• Kira Day

Adara Partners' model of mastery for purpose

Adara Partners provides independent financial and strategic advice and complex commercial problem solving services to leading Australian companies. The Adara Panel Member structure brings together some of Australia’s most senior leaders in financial services.


As Adara Panel Members, they donate their time and expertise to provide wise counsel and senior advice to clients. This allows for 100% of profits generated on assignments to be donated to support women and children living in extreme poverty.


We spoke with Audette Exel, Founder of Adara Group - including both Adara Advisors and Adara Partners - to celebrate Adara Partners appearing on the Best for the World 2021 list for Community.


Watch the conversation here or read the interview below.


Audette: I'm the founder of the Adara Group, which includes two corporate advice businesses, Adara Advisors and Adara Partners. We're very proud that both of them are B Corps, and Adara Partners this year managed to make the award for Best for the World in Community.


Adara Group delivers services in remote areas, including health and education services to tens of thousands of people in extreme poverty. The businesses are entirely for-purpose. 100% of everything that they make - all their profits - go to our work with people in poverty, and between the two businesses, we've been doing that for 23 years.


B Lab: Tell us a little bit about the impact that you've had in the past few years. Since inception to 2021, you've donated over A$16 million to your development projects. How has that looked from the inside?


Audette: What's it look like from the inside? It's been a terrifying joyous ride. It's looked like creating streams of excellence and models so that other people can copy us. It's looked like fighting tooth and nail in the corporate advice markets to get our share of the fees. It's looked like bringing the worlds of the most advantaged people with the most disadvantaged people together and the joy of being that bridge.


B Lab: What are some of the things that you think business can do to keep bridging the gap between those two worlds?


Audette: That's such a good question. It's one of the reasons I'm a great fan of the B Corp movement because I believe that the complexity and the size of the problem requires every single one of us.

As individuals and whatever sector of the economy we work in, we all need to stand together

B Lab: Why set up a business in the way that you have: using a percentage of revenue to go straight into development projects?


Audette: There are lots of different ways to do it. The reason I chose this way is because I'm really interested in models of change. When I looked at that community with business eyes, what I saw was that traditionally funded not-for-profits spend a huge amount of time worrying about what their donors wanted, and the work on the ground is so incredibly complex. So they were diverted from their mission, which was so complex, by their donor needs.


I also believed profoundly that business people want to use their skills to make change. I wanted to see if I could create a model where I could meet both of those issues. For Wall Street investment bankers to go out and do what they do brilliantly, but with all proceeds going to people who are in extreme need. To be able to hire development specialists and amazing service deliverers, and tell them not to worry about money, but to worry every day about evidence-based best-practice service delivery. It's really wonderful to see that model. There is a huge need for redirection of resources and capital to people in poverty and countries and poverty. That's the other point about how you can use business to make change.

It just doesn't get any better than to do what you do brilliantly and save a life.

B Lab: You've done an amazing job of bringing out the purpose side of what business can be. I did see your article in The Guardian (another proud B Corp) where you spoke about the effects of COVID in countries like India and Nepal. The one thing that stuck out to me was when you said "COVID-19 will not be over for any of us until it is over for all of us." I'd really like to hear a little bit more from you about that and what that looks like for your work. How do you think businesses can keep the rest of the world in mind while we will we work towards an economic recovery?


Audette: It seems to me to be so blindingly obvious, right? We are all connected.


When I'm talking to business people around the traps at the moment, they're actually amazed when I start telling them this is what's happening in the low and middle-income countries. On our project sites, we currently have 49 staff with COVID in a hospital setting that we run a set of excellence in. There's no vaccine. Less than 1% of the vaccines administered in the world have currently gone to low-income countries. No vaccine, no oxygen supply, massive rise in child trafficking, massive rise in food insecurity because of the lockdowns. These people are living under governments that don't have a tax base, so there's no government funding to send you home to watch Netflix. It's heartbreaking and it's wrong. The only thing that's going to change is when we have vaccines equitably shared and available worldwide.

If we truly want to build a better world, if we truly want freedom of movement, if we truly want to run global businesses, if we truly want to be decent human beings, we have to start to stand up in the fight for global equity.
A person in PPE fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine.

B Lab: Absolutely. I love that you've been using your position and your power and your voice to advocate for the people who need it. I want to go back to some of the ways that Adara works and your Panel Members structure. Can you tell us a little bit about that?


Audette: This is the business model I'm going to take global. I want this model to be on Wall Street. I want it to be in the great financial services centres of the world. I've got big plans for this.


The model is: we're a fully licensed corporate advice businesses. Adara Partners decided to have a shot at bringing the mastery of the best of the investment banking corporate advice market, and giving them the experience of what it's like to do what they do brilliantly, with all fees generated to go into work with vulnerable client groups.


It's a panel of 15 of Australia's very well-known, high integrity senior investment bankers and advisors, including the amazing man who is the Chair of Goldman Sachs Australia & New Zealand, the amazing man who runs Citigroup's investment banking, two Executive Chairmen at Barrenjoey, the former Chair of ANZ bank, some of the most senior members of the non-executive director community, some of the most senior lawyers, the former head of JP Morgan. The great and the good, the big men and women who are the leaders.


It's a model of absolute mastery for purpose. It's quite an exciting model, and that business is six years old. I'm so proud that is the business that's received Best for the World. Watch out London, New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo because we're coming.


B Lab: I think there's a lot of B Corp values in that model, which is that knowledge sharing, bridging gaps, and working with people that you wouldn't expect to work with for this greater good.


Audette: It's all about thinking outside of the box, right? Get out of our silos, uncap our thinking, and use our skills to make change and B Corp is a shining example of that.


Congratulations to Adara Partners for being recognised as Best for the World in Community. See the rest of the Best for the World 2021 lists here.


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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