Established in 2004 and based in Port Augusta, SA, Bullion Drilling Co. is a mineral and exploration drilling contractor providing services Australia-wide. The company is a family-owned and operated business that serves clients including major mining and exploration companies.
History of the business
Owner and founder Paul Scanlon’s parents owned a drilling company when he was growing up, so he’s been around the industry his entire life. He completed an apprenticeship in heavy duty diesel mechanics, which he started at age 16, and then joined the family business at 21.
In the late ‘90s, drilling went into a downturn and Paul’s father sold their company’s RAB Aircore rig to Bostech Drilling. Paul “went with it”, spending five years at Bostech Drilling and learning the finer points of regional exploration drilling.
Five years later, Paul saw a chance to create a business of his own. “Drilling prices had been cut and some of the larger drilling companies were standardising their drilling fleets,” he says. “Smaller exploration rigs were coming onto the market for sale, and I saw an opportunity to purchase a rig because I knew drilling, I just hadn’t been baptised into the business side of it for myself.”
That’s when Bullion Drilling started, with a purchase of a RAB Aircore drill rig, support truck and caravan from Grimwood Davies.
“Part of the sale included a contract to do shallow Aircore/RC (reverse circulation) work up near Whim Creek, in the north of WA,” Paul remembers. “We thought it would mean six months of work and it ended up only being two, so it was a steep learning curve in how to run a business, but it got us going.” The business has seen steady growth since then and now has a team of 25 employees. Over the years, the company has invested in numerous pieces of high-quality equipment, including four Schramm RC drill rigs. One of them is a T450WS mounted on a MAN 8X8 truck and three of them are T685WS models, also mounted on MAN 8X8 trucks, with drilling capabilities of 300m and 500m.
“Paul has grown the company substantially,” explains Accru Harris Orchard Director Daniel Melino. “His philosophy has been simple: work hard, deliver on your promises, look after your team and capitalise on income-producing assets.”
Building a great business
One of the biggest challenges Paul says he’s faced in building a great business has been employee safety.
“To deal with this, we’ve brought more hands-free automation to our rigs, which helps keep our employees out of harm’s way,” says Paul.
In addition to safety, purchasing and upgrading equipment has also been an ongoing challenge.
“When a rig comes in after a drilling campaign, we have to see if there are any issues or modifications needed to improve the performance of the rig or our supporting equipment,” he says.
“To me, building a great business means paying attention to details and actually doing what you told your client you would do,” Paul explains. “Lip service is cheap, and if you can’t back it up, you not only compromise yourself but also your client.”
Daniel says, “Paul is a great business operator who gets things done and persists with a can-do attitude. His diligence in maintaining his equipment to ensure the utmost safety, looking after his staff and providing opportunity for them to excel, and carefully watching his cash flow has resulted in continual growth and helped him earn a great reputation within the drilling industry.”
Paul says, “I personally don’t like the word ‘can’t’. You have to build a solid reputation for client satisfaction, and this in turn allows for repeat work. My clients know we aren’t the cheapest in the drilling business, but neither is our equipment or skill set.”
Accru Harris Orchard’s role in the journey
Bullion Drilling first became an Accru Harris Orchard client in 2011. Early on, Daniel’s team assisted with the transition of accounting systems to automate and streamline the finance function. The transition proved to be greatly beneficial and meant that Paul had access to ‘real-time’ information. This allowed him to make timely investment decisions in the most important phase of the business lifecycle: the growth phase.
“Accru Harris Orchard has streamlined our accounting process,” says Paul. “To be honest, getting myself near a computer at the best of times is hard work, so they’ve been very solid and patient with us.”
Over the years, Daniel’s team has assisted the company continually in areas including the preparation of in-depth cash-flow forecasts and acting as a commercial sounding-board for large investment decisions. The COVID period really put the brakes on a booming business. However, Daniel’s team helped with obtaining subsidies and grants to ensure it could ‘weather the storm’ and put it in a prime position for the rebound.
“Accru Harris Orchard went to bat for us and got the deed done,” says Paul. “I don’t think we would’ve come out on the other side without the foresight of Daniel and his crew during that time.”
Future of the business
Paul says he intends to follow the same business methods and habits in the years ahead, continuing to build on the company’s strong reputation and high levels of service while investing in new machinery.
“We’ll keep doing more of the same, upgrading our plant and tools as we go, to keep our rig and equipment utilisation rates high,” says Paul.
To learn more, visit Bulllion Drilling’s LinkedIn page.
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