing. It is a true celebration of SA success,” Carlton said.

He said that the company brought together more than 50 consultants to offer mid-market companies across all industries the ability to have top-level business process expertise without the costs associated with more staff.

Carlton also said that immediately after the awards, he and the company board agreed on a new goal of finding two people they work with to be named in the 40 Under 40 next year.

“This is the type of story we started the 40 Under 40 to uncover,” said Jim Plouffe, the judge for Solstice Media, the South Australian-owned publisher of InDaily.

Plouffe said in a year dominated by COVID, it was not hard to pick Carlton for the First Among Equals award.

“Having an entrepreneurial dream and pushing it to success is what embodies the 40 Under 40,” Plouffe said.

“This year, we also had a concentration on the setbacks and the risks the nominees had and took, and Tom was very honest in how close he came to failing.”

Carlton said funds were raised from staff, family and friends during the initial capital raise to establish Bailey Abbott.

“Watching this cash dwindle during the first four months of operations as we haemorrhaged cash was hard,” he said. “We were losing close to $100k per month.”

Carlton, however, continued to recruit the best consultants as they were put out of work from COVID-19 and, despite having no contracts to support the business, he said there was a true belief they could do it better than the established consulting hierarchy.

“We just had to hold the line and keep asking for a chance,” he said.

Carlton held firm and won Bailey Abbott’s first significant fixed-price contract on Christmas Eve 2020, which has since been backed up with other contracts from many mid-market companies across industries important to the SA economy.

“What did we learn? Don’t discount South Australians going the extra mile to help out the little guy, and how powerful an engaged and motivated workforce can be,” Carlton said.  “Also, get a good investor on board early.”

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
When starting your business modelling, double the costs and half your revenue… and ask yourself can your business still survive?

You can find the full 40 Under 40 for this year in this CityMag feature. Read InDaily for individual profiles over the coming weeks.

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